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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Buenas Noches, Ramon*

¿Ramon, dónde es la goma?

Kevin Gregg escapes without allowing an earned run, while Ortiz melts down again. Ortiz has a cheap contract; it might be eatin' time again. Gregg, you're promoted. Welcome to the rotation.

Or at least, that's what I'd do, or Shields. But the Angels won't do it, just like they won't move Erstad, just like they won't stick a fork in Salmon. Well, he gets another few days at least -- his history of awful Aprils gives one reason to think he's gonna come around.

At least Osama shaved his beard; perhaps its mass was slowing his delivery. But -- Kenny Rogers? The Angels lose to the chicken man? Twice? Ugh.

And how embarrassing is it that Lackey (11.00) has nearly twice the ERA as the Rangers' starter in tomorrow's game, R. A. Dickey (6.94)? Ugh, and ugh again.


*My apologies for the fractured Spanish.

Beane Counters

The daughter already had skipped west, seduced by dreams of Hollywood. Now the son approached the father, thanking him for that Harvard education but explaining that he would pursue a career in professional sports.

He resisted the lure of proper jobs for the Ivy League graduate, the ones with six-figure salaries — investment banker, management consultant and the like.

John DePodesta — a Harvard grad himself, lawyer, and co-founder of an international telecommunications company — listened as his son Paul declared he would work for no salary, throwing T-shirts into the stands as an intern for a Canadian Football League team.

"I told him to go for it," John DePodesta said. "Having spent much of my life dealing with lawyers, investment bankers and consultants, and hearing how frustrated they were in midcareer by not following their passions, I could not foreclose an opportunity for my son to pursue that."

"Foreclose" -- it's a funny, lawyerly choice of words introducing a story in today's Times about the "new" generation of statistics-based GMs in the business. While the Times previously has made idiotic comments as if guys like Branch Rickey weren't paying attention to this back in the day, this time they manage to get it right:
Branch Rickey, the Dodgers' legendary general manager, wrote about the importance of reaching base half a century before the term "on-base percentage" crept into the vernacular. Earl Weaver, the Baltimore Orioles' Hall of Fame manager, sat back and waited for a three-run homer three decades before anyone had calculated the value of playing for one run against the chance of scoring three.
When DePodesta thinks about the additional resources the Dodgers (supposedly) have versus the A's,
... he doesn't necessarily mean pumping money into the pockets of free agents.

"You can spend more on player payroll, which is great," he said. "You can actually spend more off the field too, whether it be on scouts or systems or video or software. I'm actually as excited, if not more excited, about that kind of stuff than I am about having the player payroll."

Interesting, then that in Anaheim, they're feeling threatened by all of this:
"Our guys can use a computer too, but there's a lot more to it," Angel scouting director Eddie Bane said last fall. "There are computer teams out there, trying to take a hit at scouts. Myself and some of the other guys are trying to prove them wrong. It's really a threat to our industry."
Well, I wish them all the luck in the world. I've said in the past that Moneyball isn't enough information to run a ballclub with; if Beane and company were smart, they'd keep their mouths shut, or let Michael Lewis paint an incomplete, inaccurate picture. I still think that's true. It doesn't erase gleaned wisdom like Voros' work that K/9 and BB/9 are more important than ERA or win-loss numbers when evaluating pitchers, but it does mean that subjective evaluations are decidedly under the gun to produce -- as they should be.

Let me give you an example from my own life. I work for a company that specializes in comparison shopping. It's a free service we provide to our site visitors, but our customers are the retailers who sell the products. To them, we're a kind of advertising -- a new and different kind in that they can look (if they choose, and the better among them do) to see exactly how many prospects we referred to them become customers. One reason we've prospered is because potential buyers leaving our site become actual buyers at a higher rate than most others in our business. There's an old saying regarding advertising: "I'm wasting half my ad budget, but I don't know which half." And that's always been true in traditional media, because it's so difficult to tell the effect an ad had on a particular customer. Well, for on-line advertising, that saw is absolutely untrue: you can tell almost immediately where you're wasting your money. Does our success mean that billboards, print, radio, and TV are suddenly obsolete? No, but it might inspire some ad buyers to get more scientific about understanding the results of their spending.

And that's the point, I think, of Moneyball: you have to be able to back up assertions. That doesn't obsolete the presence of a traditional scouting staff; the A's certainly have one. But you can bet they're run differently than most of the other scouting staffs in baseball.


Monday, April 19, 2004

Pickoff Moves

OT: Corporate Shenanigans

In case you missed it, McDonald's CEO died of an apparent heart attack, news that will come no doubt as welcome to that company's many detractors. Look out, hot dog vendors, you might be next on their list. And the Angels' old CEO, Michael Eisner, is about to get booted, with a flurry of no-confidence votes, the latest being a 72.5% vote rejecting the Disney President by the company's 401k shareholders. Well, there's a drawback of 401k plans.

Weber Missing A Few MPH?

Ken Rosenthal relays a report that Ben Weber's lost some velocity which he could ill-afford to lose:
A scout says of Angels RHP Ben Weber, "He has certainly gone backward. He's not nearly as sharp. He got away with some command mistakes in the past because he had a little extra something that last 10 to 15 feet. He doesn't have it now." Another scout says Weber's fastball is 87-88 mph, down from 90 to 92, giving him little separation from his slider. Angels pitching coach Bud Black says Weber's velocity is fine. . . .
Whatever, but his early outings sure make it look like he's out of gas.

Joe Torres, Meet Tommy John

An ulnar collateral ligament repair by any other name is spelled Tommy John, and Angel first-round draft pick Joe Torres will get very familiar with it, as he's taking the rest of the season off to recover from it.
"In Boise, his velocity was fine, 92-93 (mph)," farm director Tony Reagins said. "The following offseason, he lifted a lot, got bulkier and a lot less fluid. I think that's when his velocity kind of went away. He never got back to 91 or 92."

Reagins said Torres hit 89-90 mph at times last season, before the injury that now threatens his stalled career. But some pitchers recover velocity after surgery, and for all his troubles, he's still just 21. "If he's right, he's still a guy," Reagins said. "Health is always a question. For me, yeah, he's still a prospect."

Um, okay, but if it's true that Tommy John surgery ages a prospect five years without gaining him any experience, that's gotta be a bad sign.

Selig? Or Circus Freak?

You decide:

Thanks to Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits for the link.


Vlad Rumor Mill

Terry over at The Bench Coach passes along the following from his source "Sandy" in the Dodger organization:
Dr. Podesta, the Dodger orthopedic surgeon, but who also sees Vladimir Guerrero, told me that Guerrero's back is as bad or worse than Hundley's. He said that given the all out way Guerrero plays coupled with his condition, there is no way he will play a full season. He went on to say that it wasn't even a dice roll that the Angels signed him long term, but more like a dice roll with blank dice.
Well, aren't they all. And who's this "Podesta" character? Does he mean Frank Jobe? Eh, whatever, but for my money, I'd just as soon see them give Vlad a couple actual days off. He hasn't been swinging the bat too well against Oakland (Saturday's game excepted) and I'm wondering that his knees aren't the reason why.

