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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Farewell, Ted Williams

Searching for something else on Google, I stumbled across a New Yorker article by John Updike on Ted Williams' last game. Read it; it's beautiful.

OT: Calendar Tricks, and Second Chances

Today is a leap year's day, the first in eight years. We missed one in 2000 because the year was divisible by 400. This one leap year's day forgot was the great addition of the Gregorian calendar, now used throughout the world. To read it now, the adoption of Christoph Clavius' calendar -- it is more correctly his than the pope's -- in Protestant countries is nearly unimaginable; it was at first rejected in England, Germany, and the Netherlands. Imagine the rejection of Newtonian mechanics in an Iowa statehouse, or the operation of the circulatory system in Congress. Yet, we have those in power who wish to suppress stem cell research, and so our link to the progress-frustrating past continues.

Probably my favorite chronological anomaly is the leap second, made necessary by advances in timekeeping made in the 1950's, and in particular, the invention of the atomic clock. This unimaginably accurate instrument discovered the earth's slow deceleration by roughly one second per 18 months. To compensate, scientists running the world's time system created a leap second periodically if needed. I used to work for a company that made military surveillance satellites, and on the days we would get a leap second, one of the staff would bake a chocolate cake. So perhaps I have a Pavlovian fondness for leap seconds. But, things are speeding up, and the earth itself seems to be one of them. There hasn't been a leap second since 1999 because of that small acceleration, but it strikes me a little sad that the leap second seems destined to go away. Perhaps we should have a chocolate cake today, anyway.

The Emperor Seligula

Bud Selig now disputes an HBO report claiming he and family members took $2 million, combined, in salary from the Brewers while crying poor to the Wisconsin legislature, in effect committing a fraud upon them. While this happens as a matter of course -- it is quite normal for legislatures, great and small, to lie to the taxpayers they flog for their ill-gotten means -- it is quite another thing if (a) the target is the statehouse itself, and (b) it is done with the kleig lights applied in gale force. Bud needs to open his books and get it over with. Perhaps a move to Mexico or some suitable Caribbean nation with lax reciprocal extradition history is in order. Else, he might need to do some light reading.

It must comfort Frank McCourt to know the ball and chain attached to the Dodgers' hindquarters pays for such stuff. Revenue sharing will have no effect on small-market team competitiveness until the system is overhauled to require owners to either spend money on the field or return the cash to the league and its otherwise rightful owners.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Stealing Against the A's

A few days ago, Tyler Bleszinski guffawed that the Angels had better watch out on the basepaths, as new sheriff Damien Miller was gonna gun down Eckstein et al. Well, the Angels' running game has only improved vs the A's in the last two years:


Ramon Hernandez' 2003 CS% of .330 was good, but not nearly as good as the .400 he sported the year before. While it's altogether possible that Miller may actually represent a step down given age and years behind the plate, it seems to me that something else is going on here. Consider this:

Tim Hudson
Mark Mulder
Barry Zito

So, it looks like something happened for all three here: a light came on in 2002 and suddenly steals against dropped dramatically. It couldn't have been Hernandez, as he caught most games back to 2000. Did they change coaches? Was there an anti-theft elixir put into the water coolers in the Oakland dugout? Whatever happened, it doesn't seem to coincide with the principle catcher. Despite what Tyler believes, I'd be more likely to bet that steals against will change only minimally with the addition of Miller. David Eckstein, you are cleared to take second.

Goliath, Chained

Jayson Stark's column today goes into round two of what has been hot on baseball's mind for well over a decade now: how to contain the Yankees. While I jokingly suggested that the Dodgers returning to Brooklyn could solve that problem indirectly, the eggheads within baseball have a less elegant plan, albeit one that would ensure the Dodgers stay put in Chavez Ravine. Namely, they want to audit the YES network's books:
The way the Yankees' critics see it, the YES network has been, essentially, a license for the Yankees to print funny money. They're reporting $50 million a year in rights fees. But MLB suspects the true value of YES to this club is actually much higher.

To determine how much higher, sources say that MLB is ready to bring in an independent auditor to determine YES's true market value to the team. If that value turns out to be more than $50 million, the Yankees would have to pay another 40 percent of that difference. Not just this year. Every year. Retroactively.

This doesn't affect the Angels much, a club with one of the worst TV rights deals in the majors, but it most assuredly will affect the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and a whole host of other teams -- including the Dodgers. You think McCourt will scream if MLB tries to get retroactive revenue out of the team? Wait 'til MLB tries to cash that check! It's remarkably bad timing for McCourt, who apparently has such a bad TV deal that he overpromised on the number of games that would be aired in order to conjure up some extra revenue. Earlier, he claimed all Dodger games would air, but it seems that this is a non-possibility thanks to national coverage rules (nationally televised games may not conflict with locally shown games). Promises are cheap, Frank. I can hardly wait to see what happens when the season is halfway through and the team is sunk firmly in the middle of the division -- again.

Wrong Pitch

Title of a spam in the inbox today:


I get no offers to make it into a Padre, Diamondback, Athletic or Mariner. Not even the Rangers are so desperate. Hard times by the bay, I suppose...

Update: I beg your humble pardon if my blue humor may have offended...

Mortar and Trowel: Thoughts On Team Building

I was working on a tiling project in my bathroom Thursday night. It's taken me a lot longer than I thought it would, and I made at least one key discovery along the way: never use three-hour-old thinset mortar still in the bucket from before lunch. Throw it out and start over. (The tiles have a tendency to fall off if you don't.) But, be that as it may, my tiling project got me thinking about building other things, in particular, baseball teams, and how to go about it. In the span of five years, the Florida Marlins showed two very different approaches to this job.

The first pass came in the 1990's after Wayne Huizenga, the garbage magnate, bought the expansion Marlins. (Huizenga's involvement in the garbage industry, notorious for its mob connections, and subsequent creation of Blockbuster Video, an all-cash business, has never sit well with me. You can find an anti-Horatio Alger bio of him here if you're interested.) He decided he wanted to buy a title -- and proceeded to boost payroll buying players like Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, and Alex Fernandez. The team's collective salary was $47 million, an incredible figure at the time for a small market team. In fact, here's a breakdown of 1997 final standings with payroll rankings:

TeamDivisionFinishPayrollDiv. PR
BaltimoreAL East1st$54.9M2nd
NYAL East2nd (WC)$59.1M1st
ClevelandAL Central1st$54.1M2nd
SeattleAL West1st$39.7M2nd
AtlantaNL East1st$50.5M1st
FloridaNL East2nd (WC)$47.8M2nd
HoustonNL Central1st$32.9M3rd
San FranciscoNL West1st$33.5M3rd

For the most part, you had to be first or second in spending to win your division. The anomalous Giants (behind the Dodgers and, unbelievably, Padres) and Astros (trailing the Cards and Cubs) provided the exceptions to the rule, but since both were erased in the playoffs, attentive GM's learned a lesson that was about to get expensive for everybody. The path to the postseason was clear: purchase the services of free agents, and lots of them. But those free agents were about to get a lot more expensive.

Of course, the next year, Huizenga had a fire sale, his team unable to support the payroll level he had established. In 1998, the Marlins finished 54-108, dead last in the NL East and the worst record in baseball. The next year, in exchange for their awfulness, they acquired Josh Beckett in the first round, the second overall pick of the 1999 amateur draft. And thus began the recapitulation of a story about how winning might be possible: through the farm.

Push The Button, My Friend, Take Me Back Into Time

It's easy now to wax trite about the vices of free agency and the virtues of the farm, especially after the 2002 and 2003 World Series. But the evidence of the farm's long-term benefit was present even when Kevin Malone was drawing exactly the wrong conclusion from the 1997 postseason. Before I indulge myself, let's take a look at that year's postseason teams and ask a hopefully useful question: how many of their core starting players, defined by 300 or more at bats or listed as a starter (pitcher or player) on Baseball-Reference.com, were brought up from the farm?

Yankees163Posada was on the team but contributed few AB's this year.
Braves148Smoltz came up with the Braves but was not drafted by them. I count him as a farmhand.
Marlins155The Fish were an expansion team, which explains the large number of farmhands.
Astros125The Astros used a four-man rotation in 1997.
Giants153Shawn Estes came up with the Giants, so I count him as a farmhand. Wilson Alvarez and Osvaldo Hernandez, while counting as farmhands, both pitched so few innings as starters (66 1/3 and 56 1/3, respectively) that they have been dropped.

