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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!


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


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.


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.

Labels: ,

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.

Pickoff Moves

Tommy On The Bench?

An interesting observation from the Dodgers fan forum: Tommy's on the bench and managing. As usual when I pass this sort of stuff along, it's with the largest possible grain of salt, but I could completely believe McCourt going over the head of DePodesta and pulling a stunt like this.

$10 Parking

Concession and parking price hikes will go into effect this year, starting with a $2 parking fee increase. In what other business do you get away with charging more for the same lousy product?

Goin' Down, Down, Down, Down

I'm heading to Arizona for spring training, mostly for the Cubs (as a Christmas present to my wife) and also the Angels. Don't look for too many updates after tomorrow. Yahoo Weather says it's gonna be roasty toasty in Mesa, in the low to mid-90's, so I'm bringing plenty of sunblock. I'll be back on the 27th, so play ball!

A Two-Edged, VORPal Sword

Chronicles of the Lads points to Baseball Prospectus' AL West projections, and they aren't pretty, with essentially the same finish this year as last year, though the Angels will end up with a winning record of 83-79. It boils down to declines from nearly every player on the 2002 squad, with Anderson, Eckstein, Erstad, Glaus, Kennedy, Molina, and Salmon collectively erasing gains made by signing Vlad. (Guillen is so speculative I can't believe he'll pan out.) This just drives me nuts. Let's take a peek at the projected 2004 VORPs for all the published values prior to that year.

Year AndersonEcksteinErstadGlausKennedy MolinaSalmon
2001 20.8 28.5 8.7 52.7 6 6.6 3
2002 37.5 29.2 11.2 30.7 31.5 -9.8 31.7
2003 40.6 1.5 -3.7 17.6 31.5 12.4 27.6
2004 26.2 20.7 1.5 39.1 23.4 4.9 21.9

And now for a brief explanation of why PECOTA is wrong and I'm right:

Overall, I just wonder about these guys. From what I can tell VORP is something of a black box, as is PECOTA. They sure as heck didn't predict the Angels to win it all in 2002.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


At some point in the last 24 hours the site ticked over the 1,000 visits mark, not bad considering I put up a counter about a week ago. Most of those have come from Jon's Dodger Thoughts blog. Thanks to everyone who's come to read my hopefully reasonably well-informed rants, and the other ones, too. I would probably do this even if I didn't have a readership, but it's encouraging to think others believe I've got something worthwhile to say.


My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted.
Ray Charles
Aside from intellectual and possible moral bankruptcy, the Boston Herald reports that the McCourts might face the actual kind presently, as the terms of the sale allow Fox to swipe their Southie property if he can't sell it at a sufficiently high price within two years:
Under the terms of the Dodgers sale, McCourt now has two years to repay [Fox's $145 million loan], plus interest, or risk losing his land to News Corp., a spokesman for the new Dodgers owner confirmed. [Excuse me, but who can the writer be talking about here?]

... [S]ome real estate executives say [$205 million] is a rich number for raw land in a still hard hit real estate market. Longtime local developer Thomas Flatley told the Herald that he offered McCourt $150 million in cash for his land, a deal that was rejected.``I think it's going to be challenging,'' said Gary Lemire, an executive with commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis/Whittier Partners. ``He has some nice stuff (land) there, but the timing is not that great.''

The article goes on to mention that all's not gloom and doom for my favorite Southie couple: the market, in small doses, seems to be picking up, as a one-acre parcel has entertained bids for $30M, and that in any case, the sell-it-or-we'll-sell-it-for-you clause doesn't kick in for a couple years yet. But one can hope.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Meantime, Back In Mesa...

What A Difference A Spring Makes

... as Mike Scioscia forgets his earlier comments about Bobby Jenks being not quite ready-for-prime-time.
Bobby Jenks' nine scoreless innings this spring might have earned him a trip to Triple-A Salt Lake next month, but the Angels acknowledge he could push for major-league time this season. "When you're a young guy like him, you hope to pitch well enough to put yourself on the depth chart and he's definitely done that," Scioscia said.
Booya, Bobby!

Please Don't Talk About Respect, Bartolo

Thank God Bartolo Colón isn't a Scott Boras client -- at least, I hope he isn't. The Orange County Register (in the same story linked above) sure makes it sound like his move to the Angels was all about the tall dollars:
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams thought he might be able to re-sign ace Bartolo Colon, offering him a three-year deal worth $36 million. Colon gave Chicago hope by telling his friends on the team he would like to come back.

Instead, Colon got a far richer deal - four years, $51 million - in Anaheim.

"I told a lot of the pitchers I would like to come back, but it didn't work out," Colon said. "I don't want to talk about it."

At least we don't have to listen to him parrot some balderdash about respect. Arte'd have to start selling Rolaids at the stadium by the pallet.

