Random Tuesday night comments…
I wonder if Stan Kasten’s nose grows or the last three hairs on his head fall off when he lies like he did the other day about Matt Kemp being 100% healthy? Of course there’s NO WAY Kemp is healthy, considering he recently underwent another shoulder operation and leg surgery, and his hamstrings are pieced together with duct tape, but Kasten sold it on MLB Network Radio. Today, Kemp’s dummy of an agent, former big league ace Dave (nicknamed “Smoke”, as in smoke screen, apparently) Stewart, already is setting expectations low, saying his client will not be ready for opening day for the Dodgers. We’re months away – already predicting that? Can’t be good. I laugh at Kemp and modern prima donna athletes who are continuously hurt, small things or large, and marvel at iron men like Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Steve Garvey and how they somehow managed to stay healthy each and every day. I get Kemp’s problems stemmed from a hard play against a wall in Colorado, but the chronic hamstrings and leg/ankle are something else. While it’s possible – somehow – Kemp can stay “healthier” than in 2012 and 2013, it’s unrealistic to assume he will be the Kemp of old. It will be parts of three baseball seasons since his big year in 2011 and to assume he can play every day, much less patrol centerfield – where all that wear and tear and stress will pound down on his body – is foolish. The Dodgers need to admit this and start thinking about Joc Pederson for centerfield. Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, or some combination of them can eventually be moved – with the Dodgers paying a chunk of salary in order to get a return in young players back, but the reality should be that health and durability need to be a factor in deciding the Dodgers’ future outfield. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday not long from now the outfield is some new face in LF, Pederson in CF and Puig in RF. The “four outfielders for three outfield spots” thing has gotten old.
Tommy Lasorda vented about “cheats” in baseball, and as angry old men tend to do, said they should be kicked out and hit by pitches. Tommy may be right, I guess, but to suddenly lash out against something Bud Selig has allowed to occur for decades is silliness. Bud is constantly honored and revered by baseball when in fact he’s allowed the game’s integrity to be shaken and records to be trashed. Tommy and others suddenly talking tough is hysterical. These are the same folks who have said Bud’s a great commissioner for years. Also, each and every team is guilty of allowing cheats to play, and that includes the Dodgers. The notion too that the recent BioGenesis scandal is an unfortunate event and anomaly in some way is ludicrous. The game’s been dirty since the mid-90s and hasn’t stopped being so. Baseball writers and radio and TV guys are all part of the problem. When someone comes to spring training 20 pounds heavier than he was a few months prior, it’s made to sound as if the player has been hitting the gym continuously. When guys slam home runs, get a massive contract and then appear thinner and lighter, start getting a ton of injuries and no longer can hit home runs, the industry makes it seem like it’s unusual. The big elephant in the middle of the room is ignored. I’ve been reading all winter about players gaining weight, losing weight, etc. Bryce Harper is touted for gaining 45 lbs or so of muscle. Umm – that doesn’t sound natural to me. The season ended in Oct and now it’s Jan. Gaining 45 lbs of muscle seems extreme. Harper is beloved by all due to his lack of education, mullet and snotty Justin Bieber-era attitude that young folks admire so much. He may be the cleanest person in the league, but with the pale that’s been cast across the game we all love, if he has a monster breakout with his linebacker physique, we all have to roll our eyes. I prefer guys like DiMaggio, Williams, Josh Gibson, Campanella, etc., etc. I know they weren’t doing anything but hard work and studying pitchers. Bud’s toxic and for anyone to celebrate him and for Tommy to act shocked and angry that innocent A-Fraud was cheating, is an insult to any fan’s intelligence. Tommy actually said he felt all those homers A-Fraud hit were legit. A) I don’t believe Tommy thought so for a moment and B) if he did, he’s a damn fool.
Baseball’s geniuses who act shocked by players up and down weight and big production before massive contracts and lack of afterward are now saying Mashiro Tanaka has narrowed his list down to a handful of teams. Question – was it really ever more than a handful of teams? From the beginning we heard Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, Diamondbacks, and perhaps the Halos. For laughs they mentioned the Astros, and a few other implausible scenarios. We will learn perhaps tomorrow which team Tanaka chooses, but the fact of the matter is no one knows. “Reliable sources” said the Cubs had the inside track. Then the Dodgers or Yankees. No one knows. Pundits always act like they know but they don’t. I guess you have to expound hot air to fill time on the air or words in a blog or article. Let’s put it this way – Tanaka might be all about the money, but realistically the money shouldn’t be that different from team to team. It comes down to where Tanaka envisions himself for 6-7 years. To me, since LA is closer to Japan than the other spots, the weather is great year round, his wife has said she’d like to live out West, and with a supportive Asian community around her, and the Dodgers easily have the most buzz of any team in baseball, the answer is simple. If Tanaka chooses the Cubs or Yankees over the Dodgers, he’s an idiot and I wouldn’t want him on my team anyway. If he wants to be part of the Cubs rebuilding process that could take several years, perhaps getting hurt before the prize prospects are ready anyway, go for it. If he wants to pitch for the famous NY Yankees, I could understand that. Except that the Yankees are barely the Yankees and are no shoo-in for the post-season. The Dodgers are the safest gamble if Tanaka wants to win and pitch in October right away. Perhaps he could extract a little more money out of the Cubs or Yankees – I don’t know. But living in Beverly Hills or Bel Air isn’t so shabby, nor is playing with the most exciting team right now, with a brand new TV network, superstar roster and the best pitching staff in the game. Besides, the Dodgers know a thing or two about Japanese players. Sure the Yankees have Hiroki Kuroda – but where did he come from? The team that brought Nomomania to the forefront, ushered in Takashi Saito and Kaz Ishii, not to mention Kuroda, certainly must be an organization a proud Japanese player would want to be a part of. If Tanaka isn’t a Dodger, he’s a moron and dead to me. It will be a boring off-season, watching the American baseball World Series from Japan in his Cubs or Yankees Snuggie.
And that’s all he wrote.