Clearly, the Braves had the most productive farm system, followed by the Indians, Marlins, Astros, and Mariners, and then the rest. And while the Marlins won the pennant that year, the Braves won their division, as they have continued to do to this day. Cleveland, in the Central, was in the midst of a surge that had them winning six division titles and two pennants. In a thread on the Angels' fan forum about Moneyball, Stephen Smith of Future Angels had this to say about the relationship between the Braves, the farm system, and solid teams:

... keep in mind that teams with poorer win-loss records in the prior year get higher draft picks. Given the natural cycle over time, the idea behind the draft was to at least provide all teams with an opportunity to improve themselves. It may take ten years or more for this cycle to play out.

The A's are the classic example. They had mini-dynasties in the early 1970s, the late 1980s-early 1990s, and then started upward again in the late 1990s. Inbetween, they had some horrific teams -- which meant they were drafting higher than other teams for several years in a row.

Last winter I began to research this "circle of life," to see if since the draft began what was the relationship between a parent club's win-loss record over time and the cumulative win-loss record each year of its minor league teams. Given the theory being tested, if correct we should see something like a helix, or put another way a "bubble" in the minors preceding a later "bubble" in the majors.

Sure enough, I saw that pattern with the A's.

It was less apparent in other organizations. Some organizations like the Angels were quite peripatetic, because player development philosophy constantly changed based on the whim of the owner. The Braves, certainly the most consistantly dominant team in the last decade, actually had a lot of losing years in the minors even though they were regularly pumping out minor league talent, because they signed more players than everyone else. While most teams carried five or six minor league teams, the Braves had seven or eight until Major League Baseball standardized the minor league structure with the 1997 Basic Agreement. So the Braves did it with volume. [emphasis mine]

So the Braves' large number of homegrown players should come as no surprise given their operations during that era. But even allowing for that, Smith's research -- which he unfortunately didn't present in more detail -- provides an interesting glimpse into forecasting major league teams' success on the field by looking at their minor league stats. And while it's a statement he would later amend, Atlanta's steady dominance of their division versus Florida's 1997 Wild Card supernova would seem to make the Braves the authors of "how to win" textbooks.

The Necessity Of Farmhands

Among those not reading from that textbook, however, was Kevin Malone, whose notorious squandering of club resources has been well-documented and lamented elsewhere. Most infamously, he neglected the team's once legendary farm system, leaving new GM Dan Evans to replenish a desert. Since Evans brought in Logan White to run the Dodgers' vast scouting department, the club has had two highly regarded drafts. Highly regarded by who, though? So far, it's two groups: Baseball America, and other GMs. Josh Boyd, now gone on to work as a scout for the Padres, said in his Dodgers system chat that the system is the best in the NL West. Jim Callis ranked the Dodgers system fourth in the majors overall. And, GMs all over baseball were hot for our top pitching prospects Greg Miller and Edwin Jackson, guys like Kenny Williams of the Chisox (for Magglio Ordoñez), Theo Epstein ( for Nomar), Doug Melvin (for Richie Sexson), and Dave Littlefield (last year, for Brian Giles).

While such speculation makes for good for watercooler fodder, whether it translates to wins on the field later is another story, a point Jon and Mariners Wheelhouse made earlier. The farm is great, the farm is good, but only the games at the major league level count. Trouble is, a strong farm is a requirement; few teams can afford to consistently (that word is important) buy their way to a pennant. It's commonly said that the exception to this rule is the Yankees... or is it? The 80's-era Yanks tried to buy their way to glory, to no avail; so have others tried in vain. This week in Baseball Prospectus, Steven Goldman discusses the Peter Angelos of his day: Thomas Yawkey. Yawkey tried to buy a championship in the 30's, an era when "rival teams [were] 'freely' giving away talent". But of course, we all know that it didn't work. Goldman says this is for two reasons:

[It's] almost impossible to buy enough [players] to staff an entire ballclub. Not only will the pool of available talent, at its deepest, be unequal to the demand (note that even this year's Yankees, who have acquired a number of big-ticket items from more conservative clubs, have not been able to buy certainty for their starting rotation) but buying off the rack forces a team to be overly dependent on making the right selections--that is, on luck. A team that chooses to bank on stars rather than on depth faces a greater risk of having no fallback should their star prove to be infirm, unreliable, or simply on the way down. The large influx of talent that comes with developing a strong minor league system gives a team the depth to survive its own misjudgments.
Even assuming those questioning the quality of the recent Dodger drafts have valid points, the fact that these players were established when the team had relatively low first-round picks is impressive. Maybe White got lucky, but based on baseball's reaction, he got awfully lucky, awfully fast, and frequently. More so with pitching than hitting -- this is a subject for another day -- but pitching can be traded for hitting. While the Dodgers aren't yet in a position to be able to do that, they soon will be. Even though there's a lot of variables -- McCourt's lack of scratch is a big one -- at least we can say the Dodgers have a strong farm system. That's one thing out of the way.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Frank, Too, Shall Pass

PennantsWS Wins
New York Yankees1901-2004.5663926
San Francisco/New York Giants1883-2004.541205
Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers1884-2004.524226

Thanks to Baseball Reference for reminding me of that. Third highest career winning percentage of any franchise over ten years old. More World Series wins than any other National League team since 1950. This is the Dodgers, not some squeak toy. We shall outlast you, Frank. Get used to it.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

OT: Images of Occupation-Era Japan

Photographs of Occupation-era Japan, 1948-51, by John W. Bennett. Incredible to think that war's end is over 50 years gone now. A lot of the material here consists of his contemporaneous writings, which bear the dull echoes of the bureaucratese his position no doubt forced upon him. But Bennett's eye for composition more than compensated for his leaden pen.

Move Now, Paul

Aaron Boone was unconditionally released by the Yanks today. I see a starting second baseman in the Dodgers' future... or maybe fuel to light a fire under Adrian Beltre. Update: ... or not. Boone "is not expected to play this season." Update, 2/27 7:35 am: Boone says he thinks he will play in 2004. Believe what you want.

Microsoft Insecurity

So today I came in to the office and my computer had rebooted. I left it on because I always leave it on; Windows 2000 always takes too long to reboot and pick up my 700+ pieces of mail I get nightly from a cold start. (No, I am not kidding about that number. Probably two-thirds are spam, and most of the others are various and sundry automated work-related alerts I get.) At some point overnight, we had a brief outage that shut down every computer in the office. So I get in, and turn the thing on.

boot... boot ... boot ...

I log in.

chime ... background ... blah

Twenty minutes later it still hadn't finished coming up. I couldn't even see Outlook, which is set up to start at login. Fine. Get a browser window and check the news on Drudge, Yahoo, whatever. I click on a link. Nothing happens... then a flurry of activity, and from nowhere, a browser fullsizes itself and demands I click to a link that promises it will rid me of nasty spyware forever.

Yeah, right.

Somehow, I'm not quite sure how, I think I ended up saying "yes" to installing some malware on my machine, and all due to Windows' insistance on being only apparently ready to take my requests -- but then routing them randomly (from my point of view) when they are at last presented. It reset my browser to point to their unpleasant little site, and popped out the CD I was listening to (Lyle Lovett's "Live In Texas", thanks for the suggestion, Jon). So long as Microsoft thinks ease of use should come ahead of actual, meaningful security, so long will we have viruses and trojans.

And, did I mention I'm going to run Linux on my new work computer?

Staring at Steroids

From the Toronto Star:
"If you're a baseball purist like me," David Letterman once said, "you know the season doesn't really begin until Jose Canseco gets arrested."
Canseco's off-field performance bothers me, but that's not what I'm here to talk about today. It's his use of steroids. Today's Contra Costa Times called it "a nasty business", but I keep asking myself -- and the surrounding world -- what, specifically, is so nasty about it? In a universe where "everybody's doing it", players have a jones to keep up with the Joneses, or the Bonds, or the Cansecos. Steroids are the ticket to better performance. Baseball has had a long history of not caring. Nobody's dying from the stuff. The onus is on the people decrying steroids for their awfulness to make their case in a grownup manner, and not with transparent and lame "just say no to drugs" homilies.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

