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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Milton Bradley, Your Chemistry Test Starts Now

Milton Bradley has suffered at the hands of we Dodger bloggers. While I doubt he and his badass mamma read anything we scribble here, the theorizing -- well, not really, given the idiotic manner he acquitted himself in spring training -- the theorizing is that Bradley is a Bad Influence on the club and will equal poor performance. Terry mentions this in his three-pronged attack on the trade:
Bradley is either a jerk who dogs his way through practice but delivers -- and hot-dogs -- when it counts, or he's a misunderstood, emotive youngster who's just being exuberant. Yes, the trade gives him the chance to begin anew, but a similar opportunity was afforded to Gary Sheffield, too. ... Bradley gets a fresh start, but players -- perhaps especially young ones -- with attitudes often fail to make the most of those. Have we become so desperate for offense that we've forgotten how miserable a malcontent can make things for all parties? I haven't.
Well, that's fair enough, and I'll even go so far as to agree that Sheffield was borderline cuckoo when he was with the Dodgers. Even years after his Dodger adventure, nothing has changed for the Shef; Steinbrenner got a taste of his psychosis sandwich when Sheffield rejected an unbelievably lavish offer of $11M/year for three years, this for the services of an aging, yet still very capable player. Given the circumstances, it's hard to see how Sheffield could have avoided being traded, especially since he asked for it after the Kevin Brown contract fiasco.

So with all that said -- how can there possibly be a case for actually wanting the services of Milton Bradley?

Essentially, it comes down to this:

The second point is the strongest, and one made today by M's blog Mariners Wheelhouse:
During the late 1980's I was part of the senior management of a company that went from 5 employees to over 100 employees in four years. The excitement around the office was palpable. People came to the office early and stayed late. They went out for beers after work together. They hiked together, skied together, hung drywall together, and generally shared life together. The company softball team was the most enjoyable softball team I ever played on. Everyone was challenged, excited, and enthralled. Opportunities were there for the taking; if someone was ready for more responsibility, they could have it. Our growth was limited only by our ability to find and deploy skilled staff. We were making and distributing a ton of money. We were doing great work, having a great time, and life was good.

It was like being on my championship IM flag football team again, but the feeling went almost non-stop for three years. I tried to tell the people who worked for me to enjoy the times, because they would not always be so good. The usual response was, "Yeah, yeah."

By the fifth year our growth rate flattened. A couple of projects had some problems. We were now market limited – now promotions and raises were not automatic even though a person might have proved themselves ready for more responsibilities.

Anyone care to guess what happened to our team chemistry?

Well, naturally we can fill in the next paragraph for ourselves; it's obvious. The point isn't so much that we should excuse Bradley as chemistry is irrelevant. Winning will fix chemistry problems -- in the main. Some guys are such insufferable jerks that no amount of success is worth the headaches of working with them. Whether Bradley is one of them -- and there's admittedly signs he might be -- is debateable, but the team has no room to err on the side of caution. Must. Have. Bat.

Hee!

No matter what team you root for, you need to read these fantasy baseball projections from McSweeney's. (Thanks to CotL for this link.) For the teams this high quality blog covers:

Anaheim Angels
Vladimir Guerrero, the biggest free agent signing for the Angels, maims four middle relievers in April while trying to throw out runners at home.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers pitching staff posts a record 1.50 ERA for the season, but finish below .500 after scoring .25 runs a game. Adrian Beltre hits .250, with ten HRs and fifty RBIs. Scouts say, "He is finally showing patience at the plate and should be a good one next year."

Eric Gagne's ERA reaches negative numbers.

The entry for Griffey, Jr. is not to be missed.

Angels 10, Mariners 5

Hi, Jamie! God, I feel giddy... it's like watching the 2002 playoffs again, or an episode of the Adam West "Batman" show. Pow! Bam! Sock! Dang, I wish I weren't at work...

Scot ... Scot... strike zone... come on, you can find ... ugh! Walking a run in? Gregg... Jesus Louises, could you have a little control, Kevin? What is it about pitchers named Kevin on the Angels? Thank God for Frankie. At least he earns his gaudy nickname today.


As Ye Sow

I have wondered how Frank McCourt's disconnect between reality and the players' own grim survey of their situation would play upon the team. For some time now, Frank's incompetence, lack of fiscal wherewithal and insane refusal to acknowledge skeptics has infuriated and puzzled me; indeed, after impelling me to write the McCourt sale timeline, it was the principle reason I started this blog.

And then came the wave of front office defections or firings.

First, it was Bob Graziano, whose departure was expected, but certainly the manner of his departure was not . At the same time, Kris Rone resigned. At the time, she was the fourth-highest-ranking woman in baseball at the time, setting a pattern for the exits that would follow for David Walkley, HR director, and, perhaps the most important loss, Derrick Hall, Director of Communications. In fairness, Graziano was expected to leave once the new management came in, but what's telling is that the club proceeded without a president afterwards. Baseball is full of hangers-on; they could surely acquire the services of one of their legions. While the job may not be in reality quite the neutered corner office gig I envision it, and I'm glad they didn't give any significant responsibilities to Lurie-era Giants exec Corey Busch, I have to believe that, amongst the rubble of ex-players and ex-con men, somebody suitable could be found for the job. Similarly, Hall's exit has filled me with gratitude. In conjunction with a delightful Times story, he has managed to largely silence the McCourts, whose public proclamations deaden the very air with stunned disbelief.

And that doesn't even begin to describe the ugly, inhumane way Dan Evans was fired in preference for untested whiz kid Paul DePodesta. Evans was "given a chance" to keep his job; this, in McCourt speak, apparently means your neck is already in the noose, as in the old Soviet courts. Players told they'll have a chance need to worry.

So if I was upset, imagine the rancor in the clubhouse. It was obvious from the beginning that Frank's monomania prevented him from comprehending the damage he was doing to the team, and to morale of the players. They must endure, first hand, Jamie's idiotic speeches about being in the playoffs every year and -- for God's sake! -- bashing the Dodger Dream Foundation for not doing enough. They must listen to Frank ignore his legitimate critics. They must hear the flying rumors of impending fiscal doom that would prevent the team from picking up a quality free agent bat. They started spring training with no substantial offensive help in the infield, where it is most needed, an aging rotation minus Kevin Brown, a Shawn Green minus pop, and a bullpen minus Paul Quantrill.

All this, until last weekend, in the absence of real offensive help.

Frank needs to face his critics squarely. He won't do it; he knows he's been handed a team with the usual safeties -- the debt service rule requirement -- turned off. So now the lies, the crooked dealing, the dysfunctional optimism, all of it comes back now, and with a vengeance.

Play ball, suckers.


Monday, April 05, 2004

Thanks

And a big 6-4-2 thank you to Cub Reporter, who gave me a sidebar link recently. You like me, you really really like me...

Padres Lead The Division!

Fear strikes the hearts of Dodger fans everywhere, as the Padres lead the division! But the Dodgers actually outhit the Pads, 15-12, in an otherwise lopsided 8-2 loss. Nomo's unbelievably bad pitching, capped off with a grand slam, only serves to make me think I was all too right about this team's pitching, and Nomo's in particular.

Seriously, if it takes a replay of 1992 to oust Frank McCourt from owning this team, I'm all for it.


More on the Bradley, Cabrera trades

U.S.S. Mariner has published worthwhile codas to their earlier comments on the Bradley and Cabrera trades. Note to self: Must. Learn. To. Think. Deeper.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

McLemore An A -- Should Beane Get A B-?

For reasons inexplicable to me, long-time Seattle super-sub Mark McLemore got signed by the A's. McLemore, also a former Angel, has been around 18 years, which should tell you something about the guy; the fact that he's starting the year on the DL is probably not a good thing, as is the fact that BP projects his VORP to be 5.9. Assuming -- and that's a big one -- that McLemore can come back from his arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason, he's projected to be more useful than Jolbert Cabrera. But the difference may be in the urgency of the help needed. With Spiezio out, the M's needed immediate help at multiple infield positions. Still, I can't help but wonder: not even the mighty Wizard of A's gets 'em all right.

Maybe this is what the M's bloggers were complaining about: McLemore is the kind of guy Bavasi should have been pursuing rather than unload pitching prospects -- especially two of them -- for a weak-hitting infielder.

In other news, the A's still haven't given up on Mark Ellis returning, and are hedging their bets, at least in public. Also, Rich Harden, their supposed fifth starter, has been sent down to AAA; this is only temporary, and Harden is expected to return by April 15th.


