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Sunday, March 14, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Gibbons Has A Role In Dodgers Decline And Fall?

The Dodgers are interested in Jay Gibbons in exchange for a pitcher, the Times says today.

No Giambis In This Lineup

And in the same story, it looks like Jeremy Giambi's back will keep him out of the Dodgers, or any other lineup, as he's due for surgery to "stabilize" it.

Vinny Through 2006

Vinny plans on fulfilling his contract through 2006. Vinny, whose prose we have been privileged to hear, says this of the McCourts:
"The new owner has borrowed a lot of money. We all know that," Scully said. "He has a tremendous passion to succeed. My only feeling is a simple one: Give him a chance. He's the one with everything at stake."
Well, Vinny, we did, and now lots of folks in the front office have either been fired or are quitting. But it's good to see you're a trouper, still, just like Alvarez. Of course, who knows if the Dodgers' other broadcasters are around much longer. It's not like there aren't those who want to see Monday or Porter go away. As Dodger Blues put it,
At some point, however—probably in the not too distant future—Vin Scully will retire. And at that time, there will be absolutely nothing that is consistently good about Dodger baseball.

OT: Found

Found, in our front yard this afternoon: one long-haired dachshund. No collar. Sweet-natured.

... and very, very tired, especially after a long walk around the neighborhood looking for possible owners. Our two dogs, a husky-shephard mix and an Australian Shephard/Keeshond mix, nearly killed him when we took him in our backyard, even after we did everything we were supposed to. We're not sure what we're going to do, but first we're putting up "found" posters around the neighborhood. After that, he probably will go to the Seal Beach or Huntington Beach shelters. ("Doosie", as my wife has taken to calling him, is curled up under my feet beneath my desk.) We're going to spring training in a week, and this dog just can't be here.

We find too many dogs like this one, really. A year and a half ago in October, while the Angels were busy winning their first championship, I found a little white mop of a dog in the elementary school behind our house. Like an idiot, I conned my parents into taking it, and it has subsequently proven to be a complete bust -- one of the few mean-tempered dogs I've ever known. And then there was another dog I found on one of our walks in the neighborhood, a sweet Lab mix we took to the shelter. That one was tough. Sometimes it works out okay, like the time the guy came and retrieved his dog from us.

Once, when I was in Arkansas visiting my in-laws a few years ago, the power went out in the middle of the worst ice storms in a decade. A sad, short-haired, liver-colored retriever of some kind -- maybe a Springer Spaniel or some kind of coon dog -- came up to my in-laws' house, naturally, wearing no tags. He was freezing -- literally, he had icicles hanging from his belly. With no time to observe formalities with my in-laws' dog, no place to put him besides a downstairs bathroom, and no real heat, we took turns watching him. The next morning, after I left for home (and of course the power came on -- I have a knack for causing natural disasters, a subject of some amusement), his real owner showed up. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, because my sister-in-law's kids had given him a name already.

I hope this little guy has a home. He sure deserves better than to be abandoned.

Update: We washed him and gave him a flea treatment or two. We forget, having used Advantage for years, that dogs really do have fleas, and they need to be kept in check. We hadn't seen a flea for ages, but caught sight of a bunch in the bathroom after we gave J. Random Dog his bath.

U.S. Out Of Baseball!

Raul apologizes for writing about non-baseball related issues, but it's really not. The government of the Dominican Republic is as advanced as any in the art of voting itself rich on the backs of everyone else. That is to say, their ruling class consists of parasites and nuisances who have no other talents than getting re-elected. This is no different than things in the United States, except that in the U.S.
  1. occaisionally, someone, frequently a judge, takes the rule of law seriously, and
  2. naked vote-buying is generally frowned upon.
But this has not stopped the likes of FDR and Johnson, who engineered schemes so enormous and expensive that their true costs must be hid from the public for fear of backlash. And, as senior citizens have nothing to occupy their time so much as voting down those who don't vote them enough largesse, we now have the spectre of intergenerational machine politics.

The government of the Dominican threatens baseball, and worse, the pocketbooks of their already poor citizens, by buying nearly a million dollars in tickets to give away to their friends, thereby associating the game with the Republic's native criminal class. In the U.S., the McCainiacs now threaten baseball with more anti-drug hysteria, when it is crystal clear that all the hype about steroids is election-year humbug on the order of Tell Your Children, aka Reefer Madness. Probably the biggest risk is for reporters, who must brave interviews with surly players, and it is for this reason we hear endless tirades against the stuff. No wonder the Senators left Washington -- twice.

You Could Look It Up

Now, at the very bottom of this here blog, a Google search box, for searching the contents of this fine blog. Enjoy.

Pickoff Moves

A Slippery Scale

"Monkey see, monkey do", goes the old saw, and if you''ve spent any time at all watching this offseason, you'd know that Frank's been watching the Red Sox a lot. Do the Sox have a young stathead brainiac in the GM's chair? Well, time for the Dodgers to pick up one, too. And when it came time to pick a new CEO, McCourt tried to raid the Sox front office by getting Mike Dee. In fact, I'm not sure he even understands he owns the Dodgers. So it is with some trepidation I present this Boston Globe news item about the Red Sox introducing variable pricing:
The right-field seats, which went on sale last week, are priced according to whom the Sox are playing. Tickets for Opening Day, for games against the Blue Jays, games against the Yankees, plus the interleague opponents (Dodgers and Phillies), will sell for $100 apiece. All other games will be for $75. Monster seats, which went for $50 apiece for every game last season, will have a new pricing scale, expected to be announced this week.

"There are about 14 or 15 teams in Major League Baseball that are engaged in some kind of variable pricing," Dee said. "Some are as simple as this. Others are crazy: day of the week, opponents. There's sort of a general migration toward the airline model: You fly on a Tuesday during the peak time on a 14-day advance ticket, you pay less than you would on a Saturday during a peak time, with a two-day advance.

We should look forward to $12 "cheap seats" in Giants matchups presently in Chavez Ravine. Update: should the Orioles take offense that their away games at Fenway aren't selling for a premium?

Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

Also in that same article, McCourt denies earlier reports in the Times that he vetoed the Vlad acquisition.
Eleven years ago, when the Giants were being sold by Bob Lurie to the current ownership group headed by Peter Magowan, Magowan was given the go-ahead by Lurie to sign Barry Bonds to what was then the game's biggest contract, a six-year, $43 million deal. Why couldn't McCourt have done something similar during his transition stage? "Baseball feels very, very strongly that prospective owners not act like presumptive owners," McCourt said. "They feel very, very strongly about that. I am familiar with the Giants situation. That caused a lot of consternation. That was not something we felt any need to replicate in this particular situation. We've already made a very big move here. The big move we made was to bring in Paul DePodesta [as GM].
Unfortunately, Paul cannot hit. I think it's altogether possible to draw two valid conclusions here:
  1. The Dodgers' 2004 is over. There will be no bats added one way or another.
  2. Frank is a pathological liar. Or, who do we believe more: McCourt, who's already broken several promises, or Bill Stoneman?

Hall of Shame

And speaking of the front office, Jason Reid in the Times reports that Director of Communications Derrick Hall has resigned due to "philosophical differences" with the McCourts:
The news disturbed All-Star right fielder Shawn Green.

"He's one of the unsung heroes in the organization," Green said. "He's the best in the business at what he does. I don't know all the dynamics of the situation, but I have a lot of respect for Derrick. I know he would only do this if he felt he had to."

Hall, who had left briefly in 1999 to become a sports radio talk-show host, declined to elaborate on the philosophical differences that drove him from the organization he joined in 1992 as a member of the Vero Beach Dodgers.

However, multiple team sources said Saturday that Hall was concerned about the new owners' handling of many situations and apparently feared his credibility would be called into question.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense: a man can only be so creative, and maybe he figured the position would go to the Coen brothers or somebody else with extensive screenwriting experience. (Update: Jon, I know you don't have extensive experience in Hollywood's tarpits, but think of the tongue-in-cheek fun you could have with official press releases!) God knows the truth is going to be pretty harsh in the upcoming weeks and years. I wonder how long it'll take before the peanut vendors develop "philosophical differences" with Frank-n-Jamie? Heck, forget the peanut guys -- what about Vinny?