My Penance for Being Lazy and Incurious

... is reading Sean's excellent rebuttal to my earlier post about the Angels' 2002 championship run being the result of luck. It's a good, vigorous, piece of writing. As expected, I do have some quibbles with it.
1. The team stayed healthy, except for Sele, and they had Lackey to replace him. Well, no.
Got me on that one, Sean.
2. Several players had career years, including Benji Gil and Scott Spiezio.
Two does not equal "several." More to the point, one does not equal "several." As I said before, Scott Spiezio was the only Angel to post numbers significantly above his norm in 2002. Gil, like Palmeiro and Wooten, had above-average years, but none experienced the best year of their career. The rest of the lineup either put up numbers that were very close to what they could have been expected to do, or haven't been in baseball long enough to evaluate whether their 2002 season was a statistical outlier (like Washburn and Ortiz). In a few more years, I suspect we may conclude that Adam Kennedy had a career year in 2002, but we can't tell yet, as he's still in the portion of his career where he's likely to improve. For a while, I thought that Ben Weber and/or Brendan Donnelly had also topped out in 2002, but their performances in 2003 seem to indicate that they may just be that good (I'm not completely sold on that, but that's how the evidence looks now).
I can see there's some room for semantical quibbling here -- so, fine, I'll concede that we're dealing with less-than-career years for a number of players, (update: and that "several" does not equal "two" -- so more on this in a bit) but that doesn't mean that above-average years don't qualify as luck. For starters, let's look at Gil. His career average line hitherto was .236/.289/.359; in 2002, he posted .285/.307/.431, with an OPS of .738, well over his .647 average through 2001. Maybe not the absolute best year of his career (measured by OPS for years with more than 100 AB, that was 2001), but certainly the second best, and one I don't think anyone would have predicted -- except perhaps his one fan. (What a lonely job that must be!) I have to disagree about AK -- I think he'll continue to improve (for a while, at least -- he's still in that part of his career) -- and Weber and Donnelly as well. Washburn I'll cut some slack because he was injured last year, but frankly, I want to see him do it twice. Ortiz I'm not so sure about; I think what you see with him is what you get. Both are perfumed with luck to me -- and their appearance on the 2002 DIPS dERA-ERA leaderboard lends credence to that.

Moving right along:

Regardless, the fact is that it's actually normal for any given team to have a guy or two experience the best year of his career. I mean, you've got nine guys in the lineup and five starting pitchers, plus a closer - even if you don't pay any attention to the bench or the guys in the bullpen, that's fifteen chances for a career year.
And this finally gets to the meat of the matter. The more players you have, the more that can have bad seasons. Assume the chances of any one team member having a good season are 1 in 3. The odds of any n players having simultaneous good seasons becomes vanishingly small the larger n is.

Moreover, getting back to Gil, the bench guy you lose can be a worse than the starter who goes down. If the team loses a starter due to injury, you put your bench guy in, but if you lose the bench player, you get hosed when the starter needs a day off, or worse, also goes down, because then it's time to call up a AAAA type (read: Amezega). That's why I say the team got lucky losing Sele for two reasons: first, he was having trouble that year (4.89 ERA, anyone?), and second, Lackey was ready to go and actually excelled. Who knows but that we could have gotten the 2003 Lackey in 2002?

3. Appier had his last good year. Probably true, but so what?
So what is, if Appier falls apart as in 2003, there really isn't anybody ready in the minors to take over the starter role, i.e., you need two John Lackeys when only one is ready.
4. The Angels had great pitching in the minors to draw on. See, that's just not luck at all.
It is and it isn't. See above.

After reading Sean's blog, I still think the Halos had a guardian angel on their shoulder in 2002, who promptly went on vacation in 2003. But I'll give him kudos for a great rejoinder.


Shawn, Shawn, Shawn...
"Right now," Green said, "this lineup definitely requires me to have a year equal to or better than any I've ever had.

"I'm going to try and do it, but I still feel that what the club needs most is another hitter for the middle of the lineup.

"I mean, it's difficult going to spring training knowing your lineup is such that a lot of guys have to have career years if we're going to have a good offensive team.

"That's not the right way to go into the season."

Oh, you're right, Shawn. But I guess that must mean you're not a team player. You have too much entheta, or something. Repeat after me: the new regime's only been here a couple of weeks. They have a great game plan. It was much better than Cats, I want to see it again and again...

Why is Newhan publishing this stuff? Does he want Shawn gone?

Update: Another possibility: Shawn wants off the team, bad. Read this as a trade-me plea. After last year, I don't see how that could happen unless Greenie has a monster first half.

Not Oil And Water, Vinaigrette

Baseball America's cover story today is about an interesting possibility, the reverse of the one I posted yesterday. Jim Callis explains why Logan White and Paul DePodesta may actually work well together.
"What's going to surprise people is how well Paul and I get along," White says. "I think we'll learn a lot from each other." ...

"My sincere feelings are that we'll hit it off real well. We've talked about how our philosophies mix. I think everyone is visualizing he's going to tell me to take all college players. He's been pretty open. We haven't sat down to talk about all of the particulars, but we're going to get along tremendously. We just may surprise the industry."

What's shocking is that the A's have actually paid more in their drafts -- $14M -- on signings in 2002 and 2003 than the Dodgers, who paid out a mere $11M. And, as BA says, "It's still early, but it looks like Los Angeles had baseball's best draft in 2003." If DePodesta does keep White around, it could be a very good sign indeed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Listening Comprehension Test

What We Say To Ballplayers

We're not rebuilding. My goal is to win this year, to win every year. It's a single focus like a laser beam, to win with the right people, with players that have the drive, that have the courage to be the best they can be. To have players that have respect and pride for the Dodger uniform. To wear it with respect and pride.
What They Hear

Blah Blah Blah Win This Year Blah Blah Blah Win Every Year Blah Blah Blah
Thanks to Gary Larson for the inspiration for this one...

Luck, Be A Lady (Or At Least, A Halo)

Richard over on Pearly Gates goes after the chestnut that the Angels 2002 title wasn't due principally to luck. I would remind him that luck did in fact play a large factor: It's not that the Angels didn't win their 2002 title, Richard -- it's that luck played so substantial a role in getting them to the finish line. I would believe luck had less to do with their positioning if the team repeated the following year for another postseason run. They didn't, and that's why their title was less than convincing.

A Regrooved Shawn Green

Comes now Green out of the general manager's office, buttocks and wrists smarting. He gives the now-standard speech:
"The new regime's only been here a couple of weeks," said Green, who is experimenting with a move from right field to first base this spring. "They've had a lot going on. It sounds like they've established a good game plan.

"I still feel right now the offense is much better than it was last year. There's the addition of Juan Encarnacion, who's a very solid guy and a really good run producer."

Jeez, Shawn, how does it feel to be a sock puppet? I guess I could stand it, too, if they were handing me Barry Bonds-sized tall dollars. But the humiliation... the frustration of having to backtrack on legitimate and wholly comprehensible anger and disbelief.

My boss in my first real job out of college told me that once you cross the $100,000 per year salary mark, the qualifications reduce to how much shit you can take. By that standard, Green currently labors in the Hyperion plant, moving the effluence one $92,500 shovelful at a time.

Turning Dodger Stadium Into An Abbattoir

One of my favorite Monty Python sketches is the "Architects Sketch", which, if you're not familiar with it, opens as follows:
Mr. Tid (Graham Chapman): Well, gentlemen, we have two architectural designs for this new residential block of yours and I thought it best if the architects themselves explained the particular advantages of their designs.

<There is a knock at the door.>

Mr. Tid: Ah! That's probably the first architect now. Come in.

<Mr. Wiggin enters. >

Mr. Wiggin (John Cleese): Good morning, gentlemen.
Clients: Good morning.
Mr. Wiggin: This is a 12-storey block combining classical neo-Georgian features with the efficiency of modern techniques. The tenants arrive here and are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme comfort, past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled flesh slurps into these....
Client 1: Excuse me.
Mr. Wiggin: Yes?
Client 1: Did you say 'knives'?
Mr. Wiggin: Rotating knives, yes.
Client 2: Do I take it that you are proposing to slaughter our tenants?
Mr. Wiggin: ...Does that not fit in with your plans?

Well, no, but that's about how I feel upon reading the very unsurprising rumor appearing in New York's Newsday that scouting director Logan White's job is in jeopardy. Paul DePodesta may be the architect of many things, but it's yet to be seen whether a championship team is one of them. And while, as Jon rightly points out, it's a bit premature for Jacksonmania, cutting the man who got us our highly-rated prospects chafes, badly.

Monday, February 23, 2004

New Angels News Site

I'm not sure if I should categorize this as an Angels new site or a blog -- I'm keeping it under the Blog listing, for now, though: Angels Win. Today's lead story builds a case for Troy Glaus to have a monster year now that we have Vlad in the lineup. Well, I hope so. Anyway, very professional looking.