Green Back To 1B

Overheard: Green back to 1B, with an OF of Roberts (RF), Bradley (CF), and Encarnacion (LF). If true, Greenie may be in for some interesting times.

Update: Not a rumor anymore, though Tracy needs to recalibrate his definition of what an "impact player" is. Bradley can be good... when he decides he needs to be.

Update: Mariners Wheelhouse is back after an extended hiatus. Stephen was kind enough to drop me a note that he has returned, and with a very nice analysis of the Cabrera trade, similar to that made by U.S.S. Mariner. It's all good. Welcome back, Stephen!


The Loss Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers lost to the Angels today, for the third straight game, this time 13-6, making a sweep of the exhibition Freeway Series. For all that the Dodgers were made up as an all-pitch, no-hit gang last year, the team got their licks in today, but couldn't string enough together to win. And if the Angels pitching was less-than-stellar -- Ramon Ortiz giving up three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings -- the Dodgers pitching looked simply awful. The Angels failed to score in only two frames, but the embarrassing part was Ishii getting lit up by the Angels' second string team. This makes their spring record, according to the Angels' announcers, 12-22, the worst since moving to Los Angeles.

So: will Milton Bradley, with his projected 21.2 VORP help the team that much? I doubt it. PECOTA, whose numbers I distrust but still use in the absence of anything better, has as high a collapse rate as it does an improve rate, a scary prospect for a guy who's famous for fighting with managers and dogging out injuries. It's going to be a long year.


Milton Bradley Is A Dodger

Maybe not in time to hit in today's Freeway Series, but Milton Bradley is a Dodger, says ESPN. DePodesta actually comes through, for a prospect and a PTBNL. If it turns out that DePo unloaded the guys the Dodgers just picked up from the M's, the Mariners bloggers will go nuts.

And speaking of which, The Safe throws some cold water on my characterization of the recent trade with the M's as cleaning up for the Dodgers.

Update: Now on MLB.com, for Franklin Gutierrez and a PTBNL. Gutierrez was the Dodgers' third best prospect according to Baseball America:

Strengths: Gutierrez’ raw power became above-average game power last year. He has a balanced approach with outstanding bat speed and natural lift to his swing. He’s wiry strong and athletic, with the speed to run down balls in center field. He has plus arm strength and enough bat to handle a move to right if needed.

Weaknesses: His swing gets long, creating holes, especially up and in. Improving his pitch recognition would help Gutierrez make better contact. Like many young hitters, he’s vulnerable to good breaking stuff and needs to learn to take pitches the other way.

Sounds like an even trade, depending on the PTNBL. DePo did a good job on this one considering the shortness of time to get an offer together.

Recaption

Frank... Frank -- you're supposed to be taking notes when Arte's talking...


Saturday, April 03, 2004

Bradley Reassigned

OF Milton Bradley was reassigned to Cleveland's AAA affiliate, Buffalo, to prevent wasting a space in the 25-man roster.

The Times reported earlier today that the Dodgers are pursuing a trade for Bradley, and the parts acquired for Romano and Cabrera may be bait.

Update: U.S.S. Mariner links to this ESPN article on Bradley, "the angriest player in baseball". Sheesh. But, reading further on that fine blog, they're interested in Bradley too, and --

So, what do the Indians need?

1. A frontline, major league ready starter.

2. Offensive middle infielders.

3. Catching depth.

There's talk on the Dodger boards that David Ross might be out of tonight's game for a reason. I don't doubt that the M's have more arms to deal, but it's not insignificant that the Dodgers elected to use a moment of weakness to strip them of a pair of interesting options at a crucial moment.

Update: or not. Ross got some swings in; it made no sense to me that they'd lose the only operable backup catcher they had with Hundley starting the year on the DL.


Cabrera, Romano Dealt

The Mayor of Dodger Stadium announced that Cabrera and Romano were traded, for minor leaguers: It's possible this might be a precursor to a Bradley trade, or just moving moveable pieces in recognition that this is, indeed, a rebuilding year.

Sabermetrics' Question Mark

If Oakland is Moneyball's poster child, Toronto is its question mark. One of my first posts here was to question the alleged brilliance that Beane acquired as a result of that book; let's look at Toronto in the same light:

Tenure
year
Ricciardi Toronto
W-L
Beane Oakland
W-L
1200278-84199765-97
2200386-76199874-88
32004?199987-75

What made the A's so dangerous in 2000 was they finally brought up all of their trio of Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. In the absence of an ungodly rich Steinbrenner in the division, the A's haven't really had to compete with bottomless pockets -- until at least this year. Arte is probably as close as you'll see to that outside the AL East. But first, he's got to prove himself to a mildly skeptical Southern California audience that the Dodgers are in the midst of a long-term decline, and that dominance is shifting to the Angels, before his business plan can let him spend like a Steinbrenner and get away with it on an ongoing basis. And while the Jays have a number of young power arms in their minor leagues now, only two of them -- Francisco Rosario and Dustin McGowan -- made Baseball America's 2004 top 100 prospect list.

Those arms will no doubt prove vital to the Jays' success, just as the A's cheap, young, and effective starting rotation has proven vital for the A's. For all that Billy Beane has been quoted about baseball players being fungible, you will notice that none of Zito, Mulder, or Hudson have been traded. Given their similarities in fiscal circumstance, Toronto will have to count on those young arms to carry them through the late 2000's, when Steinbrenner's wallet may have painted him into a corner with multimillion dollar contracts paid out to players who may no longer be effective, and likewise for John Henry with the Sox. The Jays' principle competition then might be the Orioles, who are in a precarious position -- the team is wagering heavily on its young arms in the minors, too, but also on expensive free agents like Miguel Tejada. At the same time, current owner Peter Angelos has put the team on the block. As if that weren't enough, there's talk the Expos might move in to Washington, diluting the O's market share. There's enough going right in the Jays that they could dominate by the end of the decade. But it's still too early to know whether their bets will pay off, and still too early to tell whether Sabermetrics (tm) brand baseball is really the product of superior scouting. Repeatability is the hallmark of science; Toronto will prove whether the A's methods are truly reproduceable, or just so much hype.


Arte, The Moment Is Now

Time to prove those Baseball Prospectus guys wrong, Arte. Time to show them you didn't squander your money on second-rate talent, time to show them that moving Ersty to 1B wasn't a mistake (it probably was, but whatever). And time to see whether your background in marketing, your enthusiasm for the game, and most importantly, your wherewithal can overcome the Angels' historic status as second-class citizens in their own market. The moment is now.
"The Dodgers have always had a strong following," Kuhl says. "I never worry about the Dodgers. I'd rather have them worry about me."

... But even in the glow of 2002 and the afterglow of 2003, the Angels sold fewer tickets than the Dodgers and attracted fewer viewers on Fox Sports Net. The cable network will pay the Dodgers four times what they pay the Angels for broadcast rights this year, perhaps the most striking example of revenue disparity. Moreno intends to close that gap by assembling a must-see team and selling it to fans and broadcast partners and corporate sponsors across Southern California.

"He's telling his prospective clients that he sees it as a major market and they ought to jump on the bandwagon," says Richard Brown, Angel president from 1990-96. "But Arte Moreno ordaining it as a major market does not make it so. The team may be a very good team, but the team doesn't change the market."

Autry, who knew broadcasting but not, in the end, baseball, certainly didn't make it happen. He bought too many washed-up stars in the 70's and 80's. The team almost, but not quite, made it to the World Series, only to be denied in heartbreaking ways.
Fernandomania did not spread across Southern California solely because the Dodgers employed an adorably pudgy Mexican pitcher who rolled his eyes toward the sky before letting go of the ball. Fernando Valenzuela won and won and won some more, the same thing Moreno plans to do.

"For me to specifically target one nationality or one ethnic group would be against the way I was brought up and the way I believe," he says. "Everybody is welcome in our park."

Which is why I think the accusations that Arte's alleged pursuit of only Hispanic players as a way of marketing the team to Hispanic Orange County is idle speculation. The real issue may be a lack of creativity in the front office. Bill Stoneman got the best free agent pitcher available without actually getting the best pitcher moved in the offseason, Javier Vazquez, then of the Expos and now of the Yankees. Vazquez is certainly Hispanic; if the team were after guys with certain surnames, why not bag him? If he could be had for injury magnet Nick Johnson and a couple of what the Yanks are pleased to call "prospects" these days, Stoneman's dealmaking skills certainly need to be called into question.
If the Angels don't win, neither will Moreno. If they don't win, Los Angeles won't care—not the fans, not the advertisers, not the broadcasters. If they don't win, he can't pay major-market salaries and turn a profit.