Update: Well, there is a Dr. Podesta on staff at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic where team physician Dr. Jobe operates, so that's plausible. But take it all with a grain of salt. A big one.


Kick 'Em When They're Down

I've been trying to collect my thoughts on yesterday's road sweep -- yeah, I'm still dragging my jaw off the floor on that one, too -- of the Giants. General thoughts: Woot!

Official score


Sunday, April 18, 2004

The Lion That Squeaked

Barry Zito has shut down the Angels' offense, as Tim Hudson did Friday. The team is second the league in runs scored, but 12th in OBP, 13th in walks, 8th in strikeouts.

That's the "good news".

The bad news is the team is 12th in ERA (5.40 team average), and second in runs allowed (68, a four-way tie with the Twins, Tigers, and Indians).

Okay, it's early. Really, I'm not panicing.

But it's looking like the BP analysts are sadly on the mark here.


Saturday, April 17, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Vote For Lou Bites The Dust

Not that anyone cared -- it became a cobweblog at some point in the last two months, really just as it got started -- but Vote For Lou is gone.

Dodgers 5, Giants 4

Lima time? Jeez, well, I guess. I have to now eat some crow over my early prognostication on the team's fortunes. The Dodgers might not tear up the world, but they stand a fighting chance in the division, if this week's returns are to be believed. Taking a series from the Giants on their turf is surely the best of all possible signs, and for José Lima -- the Dodgers' fifth, and emergency, starter -- to be the one to do it is especially sweet. This was another one we missed, ironically because the wife and I were out looking for TVs, our present model being fifteen years old and slightly gimpy.

Bradley goes yard in the enemy's house? Good sign, too, says Dave Roberts:

"For the second straight game, we got an insurance run in the ninth inning and it was the difference," noticed Dave Roberts. "We can play little ball, we can hit home runs, we can situational-hit. We're winning a lot of games while showing different ways to win."
Yeah, well don't get cocky kid. It's not like the game board man's Pujols or anybody. Gagné turned in yet another shaky performance, and while I've maybe been too harsh on the guy lately -- was he this shaky last year at this time? -- I'm still nervous that the streak is over and he's unraveling in front of us.

But. Hot damn!

Official wrapup

Angels 6, A's 4

Dear Mike,

Next time there's a save situation, leave Frankie in.

That is all.

Love,

Rob.

This game was amazing principally because Washburn actually won it. He should have lost it, for two reasons:
  1. He was at home. Wash at the A has a losing record (okay, not by much -- 20-21, but with an amazing 21 no decisions, since 1999) at home.
  2. He was pitching against the A's, against whom he also has a losing record (4-6, 3.48 ERA in 15 starts).
Despite this, he somehow managed to keep the team in the game, and not only that, but put up a mess of zeros. That isn't to say it was an easy game to listen to or watch (we were at dinner for most of it, listened to the sixth on the way back and watched the rest at home), but imagine my surprise when I looked up the game score on my phone and found it was 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth. Vlad's earning his keep, that's for sure, as is bullpen stud Scot Shields.

Final score, 6-3.


Walking The Birds

A few weeks ago, I was out walking my dogs on a long walk to a large park near our house. We don't normally go this way, so it was a treat for them. One Sunday morning, I spied a number of Vietnamese men with bamboo bird cages, and birds contained therein:

I asked them why they would do such a thing -- what was the point? The birds were still caged, even though they could sing, they got no special enjoyment from their prison being moved, even if temporarily, into the park. Naturally, none of the men professed to speak English, and so I went away as puzzled as when I first set eyes on the scene.

Such is the case with the Angels' use of Darin Erstad. I mean, I understand at some level the desire to keep him healthy by playing him at first base, but his defensive star shines brightest in centerfield. As well, there's no compelling evidence that Erstad hits better or stays healthier when playing first. But thanks to a communication gap between myself and the Angels organization, I'm stuck writing this blog instead of fixing the team so we have an actual chance of being something besides a .500 team -- where we almost are now and will be today if the A's win, a not unlikely scenario. Were I Stoneman, here's what I'd do:

  1. Move Guillen for a quality 1B. His contract and its duration is actually quite reasonable. It's not like his contract will weigh down the team for too many years.
  2. Move Erstad back to CF.
  3. Put Scot Shields in the rotation. He proved he's got the arm and the pitches last year. Instead of pitching in relief in ST, he should have been working on a third and fourth pitch and increasing his stamina.
  4. Move Anderson back to LF.
  5. If you can't stand Shields in the rotation, put Sele there. Sele had a better ST than Ortiz, and not by a little, posting a 4.24 ERA versus Ortiz's 6.66. (Is that an omen or what?) Why isn't he in the rotation?
  6. If possible, move one or both of Sele and Ortiz, possibly as part of the 1B trade mentioned earlier.
Crazy, I know, but I guess rational use of your players is for the birds.

New Angels Wallpapers

Some sweet new Angels wallpapers from halofan1983 on the Angels fan forum. Go here to see the whole selection, but he's got some very nice shaded pics of Vlad, Bartolo, the Angels logos, and even the old Wrigley Field era Angels. Great stuff, and thanks for putting it up!

Dodgers 3, Giants 2

Well, that's one way to win a ballgame. The offense, driven by only a few players, is alive, but on life support. Still, it was good to get a win against a guy who last year was 3-0 with one no-decision against the Dodgers -- their very, very legitimate ace, a guy who came in second to Gagné in the Cy Young voting. But OP shook off his demons and pitched an absolute gem, collecting ten strikeouts including one on Bonds. Not to toot my own horn too much, but my early prediction that OP would end up the staff stopper is looking right on the mark. Go Dodgers, and congratulations OP on a very special win.

Angels 0, A's 3

Colón is an overpaid number two.

Colón gave up a home run in the third to Oakland's backup catcher. And here in the top of the fifth, the Angels are being outhit 5-1.

Hudson breezes through the lineup.

Colón gets in jams.

Okay, Vlad's got knee problems. And if I poked around long enough, I could find some other things that would justify the offense's lousy outing against Hudson. (He's typically had Glaus locked up his whole career. 0-4 with three strikeouts is pretty much what you'd call dominant.) But this looks way too familiar.


Friday, April 16, 2004

Dogging It

Jon today went to the dogs -- hot dogs, that is, the ancient, noble chow of the ballpark. Google News, in its empirical and catholic wisdom, stumbled across similar thoughts by Steve Getzug in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:
If you keep kosher and you’re a Dodger fan, enjoying a hot dog in Chavez Ravine is about as remote as right field, about as unlikely as a championship pennant or of even harboring thoughts of baseball in October in Los Angeles. And that’s too bad.