Now Covering for Aretha Franklin, #38 -- Eric Gagné

Boras really needs to get his clients a better speechwriter, because they're all sounding like a broken record. Eric Gagné is just the latest to demand a multiyear contract while mouthing the R-word -- "respect". Eric, come now, you're a smart guy -- surely by now you should know the success rate of that mantra. Yours is now 10 of 11 arbitration cases Boras has lost. Of course, I should count the fact that Eric's beating the drum for a long-term contract as a positive move; in earlier times, Boras would just have his client hie to the free agency hills and so much for that. But the new economic reality seems to be steeping into his rock maple head. There is hope, even by the fiery lake.

Yet, the news is not all good. If Boras, through Gagné, speaks sweet words of conciliation and long-term contracts, it is because the number of teams requiring the services of an übercloser that can afford this one are small, and at the moment, perhaps zero. Even if DePodesta wanted to sell-the-Gagné for a bat, his franchise player might not have a home anywhere in baseball. This could be a bad marriage waiting to happen.


Frank McCourt
Chairman and President, Los Angeles Dodgers
1000 Elysian Park Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Theo Paul,

Who is this Green fellow and when did he get on the team? We simply cannot have the players making comments like this to the press, especially that nasty little T.J. Simers fellow. I hear he's an awful bore -- but I can't find his column in the Globe anywhere. Are you sure he's a sportswriter? Please find a way to shut Green up; remind him that a trade to Texas is still possible. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE!!!



The Big A: House of Pain?

Last year, the Angels got bit by injuries, hard: If injuries were bad luck last year, or in Erstad's case, just the rent coming due, then it's no good omen to read that Colón reported to camp overweight. While you don't want to believe every story that hits the press, you do have to worry about little omens like that one. The Angels site quoted Mike Scioscia on Washburn's shoulder problems as saying "His velocity was good and his pitch count was where we needed it. ... He'll be fine." Maybe so, but there are fine distinctions in "fine", and that Jarrod was not last year.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

So Much For "Decisive"

Way back when, back on, oh, January 29th, Frank McCourt promised he would be "decisive". Well, as Dan Evans can tell you, he was anything but that. So now, new GM Paul DePodesta says no trades are imminent.


I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Now that I've got that out of my system, Paul DePodesta is one of the smartest guys in baseball. Moneyball (and, I suppose, his Ivy League credentials) told me so, therefore I believe it. But -- I giggle at the Evans-haters now who howled for Beane Jr. to come and get them the One Big Bat that would transform the Dodgers' sluggish offense into a powerhouse like St. Louis.

Whack-A-Mole: DePodesta White Paper De/Rematerializes

DePodesta's white paper, which I re-found after it disappeared from the Legg Mason and CSFB websites, has once more disappeared, thanks to the wonder of massive traffic. Fine. So you can see the text here, archived on the Dodgers message boards, where they have plenty of capacity, and so far as I know, no restrictions on monthly viewing.

Pickoff Moves

More Mr. Happy News

Earlier, we recall the New Jersey Star-Ledger reporting that Paul Quantrill rejoiced moving to the Yanks because he was "getting away from Kevin Brown." So he thought, anyway. Well, we certainly send him our condolences over Steinbrenner's choice of teammates in the offseason, especially now that Brown let it be known he was "so unhappy in Los Angeles last year that he contemplated retirement before he was traded to the East Coast." I hope his millions and private jet were keeping him otherwise well comforted in the midst of his dispair.

Wile E. Throws From the Mound

With more comebacks than Wile E. Coyote (but equivalent success), Darren Dreifort once more throws on the mound. " Dreifort is not participating in fielding drills because of concerns about the strength of his right knee", says the Times, but it makes you wonder what will break next: will Wile E. plummet to the bottom of the canyon with an anvil this time, or will the rocket blow up on the ground? Dodger Blues used to break down player "performances" per observable feature, in Dreifort's case, per missed start. So many failures, so much entertainment value!*
*This is not to be confused with actually enjoying Mr. Dreifort's situation; he's shown a lot of heart in continuing to keep himself healthy, or try. Lesser men would have given up by now. But maybe it's time to give up now.

Ishii/Roberts Trade Rumor

Meanwhile, back on the east coast, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger DePodesta is jiggling Kaz Ishii in front of the Orioles for Brian Roberts. The O's would prefer to move Jerry Hairston, however. But with rumors of owner Peter Angelos possibly selling the team this year, one wonders whether that complication won't hurt the chances of a deal going down, especially with Angelos looking to pad attendance numbers. Also, the Orioles are very high on their young pitchers about to come up to the majors. How much sense does it make for them to take on another starter?

Erstad At 1B Won't Keep Him Healthy

The theory about moving Ersty to first was that it would (a) plug the hole caused by Spiezio's absence, and (b) would keep him healthy by preventing him from beating his hamstrings to death in the outfield. Well, looks like part (b) might just be wishful thinking. Back in '97 when he played 1B,
Erstad had a sore right shoulder for much of the second half of 1997, didn't start the final 13 games and had surgery after the season. In 1998, when Erstad played 72 games in the outfield and 70 at first, he strained his left hamstring in early August, went on the disabled list, aggravated the hamstring in early September and missed 10 more games.
Mediocre as Ersty's bat has been throughout most of his career, it could be worse -- a lot worse.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Brown Delivers... And Gets Nailed

The Yanks are about to find out what Kevin Brown is made of... Mr. Happy took a ball in the right ankle during fielding practice. "Torre said they did not expect the injury to be any cause for concern." Unknown was whether Brown splintered into many sharp pieces or crumbled. My vote is for the latter, as he is known for his temper.

Time For Your Morning Beatdown, Mr. McCourt

Good morning, Ferret-Face! Man, I just keep liking Arte more... and Frank less. Again, from today's Times:
Arte Moreno, who purchased the Angels from Disney in May, has an entirely different mind-set. He made it clear, as Angel pitchers and catchers began spring training workouts Friday, that this winter's $146-million free-agent splurge was the beginning of a major paradigm shift, not a one-time shopping spree.

"We're a big-market team and should act like one," said Moreno, who plans to be a regular at Tempe Diablo Stadium this spring. "We're in the No. 2 media market in the country. There's no reason we can't bring a championship-caliber team here every year."

... "We have a business plan," Moreno said, "and it's not like it's written on the back of a napkin." [emphasis mine]

Well. Nothing's in stone. They play the games for a reason. But, dayng. Get 'em, Arte!

Update: Man, that's doubly nasty: Arte would have been asked to vote his business proposal up or down, and therefore had to read the thing. Ouch!

Just the Koufax, Ma'am

Sandy's back, says the LA Times. If you believe McCourt to be the worst thing to hit the Dodgers ever, just the idea of him lending any support to this guy should make you cringe. I hope all that happened was he needed to stop and make a phone call, or visit his doctor. Of course, I have my own ideas about where Sandy ought to go...

You Know Your Team Is Screwed When...

... MLB.com news picks them to finish fourth in the NL West.

When Schlegel projects McPoor as "a boon" to the Dodgers, it makes you wonder what kind of mind-altering chemicals he's been taking. My wife once had a music prof like that; they called him "Professor Android" 'cause his brains were so fried. It's called, going from the frying pan to the fire. But maybe they don't let you write the obvious if your pay partially comes from one of the guys you're covering (i.e., the Dodgers' own Captain Ahab).

Friday, February 20, 2004

A Dreamier Jeff Weaver

The title of Jon's note about Jeff Weaver's brother, Jared, got me thinking about Jeff hisself. There's reason to be optimistic about Jeff, which, given my catechism is Murphy's Law, should surprise and delight the reading audience:
  1. He's not facing the batters in the AL East. I'm not sure if this is a huge factor, but getting shelled by Boston just can't be a good feeling, against whom he went 0-0 with four no decisions with a 5.21 ERA. Reviewing his record, however, he fared far worse, surprisingly, against the unlikelies of Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
  2. He's pitching in Dodger Stadium, the tonic effects of which have already been noted on other pitchers.
  3. He's out of Yankee Stadium minus the expectation of being some sort of Greek god.
  4. He's got better infield defense behind him. Beltre, Izturis, Cora, and Green (Green? Please say it ain't so...) will be better than anything he had in New York.
  5. He's moving to the NL minus the DH.
His K/9 ought to be closer to his career average of 5.93 rather than the fairly dangerous 5.25 he put up this year. What I think is most interesting about him, though, is his WHIP took a sudden rise in 2003, mostly due to a full two point H/9 increase. From Voros McCracken's work, we know that H/9 is, for most pitchers, not controllable (though there are a few exceptions) and should tend to regress to his career average. Weaver was, when he came up, principally a groundball pitcher, but that's changed over time, and he's now nearly balanced over the last two years. With more solid infield defense behind him, and reasonable support in the outfield, Weaver has a good shot at a 3.75-4.00 ERA -- no Cy Young candidate, but far from ineffective. In other words, a competent number 5. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections agree, showing him having a 4.07 ERA year, which practically calls for celebration.