An MBA is not required to assess the execution of Moreno's business plan, just a glance at the standings in the sports section. Carpino is not shy about sharing the 10-year strategy.

"To be in the playoffs," he says, "and be world champions. Multiple times.

"If we do that, everything will generate positively, from the TV and demand on down. If we're strong on the field for the next 10 years, we'll be strong everywhere else."

Easier said than done, of course. But on this particular early spring day, there are reasons to be optimistic, especially when the parking lot maven on the other side of town raises parking prices before the team even plays game one. And with Vlad around, who knows what this team can do to Oakland's vaunted pitching staff.

Here's to the finding out.


Friday, April 02, 2004

My Five Seconds

Los Angeles magazine has a short section on Dodger bloggers in the April 2004 issue, and somehow I ended up on the list, as well as most of the blogs over on the right hand margin, and Dodgerkid as well.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

OT: For The Birds

Some days ago, we noticed a bird in the hanging fern at the entrance to our house. Every time we came in, it would flit off. One day, I stopped by and looked down.. and there was a nest!

Dove eggs?

It's a little grayish-brown bird, maybe a house finch or a small mourning dove. Closer to:

Closeup of finch/dove eggs

Last year, we had house finches nesting in our patio. It was really cool to see the little birds come up and beg for food when the parents flew in! Maybe I should put up a screen so the mama bird isn't so worried about us being nearby when we come and go from the house. Spring has all kinds of surprises!


Rosenthal: Bradley to Dodgers?

Ken Rosenthal suggests the Dodgers as a possible destination for clubhouse cancer Milton Bradley. He is cheap -- $1.73M -- making him a poor man's version of Gary Sheffield. DePo, don't look this gift horse in the mouth too hard, but don't give up any of the anointed ones...

4/1 Pickoff Moves

A-Rod Wants Out Of NY

In a Birds In The Belfry exclusive interview, A-Rod has surrendered to what many analysts considered an inevitable change of heart about his signing with the New York Yankees after their recent 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay. "Did you notice that we don't have [names on the back of our uniforms] in New York? I had never noticed that before", a visibly frustrated and sleep-deprived Rodriguez opined.

Pappas: Yanks Need A New Stadium

Business of Baseball author Doug Pappas makes a case for Yankee Stadium 3, one we've heard with increasing frequency from Steinbrenner, whose public carping about the Yankees' lack of competitiveness has made him almost as much a nuisance as Bud Selig. Pappas points to Yankee Stadium 2's lack of architectural integrity, grossly inadequate parking (depriving the team of yet another revenue source), poor location, and weak fan loyalty as arguments for abandoning the old stadium. Pappas concludes: "If New York taxpayers can offer $600 million to construct a platform so the NFL Jets can build a stadium atop rail yards, surely they can offer as much to ensure that the Yankees can remain competitive for years to come." The additional revenue will be indeed welcome, after their expensive 2003 additions, whose contracts won't expire until well into the 2010's.

Jays Release Entire Scouting Staff

Dayn Perry today reports on the release of Toronto's entire scouting staff. As I wrote earlier, Oakland GM Billy Beane introduced scoutless recruiting to the A's some time ago, and we're starting to see the fantastic results thereof already. Sabermetric baseball fans everywhere will cheer on the Jays as Ricciardi introduces another, still bolder wrinkle: having the players write their own scouting reports. Here's a sample, written by one Stephen Drew:
Comments: Handsome, powerful and destined for greatness. Don't be the fool that passes on this incredible talent. It wouldn't surprise me if your ass got fired for passing on Stephen Drew. Don't make a fool of yourself by offering him less than $15 million and a major league contract. Rumor has it that scouting directors who pass on Drew, who's a bad ass, will be declared illegal combatants and transported immediately to Gitmo. If you don't believe me, just ask me. Millions, I said.
While old-school clubs like the Mariners and Angels continue to send old guys in used Toyotas all over the country to get subjective opinions of prep and college pitchers, the Jays look to save a bundle annually with this approach. I've long suggested scouts are tremendously overrated, and expect to see this cutting-edge stuff applied in Dodgerland any moment. Fire 'em all, Paul!

Milton Bradley Available, No Word On Kenner or Hasbro

The Indians' Milton Bradley is on his way out after being told he's 72 hours away from a trade. It almost seems inevitable that Los Angeles is a strong possibility as a destination. His 2003 line of .321/.421/.501 was pretty good, accomplished in a pitchers' park comparable to Dodger Stadium, to boot.

OT: How E-Voting Threatens Democracy

If you read one political story because of this blog, you must read this Wired story about how e-voting threatens democracy. We had e-voting machines in my Orange County precinct for the last election, and they managed to record more votes than voters. If ever there were a systematic way to steal elections, this is it. Voting is important, but what's more important is the power to count the votes.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Tommy John's 30th

Today is the 30th anniversary of Frank Jobe rehabilitating then-Dodger pitcher Tommy John's ulnar collateral ligament. Back in 1974, John blew out his elbow, and he asked Jobe to "make up something":
Jobe extracted a tendon from John's right arm and used it to replace the torn ligament on his left, pitching arm, threading the healthy tendon through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow. At the time, no one was certain of the outcome, but John went on to win 170 additional games; the procedure thereafter became known as 'Tommy John surgery.' Without Jobe's help, John would never have pitched another baseball.

...Dr. John Bergfeld, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, said, "Slight modifications have been made, but the principle of the surgery is the same: to repair a ligament that is frayed and torn with an accessory tendon from the arm."

The accessory tendon does not have a useful function otherwise and is usually taken from the hand, wrist or forearm. According to Bergfeld, 12 percent to 13 percent of patients do not have such a tendon in either arm, in which case one is taken from the leg or toe.

Jobe was today honored in a pregame ceremony, but perhaps a fairer reward would be to have Darren Dreifort pay him a commission so long as he's on the DL.

Daal "D" For "Disabled"

In fortuitous (for the Dodgers) news, former Dodger Omar Daal is -- you guessed it -- on the DL for at least three months thanks to shoulder and elbow problems. Unloading Daal was one of Evans' more astute moves; he's only pitched a total of 19 games for the O's since signing his two-year contract.
And speaking of the DL and ex-Dodgers, Brian Jordan's surgically reconstructed knee has given out again, and he'll probably start the season on the DL. Note to Brian: if you're going to grouse that the Dodgers pushed you to return too early from the DL, now's the time to prove you can spend bench time with the best of 'em.

Trammelled Underfoot

After the arrival of the latest DePoDodgers, Bubba Trammell got the boot, leading to some wondering whether the power to pick favorites has moved up the food chain from Tracy to DePodesta.

Giant Injuries

Ex-Dodgers aren't the only ones with spring injuries, of course, and in our principle rival's ballpark, the bad news accumulates. Ray Ratto at the Chronicle opines that the Giants are ransacking the Brewers for pitching, picking up All this to make up for Jason Schmidt, Robb Nen, and Scott Eyre on the DL. On top of all that, Jerome Williams's line (0-5, 8.44 ERA, 21.3 IP), while atrocious, looks not unfamiliar to Dodger fans becoming accustomed to near-double-digit ERAs.

The Score Bard Is Will Carroll's Co-Pilot

Ken Arneson, aka The Score Bard, is now a co-author on Will Carroll's all-baseball.com blog. Will he continue with humbug.com? I surely hope so. I managed to miss his wonderful AL East and AL Central previews.

You Can Lead A Horticulture...

... but you won't find me completing that infamous Dorothy Parkerism on this blog. Suffice to say that I can't decipher the thinking behind the decision to start Aaron Sele in the pen after relatively successful spring, while batting practice pitcher Ramon Ortiz will start the year in the rotation. But Aaron's a good sport about it... right?
"I'll take my glove down to the pen and take it from there. I hope that I can contribute. I doubt it with the pen we have, but maybe I can carry extra food down there for the guys."
Oookayyy, we'll take that as a "no". Man, the Angels just know how to pick 'em. Let's hope Colón isn't one of the guys he's carrying food to.

A-Rod Speaks... And Sean Wishes He Wouldn't

Purgatory Online has a link to an A-Rod article he "co-wrote" (yeah, right!) in ESPN: the Magazine. Here we learn of his amazing conviction that Seattle's $150M offer didn't satisfy him. Well, we all know how Boras clients talk. And while the word "respect" didn't show up in the summary, his noteworthy respect -- or lack thereof -- for his Texas teammates did:
"I was overcome with a sense of depression," Rodriguez said. "There were days I didn't want to go to the park."

Rodriguez also said he told his wife that he failed to see any "light at the end of the tunnel" and that he would have never come to the Rangers if he had been told it would have been Rodriguez and "24 kids."

