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Monday, January 31, 2005

Pickoff Moves

I Want My MLB TV

... but in the lapse of the regular season, all I have is the Caribbean World Series -- which of course is on Fox En Español, which I do not get. And the radio broadcasts, of course, are on KHJ, which we cannot understand. Now, you'd think, given the hockey strike, that some of the sports channels might be looking for content they could repackage. And with so many Latin players in these games who also play in the North American majors, you'd think they could get some English speaking broadcaster down there ... but I'm dreaming. The NHL would fight it, and MLB wouldn't want to encourage its star players to engage in potentially damaging winter league ball.

15 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Dodgers End Voluntary Seismic Refit

Steve Henson reports that the Dodgers have terminated a quiet, voluntary seismic refit done under News Corp. The $16M refit, which started in 1999, "is not necessary", according to Dodger Vice President Howard Sunkin. The retrofit was started after new studies in 1998 identified a pair of faults running under Dodger Stadium. The stadium sits atop bedrock, making it safer than some nearby buildings downtown.

Dodgers Win Nakamura Negotiation Rights

The Dodgers have won negotiation rights to Japanese 3B Norihiro Nakamura. Bob Timmerman in the comments section of Jon's column on Nakamura said the Buffaloes' home park is very hitter-friendly, but this three-year-old Baseball Prospectus column has it as being neutral to very pitcher-friendly in 2000-2001. " Nakamura, 31, is expected to be offered a minor league contract with a guaranteed salary if he makes the Dodgers."

Some Love For Ross Porter

Best Southern California Radio Play-by-Play man:
For now, it won't include the Dodgers, not even for a night. They have asked if he would come to a game, where they would honor his 28 years with them. Porter shook his head slowly. No noise. No spotlight.

"I really think we're past that," he said. "I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. That's over. We will just go on."

Doug Miller Twists The Knife

What ever happened to the Angels first-round pick in 2003, Brandon Wood? Is he still with the organization? -- Steve C., Arizona

Steve, Brandon Wood is most definitely still with the organization and is still viewed as a potential big league star at shortstop. Wood spent the entire 2004 season at Cedar Rapids and hit .251 with 11 homers, 64 RBIs, 65 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. Expect him to begin 2005 there or with Rancho Cucamonga.

So, naturally, the Angels went out and blocked him by signing Orlando Cabrera for four years. Oy, vey.

Angels Calendar

Belatedly, I got an Angels calendar this year (usually I end up getting two calendars as Christmas gifts, but not this time around). It's hard to put much into the guys they put on the months, but noteworthy for huh? factor is Jose Guillen (November) and Troy Percival (December) for the obviousness of their not likely to be around, with a special honorable mention for David Eckstein (March), who did not receive a new contract in 2005. Helen reminds me it could be worse: the Cubs' calendar has Nerf-hitting Alex Gonzalez, traded to the Expos -- last July.

Answering The Curse Of Gaven

At U.S.S. Mariner, DMZ pens a poison hate letter to Walter O'Malley over what he calls the "Curse of Gaven":
It’s almost too bad that the Dodgers have done well since they moved from Brooklyn in one of the more craven line items in the ledger of treachery by baseball teams. A New York sportswriter covering the Dodgers named Mike Gaven fell ill at the ball park and later died. Gaven said “Well, at least I covered the Dodgers when they were a great team. They’ll never be that great again.” Dick Young wrote an eloquent piece for the New York Daily News that ran the day Gaven died, in which he talked about how the team, having turned on their home, turned also on the sportswriters long close to the team favoring the sycophantic Los Angeles press “who are writing the kind of stories that will sell tickets where tickets are being sold", and Young’s opinion that it was those small wounds that brought down and killed Gaven.
My initial, bombastic reaction at reading this:
  1. O'Malley isn't the evil ogre he was portrayed to be. I don't deny the effect of what he did to Brooklyn, but at the same time, you can look up the attendance figures as well as I can; they drew a million six in 1949 in a ballpark with a capacity of 32,000 a game (theoretical capacity over a 154-game season, 2.5M*) and never again came close. Moving the club was a necessity; the neighborhood was becoming dirty and decrepit. People simply stopped coming to the games.
  2. With regards to the team favoring the local Los Angeles press, what, exactly, did he expect? Of course the Dodgers were interested in using the press to help them sell "tickets where tickets were being sold". Is it any different in Seattle now?
  3. Certainly, somebody would have come out west, and given the way things were, it was likely to be at least one of the New York NL teams. Both had aging stadiums in declining neighborhoods. Unlike the clubs with newer stadiums designed for automobile traffic, neither could pocket parking revenues in addition to the gate.
  4. O'Malley, who pretty much felt he could do anything he wanted to after the 1955 title and 1956 pennant, was aghast that Brooklyn wouldn't pony up (and badly misunderstood his ability to get things done within the borough). Moving certainly wasn't a first resort; he had in mind expansion elsewhere in Brooklyn, but building his franchise came first, before even the fans.
  5. Finally: this is merely an opinion, but given how conservative baseball has been, I think it has at least the ring of truth to it: Seattle does not have a major league team unless the Dodgers and Giants -- or name two other teams -- first get started in California. They were the logical precedent to all else that followed.
There. I've got that out of my system.
*Oops. Yes, that's perfectly right, 77 games, not 154.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Burden Of Not Being Walter O'Malley

I get to things late. It's often the case that I take a shine to a song or a band months and even years after they've been in heavy rotation on the radio; sometimes, I fall in love even after the band breaks up. So with my reading, too; I got for Christmas the most excellent gift of Glenn Stout's The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodgers Baseball. In it, Howard Bryant has a six-page diversion about the post-1988 Dodgers, entitled "Has Anybody Seen The Dodgers?" Bryant makes a lot of points that strike me as germane to this offseason, one in particular:
Schoolchildren learn the Pledge of Allegiance, memorizing it without knowing much of what it means or its origins, and are as likely as unwitting about learning naked capitalism from the Yankees, but it is the Dodgers, not the U.S. Steel Yankees, who get taught in American history classes. Students might not know the origin of the name Brooklyn (it's Dutch!), but they know where the end of baseball apartheid took place. They know Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers and was the first black player in the major leagues as surely as they know Washington crossed the Delaware.

... In the American League, on the East Coast, the West Coast Dodgers were always present, representing that shadowy, foreign National League, because they always won, which meant they were always on TV in a time when being on TV mattered (everybody is on TV today). They were the personality of that league in the 1950s, the '60s (along with the Cardinals), the '70s, and the '80s (along with the Cardinals -- a theme is emerging here). They were the Anti-Yankees, clean-shaven Good Guys. They were identifiable by the little fat guy named Lasorda, who, like Los Angeles, fooled everybody.

When power is considered today, it is done so under the rubric of names like Steinbrenner and Selig, but baseball didn't move unless O'Malley offered an affirmative nod. He was kingmaker and puppet master. Robinson provided the Dodgers the moral plane, O'Malley the biceps.

Which brings us to Frank. I have thus far stayed away from a one-year review of the Dodgers under McCourt, unlike Jon -- who almost immediately (the next day, in fact) seems to have had second thoughts about drawing conclusions. You all know -- or should know, if you read my sidebar links -- my disposition and motivations for running this blog stemmed largely from my itch to see Frank the usurper, Frank the indebted get run out of town as soon as possible. With rumors a-swirl prior to (and even well after) the acquisition of the team about his financial situation, and the sale of the team set to look like a gift from Bud Selig to the other National League owners, the Dodger legacy seemed on the precipice.

Jon listed the positives and negatives associated with Frank's ownership thus far, but I know what we really want. We want the National League's answer to the Yankees back in Chavez Ravine, the teams of the 70's and 80's that, between 1974 and 1988, won seven division titles, five pennants, and two World Series.