... It’s the right time for the Dodger front office to acknowledge the significant Jewish fan base in Los Angeles and make plans to consistently link us up with a kosher product that we can put in a bun of our own — every game, not just on Jewish Community Night.

I can not only sympathize with Steve, I second the notion. Many years ago as a tike, at a school fair I wolfed down a regular hot dog of some uncertain pedigree. Later that evening, my stomach rejected it in colorful, bile-laden glory, leaving me feeling quite the worse for it. Ever since that discovery, I've found I can't eat conventional hot dogs without feeling extremely queasy, and in fact prefer kosher dogs. Dodger Dogs are fine, but as they say, not quite what they used ta be. As I'm a client for any gustatory improvement, I relish the idea and give it my hearty approval.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Invincible No More?

It's hard to see clearly this early in the season -- there just aren't enough innings yet. But my Dodger-sense is whispering: Gagné isn't the same guy who took the mound last year or even the year before. His K/9 is down -- way down -- from last year's 14.98, only posting 8.31 so far this year. This is consistent with my memory of recent games he's pitched: getting a lot more flyballs and ground outs, and few -- compared to last year -- strikeouts. That's only good enough for third on the team, after Sanchez and Perez. And again tonight: a four-out outing, and nary a strikeout.

Dodger fans are often quick to mention steroids in conjunction with Barry Bonds. Though I hesitate to say it -- could Gagné be settling back to earth after a superhuman ride with performance enhancing drugs?


Pickoff Moves

Rocky Mountain Lie

Via Will Carroll, a great piece in Slate about why the Rocks are so awful, blaming altitude obsession -- which spawned that infamous humidor as well as poor spending habits (uh, Arte, are you listening?)-- and an inability to discern from real talent for their failures. A good read.

OT: In The CD Player

At work, at least, for months, on and off: Tift Merritt's "Bramble Rose". I haven't encountered a singer-songwriter who came out as strongly and fully-formed since... oh, Carole King? Fantastic alt-country chops with a voice to die for.

Prior Throwing On The Mound

I forgot to mention that Mark Prior is throwing off the mound, though there's still no official timetable for his return. Will Caroll in yesterday's BP "Under the Knife" column estimates "between four and six weeks to get ready once the Achilles tendon is asymptomatic" (emphasis mine). Dusty, start thinking about why and how you can get your top guys off BP's pitcher abuse points leaderboard.

Grudz Down

For those few who still wish we had kept Grudzielanek, in that same BP column, it looks like the man with the unspellable name is out for three weeks with a frayed Achilles tendon. I, for one, liked the Grudz/Karros/Hundley trade; it dragged out the pain for the Dodgers, but it took two bad contracts off the team's hands, and in a less pitcher-friendly park, Grudz actually blossomed.

Dodgers Bash Wells, Padres, 11-4

One of the problems of covering two teams is that sometimes you miss good games -- like last night's 11-4 victory over the Pads at Petco. Wells wasn't sharp, it seems, but Ishii was, going into the seventh inning for the first time in memory; his tank usually runs out at five or six innings. But the big story was Green going 4-4 with a walk -- an OBP of 1.000 -- and two doubles. He's the most overpaid doubles hitter in the league, but at least he's still productive. Having Bradley in the lineup seems to have added life to him. And heck, even Duaner Sanchez -- I'm still giggling about that name -- got an inning in with no harm done.

New MLB.com Stuff

I've already commented in passing about the changes to MLB.com's Gameday product (which still doesn't work on the Mac, grumble, grumble). But has anyone noticed the new improved player biographies? Typically, the Dodgers and Angels both pay attention to this, but it has been spotty for other teams; no more. Here's the bio for Encarnacion, containing recent news, splits-at-a-glance, a last-ten-games summary, fantasy comparisons, expanded stats, and more. The jury's still out on the home page slideshow, though; it's kind of distracting when you're trying to find a particular story.

Daily News: Bott To The Reds?

This has got to be a typo:
This time, the Reds got minor-league left-hander Glenn Bott, who was assigned to Double-A Jacksonville (Fla.) and not added to the 40-man roster. That was the key, because Looper was taking up a 40-man spot and had to be designated for assignment on opening day when the Reds purchased the contracts of spring training invitees Jose Lima, Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz.
Huh? Nothing about that on Transaction Guy, to whose site I added a link today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Repeat After Me: An Ugly Win Is Still A Win

The great thing about ugly is its diversity. For instance, here's a new kinda ugly I came across today, the 10 worst album covers of all time. Then there's James Lileks' discoveries in the cookbooks of yore, The Gallery of Regrettable Food. As a kid growing up in the 60's, I can vouch that my mom not only made dinner from some of these recipes, but they actually looked like the pictures included therein. It's a wonder I didn't run away to become some kind of skinny aesthete who only eats tofu and string beans.

And then there's tonight's game.

Let's face it: Ortiz is never going to be anything beyond a number four. Four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings? At this rate, I'll be happy if he gets his ERA below 5.00. While it wasn't a blowout, this is beginning to look like the upper limit of Ortiz's ability. Fortunately, he managed to get reasonable run support, even though he gave up a two-run tater -- would it be an Ortiz outing without one? Ask for the opposition's ball in the stands -- it's the Ramon Ortiz sign of quality! But all carping aside, the offense didn't stink for most of the game, considering the team was up against historic Angel-killer Freddy Garcia.

If there was any theme to this game, though, it had to be the Moneyball saw closers are overrated. I would have felt a lot better leaving Frankie in the game, but stupid rules are stupid rules, and in went Flyball Percy. One half-inning later, the M's tied it up, 5-5. Mercifully, the Mariners' bullpen obliged us in return and coughed up a walk to Guerrero and two stolen bases to Figgy. Inbetween, Myers managed to peg Guillen on the same damn hand he got hit on earlier in the season. Expect fireworks tomorrow if Guillen's still in the lineup. Jeffy sent one deep to Ichiro!, who, arm or no, wasn't able to keep up with DeChone's legs, and the Angels won, 6-5.

A few additional thoughts:

Update: corrected Ramon's and Ersty's numbers after the box score was finally published.

Bonds To Retire This Year?

Thanks to Baseball Primer's "Clutch Hits" column for this link: ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe interviewed Barry Bonds recently, with Sutcliff surmising Bonds might retire this year if his career numbers surpass Babe Ruth's:
Joey, Nj: Do you think Barry could possibly reach the Hammer by the end of next season?

Rick Sutcliffe: I had a long talk with him on Opening Day. We talked for about 30 minutes and we ran some of it on TV. The feeling I get is he will pass Babe Ruth and go to the house. If he passes Ruth this year, I'd be suprised if he came back next year. I sensed he had a void in his life. He doesn't like being away from his kids. He felt that void growing up. He knows his kids feel the same thing. I think he'll be happy with No. 2. That's what Clemens is doing now. Along with playing at home and all the consessions the Astros made, he wanted to be No. 2 behind Nolan Ryan and I have no doubt he will do that this year.