If that doesn't give the Rangers added incentive to give a hiding to Yankee pitchers, I don't know what would. Bonds detractors, note well: whatever else he's done in his career, Barry hasn't touched this particular dual peak of arrogance and pettiness. As Sean put it, "Just. Shut. Up."

Dodger Mailbag

On the Dodger fan forums, tommyradio announces Ross Porter will do a Dodger Mailbag segment prior to each game. Mail Ross at ross@ladodgers.com.

Pickoff Moves

Yet another day where I have little to say and lots of little stories to share --

Owens Released

The Mariners released Eric Owens, leaving the sixth outfielder to find a bench job elsewhere.

Sturtze Released

And likewise for Tanyon Sturtze, released by the Dodgers. Evidently, he has a drug problem of some kind or other, or he wouldn't be saying things like
"I really was trying to make the Dodger team, and I thought I was throwing the ball really well with the Dodgers," said Sturtze, who was 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA and .367 opponents' batting average in four games (11 innings). "It just happened there were no spots."
In what world is a 9.00 ERA with a .367 average against good?

A's Look For SS Alternatives

Despite the ongoing denials about the ESPN report about Ellis' injury being season-ending, the A's are in the hunt for a spare shortstop, because their utility bench is better at playing second base. Despite what Tyler thinks about the A's depth in the middle infield, the fact that the name Benji Gil is being mentioned should tell you something. On the other hand, he also believes Junior Spivey or Ramon Martinez feature more prominently.

Times Story On Jered Weaver

Another Jered Weaver story, this one in the Times today. It sure sounds like the Padres will draft the guy. Meantime, the honors just keep racking up, with Jered garnering his fifth Louisville Slugger national player of the week award, on the heels of a record-tieing 16 K performance against Wichita State. What can I say but... wow!

Blog readers, take note: Weaver will take the mound this Friday against CSUF. Go Dirtbags!

YAAB

Yet Another Angels Blog, League of Angels. Whoosh, the number of Angels blogs now equals the number of Dodgers blogs -- nine in all.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"Losing Makes Me Puke"

Arte, I want to bear your love child. Okay, too strong, too strong, but when your new owner comes to town saying things like "losing makes me puke", you have to like it a lot better than Selig's moaning and kvetching about salaries, as well as excusifying for his team's consistent cellar-dwelling, not to mention McCourt's obviously unrealizeable pipe dreams he casts out in press conferences. Jim Souhan in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes (subscription required, or disable Javascript):
Moreno bought the most impressive free agent on the market -- the wondrous Vladimir Guerrero -- and two pitchers, Kelvim Escobar and Bartolo Colon, who addressed the Angels' biggest need. He added Jose Guillen just for laughs, bringing the Angels their biggest payroll ever.

Reason to raise prices, right?

Not in Arte's world. Moreno turned down millions in naming rights to re-name the former Edison Field "Angel Stadium."

He lowered the price of beer, souvenirs and children's tickets.

He spent many of his nights in Arizona dining at The Tee Pee, one of Phoenix's best hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants, where he's greeted by name.

He refused to complain about baseball's salary structure, competitive imbalance, the Alex Rodriguez trade, George Steinbrenner or Johnny Damon's hair.

And he actually said: "Losing makes me puke."

If you are an Angels fan -- no, if you are a baseball fan -- Moreno should be your hero.

Damn straight. They oughta know a few things in Minnesota about rotten ownership, so the other kind is blissfully rare. One of these days I'm gonna come across Arte at the stadium. This oughta be a fun year.

Mizuo's Japanese Stats

I forgot to check Mizuo's Japanese stats. Looks like his 2003 was spent recuperating from an injury (or else he was awfully ineffective) based on the few innings he pitched. His career 3.42 ERA looks like it's been based on his good years, but he's been all over the place. Given how few innings he's pitched, I would bet he's been used as a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY, as coined by Baseball Prospectus), and his ERAs reflect sample size issues. His 2002 ERA of 1.80 is pretty decent, but his 3.99 the year before rings the klaxons. He might be usable, but more likely, I bet he'll leave the Angels wishing they still had Schoeneweis in their pen, especially given his age.

Somebody Wake Ortiz

Purgatory Online wonders whether Ortiz will send a message by pitching creditably against Texas.

Kevin, proving he is indeed a Mensch, belted a grand slam off Ramon. And while the Angels didn't lose the game, you don't want to have to provide that kind of run support.

Sorry, Ramon. I guess the bullpen is a possibility...


Pickoff Moves

Curses!

A great article appears today on MSNBC about the Cubs and Red Sox curses; author Ken Rosenthal is convinced one will melt away this year. One problem, though, Ken: it could be possible that both curses could go away. The Cubs' Billy Goat Curse forbad a World Series from being played at Wrigley, but the Bambino's Curse was even worse, forbidding the Sox from ever winning a World Series. Sad to say it, but if a Cubs-Sox series did occur, and the Cubs lost, both teams' fans could -- maybe -- walk away happier knowing their respective curses had been lifted. But if Maddux has anything to say about it, it'll be the Cubs on top:
In his first stint with the Cubs, from 1986 through '92, pitcher Greg Maddux recalls team officials saying, "We might not outplay 'em, but we'll be in better shape." Maddux thought, "It was almost like punishment for not being as good as the other team." But the Tribune Co. has changed, and the signing of Maddux to a two-year, $15 million contract is but one example. "There's talk about winning now," Maddux says. "There was never talk about winning before."

Prior (DL) Engagement For April

But to lift that curse, they'd better have superstud Mark Prior on the mound, and it looks like he's gonna be on the DL through at least May 1.

Angels Pick Up Japanese Reliever Mizuo

As if to prove old-school baseball thinking still dominates in the Angels' front office, the team signed LHP Yoshitaka Mizuo to a one-year contract if he makes the team. They won't have much time to evaluate the 35-year-old (!), as there's only a few Spring Training games left; he might show his stuff at the Freeway Series, hardly a conclusive test considering how weak Dodger hitting is likely to be.

Escobar Dominates Cubs

Helen won't like this, but Escobar turned in a fantastic performance versus the Cubs, shutting them out through seven innings, on three hits and seven strikeouts. Incidentally, what the devil is up with the ST scoring on the mlb.com website? Today's report has Chone Figgins playing for the Cubs ...

Frank Bialystock?

Introduction: I'm Bashless, Brother

There are those who believe I am intent on bashing the McCourts, i.e., railing at them at every chance regardless of the merits of the argument. This simply isn't true; I would like nothing more than for Frank to be the kind of owner we could cheerfully ignore because his abilities and aspirations align to make the Dodgers into the kind of team they have historically been. I will happily give credit where credit is due. But as Jon pointed out, there is a difference between bashing and legitimate criticism. That difference isn't simply "what I do is criticism, what you do is bashing", it's about weighing the positives and negatives as a whole, and being unafraid to announce the sum. If refusal to face the plain facts have got some bloggers itchy about running more McCourt stories, that's a net loss to everyone else who enjoys reading such stuff, myself included. But the truth will out, no matter which potentates wave their mystical wands. Once upon a time, some yokel nearly enlisted the benighted legislature of Indiana in his aid in declaring the value of pi exactly and legally 3.2. Even had he succeeded, it would have changed pi not one decimal, anymore than Heinz Vinegar won't become Opus One by any Michael Lewis proclamation.

Curtain

It's with this in mind that I launch on today's piece, a jeremiad from one Michael Ventre at MSNBC. (Note: my wife worked with him while he tried to sell an indy film he wrote, but that was several years ago.) Michael goes down the standard litany of complaints, many of which have been raised here (and elsewhere) before:
Instead, a team that was a piece or two away enters spring training worse off than a year ago.

McCourt doesn’t seem like a charlatan. You don’t have to be a bad guy to be ineffective. McCourt has all the tools to be one of the great flops in ownership history. He has a farm system that is on the rise again, but not at the point where it can reliably churn out helpers for the big club, or even produce enough trade bait to make a difference. He again has a solid pitching staff, although it may be weaker than last year with the subtraction of Brown and the addition of Jeff Weaver, who bombed in the Bronx. All the free agents are gone. He has a general manager who appears bright and talented, but has never run a club on his own before.

Oh, yes. And he has no money.

There is also the matter of his true intentions. McCourt professes to love baseball, but some think he loves razing existing structures and building on prime real estate even more. That might not bode well for preservationists who see Dodger Stadium as a shrine instead of something that is standing in the way of condos being erected.