McCourt Goes To Hall

... in a handbasket or other convenient vessel, so as to reacquire his services and ensure Jamie McCourt never, ever speaks to the press again. Timeline on this one, folks: As Dorothy observed, people come and go so quickly around here! Meantime, David Walkley, vice president of human resources has tendered his resignation, because "because his job duties had changed." I've gotta give Walkley credit for the creativity involved in the reason for his walk letter -- at least he didn't cite "philosophical differences". At this rate, it'll be Frank on the mound, taking the tickets, and selling the popcorn. I tell you, folks, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!

Finally, by way of answering Richard's question as to whether I should give McCourt a chance -- why, yes, I have, and he has blown it, repeatedly. The prosecution offers exhibit A.

Update: Terry's got a far more readable commentary about this on his website.

Happier Than You Or Me


Casey Kotchman, stud-in-trainingthat Devo guy

Casey Kotchman and the Devo guy: mirror twins?

Are you winking, Casey, or are your eyes hella asymmetric? Or maybe...

a better pic of Casey

... it's just a lousy picture. Somebody, please, update this guy's portrait. It's Just Wrong.

On Losing Kenny

This year for the Cubs
Dusty Baker will sub-
stitute someone for Kenny Lofton.
Though Patterson's fast
The others just blast
Or don't get on base quite as often.

Survivor: Chavez Ravine

The Bench Coach has a great piece on the Times articles published earlier today. Terry asks
Think DePodesta wonders what he got himself into? With the long-term security that comes with a five-year contract, DePodesta may have signed up for a half-decade of boiling-point stress, toiling for incompetent bosses with impossible expectations. He may be 31 coming in, but DePodesta figures to age in dog years while with the Dodgers.
Color me a trifle naive, but I don't think so. For me, this is a win-win situation if I'm DePodesta. First, I come in already the behind-the-scenes hero thanks to Moneyball. Second, if things go sour, everyone in baseball knows how harebrained the McCourts are -- the ownership read, or should have read, the sale package they voted on. They've got as much credibility as Clinton did, post stained dress. If I win, so much the better. And, thanks to the efforts of the previous GM and Logan White, I've got a farm stocked with goodies -- a good thing because the $100 million payroll McCourt promised the fans is a crock. And -- here's the beauty part -- with a five-year contract, if I even catch the smell of a playoff run in the next two years, I'm golden for the long term. With a weak NL West, 90 to 92 wins ought to do it. Simply put, I'll outlast my boss. McCourt simply can't run this team without an infusion of cash, and his does-not-play-well-with-others personality sort of limits access to that. I had my doubts at first, too, but on some reflection, the positives for DePodesta outweigh the negatives.

Pickoff Moves

As usual when I don't have anything important to say, a bunch of small stuff --

Junior Rumors Gain Steam

Thanks to U.S.S. Mariner for this story indicating there may be some fire under the Griffey-from-Cincy-to-Safe smoke.

No BaLoney

And again from U.S.S. Mariner, freshly returned from spring training, David Cameron writes about Dodger prospect James Loney:
James Loney is awesome and-short of a catastrophic event similar to the flood-is going to be a tremendous major league hitter. Watching him and Robin Ventura play next to each other made one thing obviously clear; as of today, Robin Ventura is half the player Loney is, and Loney's getting better. This kid is scary good. I was really high on him before. After watching him this weekend, I'm running low on superlatives.
If only we could work on that time machine... we need you now, dude...

Angels 2004 Bullpen Preview

Fire Bavasi has their 2004 Angels bullpen preview up. He was much more thorough about the matter than I was, so it's worth a read. In particular, his comments about Ben Weber's lack of strikeouts are interesting; is he lucky with that career 5.16 K/9, or is it that he induces ground ball after ground ball? And as for Percy, what he forgot to mention was his blown out hip that cost him a mess of runs. While I don't think he'll be the closer he was before 2003, he'll still be effective and possibly better than last year, but not by much. That is to say, I don't disagree with his assessments much (as usual). And, just to round things out and prove to my wife that I can, in fleeting moments, cling to a naive kind of optimism, Frankie will actually do better than last year, simply because he's young and his second half last year was that much better (his K/9 ramped up to 11.61 from 8.63, and his K/BB rate improved from 1.90 to 3.90).

The Score Bard's NL Central Preview

The Score Bard's Humbug previews the NL Central. For my wife's beloved Cubbies:

If you trust that my dreams can foresee,
A wild card contender they'll be.
Why not in first?
Perhaps they are cursed,
Despite adding Hawkins and Lee.

English Test

1. Newhan is to Evans as Plaschke is to...

No, not really. Evans at least had a plan.