Update: Looking up Weaver's DIPS ERA lends a lot of credence to this -- he's on the leaderboard for dERA-ERA. Not that this necessarily matters; dERA-ERA discrepancies only tend to work if they're positive (i.e., they predict decline). It does make me wonder, though, whether the league suddenly get a read on him somehow.

Pickoff Moves

Most of these links are from Baseball Guru today, news from Japan --

A Cuppa, Cuppa, Cuppa -- Ahhh

The International Herald Tribune re-runs a piece from the NYT making the case for MLB to force a baseball World Cup. Frankly, I'm not all that excited by the prospect; none of the other baseball playing countries -- with the exceptions of Mexico and Japan, to my knowledge -- field leagues that would be competitive. It would be something like the Yankees asking for more Devil Rays.

YES Says Yes To Japan Opener, ESPN Says No

Looks like the Yankees' Japan season opener will be broadcast on YES -- and nowhere else. ESPN declined to air the games in the U.S. nationally. Too bad, because it'll be the only pro baseball with national interest.

Kinkade Tearing It Up, SYL News, Japanese ST Invitee At Vero

Also from Baseball Guru, former Dodger Mike Kinkade is tearing it up in Japanese ST, a frequent tonic for many former MLB players. (See the Hanshin report in the link just above.) Wannabe MLB star Seung-yeop Lee didn't look too good in defensive drills with the Chiba Lotte Marines, booting a grounder, but he's hitting well, "collecting 13 homers overall in 58 swings". The Dodgers have invited Norihiro Nakamura to ST (see Kintetsu).

Yu Who?

The Dodgers, Mets, and Angels are apparently interested in a 17-year-old Japanese Iranian prep pitcher, Yu Darvish, with five Japanese teams in the mix as well. Darvish, who already has a 92-mph fastball, "features a good sinker, slider, changeup, and knuckle curve ball." His parents met in the U.S.

Angels' Rotation Set

Update: According to the Orange County Register (registration required), the rotation is set as "Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey - perhaps in that order", with Sele trying to break in during ST. Good luck, Aaron, you've got your work cut out for you.

Validation On MLBPA Reinstatement

Seth over at The Pearly Gates says he's got confirmation directly from the MLBPA that "scab ball" players have been reinstated to the union. Good work, Seth!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A Pinstriped A-Rod Barely Moves Yanks' Vegas Odds

Thanks to San Shin for pointing out that the guys with the most on the line -- Vegas -- aren't buying the line that A-Rod will help the Yanks a bunch. The Yanks are currently 2-1 favorites to take it all this year, down from 3-1 earlier. The Red Sox tied at one point as co-favorites at 3-1, but have slipped to 5-2 odds. The Angels are next at 8-1, not bad.

Two Signings From Down Under

One for the Halos -- LHP/1B Matt Ryan, signed ironically because of his bat ("I'm a pitcher, not a hitter ... I don't even own a bat"), for a signing bonus of $200k. He developed shoulder problems before the National Championships:
[He] had grown in excess of 6’ and he appeared to have the baseball world at his feet when disaster struck. Just prior to going to Canberra with the Victorian U18 team Matt developed shoulder problems which saw him dropped from the team. He still went to Canberra but had to be content with watching the game from the stands, sitting most times with Trevor Jarrett. “That was so tough”, said Matt from his Grovedale home, “to sit each day and watch my team mates playing in the National Titles.” On returning to Geelong it was discovered that he had torn his labrum in his pitching shoulder which required an operation and a long period of rehabilitation. Not only had he had to sit out the National Championships but now he was unable to attend the MLBAAP Academy on the Gold Coast in July. However, instead of letting it get him down he showed the mental toughness which will get him through the pro leagues and set to work on his rehab to ensure his place in the Victorian team playing at the Championships in his hometown of Geelong this January.

“He hadn’t fully recovered at the time of the Tournament,” said Trevor Jarrett, “ and he was given duties as a hard hitting 1st baseman when he wasn’t being called upon to pitch.” With 6 other lefties the Victorians could afford the luxury of using Matt sparingly on the mound and so the pro scouts had the opportunity to witness his ability with the bat, and they liked what they saw and were soon in heavy negotiations with his agent.

And one for the Dodgers, C/1B/3B Mitchell Ayres, his teammate on the Victoria team. (Here's some photos of them together.) G'day, mates, and good luck!

Cy Who? Dodgers Win Gagné Arbitration

The Dodgers won Gagné's arbitration case, but I'm already thinking like an A's fan: we're going to lose him, just like we're going to lose any of our other stars (whoever they might eventually be), because McCheap can't afford them in the long haul. Bud Selig and all the owners are very, very bad men for saddling us with that deal.

Meantime, In St. Louis: Albert Pujols is reported to have a 7-year, $100M deal done. It may be a lonely ride for Albert much of that time; the Cards' farm system is in shambles now, Jim Edmonds is looking towards retirement, and the Cubs have arguably the best young starters in the game. I wouldn't want to be a Cards fan over the next few years; it's gonna get brutal.

Colón And Vlad's Wish List

A kindly Spanish-speaking Angels fan on the Halos board produced a couple of stories about recent additions Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colón. First, Colón aspires to win 20 games and appear in the World Series:
Bartolo Colón tiene una corta lista de aspiraciones en la próxima temporada de grandes ligas: ganar 20 partidos y llegar a la Serie Mundial.

Colón, quien durante el receso firmó un contrato de 51 millones de dólares por cuatro temporadas con los Angelinos de Anaheim, ganó 20 juegos en el 2002 con Cleveland y Montreal.

Translated (roughly):
Bartolo Colón has a short list of aspirations in his next season in the big leagues: to win 20 games and get to the World Series.

Colon, who signed a $51 million, 4-year contract, won 20 games in 2002 with Cleveland and Montreal.

Also, in Vlad's wish list: a 50-homer season.
Vladimir Guerrero reveló que uno de sus sueños es disparar 50 jonrones en una temporada.

"Me gustaría pegar 50 jonrones. Es un sueño que tengo'', dijo Guerrero previo a su viaje a Estados Unidos para asistir a su primer campo de entrenamientos con los Angelinos de Anaheim, reseñó AP.

Vladimir Guerrero revealed it is one of his dreams to hit 50 home runs in a season.

"I would like to hit 50 home runs. It is a dream I have," Guerrero said prior to his trip to the United States to attend his first training camp with the Anaheim Angels.

Thanks to everyone who helped translate this, and to guswe for posting these Spanish-language AP stories (which for some reason aren't available online in English).

"The Hell With the Pitchers"

Over on Athletics Nation, Tyler forwards a great article from a principally political blog, "The 2004 Yankees: Déjà Vu All Over Again". (I would have linked directly to the Rothenberg Political Report, but they don't offer permalinks.) In particular, he notes that Rickey Henderson ended up having to go to Oakland to get his ring because the Boss in those days had a peculiar fixation on offense:
That year [1986], the Red Sox went on the win the American League. If that happens again in 2004, more than heads will roll in New York. There may be bodies. Piles of bodies. But in light of the recent A-Rod trade, one thing is clear: Steinbrenner is the same old Steinbrenner. Focus on the hitting and "the hell with the pitchers."
At least, I hope it's déjà vu.

Vero Beach Update

Pitchers and catchers report today, and Ben Platt writes a spring training update today on the Dodger fan forums.

MLBPA Reinstates Brendan Donnelly?

I'm not quite sure what to make of this post, but if it's true, I'm glad for Donnelly. Donnelly played "scab ball" in 1994 and as a result lost his rights and privileges for certain things -- including having his name appear on any World Series merchandise. No premade T-shirt you can buy at the stadium will have his name on it. The MBLPA apprently voted to not only give Donnelly back his merchandise rights, but also to grant full reinstatement to all those who played that year. Congratulations to a real stud -- you deserve it.