Saturday night – the weather has been warm, even for spring, but this is supposed to be winter. Visions of pitchers and catchers reporting dancing in my head. Wondering what the Dodgers new 24/7 TV network will look like (imagining a point/counterpoint debate show with Vin Scully and Mike Piazza, or a cooking program with Tommy). Wondering if Masahiro Tanaka will end up with the Dodgers, impressed with the Asian community in LA and the 80 degree “winter days” – not to mention the promise of post-season appearances, immediately and for years to come. These are just some random thoughts to clear the cobwebs and get the fingers hitting keys. Be productive, say it out loud, I say to myself. Or at least the Web equivalent.
Kershaw/Tanaka/pitching in general. Best/smartest lineups. Bench ideas.
Here we go…
With or without Tanaka, the Dodgers pitching staff is one of the best in the game – 1-2-3 and 1-11 or 12. If Tanaka isn’t signed, I imagine Bronson Arroyo will be. Or perhaps they trade kids for Price, though that seems less likely. If they add Tanaka though, it could be an all-time great staff. If your worst starter is Dan Haren, you’re doing something right. Not to mention all the kids waiting for a crack, and Chad Billingsley, who should figure into the pen in the 2nd half, and/or get traded. I’ll assume Josh Beckett is finished, but if he proves healthy in Feb/Mar, he could fetch a prospect or two in a deal, with the Dodgers paying the bulk of his remaining year.
The Dodgers success forever rises and falls with the pitching. I’d like it to get back to being best in the National League, or second. I’m also very happy Stan Kasten finally realized his bullpen needed work, fixed it, and is even improving on that. I am tantalized by the impressive kiddies that are ready, or close. Yimi Garcia and Jose Dominguez being just two. And I really like what Chris Withrow brings to the table. The bullpen, save for Jamey Wright, is very impressive. I assume Brandon League, like Beckett, will be trade bait, with the Dodgers happily paying a large portion of his salary to move him.
All this said, the greedy side of me wants Tanaka. I assume he could be a bust like Hideki Irabu was years ago, but given the Dodgers track record then and now with international signings and scouting, I believe he’s the real deal. The greatest thing about Frank McCourt no longer being owner is the team’s interest in the international marketplace. Fernando, Nomo, Saito, Ishii, Park, Ryu, etc., etc. I love to see interesting players from around the world want to play for the Dodgers because unlike here in the US, the Dodgers are beloved worldwide. Here, they’re disparaged and hated by most not living in Los Angeles.
It’s encouraging that signing Clayton Kershaw doesn’t mean the Dodgers won’t pursue Tanaka. As Kasten noted, one signing doesn’t affect another. With injuries always a factor with pitchers and opt-out clauses up the wazoo, it’s smart to have depth that is tiered for such events. No one knows what can happen, but depth allows for insurance no matter what may. Perhaps Zack Greinke shows signs of vulnerability, or is hurt, or just decides he wants money two seasons from now and opts out. The Dodgers can decide to re-up for probably another 5 years, at a higher rate, or with depth, can tell him to bolt. Kershaw can walk in 5, and it’s unfathomable to think they wouldn’t just give him more money, but depth offers an option.
Plus, who among us wouldn’t want to watch Kershaw/Greinke/Tanaka/Ryu? Haren, I hope, is a competent innings eater and perhaps pushes into the fold as a higher profile factor, but right now, it’s the other 4. Then all those kids. If the Dodgers want, they can flip Haren in June or July for prospects and promote Ross Stripling or Zach Lee, or Stephen Fife, or Matt Magill. It’s an exciting time rotation wise, as well as in the pen.
Brian Wilson should get save opportunities, and he will. It’s good to have two great options in the 9th. Kenley Jansen won’t have to close 3 consecutive days, and if Kenley falters, Wilson is there, and vice-versa. The hard throwing kids coming up through the ranks, as noted, are inspiring. And JP Howell, Paco Rodriguez, and even former closer Chris Perez, he of the marijuana and occasional talent lapses. The Dodgers pitching should rule the NL; sorry, Washington Nationals.
Pitching is the name of the game, so no matter what happens with the Dodgers run production, the arms will keep things interesting. That said, the weakness – or potential weakness – of the Dodgers is their position players, which includes everyday lineup and bench.
I’ve commented in the past about outfield configurations, my annoyance with perceived stupidity by three of our four superstar outfielders, etc., but in a nutshell, for those who are new to my ramblings, let me sum it up…
As we all know, three of the four Dodger outfielders have health concerns – one, Andre Ethier, is likely less of a chronic problem than the other two, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford. The only physical certainty is Yasiel Puig, and the way he runs into walls, he could be down and out at any moment. Luckily the Dodgers top prospect right now is an outfielder – Joc Pederson. He sounds like a ballplayer, either baseball or a quarterback, and he’s known for his defense. Like Ethier and Crawford, he can’t hit lefthanders, but is young enough to perhaps learn how. He’s hungry, has speed, power, and seems the complete package. I am looking forward to seeing his big league debut in 2014.
Pederson is the insurance policy, and I’m sure the Dodgers would prefer he marinate a good chunk of the year in AA/AAA, wherever he ends up. The plan is to see who is healthy of the 4 outfielders and knowing most likely than someone will not be. Like last season, it’s quite probable than the 4 outfielder situation will take care of itself.
I imagine Kemp will try, but end up on the DL either right away or soon after the season begins. His off-season progress doesn’t scream “I’m ready”, in my opinion. Talk of walking boots, starting to run, and how the team plans to take it easy with Kemp, sound likes more of the same to me. Everyone talks about how in 2011 he was one of the best players in the game – true – but that’s a long time ago. For the past 2 seasons he’s been a mess, and is not ready to right now either. I took a lot of grief from folks on twitter last year when I predicted Kemp would be on the DL, and how as early as April I was saying for the good of the team – and himself – he should take the year off and recover fully.
Kemp’s problems run deep – it isn’t just one thing. The shoulder is a huge problem, as his swing was compromised last season. His hamstrings are always an issue, and the leg/ankle issues aren’t helping. No conspiracies, but it’s possible that whatever made him what he was in 2011 is not there anymore. While possible he could break out again – albeit like not in anywhere near 162 games – it’s also a reality he could be a non-factor again. This isn’t bad news for the Dodgers, not necessarily. A healthy Kemp, with Hanley Ramirez and the others, is obviously a more sure bet for winning, but the team did pretty well last year with virtually no contribution from him. In other words, the Dodgers have moved on, whether they would put it like that or not. It’s my observation that while a healthy Kemp would be a huge boost, no Kemp isn’t the end of the world either.