Go read today's shotgun blast about McCourt's pratfalls. And, thank you sir, may I have another? I can't add much to it, except to say -- Dodgerkid, you may get your wish.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Blog Notes

YAAB -- "Chronicles of the Lads"

Today, I introduce Yet Another Angels Blog. Revisiting the comments from the Baseball Primer Angels preview I found a link to Chronicles of the Lads. The name comes from an expression the late Angels announcer Bob Starr used when the Angels were behind in late innings. He opens, as seems to be the custom for a lot of new bloggers, with a preview of the 2004 lineup. Welcome aboard!

Good Stuff At The Pearly Gates

Richard over at The Pearly Gates has introduced some nifty new features to his blog: a stock-market style ticker for a featured Angel prospect-du-jour and Angels spring training standings. Also, he points at Aaron Gleeman's latest project, The Hardball Times. Gleeman is working with Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, and Matthew Namee, research assistant to Bill James (all hail). It looks like a promising venture, and I'll second that link.

... And At Purgatory Online

Sean has been paying much more attention to spring training and its effects upon the Halos than I have; but then, I'm not all that interested in ST to begin with. It's kinda dull watching guys you know won't be on the 25-man roster come April. But Sean's attention to these kinds of details proves once more that he's still the premiere Angels blogger out there.

Aaron's Prospecting

Update: Also on The Hardball Times, Aaron ranks the top 25 prospects in baseball. (You can read his list of 26-50 here.) If you've read other prospect lists, you won't be surprised to see Angels prospects like Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Dallas McPherson; but you will be surprised -- maybe -- to see he's left off Dodgers prospect Greg Miller, principally because of the shoulder problems he's had at the end of last season and again in spring training.

Baseball Primer Looks At The Angels

David Peng at Baseball Primer looks at the 2004 Angels. Best lines: Good stuff, all. He predicts a 96-66 season if things go right, and if they go really right, 100-62.

More From Backstop Bob on Team McCourt

Oh, my God in Heaven, I shouldn't be having this kind of fun. Today in Baseball Primer's "Clutch Hits" section, Backstop Bob, author of the wonderful piece about his direct experience with Team McCourt, comes back for a second helping:
Jamie came up with most of the really air-headed ideas in brainstorming meetings concerning the Baltimore project. Our GM once came around to all the director's offices before a meeting to remind us "not to make any visible signs of distress or incredulity at any of Jamie's suggestions", which included (my personal favorite) having the ticket takers in "famous Baltimoreans" costume and working in character (Babe Ruth, Edgar Allen Poe, Barry Levinson, H. L. Mentken insulting all the Jewish guests, etc) as people were coming into the facility, when our primary concern was just getting 5000 people inside, and getting their coats taken, in a typical two-hour period.

I had to explain in detail how we didn't want any more interaction with ticket taking other than a smile and "have a great time", so as not to jam up the lines. And, as I expected, lines were a problem all the time on weekends, as we couldn't get people in fast enough. I imagine if we had hired actors to do the ticket-taking, it would have lasted, about a day. (Maybe she could try it again at Dodger Stadium...they do have more turnstyles. It'd be interesting to go through "Steve Garvey"'s line with your wife or girlfriend, perhaps.)

I shake my head reading the story. It sounds like Jamie and Frank are going to "clean up that one horse town", when nothing more really needs to be done than to improve the product on the field.

Jamie's dad is an early mass-merchandising appliance-electronics guy in Baltimore naked Frank Luskin, who was a contemporary of "Crazy Eddie" and "The Wizard", except he went out of business some ten years ago, run out of town by Curcuit City. As far as I can tell, none of his business acumen has rubbed off on her.

He goes on to say in a later post that "if the O's can pry Edwin Jackson away from them so they can have the "big bat" of Jay Gibbons, then I am all for the McCourts", as should all right-thinking Orioles fans. Heck, at this point, I'd be happy to let the Angels lose Erstad's bat in trade for same. To think, I'd only have to change the color and logo on my home computer's desktop picture...

Chavez: $66M, 6 years

Athletics Nation and the A's homepage both report that Eric Chavez will remain an A for the forseeable future, thus putting to rest the Score Bard's speculation.

The Score Bard's NL West Preview

The Score Bard previews the NL West. For the Dodgers:

This team is on loan, not invested,
But at least it has been dePodested.
From L.A. to the farms
They've been crawling with arms
But with bats they have been uninfested.

Hopefully this will be sufficient to counter the stink I made with my most recent attempt at rhyme. It's a dog and doggerel, all at once!