"In Oakland, They Really Don't Karros"

Ross Newhan, with a brain as thick as a rhinoceros tusk (and, thanks to the Times circulation rates, nearly as deadly), goes back to beating dead horse Dan Evans, whom he today wails upon for not picking up an idled Eric Karros:
Deprived of first base in Chicago, Karros scanned the market, saw an opening with the Dodgers, thought about how it might be to possibly end his career where it started, and was relieved to learn over lunch with Tracy that their sometimes heated and closed-door talks involving playing time and other issues in 2002 had left no scars.

Ultimately, Karros said, he also talked with Evans and Chairman Bob Daly and came away thinking an offer was imminent, although he laughed in reflection and said:

"It's just that Daly would say he had to clear it with Evans, and Evans would say he had to make sure Trace was on board, and it obviously took Dan about three months to walk downstairs to check with Trace because that's about how long it was before I decided that I'd better find work. In the end, I guess, Dan felt he could go in another direction and there were other things he could do, although I don't know what they were."

Neither does anyone else.

Nothing like twisting the knife a little, eh Ross? Maybe you could have made it clear whether this was before or after the Vlad revelation, when it became crystal clear that Evans was unable to lift a finger? Update: ... and would Karros have been the answer to any offensive question in a full-time role anyway? I dunno. He might have made a decent acquisition as a bench player, especially now that the Dodgers don't have a full-time solid first baseman.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

One Big Bat, Revisited: Inserting Vlad

In the NL West roundup at All-Baseball.com, Jon has some interesting things to say about the one- (or two-) big-bat theory:
Jon: Regarding the Dodgers (and by the way, I don't know that a good year from Jeff Weaver is the key to their success any more than a good year from Neifi Perez is for the Giants), here are the questions:

* If the Dodgers add one legitimate bat, do they not become a division contender?
* If the Dodgers add two legitimate bats, do they not become division favorites?

I say yes to both.

Let's take a closer look at those contentions. Using Rob's New Favorite Toy, VORP, let's subtract Burnitz (-7.8), Jordan (11.3), and Henderson (-2.1) from the Dodgers' 2003 lineup and replace them with the 2002, uninjured version of Vlad (71.3). That is a difference of 70 runs, approximately. Plugging this in to last year's stats using Pythagorean projections, that would equate to a WPCT of .573 or a final record of 93-69, not enough to eclipse the Giants but enough to get into the postseason.

But that was last year.

I don't have time right now to do a 2004 projection justice, but it's conceivable that this might have worked. But I would be willing to bet that we'd have to keep Brown around.

Angels' 2004 Bullpen Preview

Tyler Bleszinski at Athletics Nation has released his 2004 bullpen preview for Oakland, and while that's fine, normally Fire Bavasi would have something going for the Halos. Since not, I'll just do it for him. First, I'll start off with links to the usual commentary about the ground rules: Now, on to the pitchers:

Brendan Donnelly

This one's easy: he's about to decline. You don't just step up, deliver a pre-All-Star-Break ERA of 0.36, and expect to repeat that the next year. Heck, he didn't even deliver that in the second half, once his elbow started breaking apart, he came back down to earth to finish the season with a 1.58 ERA. His age of 32 says he's on the downward slope.

Troy Percival

Another year of age-related decline as his K/9 took a big hit last year. Last year's degenerative hip condition isn't going away, and he'll continue to make me nervous. Of course, a lot of that nervousness is due to watching Misseur Gagné on the mound, as automatic a closer as I've ever seen.

Francisco Rodriguez

Frankie's going to bounce back this year with a terriffic year. Like Lackey in the starting rotation, he had an awful sophomore year, but Rodriguez's K/9 went through the roof in the last three months of 2003 even though his ERA took a hit. I see him a big candidate to improve substantially even if he doesn't become Mariano Rivera.

Scot Shields

Shields name, IMO, shouldn't even be on this list -- he should be in spring training working on a third or fourth pitch, working on pitch sequences so he can start. He's better than Lackey was last year. He's got very, very good stuff for five innings, and with some training, I think he could be extended to even more. That said, I'm going to suggest he'll decline a little as his K/9 regresses to his career average.

Ben Weber

Weber's 2003 and 2002 K/9 rates are nearly identical, but trending slightly down, and that's where I'm headed with Weber: decline.

The Rest

My guess is that Sele's most likely to enter the bullpen, which actually might solidify it further. Scioscia's plan to keep Aaron on a five-inning leash worked for a while, and I tend to think a bullpen job would help him out. If not Sele, then Ortiz, and if it is Ortiz, watch out; his walks ramped up while his strikeouts nosedived. Ortiz in the pen could be gasoline to the fire. I see once-highly-regarded Chris Bootcheck as a longshot to make the pen. Last year's spot starter Kevin Gregg is more likely to supplant Shields as a swingman if it comes to that, though it has been said he's liable to spend his days in AAA. Derrick Turnbow has one option left, and the Angels may deal him a similar fate. Too much depends on who actually ends up here, so I decline judgement until Scioscia and Stoneman make their picks.

Sele Released If He Has A Bad ST?

First I've heard of this: Doug Miller today says Aaron Sele could be released if he doesn't have a good spring training:
The good news for Sele is that he's finally healthy and ready to regain the form that helped him win 69 games from 1998 through 2001, the most in the American League in that span.

The bad news is that the offseason bolstering of the Angels' pitching rotation with flamethrowers Bartolo Colon has put the heat on Sele this spring. If he doesn't pitch well, he might not be on the team come Opening Day.

That's a lot of dough to be eating, Arte.

Testing 1 2 3

A stylesheet test.
Italicized words go here. Normal font words go here.

Pickoff Moves

Spiezio Wearing Cape And Tights In Seattle?

Strange and murky are the fever dreams of statheads and fantasy baseball players, projecting performance with statistical gimcrack and mudflap. Its mystics now divine a new superhero playing third base at Safeco. So read the Optimist's tea leaves. If true, Scott, we are so sorry.

Bonds Flat On His Back Through Monday

Barry's horizontal posture is likely to continue through the weekend. How will the curses flow, if Bonds misses large chunks of 2004? Especially since Sabean has gone into full savage-the-farm-win-at-all-costs mode over the last year?

Angels Could Use A Guardian Angel Themselves

As if to prove that aging superstars aren't the only ones who get injured in spring training, the Angels have absorbed quite a beating this year. Aside from Donnelly's nasal adventure, third baseman Glaus sprained an ankle, Guillen fouled a ball off his ankle, Anderson still hasn't played in ST thanks to biceps tendonitis, Benji Molina's got stiffness in his legs, and Vlad took a pitch on the hands. It already sounds horribly familiar...

Weaver... 15 K's... Zzzz

One hit. 8.0 innings, 15 K's. No big deal. Wake me when he's in the bigs, will ya?

Friday, March 12, 2004


Every blog must have a purpose, as a dog must have fleas. This one's is If I amuse, instruct, or edify in the process, well, so much the better.

Oh, Frank, You Slay Me!

Another unintentional humor moment courtesy of the Frankster. McCourt, on keeping the front office staff now that he's decided to be interim CEO:
McCourt also said he hasn't decided to bring in an entirely new front office staff.

"Everybody here is going to be given a chance," he said.

Just like Dan. I'm sure they all have their resumés faxed off to the Angels, Giants, A's, Diamondbacks, etc. by now.

Frank, on priorities:

"Spring training is great, but, really, what we're focused on is June 11, 12 and 13 in Fenway," McCourt said, "and, of course, playing in October is as good as it gets."
Apparently, the other games don't count for much. Or are you just going to the games you live close to?

On the life expectancy of Dodger players:

"I have a lot of confidence in the players on the squad," McCourt said. "This team is a lot better than people give them credit for. That said, we're going to plug holes."
Hah! I knew it! He's going to finally plug Dreifort! I envision a scene like that from The Untouchables where Sean Connery has a violent staged argument with a corpse -- which he promptly and bloodily re-kills, the better to extract information from the live gangsters unaware of the street theater in their presence. After Dreifort, Hundley... and Beltre...