Others with closer vantage have made the case that he and Jamie are fiscally incompetent. And Michael is right about McCourt possibly being an epically bad owner, though I'd question the quality of our starting five at this point in time -- not to mention their identities, with Jackson looking like he doesn't belong on the big club on opening day. He's also right about the farm: without enough pieces to help in Chavez Ravine, there won't be enough pieces to trade.

Which brings me to his last point. An even more skeptical -- or paranoid -- line of thinking along this line might extrapolate that Frank is taking a cue from the Max Bialystock character of The Producers, and looking to put the worst team on the field imaginable, so as to make a plausible case that the Dodgers must find new digs with more luxury boxes. So, as we cut to the middle of that fine musical, we see the curtain rise on a most unprecedented stage:

Dodger fans were having trouble, what a sad sad story
Needed a new owner to restore their former glory
Where oh where was he?
Where could that man be?
Fox looked around, and then they found
A guy as rich as me!

And now it's --

Springtime for Giants and Diamondbacks
Selig is happy and gay
Dodgers tied down like Oakland A's
Look out, Bum fans, here comes fourth place!

Springtime for Frank and his bud, Selig
Winter for fans of the Blue
Springtime for Fox and their balance sheet
Come on Dodgers, go do what you do --

<Video of Adrian Beltre taking strike three on a pitch three feet off the plate and in the dirt>

Evans: I started dealing with the Sox
but now we'll finish 'neath the Rox!

Sabean: Join a winner while you can
Come and be a Giants fan!

<Big finish:>

Springtime for Selig, he got his way
Frank's credit cards are maxed out
Dodgers are done, they've got no pay
So much for ending our hitting drought!

Springtime for Giants and Diamondbacks
Beltre is swishing once more
Springtime for the rest of the NL West
'Cause soon we'll be cutting, you know we'll be cutting, we've got to cut payroll once more!

<videos of Bubba Trammell bobbling an easy fly ball, Shawn Green hitting into a double play, etc.>

Sadly, such fantasies remain in the museum of whimsy. Call me naïve, but I've overcome the belief that Frank, whatever his other (numerous) shortcomings might be, is interested in razing Dodger Stadium. This is for two reasons:

And with that, I retire, but leave the avenue of musical baseball theater open for exploration by those more accomplished than myself.

Pickoff Moves

At The Tone, The Time Will Be... Griffey Injured And Thirty Seconds

So much for those Griffey trade rumors. He's strained a calf muscle, get this, slipping on home plate.

Can We All Just Get A Bong?

The Bench Coach returns after a multiday hiatus, and I must say he's missed. Today he wonders whether the team will take the Kevin Towers Incident as fuel to actually hit, or whether they'll just smile and ask for another hit from the ol' Dodger bong. My guess is... mmm, brownies!

Shake, Shake, Shake

Edwin Jackson is making the case -- to send him down to AAA. But no mind -- he's a good sport about it, though Tracy insists he's still in the rotation:
"He's the fifth starter," Tracy said. "What we decide to do as far as the fifth starter is concerned, as to when he pitches, still remains to be seen."

Jackson is eagerly awaiting a decision.

"Who am I to think what I deserve," he said. "I get paid to go out and play. That's all I do. Any other decisions come from the staff. If I don't break with the team, I'll just work at whatever I need to work at to get back up here."

Good for him. But I wouldn't want him on the team now if it means (a) ruining him in some way and (b) making a starting rotation even shakier than they already are. I don't expect much of Nomo, and the rest of the staff -- save for OP -- looks pretty rattled too.

Credit Due: Frank (Almost) Comes Through

Credit where credit is due: Frank almost delivers on a promise to get all Dodger games televised. There apparently are some that just can't be moved onto Fox because of prior committments, but this amounts to only three games. The remaining games that cannot be televised are April 7 and 13-14, all games against the Padres. Kevin Towers will be upset, no doubt, to miss the fireworks... or watch the Dodgers roll over and go back to sleep.

For What It's Werth, We've Got A New OF

A new DePoDodger, from Toronto, naturally, we've got fourth outfielder Jayson Werth in exchange for Jason Frasor, RHP. Werth was blocked by the plethora of good-hitting outfielders in the Jays system, and Frasor was blocked by the enormous (but thin and frequently illusory) depth in the Dodger system, so it works out for both parties.

Update: Two days, two Ja[y]sons. Trying to come up with an answer for the Angels' Troy Glaus/Troy Percival combo, eh?


Monday, March 29, 2004

Ellis Out For The Season, Dodgers Buy Grabowski

As reported on ESPN and Athletics Nation, Mark Ellis is out for the year with a separated shoulder. This might be good news for the A's as his potential replacements supposedly (I haven't looked too much into this) are better hitting, though much worse fielding -- very important when three of your headline pitchers are groundball fiends.

In other A's-related news, AN reports that Jason Grabowski is now a Dodger, in consideration for cash. Graham Koonce had been speculated elsewhere as a trade target, but it didn't happen. Jason was a regular correspondant for AN, and will be missed in that corner.


The Man Who Knew Too Little

This offseason, when rumors of trades were afoot, they frequently began with the Chisox' Magglio Ordoñez for the Dodgers' Odalis Perez. Trouble was, Sox GM Kenny Williams consistently refused to move Magglio unless the Dodgers "threw in" name prospects like Jackson and Miller. Well: in Baseball Primer, we learn that "Williams is just not a very astute judge of major league talent":
Sure, he can understand that Bartolo Colon has a lot of ability but the overwhelming majority of his major league acquisitions have been failures. Basically, he has dumped major leaguers Keith Foulke, Chad Bradford, Tony Graffanino, Chris Singleton, Mike Sirotka, Kip Wells, Rocky Biddle, Jeff Liefer and Mark Johnson for Bartolo Colon, Tom Gordon, Esteban Loaiza, Royce Clayton, Juan Uribe, David Wells, Alan Embree, Jose Canseco, Scott Schoeneweis, Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett, Todd Ritchie, Cliff Politte, Armando Rios and Brian Daubach. Anything pattern in these moves? For the most part the players that he parted with were young and unproven while those that he acquired were not only older but also had established reputations.
And thus we get to the reason why the Perez trade never happened: Williams valued OP too little, and Magglio too much. One gets the impression Mags will be out of Chitown soon enough anyway; insofar as I know, they haven't negotiated an extension.

And You Thought The Dodgers Had Trouble

Is Shawn Green's shoulder working? What about Hideo Nomo's? Well, at least we aren't alone with the injury bug. Giants closer Robb Nen, starter Jason Schmidt, and now reliever Scott Eyre are all starting the year on the DL. But... former Red/Mariner/Padre/Cardinal -- dear God, who loses a starting job with that club? -- Brett Tomko now gets mentions as their opening day starter? The list of options dwindles precariously for the orange-and-black. It's a bit early to say -- okay, it's wayy too early to say -- but, dayng. The wheels are falling off.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

One Hell Of A Nosebleed

Brendan Donnelly has been hospitalized because of ongoing issues with blood loss due to his broken nose.
"They told me I lost half the blood in my body," Donnelly said Saturday, adding that he'd lost seven pints of blood. "I didn't realize how serious it was."

Said Angels shortstop David Eckstein: "We're concerned with his safety. It's dangerous to lose that much blood."

Donnelly will start the season on the disabled list, the team said Sunday. He will remain in the hospital three or four days.

Well, duh, but Jebus X. Christ, when did they first notice he had lost seven pints? Was it when he fainted in the workout room? And the Mariners bloggers are worried that their team isn't the most medhead in the division. What's worrisome is that just yesterday, the team was making happy noises about Donnelly's imminent return. Lewis Yocum, your life is calling...

Update: now on mlb.com.


Ex-Angel Update: In Seattle's Saturday spring training game against Milwaukee, Scott Spiezio was pulled from the lineup due to back spasms. He didn't play today and won't play tomorrow, either. Spiezio haters, rejoice: if this is any indicator of his 2004, it looks like we lost him in the nick of time.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Barry

Barry Bonds, blogger.

This should be interesting. Welcome to the blogophere, Barry.


Ellis Out For 1-2 Months

Mark Ellis will be out for a month or two -- and possibly more, depending on the final results of the MRI -- thanks to the collision he suffered in spring training. While I can't wish injury on other teams... why couldn't it have been Chavez?

Scout's Honor, They're Selling The Wrong Guy

I've already commented on how the Dodgers may be trading the wrong guy in Odalis Perez; after his spring training numbers, it looks like that's still true. Word now is the Yankees are sending scouts after OP, a frightening prospect. What could the Yanks possibly have to offer in return? A (literal) bat?