DePodesta And The Draft

Stephen Smith of Future Angels espoused a particularly virulent contempt of Moneyball, observing its many inaccuracies, as did Baseball America*. While yesterday's brouhaha over Branch Rickey, ur-sabremetrician, lent credence to the idea that there might be something hidden in the numbers, looking back a few days at my reply to Jay Jaffe's comments about the DePodesta-era Dodgers made me curious to find out what influence he might have had on the success of the A's. In particular, did he have any say in drafting their triple threat of Zito (1999 first round), Mulder (1998 first round), and Hudson (1997 sixth round)? The answer is only for Zito, as DePodesta only started working for the A's in that year. So based on that superficial viewpoint, DePo hasn't done that much with the draft. I plan on looking at this in more detail later on, of course, but it seems to me that there is at least some question as to the efficacy of DePodesta's laptop.
* Please to note that I was hitherto unaware that Baseball America was a magazine first rather than just a website. The italicization was no accident, though you will find it previously sans italics. We regret the error.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Putting On Airs, Just Passing Gas

There are some Dodger fans out there -- I don't know who, poor naifs -- who believe McCourt's long-term plan is to have a payroll befitting the Dodgers' market, i.e., $100M or so. That is to say, they have Mercedes-sized appetites, but with Frank McCourt's Hyundai-sized wallet, we await a whole lotta nothing going down. Those of us cursed with clearer vision foretell of Gagne's "sell-the-closer" departure in what looks like a blue version of the Curse of the Bambino. With that in mind, I bring to bear yet another piece of calculated disinformation from McCourt's new accomplice, Paul DePodesta, a formerly good man brought low by his willing association with a known felon. As Mencken observed, a man who suppresses a good impulse can only become a knave -- that is, a politician. So it is with poor DePodesta. His ambition and vanity having led him to become the Dodgers' general manager, he now must hide the grotesque realities of his budget constraints from the paying public, issuing nonce press appearances. To wit:
Q (New owner) Frank McCourt said he wanted to keep the payroll around $100 million this year. Can you take on money beyond that?

A We haven't gotten into that. My sense is Frank's definitely committed to putting together a winning team, so it's probably a case-by-case basis. He set an area where he feels the payroll needs to be, but he hasn't said this is an absolute ceiling. [No, in the same sense that a 757 can't go into low earth orbit.] He's committed to finding a way to put the best team out there possible. If that means going over budget, I'm sure he'll be open to discussion.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Q A lot of the players here have below average on-base percentages. Do you feel given how bad the on-base percentage was collectively and individually, you'd be comfortable starting the season with that this year?

A I'll say this. The good thing about having the pitching staff that we had here last year is this doesn't have to be the best offensive team in the league to win a lot of games. ... The one thing we have over last year is we have a healthy Shawn Green.

Oops. Sorry 'bout that one, Paul.

Coda (2/19): I claim DePodesta knows the oft-repeated $100M payroll figure is purely fictional and meant as a balm to the wounded pride of the typical Dodger fan, who -- rightly -- imagines his team should compete with the likes of the Yankees for both fiscal clout and star-studdedness. But imagine McCourt is lying even unto his general manager. Well: there is no honor among thieves. Would we expect less?

Hundley Re-re-re-injured, Green's Owie Still Hurts

Somebody please explain to me how Todd Hundley gets injured again? And, in the same story, the news that Green's shoulder is "not 100% healed". Jon, it's looking increasingly like you'll have nothing to apologize for.

Update: Today's Times indicates Hundley's injury is career threatening. Much as I hate to say it, I sure hope so...

Legg-ing One Out: DePodesta Resurfaces

While I'm at it, Paul DePodesta's infamous white paper about grading baseball players disappeared from both the Credit Suisse and Legg Mason websites, not to mention the Google cache. Thanks to the efforts of kottke.org, the article has been republished.

Aaron Hits One Out of the Park

Aaron's Baseball Blog, that is, in deconstructing yesterday's Bill Plaschke column about Paul DePodesta. In particular, he chides Plaschke over his laziness about researching the role of statistics in the Dodger organization, citing Branch Rickey as a pioneer in this regard. As well, he rips Bill a new one over the incredible sentence
"Last season, one study showed that Bonds reached base 1.1 times per plate appearance."
Well, you can't get on base more than 100 times out of 100, Bill. Silly sportswriter!

Jack Clark, Scapegoat?

Covering the story that Tim Wallach has been hired as the Dodgers' new hitting coach, Jon Weisman reminds us that he advocated firing ex-hitting coach Jack Clark way back when. While I was unaware of Jack's leap from one minor-league assignment to the big club, his pedigree as an active hitter is otherwise impeccable -- as Dodger fans watching his 1985 NLCS performance would attest. To me, what made Clark interesting as a hitting coach was his impressive OBP. His high walk totals, even factoring in intentional walks, shows he had tremendous plate discipline, despite his characterization by some as a "free-swinger". Except for the first three years of his career, his OBP was consistent -- and usually, well -- above league averages. So he knew how to hit -- or take a walk -- as a player.

Now, you could certainly argue against the idea that hitting is, at the major league level, a teachable skill, but Jon doesn't do that. Instead, he says that, well, because some people assign Jim Colburn the glory of the pitching staff, the same ignominy should have attached to the hitting coach. Fair enough. But when your raw material consists of Kevin Brown, Hideo Nomo, Wilson Alvarez, Guillermo Mota, Paul Quantrill, etc., etc., etc., how good do you actually have to be? I could be a hitting coach for Barry Bonds. I wouldn't be any help at all teaching Minnie Mendoza -- or, for that matter, Alex Cora. If you're going to be throwing comparisons like that around, Jon, ask yourself this: why hasn't Colborn somehow fixed Masao Kida? And, does Clark get credit for Alex Cora's completely respectable .291/ .371/ .434 line in 2002?

For the record, I was in favor of firing him at the time as well, but principally on the grounds that whatever was going on wasn't working. Unfortunately, in retrospect, it looks like the problem was in the front office, not the dugout.

Followup: Jon also worries about DePodesta's apparent casual assignment of the hitting coach position to someone equally inexperienced at coaching as Wallach. Well, say DePodesta believes the numbers tell all. Isn't is also possible he could have a sound basis for the opinion that coaching doesn't effect performance significantly? And if that's true, why not utter a few homilies for the press? After all, Moneyball made much of Beane's contempt for the field manager...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Pickoff Moves


I already weighed in with my less-than-compelling reasons why A-Rod will be a burden, rather than a help, to the Yankees. God, not that you've already read any of this or thought of it before, but here goes:

Finally, All The Cubs' Maddux Are In A Row

Well, I was wrong about Greg Maddux signing with the Cards -- looks like he's gone back to his roots and signed with the Cubs. (I found out because my wife was in the other room hooting and hollering.) Well, good luck to the Cubbies -- with Pettitte and Clemens in the Astros' lineup, they'll need it. (On second thought, maybe they won't -- there was a great ESPN article a while ago that I can't now find discussing final career years of great pitchers; most of them were below replacement value.)

And Now For Our Human Interest Story

Greatest Commercials Never Made Dep't: Johnny Cash's heirs and assigns have refused to allow his hit "Ring of Fire" to be used for a hemorrhoid commercial. In this era of garment failures, it warms me to the bottom of my heart that someone can have deep-seated convictions...

Arte's Littlest Billboards

The Angels Blog a couple days ago linked to a Yahoo news story pointing out the unflattering differences between the Angels and Dodgers this offseason. (The guy needs to switch to another blog; the one he's on doesn't offer permalinks.) As I've said before, Arte's a smart guy, and it just keeps coming: he's cutting the price of Angels-branded childrens' clothing. Keep those little billboards rolling, Arte! We'll see you in October.

Edit: lose that old hed, what was I thinking?

Taming the Beast

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

New York, (AP) -- Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, today announced the long-expected purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers by a group led by David Checketts. As part of the bankruptcy settlement, former owner Frank McCourt will receive $150 million.

Checketts refused to answer questions regarding rumors of the team's relocation to Brooklyn. With the team slipping into insolvency and the Yankees' continued unrestrained spending, Selig has floated the idea of dividing the New York market by adding a third team, thereby increasing competition for the Yankees. Many baseball insiders consider the Dodgers, with their historic roots in Brooklyn, the ideal team for this task.

Monday, February 16, 2004

DePodesta Press Conference

Here's a link for the press conference announcing DePodesta's hiring. A couple highlights: Update: Ben Platt managed to squeeze in an interview with DePodesta (audio link; abbreviated transcript). Without commenting too much, he mentioned that the top farm prospects "usually aren't the guys that you look to trade". Well, there's some comfort: the Evans' boo-birds whining that the team hasn't moved any of the top prospects for a bat (this means you, Ross Newhan) will have the exact same thing to complain about under DePodesta.

Sayonara, Farewell, Adieu, &c.

Dan Evans' farewell speech, as published on the fan forums:
I have been visiting this message board frequently over the past two-plus years, and have enjoyed meeting and talking with many of you during my time as the Dodgers' General Manager.