Update: As if that weren't enough, get this Ken Gurnick article. On the Dodgers picking up a hitter before opening day:

Continuing the general feeling around the club that a major acquisition is unlikely, McCourt lowered expectations on player movement.

"I promise to do what is necessary to win on the field," he said. "The emphasis on one bat, a fix-all and cure-all, is a little misguided.

Especially when you can't get one, right, Frank? Just as I suspected: firing Dan Evans had the same atavistic motivation as a dog peeing on a fire hydrant, and so far, with the same results. The lies, the brittle promises, they're all here on display, in as big a showcase as Fox Sports West has for 162 games -- or however many actually get televised. Oops -- there goes another blown promise. But that's okay, we can count on Frank to at least know which team he owns, right?
McCourt spoke to reporters before watching his old favorite team play his new favorite team Friday.

"I wouldn't say I have divided loyalties," McCourt said before the game between the Dodgers and Red Sox. "I have 430 million reasons to root for one team and not the other."

And just how many of those reasons are really yours, Frank? Go home, Frank. Just sell the team and go home.

OT: Atarimaggeddon

Thanks to Slashdot for this great read on the coming crash in the video game industry. While semi-satirical, David Wong makes some excellent points as to why video games are heading towards another mid-80's-like meltdown, fueled by many of the same problems that afflicted Atari, et al.
It's the Atari 2600 all over again. We didn't buy Sky Worm Attack once we realized it was just Missile Command in a different box. Will we line up for Grand Theft Auto 5 if it's the exact same thing, only with prettier texture-mapped bruises on the whores? What's the difference? Would the NES have taken off if it turned out to be just an Atari, only with eight colors of square blocks instead of four?

All it will take is some other fad, some toy, some other hobby to come along, and interest will fade. It's out there, on somebody's drawing board. Something truly new and different and novel, dammit. The market is ripe for it.

And, while the future crash he predicts provides little comfort now to the TV industry execs who are finding out that video gamers aren't watching TV during prime time these days, it might mean a wave of more folks looking for something else to do with their spare time in a few years. Something like... baseball? Nah, that'll never catch on.

Newest Dodger

The Dodgers hired Paul Depodesta
To bolster their woeful offensa
So far it's just Flores
And nobody mores
But he can't hit it over the fencea.

Update: Okay, never again.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Joe Mauer, Joe Mauer, Let Mathis Come Over

Joe Mauer has had writers drooling over him for some time now. Baseball America ranked him the top prospect in baseball this year, and while Minnesota fans must be kicking themselves for missing out on drafting Mark Prior (by one pick), that's not a bad consolation prize. Still, it comes as something of a shock to read Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus take a contrarian view because of Joe Mauer's height (subscription required). Sheehan compares him against other 6'4" catchers, and concludes that Mauer's bat -- and the wear and tear of moving a large body combined with dish duties -- will ultimately eject him out of the catcher position, moving him to 1B. But, as Sheehan notes, "a .300/.370/.490 hitter has a much different value as a first baseman than as a catcher." Fair enough -- so you're talking about a plus version of Scott Spiezio: not much pop but good average.

Assume, then, that Mauer isn't the best catching prospect in the minors now. That means Jeff Mathis is, which, as an Angels fan, has got to make you feel pretty good.

In Mauer's defense, Aaron Gleeman deconstructs Sheehan's argument by looking at others of similar height, just one inch shorter. The bottom line is that anybody 6'4" in baseball is substantially far to the right on the bell curve, and you'd be lucky to find a decent number of comparables, period.

KNBR Interviews DePodesta

KNBR interviews Paul DePodesta. Highlights:

Vetting The NL Central

With my apologies to the Score Bard:

It's hard in lines so very terse
To say whether the Cubs are still cursed.
With Clemens and Pettitte
The Astros might get it
Is Maddux enough to take first?

Score One For The Bard

Regarding The Wars Between Sabremetrics And Scouting:
To rely on the wisdom of scouts
For projecting who hits or makes outs,
And just eyeball at-bats
Without using stats--
Well, that's like trying to write a poem without knowing anything about meter--you might write a good one if you're lucky, but I have my doubts.

Invitation: Blog At The Park

Many of the other Dodger bloggers, it seems to me, are busy with baby plans, meaning less blogging and more diapering in the weeks ahead. So: to all, an open invitation to one last game at the Ravine before the duties of fatherhood absorb all your free time. Allow me to suggest April 10th, Dodgers vs. Rockies, as the game, but I'm flexible on such details. Any others wishing to show up, why, sure. I'll even go so far as to purchase the tickets so we can all sit in one block. (That was not an offer of a gift, BTW. :-) Reply by e-mail if interested. Play ball!

The Good Soldier

Wilson, you deserved better. That's what I thought when I read that the Dodgers would put him back in the bullpen in order to keep rookie Jackson in the lineup. The stupidity of this decision seems to me compounded by Ishii's struggles, Weaver's annual gifts to the opposition hitters, and Dreifort's chronic injuries. And yet, here he is, talking about World Series rings as if that could happen now:
"It's about the ring on the finger," he said of that elusive championship. "It's more valuable than whatever money you make in your whole career. Family, friends, everybody remembers when they see the ring. When you're done playing, they don't talk about how much money you made. They talk about how many rings you won. That's what it's all about.

"That's all that matters to me now, is to win. I've done everything else in the game. But before I go home, I want a ring. Some guys don't see it that way. But when they get older, they'll know. When I was younger, I just wanted to play and have fun. Now I know you don't feel complete without winning. Thank God, I've got everything else in life. But for a baseball player, there's something else bigger than the money and the personal success."

God bless you, Wilson. After all the long injury-plagued years at Tampa Bay and the vain, hopeless offseason, after a clumsy and foolish new owner inhumanely fired the friend who brought you here, you're still ready to go, and at least, for the public, putting on a brave face.

One Big Bat, One Big Lie

I hear so much that the Dodgers neglect their offense and don't win with hitting that it seems meet to counter this with a few statistics. Following, the regular season OBP and OPS for the Dodgers in championship years:

Year# TeamsOPSRankOBPRank

Now, if the outlier 1955 season is unusual, so is the magical year 1988, with it's woefully underperforming offense. Most Dodger championships are right in the middle offensively. One bat, by itself, couldn't have fixed the Dodgers last year, and it won't fix the team this year, either.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A-Mays-ing: Bonds Won't Set Record Against Dodgers -- Maybe

Baseball Guru reminds us that Barry Bonds is about to surpass his godfather's career home run record. Since he's only two jacks away from tying and three from breaking, I checked the Giants schedule, knowing how Bonds likes to break records whenever he's playing the Dodgers. Mercifully, he'd have to go on a drought for a week and a half where he hits only one or two homers. Three of these games will be played in the Juice Box, making it even more unlikely he heads up the all-time HR chart against the Blue.

Or, he'd have to start the season on the DL. Kinda like he is now.

Grumpy Old Pitchers

The 2004 offseason has been a banner year for older pitchers. With more senior marquee pitchers moved than in any previous hot stove I can think of, the question has to be, qui bono? Who benefits? Let us first state a few ground rules: This leaves us with the following names:

2004 Projected
Kevin Brown39Yankees38.93.58
Roger Clemens39Astros32.83.58
Greg Maddux38Cubs33.83.56
Kenny Rogers39Rangers16.35.32
Curt Schilling37Red Sox55.83.35
David Wells41Padres29.54.05

So, the question is, which of these guys is most likely to help his team the most? Based on VORP alone, the answer is Schilling, who towers over the rest. But that doesn't consider the replacement guys. Let's look at whose innings these guys will be eating:


Brown replaces, depending on how you look at it, either David Wells or Andy Pettite. Javier Vazquez and his 61.7 projected 2004 VORP will replace Clemens, essentially functioning as the staff ace. Looking at both pitchers' 2003 actual and 2004 VORP brings an interesting picture to bear:

2003 actual2004 Proj.
Andy Pettitte4.0224.73.7934.6
David Wells4.1436.13.6829.5

Brown clearly marks a step up from the 2003 version of either of these guys, Wells especially so. But it's not a huge step up, and it has to come with the caveat that Brown has substantial injury risk at this point, as the Dodgers well know. Brown 2004 represents, essentially, David Wells 2003. If you're the Yankees, though, you're kicking yourself for not re-signing Pettitte, as Brown is done after 2005, but Pettitte still has a lot of gas left in the tank. I'm going to say Brown replaces Pettitte, as they are the most similar.