Jackson Shelled in Vegas, Chased After 4 1/3

Edwin Jackson proved he still has a few things to learn, getting shelled for eight hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work, including a grand slam to the Tacoma Raniers. Word is José Lima will replace him in the rotation starting this weekend. Okaaayyy...

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Mariners 5, Angels 7

Despite a less-than-brilliant performance, Escobar managed to keep the team in it. Anderson celebrated signing a one-sided contract by going 0-4 with no walks and no RBIs. Shields pitched his way into and out of a jam, but no harm was done, and he managed to pick up the win as well. Erstad went 3-3 with a walk -- boosting his average to .270 -- and even slumping Salmon collected a hit and an RBI, though he did look lost in right field. Guillen smacked a double down the third base line and drove in the winning runs. Heck, even Percy had a good night, retiring all three batters faced (albeit on a remarkably large number of pitches). But the crowning moment in tonight's game had to go to Benjie, who slammed one into the Angels' bullpen to tie the game in the sixth.

Final score, Mariners 5, Angels 7.


Shaft Resigned

The man Athletics Nation calls the "Shaft of baseball" has been resigned for four years with a club option for a fifth. No doubt but this will be a hefty contract, one Purgatory Online estimates is around $11-$13M/year. Here at 6-4-2, we take this as good news that the aliens have returned him, and hopefully none the worse for wear. Thanks for the link, Sean!

Update: on the money, $48M over four years. That's one heck of a big gamble.

Update: The more I think about this, the less I like the deal. GA took advantage of Arte's neck-sticking and got far more in dollars and years than he should have been given. What this comes down to is Stoneman betting that the 37-year-old version of Anderson will hit as well as the 32-year-old version. It's about as bad as the Salmon deal, and will be coincident with it for a couple years. PECOTA (subscription required) projects Anderson to take a substantial dip in value starting this year, with an eye-popping 36.4% collapse rate this year alone. Many of his comps (Tony Oliva 1972, Joe Pepitone 1972, Ted Kluszewski 1956, George Bell 1991, Orlando Cepeda 1969, and Dante Bichette 1995) started or were in the midst of substantial declines. It looks startlingly like another move based more on sentiment than sense. The major caveat with PECOTA is that Anderson only picks up 35 comps, so as crystal balls go, it's a pretty foggy one. Chalk it up to Stoneman's inability to discern from career years, a flaw that got Scott Spiezio resigned as a starting first baseman in 2003.

Update yet again: U.S.S. Mariner agrees with me, and even goes so far as to say Arte could prove to be another Tom Hicks. All that, of course, predicated on PECOTA's accuracy. For sure, I wouldn't have given GA that much dough for that many years.


Pickoff Moves

Weaver = Brown?

Does Baseball Prospectus like the Dodgers' chances this year? Well, maybe. The magazine seems to have a bad case of schizophrenia. One day, they're picking them to finish fourth, and the next they're heaping praise on Paul DePodesta for picking up outfielder/petty criminal Milton Bradley. (As usual, some or all of these links require a BP subscription.) While BP hasn't recalibrated their standings, the news is mostly good on the Dodgers' chances, with Hideo Nomo remaining a big question mark. Joe Sheehan is even more optimistic (Nomo aside), declaring Weaver might be Brown's equal this year:
Jeff Weaver, Dodgers. Part hunch, part context, and his brutal spring doesn't make me feel any better about this selection. While Kevin Brown is the better pitcher of the two, much of the differences between the ERAs of Weaver and Brown last year was context: ballpark, league and defense. You can't make a more extreme move right now than going from Yankee Stadium and their middle infield to Dodger Stadium and theirs. That alone moves the two pitchers to within a run of ERA of each other. I think Weaver takes advantage of the context to get his command back, and ends up having comparable value--within a win, in Support-Neutral or VORP terms--of Brown.
I like Weaver's chances to improve, but I'm not that convinced. As I said earlier, he looks to improve a lot, but a 4.07 ERA is nothing like Kevin Brown's nasty sub-3.00's he regularly posts when healthy. Still, it didn't hurt that his first outing ended in the "W" column.

"Party Arte" All Business

In case you missed it, today's Times carries an article about the Angels under Arte Moreno. Arte's clearly got a game plan: winning breeds financial success. Whether he can pull that off with an unimaginative GM remains to be seen, but he's got a long way to go. TV revenue still "lags far behind the Dodgers'", but this could merely be the prelude to something I've speculated on previously, the opening of a new cable channel:
The Angels' contract with Channel 9 expires next year, and the contract with Fox Sports Net expires in 2008. The Fox contracts with the Lakers, Mighty Ducks and Clippers all expire by 2008, and the Angels have considered the possibility of starting their own cable channel — or threatening to — in partnership with other local pro teams. Disney lost interest in owning the Angels and Ducks after its plans for an ESPN West cable channel collapsed.

"We are exploring everything," Moreno said. "There are some great teams in L.A. You've got showtime there."

And HBO, and Cinemax, etc. The point is, even if this year is less-than-stellar, Arte could spin off his own cable network four years from now, something the Dodgers won't be able to do for years.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bott to the Looper

The Dodgers traded minor league prospect RHP Aaron Looper back to Seattle for LHP Glen Bott.
Bott, a 22-year-old left-hander, was 7-7 with a 3.16 ERA, 143 strikeouts and 38 walks last year at Single-A. He will report to the Dodgers' Double-A Jacksonville club.
Mariners Wheelhouse has a bit more on this trade, saying that this makes things more even, though I disagree; getting Ketchner was a steal, and if Bott's K/BB ratio is 3.76, I'll take that as a huge positive, even though he's untested above single-A. Score another one for DePodesta.

Angels 6, Rangers 7

Bottom of the 3rd

This game is pure vivisection. Wash is shaky against this lineup, not a big surprise; he hasn't had a 1-2-3 inning yet. Colby Lewis is worse, with hideous control problems, but the Angels' offense isn't taking advantage. All tied, 2-2, but the Rangers are outhitting us, 5-2. Wash loses confidence, tries to make a buncha pickoffs with Soriano at first and Teixeira at the plate. Pitch, already. One bona fide strikeout and a popup to Erstad later, the inning's over.

Top of the 4th

Halter unexpectedly doubles, and Molina dribbles him in on a weakly hit single. Molina's batting ninth? Kennedy's moved up to the seven hole. Note to MLB.com: please... fix... Gameday... The batter view is wrong about a quarter of the time, so it looks like Eckstein flied out to center, when it was really Erstad. Man, the E-team is definitely not an E-ticket so far this year -- at least, Ersty isn't.

Top of the 5th

After an uneventful bottom of the third -- good for Wash for finally collecting another K -- Vlad grounds out, but then GA strokes one into center for a single, and Guillen walks. The charge that he's a free swinger is a strong one, so it's nice to see him get a free pass, especially against a pitcher as shaky as Lewis. Grr. Salmon flies out. C'mon, AK, do something. Please to note, "something" does not equal "popping up to the shortstop". Grr.