First off, I want to thank Fox, Bob Daly, Bob Graziano, and Dave Wallace for the tremendous opportunity two and one-half years ago. I was honored to have had the chance to be the Dodgers' GM, and I wish we would have had the opportunity to complete our job here.

My staff deserves a huge compliment for their work, especially during this very difficult transition process. I know it has been a stressful offseason, and I wish them the very best and thank them for their support throughout.

I want to thank Dodger fans, because I have seen and felt your passion for your favorite team. My good friend Don Drysdale used to tell me great things about the Dodgers and their fans, and he was so right. You have been great, and while I know the past few months have been frustrating, the organization will benefit from the work our staff accomplished.

I feel good about what we had done in only two seasons -- we inherited the oldest roster, an inflexible one with over $200 million committed, and an organization rated 28th in talent -- near the bottom for the fifth consecutive year when we started.

After only two years, the Dodgers are now in the top four in talent as a result of great work by the amateur, international, and professional scouting staffs, along with an excellent, innovative player development staff. As a result, the Dodgers are on the right track for long-term success and you the fans will be the real winners.

This entire offseason has been extremely frustrating for everyone in the Dodger organization. The offseason is the worst possible time for an organization to go through an ownership change, since nearly all of the key personnel and financial decisions are made during that period. It has been very difficult and the entire organization was affected during the long process.

Everyone in our baseball decision-making group, including Bob Daly and Bob Graziano, knew that we needed to use the increased flexibility obtained in the Kevin Brown trade to the Yankees to improve our offense, and there is no question that we would have accomplished our goal of acquiring a prolific offensive player in his prime -- without giving up any of our prospects -- had it not been for the circumstances surrounding the ownership transition [emphasis mine].

We always took into account the best interests of the Dodgers, both short and long-term, whenever we made a baseball decision. The fans and the organization deserved that. I knew it was our responsibility to make the unpopular decisions which were actually in the best long-term interests of the Dodgers. We developed a gameplan and adhered to it in order to achieve our goal, and our philosophy had the complete support of upper management.

Lastly, I never realized that one pink shirt would cause so much discussion!

Best wishes to all of you and thanks.

  Dan Evans

So there you have it, Evans-haters. Straight from the horse's mouth. Vlad was in the bag, but for McCourt's ill-timed, poorly-conceived, underfunded bid.

Mr. DePodesta -- welcome to the furnace.

The Ominous Yankees

Bad omens for the Yanks:
  1. They have the highest paid player in baseball. I'd have to remember a ways back, but there have been very, very few teams with the highest paid player to even go to the postseason, let alone win. (There was a good article on this and unfortunately I can't find it at the moment.) Update: found it on Sean Lahman's site. A little old, but the story's basic facts remain unchanged, unless the Yanks defy history this year.
  2. They have four ex-Cubs - Kenny Lofton, Tom Gordon, Felix Heredia, and Jon Lieber. Outside of the Cubs themselves*, this gives them possibly the highest ex-Cub factor of any team in the majors.
  3. A-Rod will be playing with the number 13 on his back.

*My wife, the Cubs fan, reminds me that active roster Cubs don't count in ex-Cub factor calculations because by definition the players are not in fact ex-Cubs.

Baseball America Rates Angels Farmhands, More On AFL

Baseball America ranks the Halos' top ten prospects:
  1. 1B Casey Kotchman
  2. C Jeff Mathis
  3. 3B Dallas McPherson
  4. RHP Ervin Santana
  5. RHP Bobby Jenks
  6. 2B Alberto Callaspo
  7. SS Brendan Wood
  8. SS Erick Aybar
  9. RHP Rafael Rodriguez
  10. RHP Steven Shell
Aybar and Callaspo are supposed to be one of the flashiest double-play combinations in the minors. And I remember when they interviewed Brandon Wood during an Angels game -- he hit an impossible .500 in his Arizona high school league! Amazing. So a very deep crop, as they said on BA, of quality players. I only hope that the fact we replaced former Yankees scouting director Donny Rowland and national crosscheckers Hank Sargent and Guy Mader, the architects of the 2001 draft that got us these excellent prospects, with Devil Rays special assistant Eddie Bane isn't a bad omen. The Angels' first 2004 draft pick is twelfth, so there should be some good stuff available. Let's hope we don't blow it.

In other news, I had further discussion with Stephen Smith of Future Angels about the status of Arizona Fall League prospects:

[The] dirty secret is that not everyone sent to AFL is actually a prospect. Teams need to have a certain balance at each position, so sometimes teams will send pitchers or catchers or whatever who really aren't prospects just to help the AFL office balance out the rosters. Not all teams buy into the philosophy that the AFL is for "top prospects," and keep those guys at home where they won't get hurt, sending instead marginal players. Sometimes they send players coming off an injury who need work to catch up for the next season.
So we'll see. But I still think it's encouraging for Gorneault to see him both invited to AFL and spring training.

It's DePoDodger

Now batting for Oakland, er, Los Angeles, new general manager Paul DePodesta.

Billy Beane, you may start your vacuum cleaner.

Edit: One A's fan has already figured out the obvious: Dodger fans should get used to the idea of Chavez Ravine minus Eric Gagne, and sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Monkey Business

Allow me to say that first off -- I love the Rally Monkey. Baseball purists will sniff, but as they observed in Bull Durham, if you think you're having a streak because you don't shave, then you don't shave. You just don't mess with a streak, and you don't mess with the monkey. The monkey is about adrenalin and hope, two things dear to any team in need of some late-innings magic.

So last year, after the Angels' title run, I saw the improbable: blue rally monkeys in the Dodger concession stands. I don't think anyone was buying them, but it was ... ironic? Yeah, that's it. So now, I think I've heard everything: the anti-Angels, the Oakland A's (who I refuse to hate but enjoy beating nonetheless), are selling monkeys as well. Dang, who knew a little simian could be so popular?

New Angels Blog

Party Arte's deep-pocketed offseason seems to have spawned a flurry of new Angels blogs -- mine, of course, and now Richard Ceccarelli's The Pearly Gates. Richard's first pitch is what seems to be a popular topic, analyzing the Halos position-by-position, starting with the outfield and new starting pitchers. Welcome to the blogosphere, Richard, and here's to another heavenly season... it is the year of the monkey, you know.

This Just In

From the wire services:
ESPN is reporting that the Yankees are close to acquiring the Ralley Monkey from the Angels for an autographed Jorge Posada game-worn jersey and 110 million dollars.

There goes the pennant.

Damn Yankees!

Thanks, Vlad

Vladimir Guerrero, nice guy. Thanks again to Alfredo Griffin, who managed him as a boy, for selling him on Anaheim as the kind of place he could play without distractions. Let's let the man swing without too much difficulty.

Edit: Vlad Injury Watch: Did you see in the Times where it says

The back is fine, Guerrero says, but he has experienced tightness in his legs during winter workouts. He'll take it easy on his legs for two to three months, he says, but he still can steal 30 bases.
Oh, Christ, just what we don't need, another player with finicky hammys.


In early May of 1940, after the fall of Czechoslovakia and Poland, after the anschluss of Austria, France expected a German invasion. Here is a brief excerpt from William Manchester's excellent biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion:
On May 9, in the Berlin suburb of Zehlendorf, Colonel Oster of the Abwehr [and a Nazi mole] dined for the last time with his friend Colonel Sas, the Dutch military attaché. Oster once more confirmed that Fall Gelb [the plan to attack France] would be unleashed at daybreak. ...

At 10:20 that Thursday morning ... [Prime Minister] Paul Reynaud announced he would present the premiership of France to anyone who could form a government, unless the cabinet agreed with his indictment of Gamelin, commander in chief of the French army; supreme commander of the Allied forces, British as well as French; and the officer to presided over both the Conseil Supérieur de la Guerre and the Haut Comité Militaire. ...

Reynaud then read a lengthy indictment of Gamelin, after which he "appealed to the other ministers to speak up." Being timid men, they did not, for fear of "offending a powerful figure". Reynaud took their silence as a vote of no-confidence.
"I consider the government as having resigned." They were dismayed. None had thought he would actually dissolve the government. Now they were all ex-ministers, as he was an ex-premier.

During the afternoon Gamelin, glooming around in his Vincennes dungeon, learned of the bill of particulars Reynaud had drawn up against him. Indignant, he too resigned.

At 1:00 A.M. he was awakened. A French agent behind the German lines had sent an urgent signal: "Colonnes en marche vers l'ouest" -- "Columns marching westward."