Clemens' unretirement was something of a surprise to me, though Bosox fans might have a different opinion given his rancorous exit from that club. He replaces Ron Villone, for whom PECOTA projects a 7.9 VORP, one of the lowest in these ratings. Clemens should upgrade the rotation by nearly 25 runs, provided he actually pitches similar numbers of innings.


The Cubs situation with Maddux bears startling resemblance to the Astros, except that Maddux is a year younger than Clemens, and he replaces Shawn Estes as the ERA-challenged pitcher getting the boot. As Estes projects to a VORP of only 1.8, though, the 2004 improvement is even bigger, 32 runs.


Which awful pitcher does Kenny Rogers replace? Judging by the roster, I'll say it was John Thomson, he of the 22.1 2003 VORP. Thomson's projected 2004 VORP is 24.0; of everyone on this list, he actually represents a step down from what he replaced, leading me to question whether anyone in the Rangers organization can recognize quality pitching (or whether PECOTA has lost its mind on this one). This is a -7.7 run "improvement", or a drop of 7.7 runs.


Curt replaces John Burkett, whose 13.7 2003 VORP got frighteningly close to zero. With the hitter-happy AL East, that just won't cut it, and the Sox wisely let him go. Burkett's 17.8 2004 projected VORP represents a bounceback, but with Schilling so much higher at 55.8, the run gap of 38 is insurmountable.


Of all the pitchers on this list, Wells' standalone effect on the team is most difficult to gauge, because he's actually going to replace not one but one and a quarter other pitchers, specifically, innings eaten in 2003 by Kevin Jarvis, and possibly, one of their 1-3 rotation guys, Lawrence, Peavy, and Eaton, the latter three returning in 2004. The Padres suffered mightily from injury last year, and it shows in their rotation's innings pitched. There's a steep cutoff after Eaton, whose 183 IP ranked third. Wells went the distance last year with 213 IP, but given his injury history, whether he gets that far in 2004 is a big question mark. His projected 29.5 VORP still towers over Jarvis' 10.4 2004 projection, for a 19.1 run improvement. But that has to be watered down with the knowledge that the gain won't, in practice be so large because Wells isn't going to replace just one player.


In short, the Sox accomplished the most by their offseason acquisition, followed by the Cubs, Astros, Padres, Yankees, and Rangers, the latter actually managing to make their pitching worse. That the Yanks pitching turns into a wash (at least, so far as Brown is concerned) shows how far down their player development has gone, and how foolish it was to let Pettitte go.

Bad Swing Shift For Barry

Age, claimer of ballplayers, punches Barry's ticket in a spring training incident:
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds hurt his back during batting practice Wednesday and was taken out of the lineup for the San Francisco Giants' game against Texas.

Bonds swung at a pitch, then walked out of the batting cage and threw his bat down.

He was flat on the grass behind cage as Giants assistant trainer Barney Nugent worked on his back. Several minutes later, Bonds stood up, walked back into the cage, swung at another pitch, then walked off the field.

Giants fans jitter. This is not serious, they murmur amongst themselves. He will return. He will hit. Won't he?

Portrait of the Pitcher As A Young Stud

Gagné avant Dodger uniform.

Thanks to the Texas League website for this one.

Fast, Fast, Fast Relief

Chad Cordero doesn't worry much about Montreal's financial instability, or its relocation to a city-to-be-named-later. No, he's just just glad to be playing in the majors. He should be: he was only drafted last year:
"It gives me an opportunity to play," he said. "All that stuff is going to be a little different, but the city is awesome and Frank [Robinson, the manager] is a great guy."

This time last year, Cordero was the closer for Cal State Fullerton. The Expos drafted him in June and called him up in August, and he posted a 1.64 earned-run average in 12 games.

And people worry about rushing Edwin Jackson! That's gotta be some special stuff. I hope his quick ascent to the show doesn't eventually ruin him.

Replacing Donnelly

Brendan Donnelly, bullpen stud, broke his nose shagging a fly ball, and while that's funnier than Odalis Perez's blistered finger in 2003 as an excuse for not pitching, it brings to mind something serious that Angels fans ought to be thinking about now: just how long we're going to have him around. As Jon observed with Eric Gagné, bullpen studs wither quickly, and at his age, 32, he's at the point where non-nose-related injury will likely sideline him for a substantial period of time. Looking at Baseball Prospectus' VORP for pitchers by team list for 2003, it becomes obvious who's in line to replace him: swingman Scot Shields. But that just opens another question, namely, who replaces him as swingman? In 2005, the answer might be a rookie Bobby Jenks, but this is 2004. For now, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope Donnelly doesn't break anything more serious than his nose.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A Challenge to M's Bloggers

Which is worse? A rotten GM who can't even see the problems the team has, and acquires inappropriate players, alongside ownership with sufficient riches to be mentioned in the same breath as George Steinbrenner? Or ownership so poor the sale of the team stalled until the very last minute of the offseason, acquiring a supposedly great but untested GM -- who, thanks to that same ownership, now has no financial flexibility?

Start writing. You have thirty minutes. At the end of the period, please fold your blue books and hand them to the person on your right.

Update: The answer should be obvious. I'll take the Mariners' situation any day. A bad GM can be fired. Bad ownership cannot, save by the courts.

A National Disgrace

I'm not sure what to make of this, but according to a report on the Angels fan forum, McCourt has sent out a memo insisting that the team's fanbase be referred to as "Dodger Nation". (The poster said the team itself, but that's never been true, even among Bosox fans where it seems to have originated.) If true, it's more indication that McCourt doesn't know which team he really owns.

Even Nixon Had Pat

I had originally started this post as the straightforward excerpt of still more whistling-sounds-of-doom that keep eminating from Dodger Stadium lately. I'll start off with that, but I want to make it very, very clear that this is just one part of the McCourt Show that desperately needs the attention of all Dodger fans. If you haven't already, read this account of one Baltimorean's interactions with Frank-n-Jamie, forwarded by Jon. McCourt and Opryland were to join together to form a new operation in Baltimore, in what was the old fish market.
As the Director of Operations for the facility, I attended a number of meetings with Frank, and his lovely wife Jamie, and found them to be earnest, but totally incompetent people. Their ideas were useless...

Imagine my surprise when we began to have delays because, among other things, the diner for the building was sitting on a flatcar in New Jersey because Frank didn't have the money to pay for it. ... The $23M project could not even place the electronic signage for the main entrance into place, because the money wasn't available to get it delivered.

... I was pulled aside one day by the controller, a personal friend who had originally called me in Ohio to tell me about the job. He was ashen. He told me he had just finished a meeting with the McCourts and their financial people, and that the project was doomed.

I asked how he could know that, when we hadn't even yet opened the doors (the delayed opening, which had finally been settled when we informed Frank that he could not open the facility without the diner, since the liquor laws were going to require the eatery for us to get our license, was still about a month away)...and he said "for us to make this work, everything's going to have to be perfect. We're going to have to turn a profit within six months, and we told Frank that this was not realistic; our people had projected it would take 12 to 18 months. This place has to be a cash cow right off the bat, because the debt load is huge. I'd never seen those numbers before, I'd only seen Opryland's numbers. I swear that if I had seen McCourt's, I'd have never called you to fly in here for that interview."

And so the McCourts went down with the ship, with predictable lawsuits and countersuits, with Opryland (the employer of the individual writing this piece) settling for a fraction of its losses.

Back to the present, or something like it. In January, the Daily News ran an article including one anonymous baseball insider's estimate of McCourt's financial leash to be no more than three years. In October 2003, the Boston Globe interviewed Sportscorp's Marc Ganis, who said "The Dodgers are losing money. There is not the cash flow to support debt." Despite these reports, despite the litany of actual problems (as opposed to anonymous reports) associated with McCourt ownership, somehow, there are those who still insist that this guy is going to get us to the promised land. The arguments against skepticism all have the qualities of extreme naifdom swirling about them, as flies circle Pigpen. Consider one Tommy Naccarato's words:

Lets [sic] get behind McCourt for a couple of years; help him make the team a winner and hipefully [sic] we can enjoy winning again in Chaves [sic] Ravine. I know for a fact that I certainly miss it.