Carl Crawford, I imagine, will be healthier than last year – at least I hope so. I just pray Donnie dim bulb doesn’t forget that Crawford thrived when not being wasted at the top of the lineup, especially not leading off. He was the catalyst in the post-season last year, and someone I was pulling for all along. Crawford is pre-whatever Barry Bonds – when healthy. It would be nice to see a little of that in 2014, but I know that’s asking a lot. I hope CC can stay healthy and not be too distracted by his professional gold digger of a fiancé. That distraction disappoints me. I would assume that type of idiocy for Kemp, who seems more in love with celebrity and himself than playing baseball, but CC’s baby mama drama makes me a bit sad.
So to tie this segment up, I’ll throw out a few potential lineups that seem pretty good to me, though not perfect. I only hope that Donnie – or Kasten, if it were he who suddenly put together solid lineups come October – is listening. Here we go…
Puig (for lack of a better option – leadoff is wasted on Puig, but what are you going to do?)
AJ Ellis (I know, he’s slow. So was Scioscia. AJ gets on base, is patient and takes walks)
A-Gone (like the righty/lefty thing, plus he’s a professional hitter)
Hanley (the man – assuming he has no lingering effects from his “accidental” beaning)
Crawford (great hitter, thrived in heart of lineup in Oct)
Guerrero (if he makes it – he’s an enigma but could be a nice power source if as advertised)
If Guerrero actually can play – and I have to believe he can, or Logan White wouldn’t have let him get signed for 4 years at $7M per – that’s a very potent lineup, top to bottom. Lots of righty/lefty balance throughout. The issue is a strange leadoff hitter, and of course AJ wouldn’t be allowed to bat second, but should, given this mix. Here’s another try…
In this edition, it assumes Kemp is on the DL and Ethier gone somehow – perhaps a trade to shed some salary and get a spring training phenom like Pederson into the mix in CF, where I’d rather have him than Ethier.
It also puts Hanley in his familiar 3 slot, and moves AJ down to 8th, where catchers “have” to be. It creates a free swinging 1-3, which I don’t like, but could make for some excitement. The Spanish speaking trio of Puig/Uribe/Hanley could sell t-shirts, and lead nicely into A-Gone’s walkup mariachi music.
While many want to dismiss it, I think if Kemp isn’t playing in CF, Pederson should. And who knows if Kemp should be in CF anyway, given his penchant for injury. I like mixing in health, youth, and defense in one move. Let’s all hope Hanley/Guerrero can stay healthy and field the ball in that middle infield as well.
Last let’s talk about the bench a little bit.
From the sound of it, Michael Young may be brought back to fill the role 4 guys filled last season – utility infielder. The good about Young is that he can in theory play all the infield positions, and is a plus hitter. The bad thing is he’s no longer much of a plus hitter, and not much of a fielder at 37. But – it’s called a bench player for a reason, so he doesn’t have to be outstanding either way.
While he appeared old and crappy when he wore blue end of last season, his overall numbers suggest that if he’s not starting (hear that, Donnie?), he is a capable player to have around. He’s a great career hitter who can mentor younger Dodgers and adds a veteran presence that could only help this immature bunch. But it’s as likely he could be done and that’s that. If done, and released, it’s no huge loss, except the blue would be where they are today, figuring out what to do with that key bench slot.
Personally I would look around the league at either players on big league rosters now or guys languishing in someone’s farm. There has to be guys as good as old man Jerry Hairston, Jr. and the rest who filled in last season. Depending on Tanaka signing, there could also be a surplus of pitching options to move – some of the kids who are blocked, Beckett, etc. Finding bench players and serviceable utility infielders isn’t that hard, so maybe take a flyer on Young and see if you can’t find better. If Young is ready for the glue factory, cut him quickly – unlike what they did with Luis Cruz – and plug in said replacement.
And then there’s Dee Gordon. I can hear your curses, you so called fans.
I’m currently off the Dee bandwagon like most of you, weary from defending him, frankly. I think it would be wonderful if we had a speed guy as unlike Sabermetric dipshits, I know how speed changes games. The old adage about speed doesn’t take a day off, or have an off day, or whatever it is. I’ve seen game changers over the years – Jackie Robinson, Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Tim Raines, Steve Sax, Brett Butler, Juan Pierre, Dave Roberts, and so forth. To me, Dee is the guy we’d be lucky to have in the lineup, batting leadoff, or on the bench, capable of disrupting opposing pitchers and stealing us games. We’ve seen it in small doses, but at this point, either Dee will come around as a backup piece, or maybe in another town, or not at all.
I think Dee was rushed through the system due to his famous dad and also because of his blazing speed. He wasn’t ripe when he was forced up, and it shows. He’s an incomplete hitter and incomplete fielder – or incompetent, at least at times, if you choose. I think either the game has gotten into his head, or the microscope of oft disappointed fans in LA, or it’s clear he can’t even field routine balls anymore without drama. More, he seems confused on the base paths, something he actually did well – run. So, I would say he’s not the answer for the bench, but it’s quite possible in a lesser role he could finally put it together. His skills are intriguing, as is his young age, so I suppose spring training will determine if he sticks or is traded. I don’t see more minor league time with the Dodgers as a real possibility. But, for the record, I’m rooting for him. I just have doubts.
Scott Van Slyke has to be on the bench as he can fill in for the corner outfielders (though that likely won’t happen much) or potentially at first. More, he can jack one out with the game on the line, and that’s needed. Our popgun bench last year had no long ball threat, and like speed, I think a bench needs such a weapon. SVS is the guy, and his new determination and slimmed down physique make him a valuable piece of the backup plan. Of course, Donnie seems to dislike him – not allowing him to bat in important post-season situations when a long fly ball was needed. Not sure why Donnie feels this way, but I think he should be there. Providing, he never stands like a statue before a game of such magnitude. Note to Dodger fans (and Dodger players) who feel that was cool and fun – you’re wrong. It was asinine and showed the Dodgers were into fun and games when they needed to be in Kirk Gibson mode. Very stupid for all concerned.