So, unspoken in that wish is the desire to have a forceful owner of vision running the team. That is, we want Walter O'Malley back.

While Bryant, a journalist formerly working for the San Jose Mercury News, might see O'Malley as perhaps a bit more powerful than he actually was, neither was he terribly far from the mark, either. O'Malley had bigger dreams than the borough of Brooklyn would invest in, and on making good on his threat to leave, he spawned a generation of haters. That is, his interest was building the franchise first, and if the fans became an impediment, they were ultimately expendable. Los Angeles Dodgers fans could do well to remember that, too.

Walter O'Malley was larger than life, Peter merely a caretaker of his legacy. Marvin Miller, the former MLBPA chief, said of Peter, "His father was unusual. And he is not." So where does McCourt rank alongside the two? His early behavior is discouraging: Frank dissembles and evades, running from public scrutiny like a thief before the cops, provoking ill-feeling among Dodger fans who expect gods, not petty criminals, in the owner's box. It's far too early to tell which we have; the odds favor the latter, but making good on his payroll promises bodes well, as does his hiring of the mostly capable (but still learning the ropes) Paul DePodesta as GM.

Watch and wait. It's all we can do.

El Ladrón Hace El Gordo

Thanks to Raul for passing along a picture that originally appeared in full in this Diario Libre story; apparently, Bartolo continues to gain weight and hasn't been working out at all this offseason. Raul says "he looks like a softball player, his belly looks like is going to blowout his uniform and the letters will explode with every movement he makes, I think weight problems will shorten his career." A lot of pitchers carry around extra weight to no ill effect (e.g. Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and toward the end of his career, Nolan Ryan), but Colon hasn't shown himself worthy of the contract he's been given with the Angels, so the extra weight is a legitimate concern. If the Angels feign ignorance of his play in the Dominican, perhaps they can also feign ignorance when he shows up at camp yet another 20 lbs heavier. But hey, at least the Aguilas won...El Ladrón puts on a few pounds

More On Vero Beach GM Emily Christy

A couple weeks ago, Steve Henson of the Times wrote about Emily Christy, the woman now general managing (is that a verb?) the Dodgers' Vero Beach operation. (Jon, of course, already blogged about it.) Now, a slightly different story on this from the Boston Globe, in which we discover she's got a rather impressive resume: "History major at Princeton, class of 1998. Dabbled in law, working as a paralegal for the district attorney in New York City and a private law firm. Went back to school at Georgetown to take some classes she needed for med school. Opted instead for a job in an MIT lab doing cancer genetics research, while helping to run the New England Women's Baseball League, in which she also played." It never hurts to have smart people all along the way, and the more, the merrier.

Chronicles Rates Shortstops By Runs Prevented

Based on a post by David Pinto, Chronicles adds an interesting dimention to his shortstop ratings by converting his probabilistic fielding range to runs prevented per 4000 balls in play using Chris Dial's method. Cesar Izturis is healthily above the middle of the pack at +11.9, and Orlando Cabrera is at +3.12. The method vindicates the Eckstein haters by placing his defense near the bottom of the starters in the majors at -21.3, right next to the surprisingly bad Nomar Garciaparra, second worst in the majors at -23.5.

Administrivia: Happy First Birthday

This blog is exactly one year old on Thursday. Neatly enough, I expect the user counter will tick over 100,000 about the same time. Thanks to everyone who showed up and made this site the success, limited though it is. It's been a lot of fun, and I hope to keep it that way, McCourt or no, LAAoA or no.

Angels And Weaver Sittin' In A Tree

Rich reports "two unrelated but reliable sources" say Jered Weaver will sign with the Angels "any day now".

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Hendry's Ball And Chain

Save us from the ball and chain,
Save us from the ball and chain,
Save us from the ball and chain,
oh yeah,
The diggers and the tower cranes,
The diggers and the tower cranes.

Don't want demolition,
Don't want your compensation,
It's not just bricks and mortar,
We are lambs to slaughter.

-- "Ball And Chain", Colin Moulding, XTC
Even though the Cubs are semi-officially denying it, the Cubs' long association with Sammy Sosa looks about to end, and in the morning, we have a better idea of what they're getting in return.
20042005 PECOTA
Sammy Sosa478.253/.332/.51727.936385.259/.351/.51325.3
Jerry Hairston, Jr.287.303/.378/.39713.828298.274/.348/.37612.8
Clearly, Sammy's in the decline phase of his career, but Hendry's move here is a puzzler: why give up the final year of a first-ballot Hall of Famer for a guy who's only had two seasons playing more than 100 games in his career? Sure, Hairston, Jr. is younger, but at 28, isn't it a bit late to be hoping for a breakout season -- along with an extended bout of health? Moreover, Hairston, a converted second baseman, hits like a middle infielder, too -- only once in his career has his SLG topped .400. Given the Cubs already signed Todd Walker, why do you do this? In right, Hairston is at best a fourth outfielder. As with Sammy, Hairston doesn't have any particular troubles hitting either lefties or righties, so there's no platoon issues there, either.

The other two pickups weren't so enticing, either:

So, why unload Sammy for this stew of uninspiring players, two out of a farm system that's been one of the worst in the majors for years? I don't know. Getting younger should also mean getting better, but this deal doesn't do that. On the other hand, Sosa nears retirement; if getting any deal for him was a Hendry goal, mission accomplished, but why do it? If the Cubs no longer worship at the temple of veteran presence, neither have they accomplished much besides declaring their unfitness to compete in 2005. Those hoping for a Wrigley sequel to Boston's 2004 cursebusting will have to keep waiting.
More on this from And Another Thing, who forwards extremely unreliable rumors that the Cubs may be pursuing Aubrey Huff (.297/.360/.493, .297/.363/.505 40.0 VORP projected) from Tampa Bay. Hendry, a genius? Man. I wouldn't want to be him at the press conference.

Update 2: Rotoworld passes on a Chicago Tribune story claiming the Cubs are about to sign former Dodger Jeromy Burnitz. As Throws Like A Girl put it, "Exactly what question are you asking if the answer is Jeromy Burnitz?"

Friday, January 28, 2005

Pickoff Moves

OT: AOL Abandons Usenet

Many, many years ago -- a little more than 15 years ago, I worked for the last 800-lb nonprofit gorilla of aerospace called Hughes Aircraft Company. Howard Hughes and many of the large aerospace manufacturers had finagled tax deals making their companies subsidiaries of nonprofit corporations, in this case, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The subsequent combined entity therefore -- presto! -- owed no taxes. Congress subsequently removed that gravy train, making Hughes a less pleasant place to work for everyone; if you actually have to produce something, it kind of ruins your whole day, y'know?

Anyway. What some call a lackadaisical attitude -- more currently, "slacking" -- Hughes in those days thought of as being conducive to broad, expansive thinking. Part of this was participation in the fledgling computer networks of the day, the then-hardly-impressive Internet, and its cousin-in-suffix-only, Usenet. But Hughes was an archipelago of little divisions and groups, and not all shared connectivity alike. Ours was a tiny desert island of less than 200 in the huge sea.

About that time, management in our group funded a complete upgrade of our workstations to the soon-to-be-orphaned Sun 386i, the only Intel-based machines Sun would produce (unless I'm mistaken). Somehow, we also convinced our bosses that we hadda -- positively had to -- be connected to Usenet, and if we could manage it, the Internet, eventually. Miraculously, they agreed to cough up the thousand dollars needed to get a Telebit 9600 bps modem this would entail. Oh, sure, you're containing a giggle, but in those days, it was the Porsche of modems; it was so famous at one point, its distinctive negotiating tones were a dead giveaway to techheads that you were in the presence of someone with both a big wallet and taste.