Oh yes, and about Kris Rone, well her job has nothing to do with the team's performance. I'm sorry she isn't going to be getting the chance to NOT stock my size of shirt at the Top of the Park this upcoming season--as if she ever intended too.

In other words, as he put it earlier, "this is a new era" and we should all close our eyes.

Right. I bet that works great if you're a wildebeest amidst lions.

And I've got some news for you, dude. Rone's job has plenty to do with the team's performance: she's the gal who gets the cash that the team plows back into player salaries, scouting operations, and the minor leagues. Losing somebody with her track record is no small matter.

But in the end, results don't -- or won't -- matter. When spring turns to summer and the Dodgers still don't have a hitter (or five, which is more like the number they need), the McCourt apologists will be back at it with their Pollyanna stories about how we all need to get behind the team, and so forth. Everybody needs a supporter come what may, no matter how slimy, or in this case, blatently stupid they might be. Even Nixon had Pat.

Don't Worry, Terry, They're Just Makin' It Up As They Go

Terry over at The Bench Coach wonders whether an overpaid Jason Kendall is headed for Chavez Ravine in Dodger Blue. I give that one about as much credibility as the noise from Ken Rosenthal that DePodesta is talking to other teams about moving Jackson. No meaningful games go on, and this is what the sportswriters do to amuse themselves -- stir up the animals.

Will The Yankees Bail Frank Out?

Yesterday we observed the first signs of spring, like robins or swarming termites, now include Frank's Götterdammerung maneuvers, pasted over with an oblivious smile and a barrel of Rotarian gee-whiz optimism. I expect him to add "I am not a crook" to his PR recitations any day now, immediately following substantial price hikes for the weak team he's about to field. Yet, Dodger fans roar up to the gate. As T.J. Simers asks today -- why?
The Angels added big-time attractions in Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon this off-season, and on Saturday, the first day that fans could purchase single-game tickets, the team sold 58,828.

The Dodgers did nothing this off-season, and continue to do nothing, and on Saturday, the first day that fans could purchase single-game tickets, the team sold more than 87,000, and close to 100,000 when including package deals. "This will be our biggest year in memory," ticket manager Billy Hunter told The Times.

Ah, later on, he clues us in:
In fact, 33,000 of the 87,000 single-game Dodger tickets sold Saturday were to just the Yankee series, and "I would imagine a number of people were turned away after the Yankee series was sold out," Hall said, "so rather than leave with nothing, they bought tickets for other games with the Giants, or maybe for July 4th."

It appears we're getting closer and closer to that time when the Dodgers, like the Clippers have been doing for years, begin urging fans to buy tickets for the chance to watch some of the game's greatest players — none, of course, who play for the Dodgers.

No kidding, T.J. Who knew that interleague play would bail out the Parking Lot Attendant this year? Well, that's only a few games. We've yet to see whether he's going to get an attendance drop over the course of 81 home games. But maybe it's not the Yanks the fans want to see. Maybe they want to see whether Sheffield even shows up ("Gaaaaryyyyyy..." as they used to chant over the Braves dugout when he was in town.)

Monday, March 08, 2004

"You Have Fifteen Minutes To Reach Minimum Safe Distance"

U.S.S. Mariner today accused Seattle Times columnist Bob Finnegan of resurfacing his favorite fairy tale, namely, the return of Griffey, Jr. to the M's. I understand their concern, as much of what passes for sports "journalism" is actually the manufacture of plausible trade rumors. So we read, with a jaundiced eye, the LA Times story Jon linked to today. It contains some amazing stuff -- if true, especially, the part about Graziano's alleged concern about McCourt's wild optimism regarding business matters. I can understand M's bloggers thinking Finnegan's back on the wacky weed -- any trade sending Griffey, Jr. anywhere would involve the recipient team's GM sharing from that same pipe. But in this case, too many other things are simultaneously going wrong, all at once, so Newhan's story gains instant credibility: Ahab has sighted his whale.

In the movie Aliens, before the colony's terraforming generator went supercritical, the automated warning voice cried, "You have fifteen minutes to reach minimum safe distance." Whether they have such machinery at Chavez Ravine or not, Graziano blasted off for deep space before the reactor blew. The rest of us will just have to sit and watch.

He's No Haas, Beane

The O'Malley's were so good for so long that you forget other teams have -- or have had -- great owners, too. MLB.com today runs a yearbook piece on the last game at the Coliseum under Walter Haas family ownership:
Oct. 9, 1995--For the last 15 years the Walter Haas family has been the flip side of George Steinbrenner: a shining model of altruistic, self-effacing, and successful sports franchise ownership. Now the Oakland A's have been sold to a couple of businessmen, Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman.

On the final home weekend of the A's season a crowd of 30,112 fans said goodbye to a tenor of baseball enjoyment that had been set by the shy and smiling Walter A. Haas, Jr., who bought the club in 1981 as a means of doing something positive for the economy and the spirits of the city.

The A's won a World Series and three league pennants during Haas' stewardship, but with him, pleasure in the day always outranked winning, and this game (against Minnesota) had the atmosphere of a company picnic. The players sat on folded chairs in the infield, with their wives beside them and their younger children on their laps. In the bleachers and outer stands, there were a half-dozen hand-lettered signs thanking the Haas family: "THANKS FOR HAASPITALITY," "HAASTA LAVISTA," "HAAS #1," and the like.

Haas, who had been in declining health for months was not present but the name "Haas" was spelled out on the green grass and brought the crowd to its feet in a spontaneous roar. The players stood and cheered, too -- and in an instant, it seemed, everyone was up again for Mark McGwire's second-inning 465-foot home run into the left-field bleachers: a shining meteor sent up, everyone knew, for Walter Haas. Three days later he died.

Of course, this begat the end of the Bash Brother era in Oakland, and the beginning of the Beane era, with treatment of baseball players -- or at least, position players -- as interchangeable parts. While I have to believe that Oakland's consistently winning ways on a strict budget may prove they have a point, it still makes me sorry to think the Dodgers will presently succumb to those bloodless ways. How did the O'Malley's leave? With a bang? With a whimper?

Return To Sender: Griffey Postmarked For Seattle?

Pity Stephen Nelson of Mariners Wheelhouse, or for that matter, any of the eighteen blogs covering Seattle's finest baseball team. When you're one of about a zillion guys writing about a single team, unique insights become tough to come by, and in the interregnum between the last of the hot stove moves and the start of the regular season -- i.e., Spring Training -- you've gotta feel like a mosquito in Alaska before the bears begin to stir. I got a missive from him last night suggesting that he, I, and Tyler Bleszinski of Athletics Nation should get together and launch a single, grand, unified blog for the western divisions of both leagues. It may yet happen, but before it does, I wanted to thank him for his kind words about my blog (isn't it nice that we all get along so well?).

Anyway, because the Safeco blogosphere is so heavily peopled, it surprises me that he didn't pick up on a rumored move of injury magnet Ken Griffey, Jr. back to Seattle whence he came*. Of course, as the article says,

The biggest hurdle to returning Griffey could be the five guaranteed years left on his contract, starting at age 34 with major injuries wiping out most of his past two seasons. Balanced against that is the fact that Griffey's money is spread out for years after he is done playing — $6.5 million a year is deferred.
Yeah, no surprise there. I wonder whether this is the fever dream of Bavasi along the same lines as Epstein's A-Rod-to-Boston disaster earlier, or just the imaginings of a bored Seattle sportswriter.
In other news, I introduce yet another new Angels blog, Vote For Lou. That makes five of us. He starts off with a post that should warm Nelson's heart, namely, just how badly the Angels have fared against Mariners pitching in recent years.
* Stephen wrote just now to inform me that I wasn't hallucinating: I did see this story on his blog, but he took it down because, well, U.S.S. Mariner already covered it in more detail than he had time for. Eh, don't let it get you down. I have Jon and Terry to compete with on the Dodgers, and at least Purgatory Online and The Pearly Gates for the Angels.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Making a BeWeaver Out Of Me

The K's just keep on rolling: Jered Weaver strikes out fifteen in 7 2/3 innings. I can't believe I missed that one. Yesterday was a perfect day, too, but I was too busy rewiring my garage. First round pick? Heck, he'll be a top five, maybe top two pick. Go Dirtbags!