Tim Federowicz (FedX) is a terrific backup catcher who is great defensively. I could care less if he hits .230 because he’s a defensive whiz with a strong arm and catcher should be about game calling, receiving and throwing – hitting is extra. His minor league hitting suggests he can do that too, and has power. Ultimately, unless the blue gets soon to be FA Matt Wieters from the Orioles, FedX should be starting. I like him and am happy we don’t have washed up geezers in the mix currently. Keep it that way, Kasten.
And what’s left? I’d say some trading, or perhaps reclamation project Chone Figgins, who the Dodgers watched work out recently. I have to admit, as crappy as Figgins has been, he might be fixable. He has speed, experience, and something to prove. He is 36, so who knows what’s left, if anything. But, he also won’t cost anything so he’s a viable I think as Young.
And that’s that. My typing experiment is over. Hopefully it got your juices flowing, or imagination churning; one or the other. I have done my best to pass the time since October, getting Dodgers fans to spring training. The light at the end of the tunnel is near. February 8th is the date – don’t look now, but it’s not far away. With the weather we’ve been having, it already feels like May.
Oh happy day!
The Dodgers announced they came to terms today with lackadaisical starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The terms of the deal are 7 years for $215M. I hope with his newfound wealth he takes good care of the kids in Africa he and his wife always visit. That’s a lot of clean water, farm animals and education.
Folks on twitter remind me – when I mentioned in 1998 the Dodgers signed then ace Kevin Brown to his own 7 year deal, but for “just” $105M – that Kershaw is much younger than Brown – and better! Well, I didn’t say that to compare the two. My point was a 7 year deal for an ace 15 years ago was a lot less expensive than it is today. I am not trying to say Brown is better than Kershaw, or any such thing. I think though, since the topic went awry, that it’s easy to dismiss Brown’s contributions in blue. Easy to say Kershaw is a saint and Brown was a surly douche bag. Some of that could be true, but the end point is both signed for longer than a pitcher should be signed by a desperate Dodgers team. Both signed with the notion that all that money would/will translate into a World Series crown or two, and if so, that certainly is worth X and therefore the deal “worth it”. Of course, a marquee starter also means more butts in the seat on days he pitches, and even days he doesn’t. i.e. the salary isn’t strictly about how many wins or strikeouts or some other Saber stat you prefer. Think big picture, folks.
Well, I am. It’s too many years for a pitcher, but hey, the fans in LA deserve it after 25+ years of torture. The smarty pants East Coast baseball geniuses point to the Dodgers bloated payroll and comment – mostly snarkily. If it were the Yankees, Red Sox, even Phillies, or somehow the Rangers or Angels, it’d be ok. The Dodgers, in their crisp white uniforms with the blue script on the chest, are always ripe for the haters. How dare they buy a title?! It’s ok if the Yankees do, or Boston. As we learned when Bud Selig and his owner brothers allowed Fox to hand over the Dodgers to a cash poor Boston carpetbagger, baseball has a dislike of the Dodgers.
After that shitty era, and all the trappings that went along with it – bankruptcy, embarrassment, comas, bounced checks to Vin Scully, etc., the Guggenheim troop marched in and promised something different. To their credit, with bumps along the way, they’ve delivered. The “buying” of a title is secondary to buying the fans’ hearts back. So much ill will had transpired under the previous ownership that something big had to be done to get fans believing (and spending!) again. So, as we all know, they addressed the depleted farm system by purchasing a roster of big name stars that would A) bring fans and excitement back to Chavez Ravine while B) allowing the farm time to catch up. We hear the names – Seager, Pederson, Lee, Puig, Guerrero, Stripling, Garcia, Dominquez, etc., etc. and we get excited. Young blood is on the way.
The new owners have lived up to their end of the bargain and now are set for fun at the Ravine as well as a pipeline from the current stars to the upcoming kiddies. International scouting is at the forefront, signings of International free-agents, and more, the Dodgers are now capable of being players in any available talent acquisition – something that had disappeared during Fox and of course through greedy McCourt. While the Dodgers may not sign Masahiro Tanaka, they are mentioned as finalists in the hunt. And more, named at all. Yu Darvish was available a few seasons ago and the Dodgers couldn’t even entertain the notion of making an offer. Times have changed.
Back to the matter at hand – Kershaw.
I’m very happy he’s back. While I like to point out the things casual fans and starry eyed enthusiasts never would – for example, that Kershaw folded terribly in all important Game 6 in St. Louis and while he comes up during the season, has yet to translate that to big games that matter – I very much like the guy. He’s as close to Sandy Koufax (sans the big wins) as many fans have seen. But 7 years – oof.
The MLB Network Radio folks were abuzz with the signing, of course, as big money always gets big reactions. I look at it this way – what choice did the Dodgers have? A popular player in his young prime, an ace, a guy already under team control – the Dodgers had to make every effort to sign him. Kershaw played it coy and cat and moused the team, but ultimately realized $30M annually and a loaded roster with no end in sight might just make him as happy as life in his beloved Texas. The signing – or should I say the timeliness of the signing – is intriguing.
The general theory is that since the Dodgers are suitors for Tanaka, signing Kershaw first was a must. Imagine if they signed Tanaka first – also 25 years old, but without an inning of major league ball under his belt. Very easily the perennially mopey looking Kershaw could have interpreted that the Dodgers feel Tanaka is more important, and dragged his contract pout into the season and potentially into October. No, that would not do.
So now that the Dodgers have signed Kershaw, will they go after Tanaka? I haven’t heard any expert say they won’t. The Yankees are dying in the frigid East because Tanaka may be the difference for them between making the playoffs, and not. The Dodgers don’t “need” Tanaka, and in fact he could be the Dodgers 3rd or 4th starter if he signs. In NY, he’s their ace immediately.
All of this is funny, of course, since the Yankees used to be the ones in the Dodgers position and the baseball world would watch as George’s team grabbed any and every player they wanted. Their motives were simply to be the best, not so much a case of winning back fans or buying time for their farm to evolve. Whatever the reason, after decades of mediocrity (with albeit some good), we just deserve it. I’ve had to endure Paul DePodesta’s spend thrift shit rosters with Saber nitwits explaining why Hee-Seop Choi was a great player, and how Brad Penny was an ace, or Oscar Robles a major league shortstop. You can feel any way you want, but for me, I deserve to see top players in my town’s uniform for a change. Why not?