Hitler was on his way.

France had no government. The French Army had no commander.

Parallels between this situation and that now facing the Dodgers and the hole that is the general manager position are drawn at your own peril. But.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

May You Live In Interesting Times

Is there any relevance to the fact that the sale closed on Friday the 13th? Omen after omen accumulates...


Earlier, I called out Jeff Sullivan's stats for the Angels at 1B as incorrect; the problem was I relied on the MLB.com stats to get to my analysis, when in fact it was MLB.com's numbers that were faulty. My apologies to Jeff.

The One Place A-Rod's Salary Isn't An Issue

... is the one place he can finally call his natural home: the Yankees, quoth the New York Post. For Soriano and a minor league pitcher.

Happy Valentine's Day, Boston. You'll love this...


  1. Look out, Angels. The Rangers now have some breathing room, especially now that Chan Ho Park is back on the mound and throwing again. With some pitching, they could be dangerous. Minus Payrod, they're less offensive, though. Their evaluations of pitching hasn't been so good down in Arlington (a flyball pitcher?).
  2. Opportunity lost, Dodgers: unloading Beltre to the Yanks.
  3. Opportunity gained, Dodgers: moving OP for some offensive help (Texeira, maybe?).
  4. Bosox fans, look at the bright side: in a few years, the Yanks will become the Mets of the AL East. Pray for injuries.

A Minor Connection

I found out Friday that a co-worker's cousin is actually in the Angels' minor league system, Nick Gorneault. BA ranked him as an "emerging prospect". On the other hand, Future Angels' Stephen Smith said on the Angels' fan board that
He's not a selective hitter and has always been a bit old for his leagues. He turns 25 in April but has never played above Double-A. He has the versatility to play all three outfield positions; if he ever gets to the majors, it'll be as a utility outfielder, nothing more.
Well, interesting stuff. Gorneault got an invite to AFL -- usually a sign the organization thinks highly of him. So this is very strange. Gorneault earned an invitation to Angels spring training this year -- another good sign. If we get lucky, we might get to see him.


From their respective homepages:

Dodgers.com: Dodgers sale officially closes
angelsbaseball.com: Angels geared up for Series run

You betcha.

"Stand" Pat Reverses

"Stand" Pat Gillick, the ugly nickname acquired during his tenure in Seattle, says he's interested in the Dodgers GM position. Giants' AGM Ned Colletti said of him, "His experience and his results in Toronto are tough to beat." Well, yeah, that was great and all, but that was what, eleven, twelve years ago? And his results in Seattle, far more recent, don't bode well for the Dodgers, who can be expected to have a similar -- if not even lower -- payroll. Two problems I have with Gillick: Well, I suppose we shall see. McCourt's parking lot experience may come in handy somehow in his evaluations of GMs, which probably means we'll hear from Dan Duquette soon. I'd rather have DePoDodger in here if we're not going to keep Evans.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Thanks, Jay -- Now I've Gotta Respond

Jay Jaffe gives a long look at the DePo Dodgers today, and he asked for comments... well, here they are. Buckle up, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

First off, as I mentioned yesterday, three years ago, Evans was a if not the top candidate to break out and become a GM. Landing in a bad situation does not diminish that. Evans in fact has a better record over his service time than Billy Beane, Supergenius, but he's history, tra la. Sure, McCourt is issuing press releases to the contrary, but unless he's found a crowbar long enough to dislodge Billy Beane, we have a new GM and DePoDodger is his name, oh.

Let's tackle the first point, about Cashman Field:

If any team needs to be hit by the sabermetric 2" x 4", it's the one in Chavez Ravine.

First and perhaps foremost, the Dodgers need to develop a thorough understanding of park effects and the way they distort performance. Dayn Perry of Baseball Prospectus did a thoughtful piece last summer which shed some light on the team's inability to develop hitters:

Well, while I'm more than a little cheesed off at the tenuous grasp of the facts Dayn showed in yesterday's column regarding the Dodgers sale, I'm feeling generous and will admit that while reading the newspaper is not his forté, perhaps sabermetrics is. (Or, perhaps the fact that his byline comes under a Fox Sports mast biases his opinion. It's spelled S-H-I-L-L, Dayn. But enough bitter, wounded anger.) Certainly, he has a valid point about the delta between Dodger Stadium and Cashman Field. I've wondered why the Dodgers continue to use such a hitter-happy park for their AAA club myself for some time, but suspect it has more to do with proximity than concerns about elevation; most of the PCL is at altitude, and that's a fact of life.

But, altitude isn't the only problem afflicting Dodger hitters. Poor pitch selection and weak strike zone knowledge permeate the Dodger minor leagues up and down. Here's some comments from Baseball America about some of the top ten prospects in the Dodger system (!!):

Franklin GutierrezOFHis swing gets long, creating holes, especially up and in. Improving his pitch recognition would help...
Koyie HillCHis walk rate plummeted last year, though his strikeout rate did as well.
Reggie AbercrombieOFAbercrombie’s plate discipline has been downright awful....

These guys are just not doing it right, and these are their top prospects! Once you get to guys like Thurston (more suspect than prospect at this point) and Chen (ditto), the fault with the Dodgers hitting becomes quite obvious: everything all along the path to the majors.

Moving right along to the overall problems with the Dodgers' draft, I see a dangerous conflation of issues here. Granted the Dodgers screwed up their 90's drafts big time, but shall we bag on the A's for a moment? Here's Oakland's first round picks in each year since Beane got the GM job:

1997Chris Enochs2001John Rheinecker
1997Chris Dubose2002Nick Swisher
1997Nathan Haynes2002Joe Blanton
1997Denny Wagner2002John McCurdy
1998Mark Mulder2002Ben Fritz
1999Barry Zito2002Jeremy Brown
2000no first round pick2002Stephen Obenchain
2001Bobby Crosby2002Mark Teahen
2001Jeremy Bonderman

While it's tempting to say, "haw haw, only one Cy Young award winner in there?", it's pretty clear that (a) the A's had a mess of first-round picks, and (b) of the ones we should know about now (i.e., the classes of 2001 and before), most of them have gone on to do... well, not much so far. Aside from their aces Mulder and Zito, Jeremy Bonderman is with the Tigers, but that's about it. My point is, yeah, the Dodgers have screwed things up since 1990, but during that time Tommy Lasorda and Kevin Malone were GMs. Of them, we may honestly say Tommy is in a great job for him now, and Malone likewise.

And as I mentioned in my postlet trailing Jay's article, the Dodgers might actually benefit -- at least, so far as their area of expertise, pitching, goes -- by staying the course on prep pitchers. If everyone and his brother starts mining the same collegiate veins, the ore only goes so deep. This is why the Dodgers operate a Dominican academy. (It's also why hiring Jackie Robinson and depleting the Negro Leagues of their top talent wasn't just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.) It also stands to reason that great pitchers -- the guys you can stake a #1 slot to without blinking -- may not go through college. College is a stamp and a preview that lets you make more informed bets, but college stats aren't the alpha and omega of player analysis, nor are they absolutely necessary. Atlanta's killer rotations of the 90's, arguably the greatest in history, anchored by Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux, were populated by three guys who didn't attend college. Neither did Pedro Martinez, or last year's World Series ace Josh Beckett.

Jay lambastes the Dodgers paying Adrian "Mr. Potential" Beltre $5 million, but even notorious LA Times Dodger critic T.J. Simers chided the team for not signing Beltre to more years. The fact that the Yanks are interested in him (or are reported to be so) tells you everything you need to know about the across-the-board shortage of third basemen driving this transaction. You will notice third base is one area Oakland has spent relatively freely. Eric Chavez will earn -- and I do emphasize that verb, here -- $5.2 million this year. Beltre, because of the position he plays, does not qualify as "replaceable talent". Who would you have had the Dodgers get for the hot corner, Jay, even if they weren't handcuffed?

I don't know whether DePodesta will make a good GM. Maybe he's got the brains to do the job, but what about the negotiating? What about the sweet-talking? Will creepos like Bowden insist on having a totem like Tommy Lasorda in the room? And will T.J. Simers make fun of his wardrobe? I'm sure half those things, at least, won't matter much once he gets under way. 2004 is lost. Dodger fans watching the offseason know that. Ironically, it may come to pass that Fox and McCourt collectively may destroy the reputations of two good men for no good reason. Evans we know about. But DePodesta has nothing to trade for a big bat -- unless he means to uncork the farm. And even then, there's little available elsewhere to trade for. Under the gun to save the unsaveable, DePodesta might take a bullet for McCourt.

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