Payback, In the Jenks of An Eye

Payback, though not quite in kind, 5-2. My favorite Angel smacked one over the wall off Barry Zito. Bobby Jenks offered up three scoreless innings.

There's actually been a couple stories I missed on Jenks -- one here in the Daily Bulletin that says his stint in winter ball has lead, not to more alcohol-related violations, but to 47 strikeouts in 52 innings, and a frame fifteen pounds lighter. And Stephen Smith says he heard Mike Scioscia on the McDonnell-Douglas show say Bobby's developed a cut fastball in Puerto Rico. Bobby, if you're reading this, we're all pulling for you. I can't wait to see you at Angel Stadium.

Frank Only Makes It To C, Not Dee

Mike Dee, Red Sox exec, turned down McCourt's offer and will become COO of the Red Sox. Looks like Frank's alphabet still needs help getting past C.


A couple items here -- first, Dayn Perry stops by to correct some misapprehensions I might have had about his affiliation with Fox Sports interfering with his editorial content:

Poking around and found your Dodgers/Angels blog. Good stuff and some very interesting and thoughtful takes. However, I think you may have misinterpreted my Fox column on DePodesta. Nowhere did I claim that free-spending owners weren't ready and willing to purchase teams (Broad and Checketts are but one example). My point was that, generally speaking, I think MLB selects owners who are willing to toe the "reduce labor costs now!" party line. I think McCourt will be of this mold. I never claimed that the Dodgers had only a group of insolvents to choose from. It's MLB's selection criteria more than anything. When I wrote "It would be better for everyone, the game included, if we had more John Henrys out there willing to invest in their own products. But we don't." I was referring to the current coterie of MLB owners--not prospective owners. I thought that was clear, but perhaps it wasn't. As for my shill status, well, I've critical of Bud Selig and baseball owners on many occasions, and I've yet to be called on the carpet. If I ever were, well, you can ask ESPN.com whether I'm willing to resign when I think I'm being treated unfairly. Many thanks.


I apologized to Dayn for my labeling him a shill, and that's where things stand.

One thing I enjoy -- usually -- is being proven right, as in hearing my wife repeat, "I was wrong, you were right" several times over. But sometimes the satisfaction of being right doesn't offset the sickly feeling I get when my nominally pessimistic tendencies prove accurate. The Dodgers 2004 season keeps looking worse and worse. Today, Mariners Wheelhouse redoubles my efforts on Nomo, complete with charts and comparable pitchers. Note to DePodesta: don't trade Perez. Please.

Evolution: How A Salmon Almost Became A Snake

Richard Dawkins has spent much of his career explaining evolutionary biology in such a way as to make it comprehensible to ordinary folk, as well as taking the scientific world by storm. But even he would be surprised to see such a rapid change as when a (Tim) Salmon (and Arizona native) nearly became a Diamondback:
Before the 2001 season, the Diamondbacks were looking for help in right field.

"As much as I wanted to stay here with one club, that was weighing on me," said Salmon, a former Greenway High School and Grand Canyon University standout who resides with wife Marci and four children in the same Valley neighborhood as Diamondbacks left fielder Luis Gonzalez. " . . . I had a lot of family and friends waiting for me to come home and play."

But Salmon received a four-year contract extension, and the Angels finished third in the American League West. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, signed Reggie Sanders, who slugged 33 home runs as the Diamondbacks made their championship run.

Salmon, 35, admitted he did some deep thinking after the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series.

"For a little while, I was asking myself what could have been," Salmon said. "But to come back the next year and do it the way we did it with that club, it's ultimately the greatest satisfaction.

Phew. This from a guy that Bill James ranked 72nd all time in his Historical Baseball Abstract in right field:
An old-fashioned hard-hat kind of player, good arm, not too much speed, works hard and rarely goes into a slump. Ninety walks a year and a .290 average give him an on-base percentage near .400. Has gone over 200 this season (2000) and will probably hit a couple hundred more before the fastballs get too fast for him.
Of course, that was 2000. He proceeded to have a simply awful (for him) 2001, and thought about hanging it up shortly into 2002 when the team struggled early.

Salmon is in my mind an archetypal Angel, a quiet, no-nonsense guy who shows up to the park to get his job done. It's pretty obvious, to me at least, that his career is sloping downward faster than James thought four years ago; later in the Arizona Republic article, Salmon questions whether he'll finish his contract. Well, Tim, here's to a productive end.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Repeat To Self: It's Only Spring Training

Shelled, shellacked, slammed, blown out, embarrassed, hammered 26-3. Colon only pitched two-thirds of an inning while giving up 2 runs, for a 27.00 ERA. Meanwhile, Blanton, Oakland's AA pitcher, made the Angels look like rookies (well, a lot of them were).

Meantime, the Dodgers hit and hit and hit.

It's only spring training, it's only spring training...

Can You Find The Ace In This Picture?

A few days ago, Dodger Hill ran a breakdown on Ishii showing that, pretty much, his line in 2003 was his line in 2002. But Hill didn't look closely enough at some of his other stats, in particular K/9 and K/BB, generally associated with dominance (does he strike out a lot of guys) and control (how many strikes does he throw). That got me thinking about our supposed staff ace for 2004, Hideo Nomo. Let's take a look at those numbers for the Dodgers staff with previous MLB experience in recent years. (Note this explicitly excludes rookie Edwin Jackson.)

AlvarezIshii NomoPerez
2001 --- --- 95.16.701.82
2002 75.06.721.44 154.08.361.31 220.17.881.82
2003 95.07.773.42 147.08.571.33 218.17.301.70 185.16.852.82

This is not a pretty picture. Nomo's strikeout rate and control have been slipping for three years now. He's clearly on a downward slide, and Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections has even worse things to say about him: he's due for a loss of over half his VORP (subscription required? scroll halfway down). For an ace, that's scary news. I'm a lazy man: here, I'll just copy their 2004 VORP projections for the starting rotation:

2003 Actual2004 Projected
Hideo Nomo48.7Hideo Nomo20.2
Odalis Perez 10.8 Odalis Perez 29.3
Kevin Brown 60.2 Jeff Weaver 17.9
Kazuhisa Ishii 14.7 Kazuhisa Ishii 4.9
Andy Ashby 0.6 Edwin Jackson 18.9
Darren Dreifort 6.6 Darren Dreifort 15.5
Wilson Alvarez 30.5 Wilson Alvarez 26.4
Total pitching VORP172.1Total pitching VORP133.1

So, PECOTA sees Nomo going down, hard, this year... but tradebait Perez rebounding nicely. Looking at the 2003 DIPS numbers for each of our starters, you see also that OP is on the leaderboard for ERA-dERA, that is, he's been pitching in bad luck, where our friends Ishii and Nomo both are on the dERA-ERA leaderboard -- pitching in good luck.

I've always been leery of trading Odalis. He said what needed to be said last year about the offense. For a combination of durability and dominance, he's going to be extremely hard to replace. I'd look to Perez (if he doesn't get traded), Alvarez, or (gulp) Ishii, in descending order of likelihood, to be the staff ace this year, not Nomo.

Margin Note: No, you're not hallucinating. I took this down for additional info and DIPS analysis.

For Pete's Sake, Don't Blow It, Frank

Reminding Frank that there used to be some class in this organization, Peter O'Malley makes some noise from Valhalla:
Former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley, reacting to the resignation of club president Bob Graziano and vice president of business Kris Rone, said Friday that he hoped this didn't portend another long period of instability for the organization and that new co-owner Frank McCourt needed to reveal his vision and agenda as soon as possible.

"We don't know what his vision and agenda is," O'Malley said. "When we do, maybe we'll have a better understanding and be better able to evaluate these changes.

"It's important he communicates and tells fans what his direction is. You can't fool the fans. My dad and I had their total support for decades because they understood what our direction was."