The problem with baseball payrolls is not that the Yankees or the Dodgers are big spenders; it’s that there aren’t more teams’ owners with as much conviction. Not every team can afford what Guggenheim apparently can, but they don’t need to pocket revenue sharing either to “pay off debt”.
I for one want the Dodgers to sign Tanaka. I’ve said as much since I first heard about his mastery in Japan last summer. I think signing Tanaka would cap a Murderer’s Row of starting pitchers to go along with a very deep bullpen (yay, bullpen!) and while other twitter folks have mentioned a row of great starting pitchers doesn’t always equate to championships, I would say it doesn’t hurt. Pitching is everything. As long as you have some offense, you can win with great pitching. Dan Evans’ underfunded teams would get pretty close with almost no offense at all at times. The Dodgers, as they stand now, have a lot of offense. It’s been so long since the team’s won; it’s easy to look for reasons to sabotage what should be euphoria.
Get Tanaka, so the worst starter is Dan Haren, who isn’t bad – especially the second half of 2013. Come mid-season, the Dodgers could move Haren, a free-agent in the off-season anyway, and promote one of the young arms who are close to ready – Stripling, Lee, Fife, Magill… Imagine a rotation where one of those big four starters isn’t even able to start in the post-season when a 3 man rotation goes into effect? It’s chilling.
I also want Tanaka since the agent for pretty much the entire Dodgers rotation builds opt out clauses into his clients’ deals. Not that he would, but if Zack Greinke decided to walk in 2 years, or wanted a bigger contract from the Dodgers, there would be depth in place to absorb that. By then the Dodgers could have the next Kershaw in the minors, and decide to let Greinke walk. Kershaw’s deal has an opt out after 5; same thing.
I look at the larger picture and think how do you win now, but also stay stocked for years – hopefully, setting you up for a dynasty. And the greedy fuck in me says I want to see a dominant team that crushes opponents. Most of the time, the Dodgers barely get by; they aren’t customarily a team that blows teams away and instills fear.
I will end there with the caveat that I in no way feel Kershaw or no, Tanaka or no, the Dodgers are guaranteed anything. Too often hungrier teams steal victory from the bloated fat cats of baseball. I still question the team’s heart and look to the non-pitchers with some confusion. I don’t see a lot of leaders on this team, and outside of outstanding pitchers, who steps up to be that person that gets everybody on track. As you know, a pitcher usually isn’t that guy, no matter how good he is.
I see work to be done with an empty bench and no doubt trades of backed up pitchers for experienced veterans to replace the departed folks like Ellis, Schumaker, Punto, Hairston, etc. So I don’t know what we have there, and it’s concerning. I also look at the outfield and honestly think I’d feel most comfortable if the 5th outfielder – top prospect Joc Pederson – was in the mix, and not so much the 4 more popular, and more highly paid, guys. I worry a lot about that outfield – only Andre Ethier seems mature, and he’s the least gifted physically of the bunch. Two others are into obnoxious reality skanks or other famous folks, and young Yasiel Puig is young and stupid.
The infield is better, but has concerns – at least to me, the realist. Bringing back Juan Uribe was not only necessary but brilliant. He and A-Gone ensure solid corners and professional players, and Hanley Ramirez offers one of the most feared bats in baseball, but not much defense, injuries and his own emotional baggage. Second base is a black hole that we won’t know more about until sometime in March. There are reasons to worry, or at the very least try to remain humble.
Ken Rosenthal wrote an article how the Dodgers have seemingly spent a trillion dollars, yet have question marks galore. I agree. For all of the spending, there is definitely reason for optimism but also no guarantee this mix of expensive guys will form an actual team. And in my opinion, smarts and grit are elements you can’t buy and there on any good baseball club. Let’s hope Donnie dim bulb not only learns how to piece together a lineup on a more consistent basis, but is also able to get through to these guys who could buy and sell him. If management isn’t able to hone this gang into an actual team, it will be a waste of a lot of money.
The most succinct summing up of the steroid aka PED era was today (and in the past) by Howard Stern. If you don’t listen to Howard, you should, and if you dislike him, you’re not someone who’s given the show a chance. Anyway, I digress…
Howard is NOT a sports fan and certainly not a baseball fan. His take, and it’s a good one, is that baseball and its owners sign players to long-term deals and when the contract becomes less favorable, as the player declines, they look for an out. Baseball is a corrupt sport where owners make up what we call MLB and the commissioner himself is a former owner put into power by other owners for the benefit of – you guessed it, owners. I threw in some of my own take here, but let me get back to what Howard noted.
When a deal with a in his prime star like A-Rod is struck, the owners don’t mind paying a big salary because they reap huge rewards – and wins – from the player’s accomplishments. When the player declines, they need to find ways to not pay the contract anymore. Howard’s take is that baseball and its owners all know full well that the league is dirty and most of the player (or certainly a lot) use or have used. They could care less and look a blind eye. This would explain why certain stars seem to go unnoticed until they’re either no longer productive, or perhaps an embarrassment in some way (Mitchell Report era guys (also at end of their careers in most part), Bonds, Braun, A-Rod, etc.). Again, I filled in a bit.
Howard says that since the league is run by peer owners, if the group collectively gets together to fight an obviously guilty but more, no longer valuable player like A-Rod, and give salary relief to a team like the Yankees, then they can do the same when their expensive star is no longer worth the contract. It’s an interesting theory and likely has a lot of truth to it. A-Rod has been a suspect for a good decade, but the war on him hit a head because he was owed more than $80M and sucks, even with his pharmaceuticals.
The ideal thing would be to find a way to void these cheaters contracts which would A) be a major deterrent against cheating, and B) protect teams, since players currently are protected in the form of too many years and too many dollars.
At any rate, Howard’s take that the Yankees and baseball’s problem with A-Rod is he’s old and no longer productive makes sense. I don’t want to be sued, so I will say that many stars around the league to me are obvious cheats. Guys on World Series winning teams, and lesser ones. The system is set up where there’s little reason not to cheat. If you get busted, you get a small suspension. If you get busted again, a slightly longer suspension. If you do the unthinkable and burn the sport to the ground like A-Rod has, you lose one year, but still are entitled to $60M+ when you come back. The Yankees will have to cut him a check to make him go away, and they will. A-Rod has played his last game. Much like Bonds, who actually was still productive at the end of his career, no team will touch the pariah. This is because these people are toxic and would destroy and clubhouse, but also because baseball is an old boys’ network and no one will go against that.