Bottom of the 6th

Wash gets shaky, and now Blalock singles in two. Enter Osama Ben Weber, with a predictable result: Fullmer clears the bases with a double. Note to self: see if we can get Weber listed in FAA's TIA system so we won't see him in road games. Ha, ha, Brad, very funny. The ironic part is we would be better off having kept him (at 1B, anyway), not signing Guillen, and leave Erstad at center. Oh well. Those uncashed baserunners in the early innings are starting to look expensive now.

Top of the 8th

Angels get on base, Shane Halter (subbing for Troy Glaus, who "tweaked a hamstring" in the wet infield running the bases Sunday) drives one in. 7-4.

Top of the 9th

You call that a closer? But, close it he does, even after two runs score. Final score, 7-6.


I want a recount. I want better pitching. Wash did okay -- by his usual nailbiter flyballer standards -- until he ran out of gas in the sixth, but the team has too much invested in guys who aren't enough at their positions, whether on the mound, at the plate, or in the outfield. CoTL observes -- again, read into this at your own risk because of sample size issues -- that the Angels are dead last in the majors in fielded fly ball percentages. I agree with him that if there are in fact defensive problems in centerfield, that will not be recognized and/or dealt with. But it's been obvious to anyone watching the games: Anderson is overmatched in centerfield.

National Disgrace, Part 2

I hate the X-Nation sobriquet. It speaks of chutzpah to me, and the idiot fan's pathetic, hyperinflated sense of collective self.

It started with the Red Sox, who, as far as I am concerned, may keep it for their own.

It moved on, thanks to Frank's greasy ownership, to the Dodgers, though mercifully the expression has not found wide currency of yet. Now, improbably, the Yankees have become infected with this peculiar disease. The latest superstar du jour, ex-Dodger Bubba Crosby, has become an instant hit in his last several at bats, slamming a three run shot out of the park and holding on to a win for Mike Mussina, as well as making a number of sterling defensive plays. These were skills he never displayed in Chavez Ravine. Crosby, moved in the Ventura trade, may have given Yankee fans quite the thrill, the throng at the Bronx being unaccustomed to actual rookies. What many may not realize is they may have also unwittingly witnessed Bubba's best half-dozen or so at bats of his career. While I'm quite happy for Crosby -- who, had he failed, would no doubt find himself on the business end of New York's heavy flensing machinery -- also bears the burden of, for the first time to my memory, appearing coincidentally with the expression "Yankee Nation":

"I'm sure [Steinbrenner] knows everything that's going on," Crosby said. "I haven't really met him other than to shake his hand the other day. But I'm sure he knows there's a Bubba on this team."

All of Yankee Nation knows now, and if Bubba still has to go when Lee is activated, we know something else too: He'll be leaving us dirty.

The curse spreads, and so now we know that it is the Orioles' or the Blue Jays' year. But, whoever it may be, please, let us hear of this abomination no more.

For The Angels, Is It "Wait 'Til Next Year", Already?

Over at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, columnist Bob Keisser is already thinking about next year, and in particular, the meaning of the horrible outings against Texas had by Lackey, Ortiz, and Sele:
The back of the pitching staff was ripped by Texas' lively bats and lively ball park, which just proves you can never have too much pitching. I'm confident Mike Scioscia and Bud Black will get something out of the Ramon Ortiz-John Lackey- Aaron Sele mix, and maybe add a prospect like Bobby Jenks around mid-season.

The big worry for Angel fans is the prospect of Arte Moreno having to settle on signing one of their two stars eligible for free agency next season, Troy Glaus and Garret Anderson. They're both indispensable, but having spent heavily in the offseason, he may have only enough payroll for one.

Such has been theorized previously. No matter how much of a fan an owner appears to be, they usually -- unless the owner in question is George Steinbrenner -- have limits to their spending. (Sometimes the limits are ridiculously low, as in the case of the Devil Rays.) There's no way of knowing what Arte's real payroll ceiling is, but a closer analysis certainly indicates that both Sele and Appier -- yes, Kevin Appier is still on the payroll in 2004 -- will be gone next year. That's a total of $20 million right there. Arte's already spent a lot of that money on Vlad, Colón and Escobar -- more than that, in fact. In 2004, he'll spend $14M for Vlad and Colón, and $6.25M for Escobar, or $34.25M on three players.

Sele we know is done, or likely so; it's possible we could get a final year out of him before he completely falls apart. But Ortiz has had chance after chance, and still isn't reliably producing, and of course has Agegate issues as well. Both have declining K/9 rates; both posted career lows, Sele 3.92 and Ortiz 4.70, last year. And then there's Lackey, whose excuse of having a sophomore slump ran out last year. If the team has to replace Sele, Ortiz, and possibly Lackey by the end of the year, Arte's wallet could indeed be tapped already. Combined with the near certainty of Darin Erstad having an unproductive year at the plate, and the strong possibility that Salmon will also, that's a lot of hitting to replace. If Baseball Prospectus is right and the Angels finish third, the team will have spent a lot of money for nothing -- and won't have enough in the farm to fix either the rotation or the DH position any time soon. Jenks might be able to help this year, but you certainly can't count on rookies to pull a Fernando Valenzuela.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

It's Official: Ellis Out, Maybe Over

The A's, despite a long denial, have finally admitted Mark Ellis' season is over. Athletics Nation speculates his career as an A might be over, too, though Tyler doesn't say why. I saw the collision in spring training that sent him down, which seemed to me to be essentially preventable. There's speculation he could end up a Dodger; from that point of view, we here at 6-4-2 wish him a speedy, but not-too-speedy, recovery.

The Las Vegas Expos?

Yeah, you heard it right. Doug Pappas in Business of Baseball passes on a Bud Selig interview indicating just how desperate MLB is to unload the Expos: they're seriously considering gambling mecca Las Vegas:
"They've been aggressive," Selig said of the Vegas suitors.

Could baseball put a team in a city dominated by the gambling industry?

"I was raised in an era when it wouldn't have been plausible," Selig said, "but the fact of the matter is gambling is legal most everywhere today. There are a whole lot of hurdles out there, but Las Vegas is a viable consideration. Thirty years ago, we would have automatically eliminated them. It's different now. No decision has been made, but they are being very aggressive."

What might that mean for the Dodgers' 51's? Considering the big club has pressured the city to make substantial improvements to Cashman Field, it might make sense for Vegas city fathers to take the next step and move the Expos into town. The Dodgers would then have to find another AAA home, something that might end up a positive, considering the enormous disconnect between their major league park and their minors. (You can read more on this in this Futility Infielder article and here in Mariners Wheelhouse.)

On the other hand, it could just be a bargaining ploy to get Washington to pony up. That would be odd, considering the recent news that Washington, D.C. has proposed a $340 million publically financed stadium.


Pickoff Moves

Prior May Need Tommy John Surgery?