O'Malley said he wasn't being critical of McCourt. "With change of ownership comes change of management," he said. "I just hope there aren't too many changes in too short of time.

Well, don't you know, Peter, his vision apparently involves learning the A-B-C's beyond the third letter. You know, like H for "hitter". Fortunately, B encompasses "bat", but also "bonehead", which adequately describes many of McCourt's moves in the brief time he's run the show in Dodgertown. Not that Frank would listen to a word Peter would have to say -- after all, O'Malley washed his hands of the team in the end, and took up with Eli Broad on a competing bid when it became obvious the Parking Lot Attendant didn't have enough quarters to buy the team. But I'm sure we'll be treated to lots of fun future press conferences if Peter disagrees violently with the McCarpetbaggers.

OT: Tricksy, Thieving Bloggers!

With the search engine wars heating up now that Google has been reported to be near an IPO -- or not -- Wired News has an interesting story on something that could change the way search gets done. Researchers at what's left of Hewlett Packard (now just HP, thank you very much Carly Fiorina) have found something interesting: bloggers of high repute often steal links and topics from other bloggers. Now, that by itself isn't news, but what is fascinating is that the quality bloggers -- i.e., the guys providing the source material -- are often lesser known, and what's more, frequently don't receive credit:
These infectious people can be hard to find because they do not always receive attribution for being the first to point to an interesting idea or news item.

Indeed, the team at HP Labs found that when an idea infected at least 10 blogs, 70 percent of the blogs did not provide links back to another blog that had previously mentioned the idea.

To get past this obstacle, the researchers developed techniques to infer where information might have come from, based on the similarities in text, links and infection rates.

For instance, if Blog A used the words "furry germs" to link to an infectious topic like Giantmicrobes just days after Blog B in the same social circle used the exact same words and link, that would be a good sign that Blog A copied Blog B.

The researchers said that this is all part of an idea they call "iRank", a ranking of information spread based on who actually originated the material. With everybody hot for the Next Big Search Algorithm, this is actually exciting stuff. So stop stealin' my baseball links! (Note to Jon, Terry, etc.: that was supposed to be a joke.)

Friday, March 05, 2004

Sandy's Back

I'm not old enough to remember him pitch. I was one month old when about-to-be MVP Koufax and the Dodgers skunked the Yankees 4-0 in the World Series, the only time in history a team has blanked the Yanks in the Series. I don't know if McCourt deserves this. But whatever. Welcome back, Sandy.

Update: now, on mlb.com, too.

Update 3/6/04: Reader Ralph Rooney writes to mention that the MLB World Series link above is wrong about Sandy's won-loss record; he was actually a 25-game winner that year, and Whitey Ford won 24. Ah, the days of four-man rotations. And I should also correct myself: the Reds blanked the Yanks in 1976. But it was the first time anybody had done it.

National Hooky, Er, Pastime Day

Tyler Bleszinski prods me to direct your attention to his blog and the efforts to install "National Pastime Day" as a sort of un-holiday, something on the order of Mother's Day. As he wrote me in an e-mail, "You call it slacking, I call it family time." Sure, Tyler... if you count Barry Zito as a family member. Anyway, what the heck. Take the day off. Go to the park.

OT: An Unhappy Anniversary

Today is the tenth anniversary of spam. I was around and actually reading Usenet when the infamous "Green Card Spam" hit, and oh, was the hatred fierce -- and the sanctimonious smugness of Phoenix shysters Canter and Siegel even fiercer. Little did know they were on the cutting edge of something far more sinister: the endless flood of porn, body-part-enhancement, and MLM scams to everyone's inbox.

Stretching Jenks To Fit The Angels Lineup

Bobby Jenks has suffered through seemingly endless comparisons to the fictional Nuke Laloosh of Bull Durham, not to mention biting press in ESPN the Magazine and a rather candid and unflattering segment on the air, exposing his family's extensive problems. Through all that, Jenks has managed to come out in a lot of top prospect lists, including Baseball America, Future Angels, MLB, and Dayn Perry's on Fox Sports. Despite all the good work he's done in the last year -- losing weight and improving his control substantially -- it's still no surprise to read in today's Orange County Register that even Mike Scioscia is hedging his bets a little about their burly yet enigmatic right hander:
"We hope based on his progress that he comes onto our radar," Scioscia said. "It's a stretch to call him depth now, but at some point in the season we hope he jumps up onto the chart. We've got to give him time to get it together."
Well, I hope so. It isn't every day you see guys throwing 100+. Speaking of radar,
The story goes that Jenks threw a pitch clocked at 103mph over the winter in Puerto Rico. As usual, opinions are split about the reliability of the radar gun.

"I've got to think the battery might have been a little bad," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Good luck, Bobby.

Dodger Staff Stirred, Not Shaken (Much)

Bizarre that the Times should publish two conflicting items on the same day. First, the news that DePodesta will retain the old baseball operations staff. He's said to be especially impressed with studette Kim Ng, the woman who talked the arbitrator down to the Dodgers' figure in Gagné's negotiations. This strikes me as odd because you'd think if he were looking to make big changes he'd, well, make big changes. So far as I can tell, the jury's still out on DePodesta, but I haven't seen anything strikingly negative about the man; score a half point for McCourt on this one.

But then there's the juicy part. As expected, Bob Graziano finally did, in fact, resign, but it's how he did it that fascinates, in a watching-a-car-wreck-as-it-happens manner:

"I met with Frank and Jamie at the beginning of February, at which time we decided [resignation] would be an appropriate course of action because we had decided to go our separate ways."

Word emerged of the Graziano-Dee shakeup on the same day Dodger executive Kris Rone, the fourth-highest-ranking woman in Major League Baseball, resigned because of philosophical differences with the McCourts.


"My responsibilities within the organization changed significantly" after his February meeting with the McCourts, prompting Graziano to instruct his attorney to send the letter of resignation to the Dodgers on Feb 20. He is scheduled to leave the organization March 22.

I suppose you expect a number of shakeups in an organization when a new boss takes over, but it seems every direct underling of McCourt has hit the door. Maybe it's needed -- the team wasn't exactly lighting the NL West on fire -- but it sure doesn't remind anybody of the O'Malley days, either. Well, maybe guys in the business of writing puff pieces about McCourt, but not the rest of us.

Man, would I love to hear what Rone's "philosophical differences" were.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Recaption #1

Number 14: Jeff Weaver, 42 ms before his right arm and head detached. Courtesy Harold Edgerton, MIT.

The Effects of Competition Upon The Gate

Boy of Summer has a very good article on the effects of competition on the gate. The short answer is that it just isn't all that much unless the competition is winning. He's pretty thorough, looking at most (but not all) multi-franchise cities (he excludes Chicago, but they haven't had a new franchise drop in on them in a while). Give it a read.

That's Fine, Jeff, Just Don't Ask Me To Pitch

So Jeff Weaver is happy to be in LA 'cause he's been "a Dodgers fan my whole life". Careful what you wish for, Jeff. Todd Hundley's dad, Randy played for the Cubs; the Cubs were his hometown team. Ask him how much he loved it there, especially after the comments he made about asking the fans to come up and hit if they didn't like his slump.

They Could Do Worse

Adam Dunn, for Perez. Dunn is supposedly unhappy with his contract in Cincinnati, but so are any number of recent ex-minor leaguers fresh from a discovery of who pays the arbitrator.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Eckstein Will Come Back

You heard it here first. Well, okay, you heard it here second. You heard it here first. Without a doubt, my favorite player. Look up "heart" in the dictionary, you'll find Eck's picture next to it. No kidding. He was playing hurt last year. He'll recover.

A-Rod he ain't. He doesn't have to be.

Another Swipe at DIPS

Mitchel Lichtman takes a swipe at DIPS today, going after the meat of McCracken's argument that pitchers have no discernable control over BABIP, in the main. I haven't finished reading it, but what I've read smells possibly like a rat. Or maybe some insight McCracken hadn't come up with. Regardless, the pens of both Voros and Bill James have been silenced by their acquisition by the Boston Red Sox, for which the sabremetric community can only be saddened. I'd sure love to read what Voros would have to say about this.