Howard is right. If A-Rod were still capable of massive numbers, he wouldn’t have been battled so ferociously. This is not a statement for A-Rod – I hate his guts. But as much as the players cheat and taint the numbers that mean so much to fans like all of us, the real villain here is baseball. Bud Selig has run a corrupt league for as long as he’s been in office. Now he’s trying to sell it that he cleaned up the game and got tough with dopers. Umm – you allowed the doping to occur. You looked the other way. You knew during that Mac/Sosa homerun chase that the guys were juiced. When Mac passed poor Roger Maris, you knew. You sold the game post-strike on the slogan “Chicks dig the long ball!” You knew. You run a dirty league, and I ask myself all the time why I even bother.
The cheating – as this weekend’s 60 Minutes piece made clear – is ahead of the testing. And the testing is not truly aimed at catching every player who cheats; don’t fool yourself. The fans are the victims, as we love the sport so much we put up with whatever bullshit thrown at us. Cheating, strikes, canceled World Series, asshole owners Bud and his pals approve, etc. We do it because we love the game more than the league itself does – the greedy owners who make millions off of us and plot to extract more out of our pockets.
Howard is right, as he very often is. Baseball only cared about A-Rod because his skills had deteriorated and the Yankees needed a way out. They needed to be protected from themselves. That massive second contract given to A-Rod, they only wanted to pay for the roided up guy who was on pace for 800 homers. Not the toxic douche bag that no longer could play, cost a ton and was becoming a huge inconvenience to the powers that be. Bud, your legacy in my opinion is of dirty tricks and a clear disregard for “the best interest of the game.” That Pete Rose is banned and your time as commissioner is celebrated is nauseating and an insult to anyone who calls himself/herself a baseball fan. Howard is 100x the gentleman than you are, sir. Baba booey to you all.
A very short one just because 140 characters on twitter doesn’t suffice.
Listen, kids – I want Clayton Kershaw in the Dodgers rotation as much as you but… here’s where we differ apparently… the team is more important ultimately than rooting for a good Christian with a wicked curve ball. If – I repeat, IF – Kershaw really, truly wants to test the free-agent waters for whatever reason (perhaps he wants to pitch in NY, or back home in Texas), let him.
If you’ve read my writing over the years you know I feel that signing pitchers – any pitchers – to long-term deals is stupid business. They get hurt, often early on, and the money you’re locked into for years beyond their health and productivity can cripple clubs. It’s not smart to go beyond five years for a pitcher, and as good as he is, a 10-15 year (i.e. “lifetime deal”) for Kershaw would not be good for the Dodgers and ultimately us, the fans.
So the reading impaired of you will scream, “You hate Kershaw! No WAY do they let him go!” or something worse. Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, so it’s possible you’re right and the team feels backed into a corner with this popular fan favorite and really can’t let him go. In which case, you win – but, do you really? Is it winning to get the pitcher and then watch him undergo Tommy John surgery, or worse, a shoulder injury, with upwards of $250M on his new deal?
Think about it – while it’s apples and oranges I know – look how the Yankees now are in a bind with A-Fraud’s contract. I understand Kershaw is the furthest thing from A-Fraud, but the financial implications could be similar. If Kershaw is signed for too long a period of time, it’s quite easy to think he won’t ever live up to the back end of the contract – similar to A-Fraud’s deal, and most likely other massive contracts, such as Albert Pujols.
Hey, it’s not my money, or yours, but it is – sort of. The new TV network has to pay for itself somehow, as do tickets to the games, beer, food, and oh, that parking we all love. The players’ big contracts are paid for by fans’ dollars and Kershaw’s could be an albatross if the Dodgers are lucky and “win” the right to keep him.
Still… you don’t want him to walk. But, what if there is no choice? What if, for whatever reason, Kershaw just wants to test the waters (as he says he may) and the pitching desperate Yankees offer him something absurd? Or Texas. Or Philadelphia, who just got a big TV deal of their own. Boston. Seattle. You get the point. If Kershaw doesn’t want to be here, or wants to be wooed like a girl angling for the prom, then what?
Just TALKING… conversing about scenarios of what I would do (believe it or not, I’m not the Dodgers GM, though sometimes I think I could do a better job) is not wrong. Suggesting trading a potentially fleeing Kershaw for young major league ready talent, and/or blue chips is not wrong. Thinking of eeking one more year out of him in order to potentially win a World Series and then getting a 1st round draft pick is not wrong.
If you believe the rumors that were leaked earlier this off-season, Kershaw was offered the largest contract in baseball history but was intimidated or unsure and didn’t accept it. Whatever the case, I doubt seriously him not being signed today is because the Dodgers don’t want him in blue. The reason is he’s either uncertain he wants to remain in LA, especially for so many years, or just wants to be loved up by all the teams in need of pitching help. Whatever the reason, Kershaw may not love you as much as you love him. In which case, what do you do? Get mad at me for stating what might be done, what perhaps should be done? Don’t shoot the messenger, people. I’m just an elderly therapist who sometimes is a rare voice of reason in a sea of emotional baseball fans.
This is when things get realllllly slow for me.
The Steelers season is over, UCLA football is finished, the Kings are playing sure, but that’s it. Now we sit through the dog days of winter, watch most of the country freeze over and await the thaw of spring. The Dodgers, college baseball, all the goodness of sitting in the stands, eating sunflower seeds and listening to baseball haters moan how long the season is.
In order to keep myself from complete Jack Nicholson in the Shining insanity, I am putting together words for you to read (hopefully) on thoughts surrounding the game. Various topics. Why not?
First of all – the Hall of Fame. A few ideas here. I am very happy for Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas. Maddux is a beast, a nerd who carved hitters up with masterful command and mound intelligence. The complete package, including a plethora of Gold Gloves. It was a pleasure to see him in Dodger blue, albeit at the end when his biggest contribution was as mentor to the other Dodgers pitchers. Man, that guy could pitch.