While normally this blog covers the Dodgers and Angels, I do have a rooting interest by marriage in the Cubs. The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports a rumor that Mark Prior may require Tommy John surgery thanks to Dusty's overuse of him. This would pretty much put their hopes of winning the division, let alone getting into the World Series, at an end. It also comes as something of a surprise, because as recently as April 6th, Will Carroll's "Under the Knife" column for Baseball Prospectus said he was playing catch in Cincinnati. Prior started the season on the 15-day DL and is not expected to be available until May.

Lenny Harris To Hang 'Em Up

Longtime pinch hitter Lenny Harris is calling it a career after this year. His goal is to get 19 pinch hits, which will get him 200 over his career.

Dayn Perry Vets DePoDodgers

Dayn Perry in his April 9th column (subscription required) vets the Dodgers' recent pickups. He continues to make the common wrong assumption about the team's cash flow ("cash to the Dodgers is like dog hair on dark shirts to me: more at my disposal than I know what to do with"), which still makes me wonder whether he's paying attention to anything outside his immediate field of expertise. But his takes on the player trades jibe well with my own ("All six deals, from the L.A. perspective, range from tremendous to patently sensible"), especially the Ketchner acquisition ("you don't pass up an opportunity to grab a flipper like Ketchner for almost nothing"). The big surprise to me was the Cody Ross deal; I thought it was nothing special, but Perry writes that
This deal and the [Ketchner deal] are the ones that hew closest to the status of thievery probably addressed somewhere in the Patriot Act. In Colyer, DePo surrendered a fairly vanilla minor league reliever with sub-optimal control. What they got was a 23-year-old center fielder who slugged .507 in Double-A and .515 in Triple-A. The downside is that Ross tore his ACL late last season, but he's young enough to rebound without it hurting his baseball chops much.
Good stuff, and nice to see my own feelings are vindicated.

Roberts Stealing His Way Out Of Town?

Base stealer Dave Roberts has heard Paul DePodesta doesn't like the running game. I have to believe that it's not so much base-stealing but getting caught stealing that is the problem. Dave's success rate is such that I can't imagine him being moved for that, though I can imagine his weak bat and poor OBP being moved for someone with a real bat. He's one of the Dodgers more exciting players to watch, but unfortunately for him, my guess is he's ultimately destined elsewhere.

Corrected Minor League Park Factors

Jeff Nelson at Mariners Wheelhouse wrote me about my article on minor league park factors that
I noted that you also picked up the info on park factors. But when you take a park out of it's league, you need to adjust the park factor for the league in which they play.

Vero Beach is not a hitters park - it's only a hitters park in comparison with the FSL.

Later, he added:
I just about got trapped in it, because I had a whole piece composed about how Gutierrez might not be as good as advertised because he had played half his games in an extreme hitters park at Vero Beach, even though FSL is a pitchers. Then it dawned that not a single park in the FSL has a factor as low as the leage factor. Then I figured out that the the parks are only calibrated within the league.
Ah, good point, Jeff. So let's go back and reconsider those park factors:

 AngelsDodgers
LevelTeamFactorTeamFactor
ACedar Rapid Kernels1001Vero Beach Dodgers987
ARancho Cucamonga Quakes1097Columbus Catfish986
AAArkansas Travelers1164Jacksonville Suns858
AAASalt Lake Stingers1225Las Vegas 51's1083

All the Dodgers parks are pitchers parks -- though in the case of Columbus and Vero Beach, not by very much -- below the AAA level. Conversely, 100% of the Angels' minor league parks are hitter's parks, period. Good stuff, and thanks for that catch, Jeff.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Nomo Shines, Dodgers 7, Rockies 4

Nomo-san pitched well today in a 7-4 win, albeit a bit shakily in the second, when he threw 41 pitches. Beltre slammed another one over the fence, and drove in a run on a sac fly. What bugged me, though, was watching Gagné's performance on the mound. He looked like he was missing his game face, and he just didn't have his A stuff out there tonight, throwing a lot of pitches, and generally with poor command of the strike zone. He gave up a hit, but struck out two anyway. Overall, it made for a wonderful recovery from Nomo's season opener, although the 108 pitches in six innings makes me wonder if his velocity drop isn't going to bug him more as the season wears on.
I mentioned earlier today that the pitching is suspect, and I still cling to that statement. Paul DePodesta, it seems, agrees with me:
The Dodgers got Bradley for their anemic offense. Interestingly, GM Paul DePodesta has indicated to fellow executives he actually doesn't like his rotation either, which was supposed to be a strength. L.A. is spending about $30 million on Darren Dreifort (bumped to the pen), Kaz Ishii (control problems), Hideo Nomo (lost velocity) and Jeff Weaver (good first start off of a horrid spring). It has been so bad DePodesta has offered some hesitancy about moving Odalis Perez, though he is a malcontent in his walk year represented by Scott Boras.

One player DePodesta has revealed he could move that the previous regime would not is elite set-up man Guillermo Mota. The prospect he did move for Bradley, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, was compared to a young Ellis Burks by a scout who watched him all last year in Single-A.

Surprising that, but I suppose middle relievers are a dime a dozen, yes? Or else he's convinced he's got ten of those in the Dodger system just waiting for a chance.

Lackey Lacking in 12-6 Loss

Lackey lived down to my expectations today, getting chased even before the fourth was over. He showed that he's still a journeyman -- or maybe that the season is early -- in today's 12-6 loss to the Rangers. Weber improved on his abysmal Seattle outing earlier in the week, but no matter what happens, he always makes me nervous on the mound -- he never gets strikeouts, just about. Meantime, the offense somehow managed to get slowed down by, of all things, Ranger pitching, and in particular, the Ranger bullpen, most specifically in the person of ex-Mariner, ex-Yankee Jeff Nelson.

Which makes me worried about facing the A's, who have actual pitching. But outside of the marginal pitching, the Angels face two very real problems this year: Tim Salmon's .050 and Erstad's .200 batting averages. Both could very possibly become league average hitters this year.


Dodgers Dipstick, (Almost) One Week In

Ishii pitched a gem last night, for him, anyway, issuing four free passes and four strikeouts in six innings of work while only giving up a single run against a capable hitting lineup. We now know enough about Dodger Stadium to say authoritatively that it's a severe pitcher's park, and at no time more so than April and May when the air is cool and damp at night games. Walk-and-wiggle, as Vin has called him from time to time, benefitted from this, throwing a mess of breaking pitches. Ishii gets a W and the Dodgers streak proceeds to three. My skepticism about the Dodgers' long term chances has not abated any, though. (Neither, as if it needed any reinforcement, has that of Dodger Blues.) Recognizing that it's still early, here's the continued problems: That said, the happy stories:

Friday, April 09, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Who Are You, And What Did You Do With Anderson?