Update 6/6/04: Changed the link on this one to reflect the reorganization at Baseball Think Factory. They sure don't make it easy to find.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Whose Team Was It?

Stephen Smith gives me so many ideas for blog entries, I should pay him part of my commissions. His most recent column revisits a basic question of teambuilding: who really was responsible for building the team? He takes a slightly different view of the matter than most do, in that he assigns ownership of a particular player to the individual who actually signed that player:
A player comes into the organization by one of two ways. The scouting department runs the annual drafts and usually has the final call on which players are chosen. The scouts also sign the foreign free agents not eligible for the draft. Once a player turns pro, he comes into the organization by some transaction ultimately orchestrated by the general manager. The farm director may sign some minor league free agents but, for purposes of our analysis, I'm giving that credit to the general manager.
I think Stephen meant to say "Once a player makes it to the major league level", since players are pros even in the minor leagues. But be that as it may, his analysis of the 2002 Angel team that won it all breaks down to

Bob Fontaine, Scouting Director12
Bill Stoneman, GM 2000-200211
Bill Bavasi, GM 1994-19991

This came as something of a shock to me, so it's maybe worthwhile looking at the 2003 Dodgers through this same prism.

PlayerAcquired ByHow Acquired
Wilson AlvarezDan EvansFree Agent
Andy AshbyKevin MaloneFree Agent
Larry BarnesDan EvansFree Agent
Adrian BeltreTerry Reynolds1994 International Free Agent
Troy BrohawnDan EvansFree Agent
Kevin BrownKevin MaloneFree Agent
Jeromy BurnitzDan EvansTrade with Mets for three minor leaguers
Jolbert CabreraDan EvansAcquired from Cleveland for LHP Lance Caraccioli
Steve ColyerTerry Reynolds1997 amateur draft
Ron CoomerDan EvansFree Agent
Alex CoraTerry Reynolds1996 amateur draft
Bubba CrosbyTerry Reynolds1998 amateur draft, 1st round (!)
Darren DreifortTerry Reynolds1993 amateur draft
Eric GagnéTerry Reynolds1995 amateur draft
Shawn GreenKevin MaloneFree Agent
Rickey HendersonDan EvansFree Agent
Chad HermansenDan EvansFree Agent
Koyie HillEd Creech2000 amateur draft
Todd HundleyDan EvansTrade, with Cubs, for Grudzielanek and Karros
Chad HermansenDan EvansFree Agent
Kazuhisa IshiiLogan White2001 international free agent
Cesar IzturisDan EvansTrade with Toronto (for Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts)
Edwin JacksonEd Creech2001 amateur draft
Brian JordanDan EvansTrade, with Atlanta, for Gary Sheffield
Masao KidaDan EvansFree Agent
Mike KinkadeDan EvansFree Agent
Paul LoducaTerry Reynolds1993 amateur draft
Tom MartinDan EvansFree Agent
Fred McGriffDan EvansFree Agent
Guillermo MotaDan EvansTrade, with Expos, for Matt Herges and Jorge Nunez.
Scott MullenDan EvansFree Agent
Rodney MeyersDan EvansFree Agent
Hideo NomoDan EvansFree Agent
Odalis PerezDan EvansTrade, with Atlanta, for Gary Sheffield
Paul QuantrillDan EvansTrade with Toronto (for Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts)
Dave RobertsDan EvansTrade with Cleveland (for Christian Bridenbaugh and Nial Hughes)
Jason RomanoDan EvansTrade with Colorado (?)
Dave RossTerry Reynolds1998 amateur draft
Wilken RuanDan EvansTrade, with Expos, for Matt Herges and Jorge Nunez.
Paul ShueyDan EvansTrade, with Cleveland, for Terry Mulholland, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Francisco Cruceta.
Joe ThurstonEd Creech1999 amateur draft
Robin VenturaDan EvansTrade, with Yankees, for Bubba Crosby.
Daryle WardDan EvansFree Agent

So, in review, the blame for 2003 may be in some measure apportioned to

Dan Evans, GM 2002-200329
Terry Reynolds, Dir. of Scouting, 1991-19988
Kevin Malone, GM 1997-20013
Ed Creech, Dir. of Scouting, 1999-20013

What's interesting to note here is that Edwin Jackson, our phenom-or-not, was a Malone-era pick by Ed Creech. Greg Miller, ranked even better by some reports, is the highest-rated Logan White era pick. That's not surprising considering most of those guys have barely had a year and a half in the minors. Of Terry Reynolds picks, only Eric Gagné has gone on to anything like stardom, with Loduca a solid player, Beltre arguably a middling disappointment, Dreifort an experiment gone wrong (made far worse by Kevin Malone), and Ross an unknown at this point. It'll be interesting to see how well the Logan White picks progress this year.

Update 3/3/04: Jon writes that it's a bit negative to say an 85-win season requires "blame"; I intended that as a sardonic comment, but on re-reading that, it didn't come across that way. Also, the issue of Dan's salary limitations didn't come up. I hadn't intended them to; this was a simple exercise designed to trace responsibility for an individual player back to the initial signing.

Update 3/5/04: Forgot Ishii.

AL West Pitching Previews: Texas, At Last

The Rangers Blog has the 2004 pitching preview up. Well, at least it's not the Tigers.

Update: Ryan Drese is "still hanging around, hoping for one more chance", he says, and you'd have to believe that after his awful 2003 campaign that had him start the year with a 135.0 ERA. Seattle absolutely shelled him with six runs in 1/3 of an inning. Ouch.

Pickoff Moves

A Run In Tommy's Dodger Blue

Doug Krikorian in the Long Beach Press-Telegram recounts a couple good stories from Fred Claire's autobiography, Fred Claire ... My 30 Years in Dodger Blue. First, it turns out that in 1983, Lasorda seriously entertained an offer to become the field manager of the... Yankees? Blecch. And then, further impugning the man, he spreads the blame for the Martinez/Deshields trade around to Lasorda also, saying both Lasorda and Caribbean-area scout Ralph Avila had veto power over the trade. Both agreed to it. Deshields, of course, was a famous bust, while Martinez went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. (Sorry, Doug, I won't agree he's the most dominant: see Johnson, Randy.) I'm gonna have to get that book.

A Grinning Magowan Looks Ahead

A story in today's Alameda Times-Star claims that
The Giants begin the season with a payroll just under $80 million, almost identical to their opening-day payroll of $81.5 million last season, and Magowan said he envisioned fairly similar levels over the next two to three years. With the Dodgers expected to retrench under new owner Frank McCourt, the Giants could become the biggest spenders in the division within two years. [emphasis mine]

The club also has flexibility to add payroll at the trade deadline, Magowan said.

Which, presumably, the Dodgers do not. Frank, there will be no forgiveness from these quarters if you take the Dodgers to bankruptcy. But I won't be surprised, either.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Canseco, Rickey Can't

"Jose Canseco, out of baseball three years, unimpressive in workout" says the headline on canada.com, and what else would you expect? At least the Dodgers won't have to deal with the embarrassment of signing another aging player -- even though the A's apparently have Rickey knocking on their door to give him one last shot. He blames the Dodgers, it seems, for not giving him a big enough chance to prove himself. Coach, Rickey, coach.

Vlad Injury Watch

From the What-Aren't-They-Telling-You-Dep't:
New right fielder Vladimir Guerrero has been wearing a brace to support his lower back during spring training workouts, and he plans to wear the brace during the regular season.

Guerrero, who signed a five-year, $70-million deal with the Angels this winter, began wearing the brace in July, when the former Montreal Expo star returned from a monthlong absence caused by a herniated disk in his lower back.

"I feel great, but I'm going to continue to use [the brace] because it gives me confidence, it makes me feel more comfortable," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "The day I feel extremely good will be the day I take it off."

So now he's got a brace on his back. And spring training has barely started.

Bloggers' AL West Pitching Preview

Most of the AL West bloggers have their 2004 season previews in for pitching: Athletics Nation for the A's, Mariners Wheelhouse for the M's, and Fire Bavasi doing the honors for the Angels. The Rangers Blog hasn't checked in with theirs, but given the state of Texas pitching, I wouldn't be too eager to discuss it, either. Maybe he's still out drinking.

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.

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