Fast forward a couple years: I had assembled a Linux box of my own, and connected to a friend with a connection of his own. In those days, there was no such thing as a legal ISP. The National Science Foundation, which underwrote the ungainly but wildly successful Internet experiment, didn't want anybody to make money off it. So, you cribbed a link from a company with access and a friendly administrator, didn't write anything that even remotely looked like a "for sale" notice, and went about your business -- which was mainly using Usenet. Usenet, a distributed bulletin board system, was initially set up by two Duke University students with more time on their hands than good sense -- and probably less after they set it up.

But, like all creation stories, this one has a snake in it; in this case, it was the introduction of AOL and its enormous user base into the thing. This immediately caused a huge increase in the number of postings, and the number of clueless users, and the amount of junk. AOL took the blame for generally polluting what had been a congenial space for discussing like interests.

Eleven years later, they're pulling the plug.

It's probably about time; I doubt if a tenth of their membership even knows what Usenet is, let alone how it works. 9600 bps modems might not be coming back, but if an effective answer to spam can be found, Usenet might once again be, well, useful. In the meantime, this timeless, modest proposal, as useful then as it is now. All hail Leader Kibo!

OT: The Bubble Bowl

Thanks to Slashdot for this Forbes story about the 2000 Superbowl. Where are all those dot-com-panies spending megabucks on a Superbowl thirty seconds? Heh...

Sosa Deal Near Completion

... sayeth the AP, and this time, the Cubs get a coupla pitching prospects (unnamed) in return as well.

Pittsburgh Owner: You Spend Too Much

Kevin McClatchy, owner of the Pirates, says other teams spend too much, and the fiscal restraint evidenced in the previous two offseason is dead.
McClatchy, who serves on baseball's executive council and long-range labor committee, is promising to be more outspoken in future owners meetings.

"I've think they've created a hawk," he said. "A lot of us are concerned and are definitely going to speak up."

Despite McClatchy's glum financial talk and the Pirates' 12th consecutive losing season in 2004, the team's annual Fanfest opened Friday to what was expected to be record crowds. Attendance was way up during the first week of the team's winter caravan, which featured Wilson and promising pitcher Oliver Perez.

Season ticket sales are up about 30 percent, partly because buyers who keep their seats the following season get the opportunity to buy 2006 All-Star tickets.

New DePo Interview

In the wake of a tumultuous offseason, Michael X. Ferraro interviews Paul DePodesta in today's Los Angeles Downtown News. Samples:
Q: True/False: You, Paul DePodesta, came to this job with an evil plan to dismantle the Dodger dynasty?

A: (Deep breath) Absolutely true. (Laughs) I think actually, the plan is to do everything we can to recreate it, in all honesty. I mean, you look at those teams from the mid-to-late '70s and the early '80s and all the tremendous success they had. We want to follow that model to a certain extent, even though the rules in our industry have changed. But our goal is to ultimately create a team that doesn't just win one year, but has a chance to win every year.

Q: Has the prevailing "Chicken Little" reaction from the media and some of the sports-radio fans surprised you?

A: No, it hasn't, and I appreciate it. I love that there's passion like that - it's much better than apathy. ...

Q: How do you make the determination that a player is irreplaceable, and why didn't Adrian Beltre make that cut?

A: That's a tough one to answer. We no longer have [Sandy] Koufax and [Don] Drysdale, and we're still here, and we won Divisions and World Series without them.... By the same token, it's really hard to turn the page on a player you really like and think will get better. Adrian is a terrific player, and we would have loved to have kept him. It was truly hard to see him go, but you really have to look at the team in the aggregate, and not just one person.

Ferraro's got good interview questions. Go. Read. Now.

Rosenthal: Cubs, O's Work Sosa Trade

Ken Rosenthal says Baltimore may be the final resting place for Sammy Sosa's career, with the O's possibly concluding a deal as early as Monday. Tom Reich, one of Sosa's agents, earlier told The Sporting News that the Cubs would move Sosa by next week. The suggested return might include Jerry Hairston, who would replace the departed Moises Alou in left, and closer Jorge Julio.

Indians Sign Shuey To Minor-League Contract

The Cleveland Indians have signed former Dodger reliever Paul Shuey to a minor-league contract, according to the AP. Good luck, Paul.

Dodgers Interested in Norihiro Nakamura 3B

In a move sure to fuel more cries of "why didn't they resign Beltre?" the Dodgers may bid for the services of Norihiro Nakamura, third baseman for the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese leagues, according to the Los Angeles Times. Nakamura, a 13-year veteran of the Pacific League, hit .274/.390/.468 in 387 AB, but "scouts say he is projected as an average major league third baseman at best." A workout in Santa Ana attracted "modest" interest. A January 29 story in the Daily Yomiuri indicates the Dodgers wish to sign Nakamura to a minor league contract, and Los Angeles -- and any other suitors -- have four days in which to sign him.

Nakamura's player page at japanesebaseball.com is here.

Update: Here's an old article at Baseball Prospectus talking about Japanese league translations that mentions Nakamura, noting he's one of the league's best power hitters. Finally, here's a three-year-old Clay Davenport article about translating Japanese League stats to MLB; he figures Japanese league EqA's to be about .948 of MLB, so guestimating, that makes him good for just under two wins or so by VORP. Also, take a gander at this December 4, 2004 post from Mariner Musings. White observes that "[s]ome team could get a real bargain with acceptable risk by signing him."

Nakamura also attended spring training with the Dodgers in 2004, something I had forgotten.

Meet The New Boss

The A's prospective new owner, Lewis Wolff, knows the A's field some great teams on a shoestring budget -- and he's happy to keep it that way, says the Mercury-News:
And so, even as Major League Baseball proceeds with its background investigations and credit checks, we can offer a pretty safe short-term assessment of the new owner even before he is the new owner.

And that would be: If you liked Schott and Hofmann, you're likely to love Lewis Wolff.


Well, maybe so. But if Paul DePodesta's offseason antics are any guide, there's no real reason to believe that, just because the A's could spend more, that they might necessarily use their scratch wisely. All the Dodgers offseason free-agent pitching acquisitions have come with significant question marks. Likewise for the aging Jeff Kent, Three True Outcomes player Jose Valintin at third, and J. D. "It Only Hurts When I Play A Corner Outfield Position" Drew. This is about as far from a guaranteed group as you're going to get, and this from a man whose hiring Beane recently called his "best move".

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Josh Paul Agrees To Terms

The Angels have come to an agreement with Josh Paul for 2005, for $450k and one year, with a $75k bonus if he appears in 90 games. The Chronicler observes Benjie Molina's weight difficulties, and so Paul's chances improve that much. So far, the most games Paul has ever appeared in is 57 with the Chisox in 2001, when he had a .266/.327/.410 line and a 7.1 VORP.

Why is he here? Because Benjie Molina is fat and slow... and extra weight takes something out of your joints.

Tagorda On Scott Erickson

Robert Tagorda has more-or-less pulled the plug on his blog, Priorities And Frivolities, mainly as a consequence of having better things to do. Tagorda, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a Dodger game last year, has moved his principle address to Outside The Beltway. However, he still remains a Dodger fan, and today he shows up at Baseball Crank, guest-penning an article on NRI Scott Erickson. Erickson, who sports a phenominal tendency to keep the ball on the ground, plays directly to Dodger Stadium's strengths.

Nomo Signs Minor League Deal With D-Rays

Hideo Nomo has signed a minor-league deal with the Devil Rays, according to the Associated Press. He will have an invitation to spring training as well.