The space aliens have abducted Garrett, as evidenced by this comment in today's Times about the kind of hitter he is:
"I was just trying to keep it simple, hit the ball on a line, be a tough out," said Anderson, a career .294 hitter against left-handers. "I wasn't trying to go deep and be a hero. I'm a leadoff hitter. I need to get on base."
Somewhere on the mother ship, poor GA's getting colorectal probes and having electrodes attached to him in unspeakable places. His doppelgänger apparently forgot that Eckstein's OBP has been better than his two of the last three years, while GA's SLG has been substantially higher than the little guy's over that time. 6-4-2 hopes for a speedy return of the spaceborne Angel.

Live By The Longball...

... die by the longball, three in all for the Rangers. Texas can still hit -- 18 in this game alone! -- A-Rod or no A-Rod. Sele isn't fooling anybody, and neither is headcase Ortiz. Ortiz has steadily become a flyball pitcher, very bad news in a hitter's haven like Arlington, and Sele's never pitched out of the bullpen in his career. The ugly 12-4 final score vindicates the worries I had about the bottom of the rotation, and Lackey, whose taterrific tendencies accelerated last year, might be no better tomorrow.

Last year, we opened the season with a loss to the Rangers. Let's hope it's not an omen.

M's fans, I feel your pain.

Torre Unavailable For Angels Play-By-Play

Joe Torre is unfortunately unavailable to resume his role in the Angels' TV broadcast booth, as he's signed a three year extension with the Yankees to manage that east coast team. But, hey, how cool is it that Steinbrenner's general partner (and son-in-law) is a guy named Swindal?

Closeout!

Say buh bye (at a reduced price, of course) to these bobbleheads:

Richie Sexson as a Brewer bobblehead A-Rod as a Ranger bobblehead Miguel Tejada as an Athletic bobblehead
Richie Sexson as a BrewerA-Rod as a RangerMiguel Tejada as an Athletic

Who buys these things, anyway? I guess I can understand it in a general fan way, but I have a distinct aversion to anything whose principle function is to collect dust. But that's not to say they're completely useless. One of my co-workers (a Dodgers/A's fan -- go figure!) has built a little Tommy shrine:

Tommy Lasorda shrine
Tommy looks upon the good works of acolytes Green, LoDuca, and McGriff

On mane padme hum, on mane padme hum...


Undefeated

We are now as many as five games (for the Yankees and Devil Rays) into the season. The Angels (3-0) and -- amazingly enough -- Tigers (4-0) are the only teams still undefeated. The Brewers, for a fleeting few games, sit atop the NL Central at 3-1, a perch from which they will no doubt be thrust presently. But for an airy moment, the Tigers ride a precarious four-game win streak, and Baseball Musings carries the Detroit Tigers Weblog's author's thoughts on the subject today:
People always care about Opening Day in Detroit. It is an unofficial holiday in an around the city of Detroit. People play hooky from work and school, and start drinking very early in the morning-much like St. Patty's day. Fueled by a 3-0 start this year, the opener wasn't just about the peripheral festivities (drinking). The baseball game on the field actually took on more importance than any of the 7 previous openers I'd attended.
Even the Tigers have something to look forward to, a bit of the thing with feathers. I can't think of anything more cheerful than that on this cloudy morning.

Padres 4, Giants 3

It's always nice to see the Giants lose, and a good thing for the Pads to see them get a win in their home opener in their shiny new ballpark. Last night's game was a doozy, with heartbreakers around each corner. We listened in at home on MLB.com's Gameday Audio while moving furniture back into the house. (We are finally starting to get our life back after painting and reflooring. Hooray!) The Pads came into the ninth with a 1-0 lead, and their ace closer, Trevor Hoffman, to put the nail in -- only he didn't, and the Giants cracked open the lead on a Ray Durham double, score 2-1. The Pads tied it up 2-2 in the ninth against Matt Herges, the Giants' closer-until-further-notice, on a Burroughs single. In the tenth, ex-Dodger Marquis Grissom hit a no-doubter over the fence, nudging the Giants up by one, 3-2. Bonds almost hit one to follow out of the park, too, but Jay Payton nabbed it atop the 7'6" fence. The Pads finally won the game in the 10th on a pair of runs scored on a Miguel Ojeda double and a Shawn Burroughs single. Ducksnorts has a much better summary; and you can read the mlb.com summary here.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Minor League Park Factors

Baseball America today publishes minor league park factors. Here's the rundown for the Angels and Dodgers. Factors are based on 1000 as neutral, higher favoring hitters, lower favoring pitchers.

 AngelsDodgers
LevelTeamFactorTeamFactor
ACedar Rapid Kernels1027Vero Beach Dodgers1102
ARancho Cucamonga Quakes946Columbus Catfish1038
AAArkansas Travelers1097Jacksonville Suns912
AAASalt Lake Stingers1145Las Vegas 51's1012

What's surprising is how the majority of parks in both systems are hitter's parks, though the big surprise is that the so-called hitter's park of Cashman Field -- home of the 51's -- ain't all that. But Jacksonville's home field is a pronounced pitcher's park. Could that be the reason why the Dodgers weren't initially interested in seeing Edwin Jackson go to AAA, in that the lessons he might learn there would be next to useless in the very pitcher-friendly confines of Chavez Ravine? On the other hand, if you can pitch your way out of Salt Lake, you're just about ready for Coors Field. What's interesting to note is that virtually all of the A's minor league parks are pitcher's parks. The question I'd like answered: Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to have your minors' parks play similarly to your home park? The accompanying article seems to indicate that a number of clubs have decided it's an advantage and are moving in that direction, with the Rockies and Braves among them. If the trend continues, it could be very bad news for many of the clubs in the Pacific Coast and California Leagues, as many of those parks are far more extreme than most major league parks.

Factoids:


Comments

Have a time, kids. Haloscan comments at the bottom of this here blog.

More Love From The Press

The daily spleenage aimed at Frank seems to be getting a little press these days. Today's five seconds comes from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, whose Jim Alexander quoted me in a story mostly about Vin Scully (all hail, registration required). Well, thanks, and any time you need some good anti-Frank quotes, just let me know. 6-4-2 is a full-service blog.

Rally Monkey 5, Seattle 1

Wow.

Update: And as if my favorite simian didn't have enough going on, there's a bunch of nice changes over at rallymonkey.com: an enormous photo gallery, game times, standings-at-a-glance, copyright violations from major news media about the Angels, a slightly dysfunctional store, and more. Somebody needs to warn this guy that Rally Monkey now comes with a (tm) afterwards these days.


Bronx Banter Interviews Bill James

Right here. Thanks to Baseball Primer for the link.

King Taco In Angel Stadium!

Will Carroll complained yesterday about his inability to get a good margarita in Indianapolis. Well do I know that feeling. Growing up in California and then doing some extensive job-related traveling in my 20's and 30's, I formulated Rob's Theorem of Mexican Food, namely:
Quality Mexican food can only be had in a state that actually borders Mexico.
Having had simply awful simulacrums in Virginia, Florida, and Germany, I have to admit this has served me well. I'm not above mentioning that I've found exceptions to this rule: I've had solid Tex-Mex in Arkansas -- which is not quite the same thing -- along with some surprisingly underwhelming experiences in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, of all places. I might be willing to take a gamble in, say, Chicago or New York, as both cities are known for their gastronomic refinements, but I would wager against finding quality, cheap taqueria-style food-for-the-masses a la the much missed King Taco, which I discovered long after they left Dodger Stadium.