Jamie Lacks The Write Stuff

More howlers from today's Times, reminding one of the Robert McNamara-era pronounciamentos about Vietnam. The McCourts just aren't worried about high-level defections in recent weeks:
Speaking on behalf of her husband, Frank, Jamie McCourt said they were not concerned about the high-level defections that have occurred in their first month in charge. The McCourts have not addressed the club's approximately 250 full-time staff members about the resignations of Bob Graziano, team president; Kris Rone, executive vice president of business; and Derrick Hall, senior vice president of communications, and they won't dwell on them when meeting with employees sometime before opening day at Dodger Stadium.

The McCourts said change is simply part of the transition process and they expect more from everyone.

"We expect an enormous amount of accountability," said Jamie, the vice chairman. "We're going to try to change the culture of the Dodgers, because this should be a team that's in the playoffs every year. To not be in the playoffs is crazy. They should have been drawing 4 million fans, not 3 million fans. They should be making money, not losing $50 million [a year].

"The Dream Foundation, for example, should be doing even more in the community than it's doing. The Dodgers can do better. We're not nervous, because it's our intention to have better baseball, do better for the fans, do better for the employees and do better for the players. Whatever it takes to assemble that team, that's what we're going to do."

The team doesn't have a CEO, a head of communications, a business manager, and they're worried about the Dodger Dream Foundation? And they haven't even spoken with the remaining employees about upper-level vacancies? What color is the sky in that little world of yours, Jamie? In the playoffs? Hah! They'll be lucky if they're in the division! The article goes on to mention that Dodgers employees found out their bosses were no longer working there from the Times, not the McCourts, of which the Wicked Witch of the National League West said:
"I hope we can talk [to the staff] because I think it's very important," Jamie said. "I hope it's soon. Everything is just a little bit awkward in terms of timing because of when the purchase was approved, and now it's spring training. Certainly, we would hope to do so before opening day, but I don't think we're going to focus so much on resignations.
"Surrender, Dorothy" might not appear in the skies over Dodger Stadium, but management-by-press-release doesn't sound like a strategy you'll be reading about in the latest fad business book, either. Now, where did I leave that bucket of water?
She said the Dodgers, sold to the McCourts by News Corp. this winter, operated in a "silo for business, a silo for baseball and a silo for [public relations]"
At the rate upper management ranks have been launched out of the Ravine, can we expect a counterstrike from Russia or China at any moment?
"What we'll focus on is what our expectations are and how we hope everybody who wants to be here will stay involved with the turnaround.
A number dwindling by the hour, no doubt. But that's okay, because at least Jamie recognizes her shortcomings:
"I can't speak for Frank. No one asked me if I thought we should get a hitter or not," she said. "You probably have to talk to Frank. This is bad because you guys remember everything and you write everything down."
Because, yeah, illiteracy is probably, for a lawyer, like, a bad thing. And to think, before this revelation, I thought they had a shining career opportunity writing sitcoms. So, if you can, write this one down, Jamie: get some bats. Oops, scratch that. Try: sell the team.

Update: I suppose I should have seen this one coming: they fire the communications guy and immediately one of the McCourts steps in it. Call it the revenge of the press. Some years ago, there was a story circulating about the early days of the Clinton White House that the staff wasn't maintaining its little touches for the press covering the Washington "beat" (if you can call the usual press release journalism that goes on there a "beat") that the Bushes did, including remembering which candy bars they preferred in the box lunches. So the story went, it was this lack of attention to detail that caused much of the press -- from that day hence -- to be anti-Clinton. I don't know for sure, but I bet Ross Newhan likes Snickers.

Monday, March 15, 2004

The Difference Between A DH And A Dog

Much is being made on the Angels forums of Brad Fullmer's comments regarding his playing time that "There was some stuff regarding me that was set in stone, and no matter how I swung the bat or how well I played, it wasn't going to change, no matter how hot I got." At issue is Fullmer's at-bats versus lefties, with some accusing Mike Scioscia of a conspiracy to take away Fullmer at-bats. Well, let's look at this a mite closer, shall we?

vs. leftiesvs. all
YearTeamManager ABAvg.OBPSLG ABAvg.OBPSLG left%
2003AngelsMike Scioscia 30.267.324.400 206.306.387.500 .146
2002AngelsMike Scioscia 429.289.357.531 .147
2001Blue JaysBuck Martinez 522.274.326.444 .228
2000Blue JaysJim Fregosi 482.295.340.558 .193
1999ExposFelipe Alou 347.277.321.464 .144

And there ends the splits data on mlb.com. I liked Brad as a player, but I have to wonder whether he didn't say the same things about Alou, who also benched Brad versus lefties. When he played for Toronto, his large numbers of LH at-bats dragged down his average and certainly his slugging percentage. In any case, his outburst would explain why management released him shortly after he injured himself. What's funny, though, is that Scioscia used him exactly for his strengths, and Fullmer proceeded to set career records for OBP and average, not to mention picking up a championship ring. And for this, Fullmer is angry? It reminds me of the old Mark Twain quote, "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

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