Green Tea, The Next Doping Scandal

I can already hear the screams of the anti-doping zealots now: Japanese researchers publishing in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology claim that green tea extract boosts endurance 8-24% while increasing fat metabolism. Hey, you, put down that tea and come out with your hands up!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Halofan On Season Tickets

I admit it -- I almost never visit Halofan for reasons I won't go into here, but he provides a nice summary of the season ticket situation:

A's Sale "All But Complete"

According to the Alameda Times-Star, the sale of the Oakland A's to LA hotel magnate Lewis Wolff "is all but complete". Wolff has a deposit in escrow, with an estimated sale price between $150 and $170 million. Steve Schott, in an interview with the Contra Costa Times, downplayed the Times-Star report, saying numerous additional hurdles remained before the sale could be completed. Wolff is a former fraternity brother of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at the University of Wisconsin, and a classmate of Chisox owner Jerry Reinsdorf's at Rice University. The team originally sold in 1995 for $80-85M, though some sources say it sold for less.
Thus far, Wolff's efforts in finding a new park have yielded only a proposed site in the parking lot of Network Associates Coliseum. Wolff has stated publicly that he would like to see through the A's efforts to build a park in Oakland and that he will not try to find a site in the Santa Clara County. Any attempts to do the latter would hurt his chances for approval because Selig repeatedly has said the territorial rights to Santa Clara County belong to the Giants.

The A's lease with the Coliseum runs through 2007, and the team has three one-year options it can exercise for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Update: Again confirmed in this Reno, NV Fox affiliate report, quoting Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele as saying the sale is "taking place as we speak".

Self-Embarrassment Time: PECOTA 2005 Projections

As you probably know by now, Baseball Prospectus has their 2005 PECOTA projections out. Hanging my fanny wide, wide, wide on the wire, its projections for the AL and NL West.

             O F F E N S E
       AL                    NL
Team      VORP     Team            VORP    
==============     ====================
Oakland  399.6     San Diego      302.2
Anaheim  306.6     San Francisco  237.4
Texas    277.3     Colorado       236.3
Seattle  239.7     Los Angeles    224.5
                   Arizona        168.2

           P I T C H I N G
       AL                    NL
Team      VORP     Team            VORP    
==============     ====================
Oakland  345.1     San Francisco  268.6
Anaheim  289.0     San Diego      235.4
Texas    271.3     Los Angeles    235.3
Seattle  214.7     Arizona        210.4
                   Colorado       178.8
Adding pitching VORP to offensive VORP, this leads to projected division winners as follows:
       AL                    NL
Team       VORP     Team            VORP    
===============     ====================
Oakland   744.7     San Diego      537.6
Anaheim   595.6     Sam Francisco  506.0
Texas     548.6     Los Angeles    459.8
Seattle   454.4     Colorado       415.1
                    Arizona        378.6
Some thoughts: If I'm being a total idiot by adding pitching VORP and offensive VORP, please let me know.

WTNY Mailbag: Kotchman And Weaver, Oh My

WTNY has a mailbag column concerning his recent 1-75 top prospects series. Regarding Weaver:
My knowledge of these players mostly stems from two years worth of the College World Series, but thanks to Rich Lederer, I feel like I have a handle on Weaver more than anyone else. I have argued with Rich a lot about Weaver’s ceiling, which will be dependent on his fastball velocity and strength of his slider. Control is not a problem at all for Jered, and he could probably immediately step in and have some of the best on my top 75. If pressed I would likely put Weaver somewhere in the 25-30 range, between Gavin Floyd and John Danks.
And regarding Kotchman:
I think [Casey] Kotchman is a bit of a lost prospect at this point. Is he Sean Casey or Todd Helton?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Actually, either way, I think the Angels would be happy. Or maybe not the Angels, maybe whatever team they trade him to. It’s hard to see the Angels resolving their glut at first base by moving Darin Erstad, a 2004 Gold Glove winner, and the love of Mike Scioscia’s heart. Instead, Kotchman will be resigned this season to either landing in some Juan Rivera/Tim Salmon platoon in the DH spot, or to continue raking in the Pacific Coast League. You think Dan Johnson and he are friends?

Anyway, on to your question of comparison. His numbers look pretty similar to Helton’s, my reservations about Kotchman’s power developing make him sound like Casey (for both, I linked to their Baseball Cube account in the question). If you want more possible comparisons, people have thrown out both Will Clark and Mark Grace in the past, but still, I don’t find any of those to be quite perfect. One thing I look for in a comparison is what type of school the player was drafted from, college or high school. All four veteran players were collegiate athletes, while Kotchman started pro ball in his teens.

So, I think I’ve found the comp that I’m happy with, despite not having his minor league numbers on hand: Keith Hernandez. Both struggled as 21-year-olds in the Majors in a little over 100 at-bats, and come with good defensive reports. Keith started his greater-than-100 OPS+ streak the next year (which I think Kotchman could do), and did not stop until he was 35: fourteen straight years. His peak years, ages 25-27, all included 140 OPS+ years, a number Eric Chavez has yet to approach.

The only problem with this is that Casey doesn’t yet have the plate discipline that Hernandez had, only totaling 31 walks all season long. If the Angels preach this, then Kotchman can be like Hernandez, if not, then I’m not sure.

AN Interviews Beane, Part 3

What, I missed part 2? Yup, looks like it. Oh, well -- part 3 is here, and highlights: Good stuff, as usual.

Vegas Mayor Says MLB By 2008

Oscar Goodman, who figures his showgirls at the GMs meeting should have done the trick, now thinks he can get a major league team in Las Vegas by 2008. Don Logan of the 51's thinks the town shouldn't have such grand sights, and should build a minor league park of 10,000 seats that can later be expanded to a major league park seating 40,000. But the 65-year-old Goodman disagrees, saying "I'm an old man" with big plans and little time left. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal,
The franchises most likely to relocate to Las Vegas are the Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. All three teams are searching for a new stadium and could be warming up to the idea of a home in the desert.
  • Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria sent three of his top aides here to meet with Goodman on Dec. 8. If it was a negotiating ploy, it backfired, because Florida state lawmakers reacted angrily. The Marlins are working on a new stadium deal in the Miami area, but if it falls apart, Loria is reportedly interested in Las Vegas.
  • Los Angeles developer Lewis Wolff, vice president of venue development for the Athletics, plans to announce within three months whether he will exercise an option to buy the team. If Wolff goes ahead with the purchase and doesn't get a new stadium, he is expected to attempt to move the team out of Oakland.
  • The Devil Rays have not publicly expressed interest in Las Vegas, but fans in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., area have shown little interest in the team, making for an unstable situation. The Devil Rays averaged only 16,139 fans per game at Tropicana Field in 2004, down from 30,942 for their first season in 1998.
Despite long-term lease agreements those teams have with their current stadiums, Goodman said a team will be on the move by 2008. "Everything I hear would suggest that," he said.

One baseball source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Devil Rays are the odds-on favorites to land in Las Vegas.

The Devil Rays would certainly make some sense. Going from the AL East, where they have to compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox all the time, to the AL West, the club would be in a division easier for them to compete in, though I have a feeling they would still be awful, no matter what division you put them in. Okay, maybe the AL Central.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

That Cirque Is A Lot Of Work

Here's a nice Times article about Steve Finley, the man Padres GM Kevin Towers calls the "Dick Clark of baseball", and his unusual exercise regimen Mike DiGiovanna calls the "Cirque du Finley". Like a lot of balance exercises, they look deceptively simple but are amazingly difficult in practice ( "You've never had so much trouble lifting 35 pounds in your life," says Finley). And of course, the pitch cometh for the exercise videos and requisite books and other periphernalia. Heck, I'll admit to being interested. Bring it on, Steve.