I came late to the KT party, introduced by a USC alum who still makes lunchtime pilgrimages from our Culver City offices to their downtown locations. Before 2003, they used to have a stand in the cheap seats at Dodger Stadium, with three tacos for $5, an unbeatable deal. I understand they left because Aramark insisted on hiring the employees -- who would of course be unionized -- and that would definitely take away from the profits, as well as the cachét.

Arte, I don't know if you're reading this, but you could do far worse than to put KT upstairs at the Angels games.


... Because He Has A Mother, You Know

jeffweaversmom.com. 'Nuff said.

BTW, congrats to Lil' Jeffy on a successful outing and a series win.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Bat Man!

Pow! Smack! Krrrack! And just like that, it's 6-0, after two and a half... Eck singles, but Erstad GIDPs. Vlad walks... pow! Zam! Anderson smokes one to right center, and it's 8-0! Pinero -- 19.64 ERA? Ow...

Guillen -- get that hand checked, dude. .125? You sure you don't need some time off or something?

Wash looks sharp -- not striking out a lot of guys but getting a bunch of outs. He's only faced 10 batters by the fourth. But -- uh oh. Wash gives up a double to Winn and then he steals third. Boone doubles him home. Wash starting to shake things up a bit. Man, could we use a double play ball... instead he gets a single from Ibanez and a double from Aurilia ... and a bloop RBI single from Wilson. This game erases any doubts about Jarrod's symbiotic relationship with Darin Erstad's legs, iffy though they may be. Now it's Washburn's turn for an embarrassing ERA, 9.82. Oops.

And now Osama Ben Weber comes in to the game, and promptly sets off a bomb that bounces out of the park. You're supposed to give up groundballs, dude, not ground rule doubles. Man, the pitching smelleth; and he walks Dave Hansen. Dude, what are you, some kinda enemy combatant?

Ugh. Ichiro hits one to second but legs it out to prevent a double play. 9-6 -- and before I can finish the sentence, Randy Winn whacks one past Glaus and it's 9-7. And uncharacteristically, Weber strikes out Boone.

High concept: the Cardinals of the AL West?


Pickoff Moves

Stick A Fork In Hundley

Today on MLB.com, Jim Tracy admits Todd Hundley's career is over, despite the $6.5M he's owed this year. He "remains in contact with the [Dodgers] medical staff". Well, that's one albatross gone... next year.

Being Aaron Looper

Poor Aaron Looper. DePodesta thought so little of him that he's being assigned to AAA Las Vegas without so much as a fare-thee-well. The Dodgers have to trade him within ten days or else he has to clear waivers. You'd think if he were tradebait, DePo would've kept him on the 40-man roster. Could Seattle claim him back? Now that would be funny... But seriously, why pick up a guy you'll just let hit the waiver wire within the week? Was it just to strip Seattle of a pitching option, as I suggested earlier? Or is he the PTBNL in the Bradley trade?

Barry Zito's "Ranger-Killer" Rep In Danger

Barry Zito lost to the Rangers yesterday, 2-1, for the first time in his career. He's now 17-1 against the club, though the article doesn't speculate whether this heartbreaking disappointment will prompt him to retire.

Belly On Up To The Supplements, Boys -- Steroids For Everyone!

G. Pascal Zachary in today's issue of Wired News has a rational take on steroid use: regulation rather than prohibition. The fact of the matter is that banning will just cause more and nastier side effects to the game, like any other prohibition:
Imagine a world where performance enhancement was open and regulated. Instead of forcing athletes to sneak through back alleys to stay competitive, sports authorities should admit that drugs are essential - then help athletes cope with the side effects. Once legalized, drug use would still have limits, but they would be established by physicians and athletes - based on their ability to handle performance enhancers. Bad outcomes would be far less frequent if players were not forced to rely on quacks (such as the former Tower of Power bassist at the center of the baseball designer steroid scandal). Innovation in performance enhancers would accelerate in the light of day. There might even be spinoff applications that would benefit you and me.
Zachary admits it's not a perfect scheme, but it's better than the ban-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out attitude pervasive in the game today. George Will, sycophant, in one breath gives a big wet kiss to Commissioner Seligula (" Selig has been -- baseball is a game of inches, but this is not a close call -- the greatest commissioner") and then condones unconstitutional searches as a justification for steroid testing!
The parenthesis opened in the 1990s. It must be closed to remove the cloud of suspicion that hovers over all players. Americans standing in stockings while their shoes and luggage are X-rayed at airports doubt that privacy considerations should prevent random, year-round testing, backed by serious sanctions, for illegal drugs that traduce baseball's integrity.
Oh, got it. Look, George, why don't you just make it official by changing parties to one more naturally aligned to your thinking. Or, what part of
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
did you not understand?

Marry In Haste, Repent At Leisure

If newly discovered slugger José Molina, and renewed third baseman Troy Glaus look to crush every ball within a couple feet of the plate, the surprises were Vlad "only" going 1-4 with a walk, and Erstad 1-5. (Salmon went 0-5, but has historically not hit Moyer well, with a .215 career average.) While a lot has been written about Ersty's lack of offense (his principle value is his CF glove), what bugs me is Stoneman's insistance on writing contracts like Erstad's in the first place. Sure, he had a great 2000, but with more bad offensive seasons than good, the former first-round, first-overall draft pick now looks to be pretty close to an average player -- that is, an expensive bust anywhere but centerfield. I'll put it this way: I haven't seen Stoneman make the kinds of moves that Paul DePodesta has made lately, ones where you say to yourself, yeah, we just rooked those guys. Stoneman's likely to hand out contracts for sentimental reasons, which isn't a good idea if your object is to win. The problem I've had with McCourt is that he acquired the team as a kind of Christmas present from Bud Selig, who wants to see a fiscally hamstrung Dodgers, and from News Corp, who wanted to keep the Fox Sports West networks. While it's better to be smart and rich, DePodesta is showing himself to be at least smart.

In the end, the ability to recognize and properly reward talent will be far more important than the current roster. My basis for judging DePodesta is based on a small sample size, to be sure, but one that gives me some comfort level. Stoneman's lack of imagination gives me pause. Shouldn't he have had some kind of "in" with Javier Vazquez, given that they both worked for the same organization once upon a time? Sure, Vlad was a nice pick up, but the way the story's told, his acquisition was an accident. If there's any contract the Angels may live to regret, it just might be the four-year extension of Stoneman's contract as GM.

Update: thanks to those writing to remind me that Erstad's contract was negotiated mid-year rather than after the Series.


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.


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