Meantime, Peter Gammons claims Jackson is being sent to AAA, making room for Alvarez (whew!) in the rotation. Toronto utility guy Jayson Werth is a DePodesta look-see for a bat.


Dis' Town, Comin' Like A Ghost Town

A friend passed along today a link to a woman with a death wish: she rides around Chernobyl on a motorcycle with a dosimeter, taking pictures. (By the way, she is definitely something to look at, reminiscent of the TV cliché that any motorcycle rider only shown in leathers and a helmet will, in the course of an ad, be revealed to be a supermodel with fantastically long hair.)

Which naturally got me thinking about Dodgertown.

You can already hear the voices of the superoptimists on the fan forums, counseling that we should all go back to sleep. (I sometimes wonder whether McCourt doesn't show up amongst them.)

But Daily News columnist Steve Dilbeck is worried:

Gone is ace Kevin Brown. In return comes Jeff Weaver, the Simi Valley High grad who bombed so badly with the Yankees that New York reporters began questioning his mental makeup.

Hideo Nomo, who has been truly remarkable in his second life as a Dodger, now is the de facto ace but is coming off shoulder surgery and will be 36 this season.

Kaz "Full Count" Ishii again was highly effective, despite making almost every start an adventure, but they're trying to change his delivery and the results are scary.

Edwin Jackson remains full of promise, but is only 20 and has yet to pitch in Triple-A.

And all four have spring ERAs over 8.30.

Getting nervous?

Yeah, Steve, we are. And as Dodgertown in a few weeks will become a ghost town, maybe so will Dodger Stadium, populated by the ghosts of actual players.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Saenz Preserve Us

Olmedo Saenz is apparently the Dodgers 2004 answer to Ron Coomer. He's got decent stats in few at bats, but his first year in 1994 makes me wonder whether a decline is in order.

Jackson to AAA?

It starts -- the Times today speaks of that which we knew might be inevitable, Edwin Jackson starting the season in AAA, his 8.59 ERA telling the story of a young pitcher having a series of shaky outings. And then there's that experience thing:
Moreover, including the 22 innings he pitched in the major leagues last season, Jackson has 170 1/3 innings above Class A. Few pitchers reach the majors on a permanent basis without having more innings at the higher levels of the minors.

... "For me, it's still an open question, but there are things to look at," General Manager Paul DePodesta said. "If you look through the records of guys who were under 25 and reached the big leagues in a hurry, most of them have pitched more than he has above [Class A] and more than he has in their minor league careers.

Well, Edwin, that start on your birthday looks more like a present now...

Friday, March 26, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This

Will Carroll presents his team health report for the Angels. Surprisingly, it seems that Eckstein, who PECOTA IMO wrongly projects to miss half the season due to injury, only warrants a yellow light, but Glaus, who PECOTA picks as a huge rebounder, Carroll says is a red. Go figure.

The Score Bard's AL West, NL East Previews

The Score Bard publishes his AL West preview. For the Angels:
When Moreno decided to add
Kelvim, Bartolo, and Vlad,
He took on some debt.
But I'm liking his bet:
This could be the best team they've had.
I for one hope he's right; it's a more optimistic view than he took earlier. Also, he published the NL East preview without me noticing. My bad.

Angel Blogging

I walk away to Spring Training for a week and Chronicles of The Lads comes up with some great stuff. First, this snarky Angels preview from Batter's Box (note to Canuck writer thereof: you lose points in this blogger's eyes by making comments like
Meanwhile, the (s)crappy Eckstein keeps his starting job at shortstop, with one final chance to prove he deserves to drop the parentheses around the letter "s."
Then, there's the annual wacky trade rumor -- St. Louis wants Kennedy back? Hoo, boy. And, at last, his reaction to Appier's wounded comments about being released. Go. Read.

No Talents, Those Yankees

Baseball America ranks minor league systems, and the Dodgers and Angels rank second and third respectively. Pretty impressive, really. Meantime, the Yanks and Cards rank near the bottom, 27th and 28th respectively.

2003 Dollars Per Win

Stephen Smith over at Future Angels has a new column up about 2003 dollars per win. He mentions that the Yanks are, as always it seems of late, outspending everyone else by a lot. Well, it's all about how much you can make on the other side, dontcha know. Sure, the Devil Rays are the most dollar-efficient team in baseball (take that, Michael Lewis!), but the big surprise is that the A's are "only" third. IMO, their game gets a lot tougher after they start losing their current rotation; getting three guys up like that all at once is an impressive achievement, one that's hard to duplicate when you're drafting near the bottom of the pool.

Another Convenient Lie

While out in Arizona, we had our floors resurfaced, a messy and smelly procedure. A side effect of this was that we had to remove virtually everything from the closets and walls. Since we were planning on repainting anyway, this amounted to a nice coincidence, and we'll actually be very, very busy in the short term, so probably there won't be any updates until next week.

Cubs 2, Oakland 1

A dominant Kerry Wood silenced the bats of the A's despite heat and elevation at Phoenix Municipal Stadium Thursday. His six and one third innings reminded me of his regular season starts, with four hits, one walk, a hit batter, and six strikeouts. Wood is the kind of pitcher the Angels should have pursued (i.e., Vazquez instead of Colón), but didn't. Oh, well. Eric Chavez hit a solo shot to provide the only A's run, while the Cubs scored on an unlikely double by Alex Gonzalez, and a defensive miscue on a Sammy Sosa single that cost the A's both a run and, at least temporarily, the services of Mark Ellis.

Official score


Thursday, March 25, 2004

We're Out Of Camembert -- How About Some Cheez Whiz?

You can tell the Dodgers are in desperation mode. Without any major-league-ready hitters in their farm system (sorry, Jon, Loney doesn't count -- yet), the PR machine has started talking up pitching coach Jim Colborn, and trotting out the ol' Dodger Way smoke and mirrors (hey, at least they had great pitching last year). Now it's working on prospect Andrew Brown, a guy nobody's ever heard of before and who hasn't been on any hot lists insofar as I know.
"I think when you talk about [Jackson, Miller, and Hanrahan], you've got to throw (Andrew Brown's) name in the mix also," Tracy said.

Brown, 23, hasn't gained as much notoriety as the other three, in part because he pitched only one inning the entire 2003 season.

... and now, of course, that he's put up three goose eggs in the Grapefruit League and three more in the minors, other teams are just salivating to have him on their rosters, somehow forgetting the last two years he spent on the DL, and the fact that his minor league record pre-injury wasn't all that:
He went 3-4 with a 3.92 ERA in 2001 for the Atlanta Braves' Class A affiliate in Jamestown, N.Y., then was 10-10 with a 4.11 ERA for Vero Beach in 2002 after being included in the Gary Sheffield-Odalis Perez trade.
Man, Tracy, you really need to ditch your jersey and get a loud, ugly plaid jacket if you're gonna start selling used cars...

Angels 8, Cubs 7

Tempe Diablo Stadium is an oven on a hot day, the close-fitting rows and narrow aluminum seats an oven rack. No shade cools the actual stadium whatsoever in any section. And warm it was yesterday, starting off at 95 at game time, though it did cool a bit as the game wore on. It's no wonder Arte wants to leave this facility; while it's pleasant enough on a spring day, in years where there is no spring -- like this one -- there's no relief from the sun.

Kelvim Escobar looked, if not strong, then a reasonable candidate to earn his paycheck this year, mostly baffling a B+ list Cubs lineup substituting ex-Dodger Todd Hollandsworth for Sammy Sosa and Sergio Mitre for a credible starter. He allowed 4 hits and one earned run in 4 2/3 innings, with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Troy Glaus crushed a solo shot over the 30-40 foot tall centerfield fence, that, just looking at it, cleared the top by a good 20 feet. It was an epic hit, like the one Bonds hit into the Edison Field tunnel two years ago. Eckstein looked back in top form, going 2-3, scoring a run, stealing a base, and driving one in. Even José Molina had a good day, extracting a luck infield single when his hit ball tagged second base and flew up in the air about 30 feet, going 2-3 for the day also. Percy simply imploded though, giving up three earned runs in one inning; Bad Percy seems to be showing up on the mound a lot more often than Good Percy. He's mentioned retiring now for a couple years, and I hope that he does, for my sake and his. K-Rod (okay, I've given up hating the nickname) was K-Rod, striking out two in an inning and two-thirds. The deciding run came in the ninth, well after the scrubs entered the game, driven in by a Howard Kendrick (who?) single with the bases loaded against Jamie Wright (?).