Delgado, The Fish, And ESPN's Implausibility Field

Okay, so you've probably heard that Carlos Delgado, the last major free agent left this offseason, has signed with the Marlins, to the tune of $52M/4 years. But how about this Eric Cabell-penned sidebar:
... you take a career American Leaguer and throw him into the NL, where he cannot take days off at DH, where he faces all new pitchers and a league ERA half a run lower, and in a lineup that will hinder his chances of ever approaching 130 RBI again, and Delgado must drop on our preseason rankings.
Now, the DH I can buy, but not the league ERA. The reason the NL has an ERA half a run lower than the AL is arguably because of the DH, not because the pitching's so much better. Using ESPN's park factors, the difference between the leagues' average park factor is extremely close to zero.

MLB.com Issues A Solomonic Decision

Not wanting the Angels to be the only team missing a city, MLB.com now identifies all teams by their nickname on the dropdown on the upper left. The Angels home page remains angels.angels.mlb.com, however, despite the remainder of the sites identified as city.nick.mlb.com.

Dodgers To Pursue Longer-Term Contract With Penny

In the Pasadena Star-News, Paul DePodesta claims the Dodgers are interested in long-terming the former Marlin.
General manager Paul DePodesta said he hopes to begin negotiations soon on a longer-term contract for the five-year veteran.

"I don't think (it will happen) this week, but we know he's a free agent at the end of this year, and I think we would certainly like to have discussions long before that becomes a reality,' DePodesta said. "We wanted to go ahead and get this (one-year deal) out of the way, but I think we would all have some interest in making this a long-term relationship."

Penny and the Dodgers reached an agreement yesterday on a one-year, $5.1M contract.

Simers' Best Column, Ever

At last, T.J. Simers has found a man even he cannot sarcastically belittle: Vin Scully. Sorry, T.J., but for posterity, such as this same is possible on the Internet:
I spent time with Chick Hearn chatting before games about rings, kids and the Grocery Store Bagger, sat next to Red Smith in Fenway Park covering the Bucky Dent playoff game between the Yankees and Red Sox and talked well into the night at Billy Goat Tavern with my inspiration, Mike Royko, the great Chicago newspaper columnist.

I also had the privilege of dining, listening to his stories and working alongside Jim Murray at a couple of Super Bowls.

Sunday was another day for the memory bank.

It was a lucky Sunday, beyond the weekly opportunity of spending time with the daughter who these days prefers to be called Miss Radio Personality, because on this Sunday Vin Scully agreed to appear on the father/daughter radio show on XTRA Sports.

Scully, I'm told, almost never makes himself available for these kinds of interviews, but right from the start, after asking Miss Radio Personality to send him an 8x10 glossy, he was as gracious, engaging and funny as you might expect, talking about Barry Bonds, Murray, his reluctance to write a book about himself, chair covers, and the nickname his family has given him, "Clouseau," you know, he said, "Inspector Clouseau, because that's my ability around the house."

Right to the heart of the matter, when asked about the possibility of retiring, he said, "I have two years to go, this year, '05, and '06, and I always remember a wonderful line: If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans. My contract goes through '06, and after that we'll just see."

But would the only voice that most Dodger fans know — with apologies to Rick Monday — ever really consider retirement?

"I don't think I could retire," Scully said. "After all these years it would be pretty hard to turn the key in the ignition and just shut it down…. There's an old story, when you're sitting in a hotel room you can actually hear the meter of your life ticking away and you say to yourself, 'What the heck am I doing in Cincinnati?'

"So those are the things that haunt you as the years go by, but at the same time I don't think I could ever just sit looking out the window guessing whether I'd see a Ford or Chevrolet."

Miss Radio Personality, obviously her father's daughter, then asked, "Do you think the McCourts can keep paying you? Because there are a lot of questions about their money," and Scully said, "Bless your heart, Tracy and T.J., it was wonderful talking to you."

Sure was, but then why no book to bring it all together?

"I feel after all these years I've said enough," Scully said. "I just feel I've emptied out pretty much and don't have anything else to say. In fact, the older I get, the more relaxed you get, and the more I've realized the only thing I want to do is follow the ball between the lines. Whatever opinion I might have I'd just as soon keep it to myself."

Scully and Murray were pals, of course, and Scully once introduced Murray by saying if he ever had to be stranded on an island with a man, he would have probably liked it to have been with Murray.

The daughter then asked, "So if you were stranded on an island with a woman, who would it be?" And Scully said, "Well, of course, with my wife. You knew that, Tracy." I would've been a little worried had he said Salma Hayek. I don't need competition like that.

"Jim Murray gave me one of the great compliments of my life," Scully said. "They were publishing a compilation of his columns and he asked me to do him a favor and write the foreword. I said, 'Oh no, Jim.' And he said, 'You promised,' and so I did.

"The whole foreword was a salute to Jim Murray and his incredible ability to handle just about every emotion and every scene. Vic Hunter was a mutual friend and he asked me twice the same day to play golf with him, and I couldn't do it. That day at Riviera he dropped dead on the second hole. Jim Murray began his column: 'Yesterday my friend Vic Hunter picked up on No. 2 at Riviera.'

"That was the punch line of my foreword, and they sent me a letter telling me the foreword was wonderful, they published the book and I couldn't wait to read the foreword. I get down to that knockout line, and somebody changed it and the line said, 'Yesterday my friend Vic Hunter picked up a No. 2,' which meant absolutely nothing.

"When I saw Jim after that, I said I tried to write for years, I was a correspondent for the [New York] Times, when I was in college I was the sports editor, but I never felt like a writer until they damaged that great line."

There were some more stories, not enough time, but lots of laughs after I reminded him he owed me $957 for advising me to go along with the wife and paying for chair covers for Kelly's wedding to the Grocery Store Bagger.

"Tracy, are you listening?" Scully said. "When the day comes, be sure to give me a call."

WHEN HE hung up, the calls began coming in from folks who wanted to share their warmth for Scully, the way he broke the news to them of Don Drysdale's death and how important it was to hear his voice year after year.

And a caller named Mike offered this interesting tidbit: "When Vin came here he challenged himself not to call them the Brooklyn Dodgers, and charged himself a quarter every time he did. And he did for about half the season, and what a class guy, he paid the money to a charity, something like $470, I believe."

I'll give him that, and deduct the charitable contribution as a good deed, but then he still owes me $487 for the chair covers.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Matt Welch's IFAQ: Rich Lederer

Matt Welch adds a new occaisional feature, Infrequently Asked Questions, in which he interviews somebody-or-other. This week, it's Rich Lederer, from whom Matt extracts such arcana as how he got interested in baseball, how he became a one-man band for Bert Blyleven's Cooperstown inclusion, are you really the same Rich Lederer who used to live on Pepperwood Ave. in Long Beach (answer: yes), etc. Good reading.

Dodgers, Penny Reach Agreement

The Dodgers and Brad Penny reached an agreement, for a one-year, $5.1M contract. Also:

WTNY: Final Top 1-100 Prospects

Again, Wait Til Next Year has finished their top 100 list. Jon already has a summary of the Dodgers on the list, so I won't bother with those, but I will put up all Angels prospects on his list. (Here are my previous comments on his list entries for 45-31 and 75-61.)

5. Dallas McPherson

... Mike Scioscia is going to have to accept a few things about his third basemen this year. First of all, he’s going to strikeout…a lot. Second, his defense is a far cry from what Troy Glaus offered in his prime, and signiciantly closer to Chone Figgins’ offerings in the playoffs. And third, that Dallas is going to tear the cover off the ball, making the Angels decision to let Glaus go the right one.