I found it hysterical – and disgusting – reading notable twitter doofuses critique Maddux and say how they’d leave him off their ballots. Of course, that’s why you live in your parents’ house and masturbate uncontrollably. Your too smart for the rest bit sickens me and is everything wrong with baseball since the invention of fantasy and the coming of Moneyball. You think too much. Maddux thought more. Maddux’ thoughts amounted into perfection and complete domination of the game’s best hitters. Your thoughts lead to stupid comments anyone who’s followed baseball for some time chuckle over. Maddux is a first ballot Hall of Famer, deservedly, and you’re dumb asses.
Frank Thomas blew me away from the moment I heard about him. His much anticipated debut for the White Sox, back when they were experimenting with Campbell’s soup C’s on their hats, was a thing to behold. The Big Hurt definitely fell into that bucket of “I can’t believe what I’m seeing”. Eventually his era would be known as the Steroid Era but I don’t think Thomas was guilty. The guy was built like a moose and a college football player. Of course anyone on the ballot nowadays could be looked at sideways, but like Maddux, Thomas’ domination was more than just a little extra on his fly balls. Thomas was a student of hitting, a Walt Hriniak disciple, and had a brilliant eye. He could hit anything near him, and most away from him. He took walks, he hit for average, he hit for power. He was amazing.
I am a suspicious person by nature and one who has strong opinions of Bud’s dirty league. Nothing would surprise me, and I definitely subscribe to the “if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true” school, but the Big Hurt was a hitting machine from Day One and due to his massive size – which didn’t change like some other bald headed homerun greats – he was one of the most incredible hitters I’ve ever seen personally.
That leads to the other same-era players on the current ballot that did not get in.
Baseball has a real problem, obviously, with suspicion surrounding everything that has happened in the recent past, as well as the current and foreseeable future. That said, unless there is evidence of any sort to tie a player to cheating – concrete evidence, be it failed tests, a mountain of evidence, Congressional appearances, court cases, books, etc. – I think we need to look at players from this time period with an unbiased eye.
Mike Piazza, in my opinion, is a Hall of Famer. Like Thomas, he was amazing from his first appearance. He wasn’t skinny and suddenly huge. His numbers weren’t normal and then insane. Piazza was a monster from the time he appeared in Dodgers camp and Roy Campanella told Tommy Lasorda the best catcher at Vero was this young rookie, not the big league catchers the team intended to break camp with.
Piazza slugged his way into Dodgers fans hearts, hitting for both power and average – all while playing the toughest position on the field. His critics would say he wasn’t a great catcher, but I would disagree. He excelled in areas Saber geeks would never acknowledge. He handled very good Dodgers pitching staffs and helped make them among the top couple staffs in the league annually. He stood in there at the plate like no man since Mike Scioscia. Buster Posey could take notes from the bravery Piazza showed behind the dish. And remember, a great hitter like that didn’t have to stand there and block the plate; he could have swiped cowardly at runners like Posey does, but he didn’t. He was a modern era monster hitter with respect for the game and the past and the long, rich history of Dodgers catching – a segment in my opinion every bit as impressive as the blue’s pitching greats. Campanella, Roseboro, Yeager, Ferguson, Scioscia, etc.
Was Piazza a great defender? Depends on how you look at it. He had a strong but mostly inaccurate arm and the throwing definitely fell off along the way. Of course you want a good arm on your catcher, but handling a pitching staff is the biggest priority. Piazza handled a United Nations of pitchers and the guys responded. I already mentioned the plate blocking. And then there was that hitting. That opposite field power. Just a beast. He was the best hitter I may have seen personally wear Dodgers blue, and there have been some great ones.
I think it’s a crime Piazza isn’t in the HOF already. He deserves to be. I would say a lot of guys who fall into this group – players gossiped about, questioned, but never proven guilty of anything. Baseball has a mess on their hands thanks to their commissioner who let it happen, and continues to let it happen. I think you do one of two things – ignore everyone from this era, putting in deserving veterans who pre-date the PED time frame, or allow the ones you have no real evidence of anything. If it’s just some hearsay that perhaps someone used, you have to let it go. EVERYONE could have been using, so to cherry pick a few based on their relationships with baseball writers is stupid. Baseball needs to heal; the fans are tired of the bullshit. And for god’s sake, let Pete Rose in. Put the truth on his plaque, but put him in. It’s idiotic to hold fast on this in an era where every season the past 20 has sketchy behavior linked to it.
Today there was some talk with Ned about things going on, including Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez extension talk, Alexander Guerrero and other second base options, the health of certain players, Don Mattingly’s extension, etc. I’ll briefly hit some of these topics…
Regarding Kershaw, I’ve made it plain how I feel about this. In any case, a massive long-term deal to a pitcher is a bad idea. If the Dodgers “win” with Kershaw and he “allows” them to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars, at some point they will still “lose”. The armchair GM in me would never give any pitcher – ANY PITCHER – more than 5 years. I just think it’s stupid and there is no chance the player can ever stay healthy the lifetime of a longer contract.
Kershaw has a lot of mileage on his still young left arm and the chance of injury over the next 5-10 years is pretty great. That said, it’s not my money (not really; it’s always the fans’ money paying for these types of things), and if the Dodgers want to keep their ace – the best pitcher in baseball (although not yet the big game winner I’d like to see) – so be it. If they want to give him 10-15 years instead of my preferred 5, that’s their business. Who knows what the value of a player really is? Maybe Kershaw’s presence means more butts in the seats, and not only on days he pitches. Maybe it means a title or two (hard to say, it’s been 25 since we’ve seen one here in LA), and who can quantify what that means in terms of overall revenue? Basically, I am game if Stan Kasten is. I’ll enjoy the team either way – Kershaw or no.
I understand how much current Dodgers fans love Kershaw. But perhaps he doesn’t love you as much. Maybe he wants out of LA. Maybe he just wants to explore the business end of the game – which is his right. Maybe he wants to pitch in Texas. Or Philadelphia. Or Anaheim. Or New York. Or Boston. Maybe he just wants to keep people guessing. Or maybe he doesn’t know what he wants, and is keeping his options open.