Meantime, Helen got a thrill watching the Cubs do something they've done precious little of in recent years: come from behind. McClain continued to hit, pounding in one against a shaky Kevin Gregg, whose 2003 is starting to look like a fluke. Gregg gave up the other three runs that got the Cubs to tie it up in the eighth. I doubt he will get a chance to be in the Angels rotation this year, but who knows.

Official Score


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

It's Heteroskedastic!

PECOTA fans at Baseball Prospectus have been pleased to call their projection system "deadly accurate" on the outside blurb on the back cover. But after reading their caveats about the system, I'm increasingly inclined to think that the authors thereof are waffling far more than they let on. Here's a couple key phrases appearing therein:
The Five-Year Performance forecast measures a hitter's EQA at various percentiles over the course of the next five seasons. Unlike the Value forecast, the Performance forecast has no convenient way to adjust for dropped comparables, and so it simply ignores them. For this reason, the Performance forecast may be unreliable for players whose comparables have a high attrition rate. [emphasis mine]
And here's a real damning one, on the subject of how comparables are generated:
In most cases, the database is large enough to provide a meaningfully large set of comparables. When it isn't, the program is designed to 'cheat' by expanding its tolerance for dissimilar players until a reasonable sample size is reached. In the case of very old or very young hitters, there may not be a significant number of hitters who played at that age, and so the results of their forecast may be less reliable.
In other words, if our system isn't working, we expand the error bands and claim that it does, in fact, work. What bugs me about this is that it introduces a problem into the comparables statistics because the data is (or at least, is very likely to be) heteroskedastic. That is, the errors tend to change depending on who you use as your "comparables"; and admitting others into the mix who aren't really close matches just amplifies that problem. This gets really bad for guys like Albert Pujols, of whom there have been only a handful of similar players (18 selected by PECOTA), all of whom are at least All-Stars or Hall of Famers, and Adrian Beltre, with 36 comparables. (Subscriptions required for all these PECOTA card links.). Beltre's early years predicted legitimate stardom, but seems to have been ruined by his appendectomy. Unfortunately, the bad news for Eckstein is that he has 47 comparables, which doesn't leave me feeling too good about his ability to stay healthy.

Evans Off To Seattle

The Bench Coach passes along a Seattle Times story reporting that former Dodger GM Dan Evans has been hired by Seattle in a job-to-be-named later. While I agree with Terry that it's a classy move on the part of former underling Bavasi, given the venom out there already reserved for the ex-Angel/ex-Dodger front office staffer (witness the presence of a Fire Bavasi blog already), I have to believe that the Mariners blogosphere is about to explode. Yet another non-sabermetric, old-school guy with a reputation for failing to make trades in midseason? What other curses could the gods call down upon the Emerald City's finest baseball club?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Cubs 12, Giants 4

Today's game was played under high cloud cover, thickening as the day went by, so the 85 degrees at game time felt quite comfortable, but made fielding hell all game. This was especially true for the Giants, whose fans barely showed up, and once the score made it to double digits in the seventh, an orange exodus started towards the gates. But I get ahead of myself.

The spring training version of Kirk "Woody" Reuter showed up on the mound today, as unstable as I've ever seen him. He showed weak control throughout his three innings, getting shelled for six earned runs, giving up a walk and managing only a single strikeout. Cubs non-roster invitee Scott McClain (sp?) continued his hot streak, pulping an increasingly shaky Felix Rodriguez for two bags that somehow got lost in the official score. (Baseball Prospectus claims we're not likely to see the 2000-2001 version of Rodriguez ever again, and today's game didn't make me think any differently.) His one earned run in one inning (ERA 9.00) tells you everything you need to know. In fact, aside from early fireworks by Barry Bonds during an uneven first inning by groundballer Carlos Zambrano where he hit Ray Durham and gave up a single to J. T. Snow, the Giants looked sloppy both offensively and defensively. At one point, the Giants outfield and infield missed a routine pop fly in shallow right in a Bermuda Triangle play. On the other side of the plate, all the Cubs -- except Grudz -- got a hit. Grudzielanek's 0-3 outing isn't helping the case for him to be in the starting lineup as a leadoff man. Losing Kenny Lofton may well hurt, but perhaps not as much as I originally thought; BP seems to think he's due for a big dropoff in offensive value this year, so maybe picking Grudz over Lofton was a Hendry crapshoot. Finally, NRI Gary Glover showed us why the Angels released him at the end of the year, giving up a run and two walks in only a single inning.

Helen thinks the 25th man on the Cubs 2004 roster will come down to Macias or McClain, and given Dusty's druthers, Macias will get the nod. If McClain doesn't get on the team or agree to go down to the minors, he'll make a nice waiver wire pickup for somebody. DePodesta, are you listening?


Remember Us, Arte?

Jim Alexander in the Riverside Press-Enterprise wonders why, if Arte's plastering Los Angeles County with Angelsanalia, he can't do the same thing in Riverside county. (Disable Javascript to read the article without registration.) It's a fair question, except that traffic on the 91 is already bad enough. There's already a Dodger blog carrying the moniker Arrive In The Third, Leave After Seven because, well, that's how the traffic crumbles. If there were any Riversiders attending Angels games, mightn't we see one called Arrive In The Fifth, Leave After Six?

Cubs 1, A's 0

Yesterday was the only night game we'll see here. It's too bad, because the weather doesn't look all that cooperative for the rest of the week. While we're getting a bit more of a respite at this very moment than the weatherman predicted earlier -- 77 degree temps versus mid-to-high-80's -- I'm not optimistic it will last. That and the fact that the returning high thin clouds mark an increase in humidity that seems to be taking away whatever advantages we had from the decline in temperature. (Hah. Yahoo Weather seems to think it's only 27% humidity outside, but it feels wetter than that, for what it's worth.)

Well, if Sunday's game was slow and seemingly required 1,934 pitches to complete, last night's game was a record-setter for speed. Greg Maddux took the mound for the Cubs, and Mark Mulder for the A's, making for five innings of 1-2-3 ball on both sides, or nearly so. Mark Grudzielanek contributed an error for the Cubs, but the threat passed harmlessly, as both pitchers had solid outings. 25-man-roster-wannabe Scott McLain jacked in the only run off A's reliever Justin Duscherer. McLain's having a fantastic spring, and now leads the Cubs in homers. Angels fans will no doubt be disappointed to learn that Mulder's hip problems from late last year seem to be a thing of the past, and he's ready to terrorize our lineup once again. Also, A's Moneyball prospect Nick Swisher had a couple good at bats against the Cubs, most notably his last versus closer Michael Wuertz, fouling off a number of pitches.


Monday, March 22, 2004

Angels, Tempe Both Looking For Greener Pastures

Arte's made some noise about prematurely vacating their lease on their spring training facility at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Take this for what it is, an unverified report, but I happened upon a fellow today who claims he formerly managed the Diablo Stadium, and the nonprofit that runs it actually was hoping the Angels would leave. The principle reason for this was the Angels are a warm-weather team, and snowbirds are a better revenue source... they had started negotiations with the Chisox, which came to a halt once Arte realized the difficulty of moving everything all at once. While it looks like now Arte's pulled a fast one on the Arizona state legislature, getting them to pay for a new training facility on his property without having to find somebody to replace the Tempe facility the Chisox were using, I can't commend this kind of "public-private partnership", as the rifling of the public till is so frequently called.

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Aid and Comfort

Baseball Prospectus has some fine writing, but, as seems the case with so many, their 2004 issue takes cheap shots at Dan Evans without bothering to actually perform even the most rudimentary analysis of the payroll situation he was faced with, slamming him for failing to get
league average production up-the-middle and a .300 EqA at one of the corners. ... What he has done is replace mediocrities like Eric Karros, Mark Grudzielanek, and Marquis Grissom, but rarely has he improved upon them.
Okay, smarty pants, show me the guys you would have acquired with only $5-6 million free payroll space, a corporate overlord committed only to selling the team, and a farm system in resurgence but not quite productive enough to bring up any quality bats? In case anybody was wondering why I take the advice of so many "sabermetricians" with whole licks of salt, it's because of half-cocked analyses like this one. And to think, I'm paying these guys for this ... the mind boggles.

Visiting the Republic of Summer

Mesa, AZ -- It went straight from winter into summer here, daytime highs rocketing skyward nearly 30 degrees in less than a month. Yesterday, before the Cubs/Padres game started, the field temperature was 95 in the shade.

When we left, it was 106.