6. Casey Kotchman- 1B- Anaheim Angels- 22

If nothing else, you have to respect Terry Ryan . In the middle of the season, and the middle of the pennant race, he dealt his most vocal leader in Doug Mientkiewicz. Replacing him was Justin Morneau, a first base prospect with huge power, even a surer bet than Kotchman. So to even out a Nomar Garciaparra trade that just could not get agreed to, Ryan traded a valuable player for a pitching prospect. A bold move, no doubt, but in a system with this much depth, not too gutsy an opportunity. It looks as if Kotchman, ready for the Majors in every facet of the game, will start the season in AAA, before moving to the Majors later in the year. This will take a Terry Ryan-like move from the Twins, not likely given their conservative front office, along with Anaheim’s love for Erstad. Darin should switch positions or teams by year’s end, literally putting the ball in Casey’s court.

OT: What's In A Name?

From Robert X. Cringely's weekly e-mail alert:
According to a report in The Register, a Romanian couple who dated online for three months before marrying have named their first child Yahoo, after the search site that brought them together. Good thing they didn't meet on Dogpile.com.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

OT: Johnny Carson, RIP

Yow. It was hard enough when he retired and Leno took over; I always thought Letterman got shafted on that gig, anyway. I never watched the show much; my late night viewing was always pretty much limited to Saturday Night Live, and once that jumped the shark after Bill Murray left, never again. For me, he was more of an icon than somebody I actually watched, but for that reason alone, his presence at the end of the day was reassuring.

Pickoff Moves

Simers Endears Himself To The Dodgers Front Office

Gadfly T.J. Simers has managed to get himself ejected from Dodger Stadium, principally for publishing the Dodgers' front office number. For posterity, it's 323-224-1500, but I can get away with it. It's just one of the many advantages of running a blog: if a Frank falls in the forest, there's not much by way of retaliation he can do to me for saying so.

It's A Different Kind Of "Connect"

Reading this story in the Daily News, I began to wonder, given the kinds of letters published in the Times, whether "connect" didn't mean a roundhouse to the nose. "I think it's important for fans to know that ownership cares," said Frank. While I'm not one of those who thinks DePo needs to be strung up from whichever eucalyptus tree in the Dodger Stadium parking lot is closest, there is a case to be made that DePo simply got blindsided by the offseason rush. But since Frank's responsibility pretty much ends at okaying the payroll -- at least, so we believe, for I can't imagine him cooking up the LoDuca/Mota/Penny/Choi trade on his own -- you'd think the fans upset at the offseason moves would have few beefs with Frank. Dodger payroll indeed approaches the magic $100M mark, proof against "cheap Frank" cries. To his credit, Frank's willingness to catch flak for the perceived failings of his GM is a noble gesture, and should be applauded accordingly.

Dodgers Print 'Em Yourself Tickets

Well, is this the coolest thing ever or what? I know I'll be using it. Arte, you need to do this. Very sweet.

No Love For The LAAoA

Mike Waldner in the Daily Breeze wails on Arte for the dumbness of the LAAoA name change, but all he's able to come up with is the Aztecs of the defunct North American Soccer League as a reason not to make the (ghastly, grating, overlong) alteration. (Sounds like they had more problems than just worrying about where they were playing.) Since this change is mainly in place to attract the attention of advertising sponsors, the jury's still out on how well it will work; but for me, I'm skeptical. Win, or go back to the good and proper name. You know, the one they won a World Series with.

Cubs Talking To Robb Nen

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cubs are talking to Robb Nen, the paper noting that "Nen wouldn't be physically ready to open the season, but he could be a factor later in the year." What that means is, his contract would prevent them from actually getting somebody who could help them.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Weaver Talks "Getting Serious"

Well, heck. The Times says the Angels' talks with Jered Weaver are just now getting "serious", and "both sides hope will result in the former Long Beach State ace's signing before the start of spring training in February."
Neither agent Scott Boras nor Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman would elaborate, but Boras confirmed Friday that they had spoken by phone several times this week and would have face-to-face meetings "shortly."
More on this from Rich, who backs off his earlier assertion that a $10.5M/5 year guaranteed major league contract for Weaver is reasonable (!).
Also in that same Times article: an observation that Washburn could encounter Jose Guillen when the two teams meet in interleague. Washburn spoke out against Guillen after the latter's September 25th helmet-chucking episode. Hint: have good control that day, Wash.

The Bloody Work

The facts we hate
We'll never meet
Walking down the road
Everybody yelling, "Hurry up! Hurry up!"
But I'm waiting for you
I must go slow
I must not think bad thoughts
What is this world coming to?
Both sides are right
But both sides murder
I give up
Why can't they?

I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts
I must not think bad thoughts

-- X, "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts"
Stephen, the proprietor of the estimable yet sadly erstwhile Mariners Wheelhouse made some comments that I wanted to highlight while doing some taillight chasing prior to the start of the season:
In comments at Mariners Musings you asked whether my perceptions of Bavasi have changed. As this post indicates, yes - they have.

When Bavasi was hired, the hiring gave every appearance that the Mariners were firmly in the baseball camp that believes everything you need to know about running a baseball team was known 30 years ago, if not earlier. While the Mariners might not have left that camp, they've certainly come to the conclusion that there other feasible camp sites.

I don't see Bavasi as being a lights out GM. I do see him as being no worse than a "middle of the road" GM, and very likely will actually prove to be a cut above average. Coupling an above average GM with a large market resources ought to provide a team that is a consistent power in it's division.

And implicit in carrying out the duties of a GM is the hard part: what they call in British tech circles, "eating your dogfood", i.e., rectifying your own mistakes. Already, last year's horrible mistake of signing Scott Spiezio to a three-year, $9M contract has been corrected: Spiezio no longer has a starting position and is likely to be traded, assuming Bavasi can find a GM who believes in clutch performance as an ability. To my knowledge, Dan Duquette and Kevin Malone remain out of baseball, and so Spiezio need not unpack his Seattle apartment.

This is what happens: yesterday's find becomes today's star becomes tomorrow's castoff. Eckstein became expendable, but only by the end of the season will we know whether the Cardinals or the Angels made the right decision, or both. So for the Dodgers: between the start of 2003 and the present day, DePodesta unloaded or failed to re-sign virtually the whole of the starting Dodger lineup: Cabrera, Cora, Green, Hundley, LoDuca, Martin, Mota, Nomo, Roberts, Shuey, and probably a half-dozen others I'm forgetting besides. DePo knew -- and said -- that one playoff win for a generation of fans wasn't enough. He is right. For now, the pain is over, but remember this: with David Ross released from Licey, and DePo's ruthlessness, nobody on the current lineup is safe. Catcher remains a hole. Blood could flow again tomorrow just as readily as it did in December and January.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Pickoff Moves

Maybe He Should Bleed On The Damn Thing, Then

Dougie "It's My Baseball" Minkiasdfsdsghewkhnzzwich, late of the Boston Red Sox, is the last person with legal title to the ball, regardless of what he might think. In order, according to one attorney, the claimants are "the Cardinals, since they were the home team; the Red Sox; major league baseball; and 'then the guy who happened to hold it at the end of the game.'" The fracas is causing Bud & Co. to rethink the business of who gets various and sundry "trophies" from the game. And from even a value-added perspective, not much adds up:
Curt Schilling could make a legitimate claim to the sock he wore when he pitched in the Series: Although the sock was the team's, the blood was his.

"It's his blood that makes it valuable," Abrams said. "Mientkiewicz doesn't add any value that made it unique to him."

As University of Tulsa law professor Paul Finkelman asked, "Does he (Mientkiewicz) get a $500,000 bonus because he's the last guy to hold it?" Well: does the last guy to tip the stripper get to take her home? Hmm... maybe not such a good analogy.

Ken You Believe This?

Ken Griffey says he's healing nicely from his surgery. Sure, and he'll play 40-50 innings before he needs another. Does he get his own ambulance as part of his contract?

M's Go SABR?