I get it. He has every right to do whatever he wants. The Dodgers are over a barrel though as they can either keep trying to sign him long-term, trade him, or let him finish out his deal and perhaps walk in October. If the latter, then it might be worth it if they win this season. Like I said, if the “worst” happened and Kershaw walked, with the Dodgers getting just a first round pick for their troubles, it might not be the worst thing in the world. It would mean they got that pick, maybe a title in 2014, and didn’t have to pay Kershaw upwards of a quarter of a billion dollars to stay in blue. If his arm fell off in 2015 or beyond, it would be the problem of his new team. And who knows… with Logan White and company handling the scouting, maybe that draft pick turns into the next Kershaw.
Anyway, that’s the worst case scenario. You’d have to think that Kershaw will eventually sign with the Dodgers. I mean, where is he going? Would he leave after all the lean years, right when money is plentiful, the image and fortunes of the team is improving, and it’s a chief destination spot for players again? And if the Dodgers can get over their immaturity and win in 2014, would Kershaw walk away from the only team he’s ever known, a team that just won the World Series? It’s hard to believe.
It will be interesting to see how this game of “chicken” plays out. I am hoping the Dodgers go in for Masahiro Tanaka, not only to bolster the pitching staff now, but to offer good “Kershaw insurance” moving forward. If Kershaw decided to leave, a staff anchored by Zack Greinke, Tanaka and Hyun-jin Ryu doesn’t sound bad. And all that money they didn’t give to Kershaw could be used to acquire another top flight arm for 2015 and beyond.
The future is bright as it pertains to the Dodgers pitching – with Kershaw or without.
I think signing Hanley Ramirez is a priority and why not? The guy hit like a monster in the games he was healthy for in 2013. Signing Hanley works in several ways… it keeps him happy, and happy Hanley is better than pouting Hanley. It makes him tradable – no, I would not give him a no-trade clause so he could later be dealt, as his defense erodes, or when the team finds solid solutions for the middle infield. It also keeps him in blue should they decide to keep him. It would be one less thing to worry about for the next 5 years. I think this will get done, and I hope they don’t give him a no-trade. I like him – to me his presence, along with the bullpen being fixed – were the two biggest reasons for the Dodgers turnaround in June. Even more than the arrival of Yasiel Puig. That said, I don’t entirely think he’s the right piece for the Dodgers long-term, and I question a lot of the pieces in the current mix. This is why Ken Rosenthal’s column recently about how the Dodgers are spending a ton but still have so many question marks is relevant.
The Dodgers have a lot of pieces in place, but they may not have the right pieces. It remains to be seen if Hanley is a major asset for years to come in blue. His health, his track record of grumbling and his shaky defense make me wonder. I’m a purist – and as one moron on twitter recently said “a bitter old white guy.” Sue me. I like smart players who are less spectacular by and large but very smart, gritty and reliable. I would trade tools galore for intelligent players who just find ways to do their jobs without a lot of mistakes. I have said before, and I’ll say it again here for those who may have missed it – I would gladly take 8 Dave Roberts over 8 Matt Kemps or 8 Yasiel Puigs. I think that’s how good teams win – the Cardinals, the Red Sox, etc.
In a perfect world, I’d like my shortstop to be a fielder first, a hitter second. Same thing with catcher. In the modern era, since the arrival of “the shortstops” – A-Rod, Jeter, Garciaparra – defensive prowess has become less valued by fans and stats are all that matters. You have to remember, the shortstops of the last 2 Dodgers championship clubs were Alfredo Griffin (.259 with 1 home run in ’88) and Bill Russell (.233 with no home runs in ’81… Derrel Thomas also played short that season, hitting .248 with 4 home runs). If Hanley does a serviceable job with the leather, I’m happy with him. His bat is so awesome it allows for some leeway. But if he’s a mess, or if he can’t stay healthy, I’d prefer a more traditional shortstop. That’s just me; I know many people feel otherwise, and you’re entitled to your opinions.
Folks need to give up the pipe dream that the rotation will be saved by Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett. The Dodgers certainly aren’t counting on these guys, and you’d think after so many fans chirped last winter about Ted Lilly, Billingsley and all the other “options” the Dodgers had (only to learn guys like Stephen Fife, Matt Magill, etc. would be needed to save the day), folks would learn.
Billingsley – outside of that hot stretch where he won 6 in a row, I believe, has been mostly a disappointment for years. It’s his inability to grow as a pitcher, perhaps soft, who knows, but he hasn’t lived up to his promise. His contract is about to expire and I would be shocked if the Dodgers re-upped with him. I see a scenario where he comes back mid-year and helps the bullpen, or perhaps is pressed if someone gets hurt, or more likely is dealt. I think Billingsley’s best days are behind him, at least in blue. It’s possible he goes elsewhere and reinvents himself, but that seems unlikely. I’d guess he’s more or less done in blue, except as some possible depth – until a trade is worked out, or some bullpen need arises.
More of a longshot would be Beckett, who wasn’t very good when he was healthy. His injury isn’t run of the mill and if the Dodgers were really counting on him and had faith, they wouldn’t have signed Dan Haren or be discussing Tanaka. Beckett falls into that bucket of depth I mentioned above, and if he looks ok, I’m sure the Dodgers wouldn’t mind moving him for prospects this spring to some pitching hungry team. i.e. don’t expect him to be a factor in blue anymore. Not that he ever was in LA anyhow.
I’ve said enough in the past about the starry eyed reality tail chasing outfield, so I won’t go there again this time. I just had to vent a little, and talk about some of the news happening in baseball. As it stands now, we’re just over a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and college baseball starting up. I count down to that, and spring training, not opening day. I love the process that is baseball – the hot stove dealings, the rumors, the signings, spring training, seeing which prospects step up, who disappoints, etc. Opening day is nice, but since Bud idiotically has the blue opening on another continent, I’ll just prepare for mid-February and then March, when spring play begins.
Keep it real, Dodgers fans. Be kind to one another; don’t be a douche. LA gets a bad rep for its grunting, animalistic fans – i.e. Raider Nation, which Magic densely refers to as “Dodger Nation”. I’d like to think we’re all a bit more evolved than that and are more Vin Scully than Duck Dynasty. If you are someone who is close-minded and/or hateful, feel free to unfollow me on twitter. I don’t want morons reading my words anyway. As a person who loves the long history of the Dodgers and who has suffered greatly the past 30+ years of following the blue, I have no patience for that. It’s time for blue goodness. It’s time to get back to winning.