Now, of course there are a couple caveats. First, the thermometer is the car's on-board unit, which is notoriously inaccurate -- or at least, takes flights of fancy on occaision. But the Padres in their navy blue tops must have been sweating something fierce. Second, there is indeed something to the "but it's a dry heat" mantra you sometimes hear from folks in these parts. We thought it was in the mid-90's leaving the game, but the car thermometer thought otherwise. Dryness combined with slight elevation counts for something. The skies, muddied by stratocumulus clouds, managed to sunburn Helen even though we sat in coveted shade. (I put on sunblock beforehand as a precaution, and was glad I did -- she's lobsterville now.) Andre Codrescu, the Romanian writer and sometime NPR commentator, calls his adopted New Orleans "the Republic of Summer", but he may as well have been talking about Phoenix.

Last year gave so much hope to the beleaguered Cubs fans that they flooded the Arizona cities surrounding Hohokam Park, their spring training home. Every hotel in Mesa is sold out through Tuesday, an event unprecedented in Mesa history. Yesterday's game set a spring training attendance record for them; I wasn't paying attention, but it looked like a capacity crowd pushing 13,000. Scalpers report cheap seats in the grass hill "bleachers" back of left and right field going in excess of $50, when they can be had at all. The feeling is this year will be like last year, only this time there'll be no five-outs-away, no heartbreak. The pitching staff is young, and better, among the elite of the National League, and if the hitters aren't, at least they can be counted on for one more good year. (Baseball Prospectus disagrees a bit, but more on that later in the week, perhaps.) The mood is one of general optimism and conviviality, as if we're about to see something really great happen, like watching an imploded building construct itself in reverse-motion magic. We sat in front of a half-dozen or so I-Cub fans (Iowa Cubs, their AAA affiliate), all middle-aged women, cheerfully gabbing about the minor leaguers the Cubs were trying out in the game. This was their eighteenth year going to spring training, and were having a ball.

It was a lazy game: Derrick Lee attended first base but did not play the position, looking more like Fred McGriff with several "olé" plays, and costing the Cubs a couple men on base. His gold gloves, safely crated elsewhere, need unpacking. But his bat needed no special torque as he knocked out three hits to atone for his miserable glovework. On the mound, perennial prospect-turned-suspect Juan Cruz gave up three runs and six hits; it's obvious, after the number of chances Cruz has had, that he's no longer even a questionable entry for the starting rotation and is now likely to become a PTBNL mentioned in a trade with some AL team. BP likes him as a long reliever, but I have my doubts; his control is suspect and that doesn't describe the sort of fellow you want pitching in tight games. LaTroy Hawkins visited the mound in the 9th, score 7-3, and left with the score 7-6. It's probably a good thing Hawkins is going to another central division team, albeit in a different league; facing higher quality hitting in the AL West or East divisions he'd get raked, and I suspect hard. Meantime, Brian Giles performed acceptably, going 1-3, but it seemed in general the Padres had a tough time of it, even against the relatively inconsistent pitching of Cruz, up until Hawkins offered up his gifts.

We won't see an Angels game until Friday. Today we'll see the A's, who have done very well in ST thus far.

Postscriptum: I will be away from my mail for the balance of the week, but thanks to a convenient Schlotsky's Deli across the street from my hotel with Internet access, I can post.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

OT: Unlost

... and, we think, in a good home, the little black dachshund or whatever he was. The lady who took him said "Oooh, he's an angel!" and he really is. Thanks to everyone who wrote in about him.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Beware The Man of One Book

Those claiming to be sabermetricians sans understanding of actual statistical principles amuse me. It reminds me of this Emo Phillips bit:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!"

"Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

He said, "Like what?"

I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"

He said, "Religious."

I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"

He said, "Christian."

I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

He said, "Protestant."

I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

He said, "Baptist!"

I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

He said, "Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

He said,"Reformed Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!"

I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.

The point being that owning exactly one book leads to interpretive zealotry, and this is what we've seen with Moneyball. What makes me laugh -- or gets under my skin, depending on who's doing it and whether or not they're wishing I would just die or just accusing me of simple illiteracy because I did, in fact read the book without coming to the same conclusions they did -- is that book is nowhere near a complete guide to running a baseball team. In fact, even Beane himself says in this Baseball America roundtable that he would probably operate differently if he were running the Braves, say:

TOWERS: I always used John and the Braves as the model organization. They could develop a Rafael Furcal or a Javy Lopez or a Chipper Jones every year. They got to the point where they could draft high school players and wait. We’ve been in the mode now we needed to build our system up and have more of an instant return. If we get good, by God, if people are taking college players, I’m going to go pop some high school guys.

BEANE: Don’t kid yourself—we were waiting for some of those high school guys this year to fall down to us. There’s a few we were going to take.

BA: Not pitchers, though.

BEANE: Well, yeah—but that’s because of the business we’re in.

TOWERS: The risk.

BEANE: If I’m in Atlanta, I might operate differently. I’m looking at Baseball America today, seeing all the prospects the Braves have, a lot of them high school pitchers. The fact of the matter is, it’s the risk that you’re allowed to absorb. They’ve been very good for a long time. They can wait four-to-five years. I know I’m going to lose a player once a year, a premium player. My feeder system has to be a little quicker.

But don't let that mislead you, DK. Beane's fired all his scouts. It's just him and a laptop. Yeah, that's it. Dang, they're efficient!

Bill James Interview

One of the minor tragedies of recent years has been the silencing of Bill James' most excellent pen by the Boston Red Sox. Now that they have him all to themselves, his publishing has, to my knowledge, all but ceased. But that doesn't prevent him from giving an interview to Ian Browne. Even off-the-cuff, James has a way of tweaking your expectations:
What stats does James first look at when he evaluates players?

"Well, I think the more critical question is what do you look at second. I think the things I look at first are the same things everybody else does. Won-loss record and ERA for a pitcher and home runs, RBIs and batting average for a batter," said James. "Those are the first things you see and the first things you look at. The real question is what do you look at second."

Well, of course. And it's no surprise that he looks at the difference between OBP and average for hitters, and K/BB for pitchers. But those are things I now look at first, thanks to the work of Voros McCracken. A lot of ERA is really luck.

It's ironic to me that James is principally known as some kind of propellerhead über-accountant, when he's -- not incidentally -- one of the best writers about baseball since John Updike. DePodesta, in his infamous white paper, says he's interested in always asking "the naïve question". But Harvard damaged him materially. Listen to the unsonorous way he closes:

Thomas Kuhn wrote, "the proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and to debate over fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research."
That clumsy, larded bit was worthy of quoting? Uh, Paul... about that book deal... Anyway, James, ever the prose stylist, summarizes his interview this way:
"There's a universe of unknowns and a little cigar box of information," James said. "We're so far away from reaching the end of the task that it's laughable. We don't know anything, really."
Night and day, really, isn't it? No management duckspeak for the MBAs in the audience -- concrete and comprehensible, with awe for the immense task before him thrown in for free. We miss you, Bill.

VORPal Swords, Part 2

Jon links to a David Cameron article on Baseball Prospectus about Dodger prospect James Loney. Cameron makes a good point, one I was pleased to make yesterday about Eckstein, namely PECOTA goes down hard on any player who's been injured. Trouble is, it doesn't do so selectively and seems to assume the worst...
At the end of his professional debut in 2002, Loney's left wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch, ending his season. Wrist injuries are notorious for lingering, and Loney was clearly bothered by the recovery during the early part of 2003. After his first 45 games in the Florida State League, his line was .233/.283/.337. From game 46 through the end of the season, he hit .301/.369/.436, a much more impressive performance than his final totals would indicate. As Clay Davenport noted, that is the difference between a projected peak EqA of .289 versus .316, or roughly the difference between the 2003 versions of J.T. Snow and Nick Johnson. Usually, selective sampling is frowned upon, but the injury provides a legitimate reason for the dramatic improvement as the season goes along. At full health, he returned to his prior levels of ball-whacking, finishing the year as one of the best hitters in the lower minors at the tender age of 19.

Youth is certainly one of the main factors on Loney's side. He will spend 2004 in Double-A at the age of 20, putting him squarely on the fast track to the major leagues. Looking through his list of comparable players provided by PECOTA yields names like Hank Blalock, Miguel Cabrera, Sean Burroughs, and Adrian Beltre, who all arrived in the majors before their 22nd birthdays. It also includes players who have stalled in Double-A-- Adrian Gonzalez being the most notable--or have yet to establish themselves, and PECOTA is clearly picking up on the risk of getting too excited about players on the wrong side of the defensive spectrum who haven't tasted Double-A pitching yet. However, Loney gives a plethora of reasons for excitement beyond his age.

Given Eckstein's relative youth (well, maybe 29 is pushing the extent of that word), the same issues PECOTA has with Loney -- and IMO are being overstated -- are going to be present with young master David as well.

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