According to The Oregonian they do, hiring player acquisition consultant Mat Olkin, who describes his job as "more sabermetric than the job title necessarily implies". Given Eddie Bane's reaction to statheads in the past, I wonder how this shakes out for the Angels.

More on this from U.S.S. Mariner; the guy's apparently done some interesting published work.


The Story Of Coma Man

AKA, the unluckiest man in the world. What if you were a Red Sox fan who went into a coma just before they won a title... and you woke up just after they won it?

Tampa Bay Signs #4 Pick

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed number four (overall) pick Jeff Niemann, to a five year guaranteed major league contract, for $5.2M with a $3.2M signing bonus. No unsigned picks remain above Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew, the 12th and 15th overall picks respectively, and the only first-round draftees remaining unsigned. A rumor broadcast on ESPN radio indicated Weaver believed he will get a deal done with the Angels before spring training.

Anaheim Suit Fails -- For Now

A judge blocked the city of Anaheim's request to keep the Angels' name "Anaheim".

Where Are You When We Need You Most, Joel?

In a not-too-distant season --
Last year, A.D.-
There was this guy, Ross Porter,
Not too different from you or me.
He worked in the Dodger broadcast booth,
He was gettin' kinda long in the tooth.
He did a good job calling out the games,
But his bosses didn't like him
So they got another face.

They put in cheesy homers,
The worst they can find (la-la-la).
We'll have to sit and hear them all,
So to crap we are resigned (la-la-la).
Now keep in mind we can't control
Where Vin Scully begins or ends (la-la-la)
Because we've got Rex Hudler clones
To make the pain extend:

Dodger Roll Call:
Jeff Kent!

If you're wondering what the inning is
and other baseball facts (la la la),
Then repeat to yourself, "It's just a game,
So why do I want to axe
The Dodger Broadcast Team, 3000?"

Okay, so I really don't know how these guys are gonna be, but the early returns aren't good. And with that, I remind the reading audience that it's unfortunate we cannot legally hire Ross Porter to announce the games over, say, the Internet, seeing as how the Dodgers own the video and other descriptions of the game. Pity, because I have a feeling I'm going to be throwing things at the TV during the 52 or so games when Vin isn't working.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Glaus At First?

Dayn Perry makes his Diamondbacks lineup with Troy Glaus playing first base.

As Arte Johnson used to say, verry interesting.

OT: A (Bar)Code In His Nose, And His Arm, And His Leg ...

Say you are running the medical school for a large, prestigious public university. Further stipulate that some less-than-scrupulous individuals at said university were selling cadavers donated to the university for the purposes of medical education.

Would it be wrong to suggest that adding barcodes to cadavers is not likely to dispel fears of more of the same in the future?

Arte Moreno, Fighting Cancer One Beer At A Time

By now the whole friggin' country has had enough of Arte and his nutty LAAoA deal, but everyone forgets that last year he was the People's Hero for knocking a dollar off the price of a beer. (If the difference is what it takes to keep the Angels' name where their posteriors actually are, I'll happily give it up.) But I take this moment to observe a brief digression: according to a Japanese study published in New Scientist, beer -- lagers and stout in particular -- contains amines that fight cancer. While the jury's still out on whether this actually works in conjunction with the fun ingredient still in place, others are quite certain it's good, and good for you, as witness this piece where the New England Journal of Medicine published research finding older women with modest alcohol intake were sharper than their teetotaling sisters. Even though that $4 Bud isn't the right kind -- unfiltered, yeasty beers such as hefeweizen, my favorites anyway, seem to be the most effective at it -- it's a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

WTNY: Top 75 Minor Leaguers, 45-31

WTNY publishes his top 75 minor leaguers, 45-31. The only relevant player for the Dodgers/Angels is number 45, 20-year-old LHP Chuck Tiffany, about whom Bryan says he could go "in either direction" after brushes with both dominance (three no-hitters, 2.25 ERA in 9 starts) and craptitude (7.08 ERA in 9 starts, lasting only four innings each, 34.1 IP over the lot). Still, "you have to believe in this kid."

More Signings News

Baseball In The Dominican

Thanks to Idiots Write About Sports for pointing out a nifty series of articles about baseball in the Dominican that have been appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle. Rather than resetting all the links myself, I'll just leave you to link to their story directly. Interesting stuff.

AN Interviews Beane

Another of Blez's great interviews with Billy Beane: Much more over there. Take a gander.

Westways Does Spring Training

Just a quick detour: the AAA magazine, Westways, has a nice little article about one woman's experience at spring training with the Angels. Of course, she neglects to mention the oven rack that is Tempe Diablo Stadium, but even so, we're probably going to a couple games this spring.

Arte's Not-So-Smoking Gun

Via the Times:
The Angels submitted what they called "the proverbial smoking gun," a copy of a lease draft dated April 17, 1996. In a memorandum of understanding dated April 3, 1996, Disney — then owner of the California Angels — agreed to change the team name to "include the name Anaheim therein." That language is identical to what appears in the lease, dated May 14, 1996.

The draft filed by the Angels includes a handwritten notation — allegedly on the city's behalf — scratching out that language and substituting "the Anaheim Angels." That alteration, rejected by Disney, is "exactly what [the city] wants from this court," the Angels argue. In the absence of such language, they contend, they can change their name from Anaheim Angels without breaching the contract.

The city disagrees, arguing neither Anaheim nor Disney ever discussed identifying the team with another geographical area. In previous court declarations, city officials have acknowledged Disney's unwillingness to approve the restrictive Anaheim Angels name in the lease, and one expert said the draft is far from a smoking gun.

"I don't think it's anything dramatically new," said Carl Bjerre, who teaches contract law at the University of Oregon. "The fact that Disney was wanting some flexibility does not establish that Disney was wanting enough flexibility so as to call the team the Los Angeles Angels."

Madness, I tells ya, madness.

OT: Google Chasing Down Comment Spam

Bully for them. Spammers, uncontent with merely routing tons of junk mail through China, Korea, and other loosely-guarded places of the world, have started putting their links on blogs' comment sections, adding unwanted commercial messages. (Since Blogger comments automatically have defensive mechanisms against this, it's rare for a 100% Blogger-driven site to have these issues; I've only once or twice seen spam in my comments.) By sapping comment spam of its usefulness (i.e., improved page rank in Google's search index), Google eliminates the motivation to spam in the first place. A small step forward in the unceasing slog against penis pills, 419 scams, fake Rolex watches, and a whole raft of other stuff I'd rather not have to deal with.

The Gagné Slap And Tickle

Just a passing thought from the Daily News' Steve Dilbeck:
Got one we know. Brought back a name to rally behind, someone who actually feels familiar.

The Dodgers, who had been hemorrhaging recognizable players all offseason, finally discovered a pressure point in closer Eric Gagne on Tuesday.

Gave the team a face, an entity that shrieks something that precious few of their other moves had -- Dodgers.

Inked him to a two-year deal for $19 million, with a mutual option for a third year, avoiding those antagonistic and silly arbitration hearings for the next two Springs.

It would have been nice if it were longer, if Dodger fans could feel assured their most valuable asset would be around for three or four more years.

But Gagne can become a free agent after 2006. And his agent is Scott Boras, so you know he's not going to pass on the big payday.

Yet in an offseason that has seen the Dodgers lose Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, Steve Finley, Alex Cora, Jose Lima, Jose Hernandez, Robin Ventura and Brent Mayne, and almost Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban, Dodger followers can at least take comfort in knowing "Game Over" won't be going to war with his own team in arbitration the next two seasons.


"A lot of the things that came out of Oakland seemed to be taken very black or white," DePodesta said. "In reality, I think I've shown repeatedly over the course of the last year, that the world in which we operate is very gray.

"We're not Oakland down here. That isn't meant to be derogatory toward Oakland, but I do think some of the philosophies they have, haven't necessarily been accurately depicted."

... which presumably includes the "sell-the-closer" maneuver. Closers who put up ridiculous save numbers are one thing; Gagné, who makes batters look ridiculous, is another. In a world soon to be without Mariano Rivera, "Game Over's" value is about to spike, and Boras wasn't interested in pursuing a longer contract. For the Dodgers' part, the wisdom of letting a potential injury risk walk after age 31 made sense; I can only surmise that a third year most likely came at a very high price.

Gagné's made the ninth inning a special place for Dodger fans, never exactly comfortable, yet richly anticipated. We're lucky -- lucky to have discovered him, lucky to have him now, lucky to keep getting to see him in a Dodger uniform for another two years.

Welcome back, Eric. Bonne chance.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

At Least The Dodgers Don't Have These Problems

Thanks to Waiting For Boof for this San Francisco Chronicle story including the following quote from Jack Hiatt, director of player development for the Giants:
[Baseball America's] credibility isn't worth a damn to me," he said. "I don't know what they use for a formula to decide what's a good organization and what isn't. Detroit was their No. 1 organization for three straight years, and obviously Detroit was getting an opportunity to draft at an excellent spot. However, none of those people have helped them win any games. So how do you feel about that organization being No. 1 now?
As WFB points out, BA has not given Detroit any such ranking; they've pretty consistently fallen, despite their high draft picks, into the middle of the pack. Whatever public utterances Logan White is liable to make -- and he doesn't say that much, come to think of it -- you won't hear him saying anything this certifiably dumb.


Decoding The New Dodger Duckspeak

Lon Rosen, in the LA Business Journal, regarding the marketing campaign for the Dodgers scheduled to start next month:
We’ve acquired some really popular players and we’re going to make sure the public knows who our new players are. It’s a good way to deliver the message. People are always excited to meet the players.
Welcome to the bizarro world of the Dodgers, where the players are popular, yet nobody knows who they are.

Halting The Revolving Door: DePo Re-Signs Izturis

dodgers.com reports Cesar Izturis has been signed, for 3 years and $9.9M. A good deal for the Dodgers, and good for the club's future. For years, prior to Izturis' arrival on the scene as a full-time starter, the Dodgers had no idea what to do at shortstop. Consider:
Year  Player         AB    Avg/OBP/SLG    VORP  Rate2
2002  Cora          258  .291/.371/.434   24.7   95
2002  Izturis       439  .232/.253/.303  -12.5   93

2001  Cora          405  .217/.285/.306   -4.8   91
2001  J Reboulet    214  .266/.367/.397   14.3   56

2000  Cora          353  .238/.302/.357    5.6   94
2000  K Elster      220  .227/.341/.455   15.6   82
2000  J Vizcaino     93  .204/.283/.247   -3.9   93

1999  Grudzielanek  193  .326/.375/.436   42.7   93
1999  Vizcaino       94  .252/.295/.297   -3.6   92

1998  Grudzielanek  193  .264/.282/.326    4.2  111
1998  J Vizcaino    237  .262/.300/.338    4.7  103
1998  J Castro      220  .195/.236/.255  -12.4  105
So going back a little ways, you see that the Dodgers tried -- and failed -- a number of platoons, none of which were really successful: This kind of revolving door isn't surprising considering the farm's low estate during most of the 90's. That the Dodgers have the kind of confidence in Izturis that they can keep him around for three years at a modest contract is a distinct positive.

Purgatory Back Online

... with an analysis of what the Angels' 2005 is going to look like. Dallas McPherson, it's time for you to have that Jackie Robinson Award type season ...

Missing Arbitration: More Deadline Deals

The Angels signed Jeff DaVanon for one year, $950k. Washburn, Shields, Jose Molina, and Josh Paul still are arbitration eligible, but the Angels apparently want to have contracts done before the deadline Tuesday.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A Pair Of Prospects Stories

While I work on another piece about the Cesar Izturis signing, here's a month-old article I stumbled across from KFFL about newcomer Kendry Morales. Snippet:
Don't forget, the list of Cuban defectors is littered with forgotten names, beginning with the first, former St. Louis Cardinals SP Rene Arocha. Other much-hyped Cuban imports who've turned out to be disappointments include P Rolando Arrojo (40-42 lifetime, with a 4.55 ERA), Chicago Cubs SS Rey Ordonez (career .246 BA, although superb defensively), 3B Andy Morales (never called up) and Chicago White Sox SP Jose Contreras (a Yankees-inflated 20-11, with a 4.85 ERA). And considering the struggles of the New York Mets' free-swinging Japanese import SS Kazuo Matsui (97 Ks in 460 ABs last year), one has to wonder why no one has praised Morales' patience at the plate.

In the end, though, Morales may have some advantages over those flops. He seemingly doesn't have the family worries, a la Contreras. He'll join an Anaheim clubhouse full of Latin players, in a city where the population is 47 percent Hispanic. Perhaps OF Vladimir Guerrero, a noted shy guy who also struggles with English, will ease Morales' transition.

Second, this piece in Baseball America by Bill Shaikin, sometime of the Times. The release of Jenks came down, finally, to the club's estimate that Jenks wasn't going to put it together physically, emotionally, or statistically after he re-injured his arm and got involved in yet another altercation last season (something I hadn't read). An unfortunate end to his stint as an Angel.

The Tender Reason A.J. Got Non-Tendered

For one thing, you don't kick the coaching staff in the nuts. Ever.

Angels Name Bulletin

mlb.com has shifted the Angels' home page to angels.angels.mlb.com, just in time to report on the messy legal proceedings the poly-placenamed club finds itself in, which have made them a laughing stock across baseball. Meantime, the old name lives on in such unlikely places as the stats page (see radiobuttons left and the teams dropdown also), and on ESPN's stats page (on the dropdowns and also on the team stats as well).

Pickoff Moves

WTNY Catches A Dodger

"Excuse me for gloating Yankee fans," opens Bryan Smith in Wait Til Next Year, "but I don’t get to do this very often."
I found the handling of Navarro, who prior to the 2004 season was universally regarded as their top prospect, laughable. It’s hard to blame a player’s performance on upper management decisions, and I’m not doing that here, but any choice that could slow the development of such a talented player is ludicrous. There is a reason this farm system has been in the dumps for the past few years, and blaming it on their trades is not sufficient."
DePodesta got himself, maybe, Paul LoDuca v. 2.0, and a much younger version, too. We'll see how that works out, but I'm optimistic.

More WTNY: Top Prospects, 1-75, and Honorable Mentions

Just after I published the above, I found Bryan had launched his list of top prospects in the minors, and unsurprisingly, they have a lot of Angel and Dodger minor leaguers:
Honorable Mentions

Angels: Erick Aybar, Johnathan Broxton, Jeff Mathis (with an extended discussion of what went wrong here), Steven Shell
Dodgers: Andy LaRoche, James Loney, Dioner Navarro


61. Angels: Ervin Santana
74. Dodgers: Mike Megrew ("a September debut should not be ruled out")

Neyer Revisits College-vs-Prep Draft Fracas

Rob Neyer whacks at the bugbear of drafting college-vs-prep pitching and finds -- surprise! -- the same thing James found years ago, yet he ultimately waves the white flag, saying "I'm not advocating one strategy or the other [of drafting exclusively college or high school pitchers]." Interesting reading, but I think he's trying too hard.

The Unscientific Dipstick

Peter White at Mariner Musings picks the Angels to take the division, which is mighty nice of him. I don't see it, myself, but that's mainly because I've found myself more or less unmotivated to try and make such predictions until Baseball Prospectus publishes their PECOTA numbers for 2005. But, since Tom and I got into a while ago, it seems a little sad to let potentially useful information go to waste, and I may try for something similar using ZiPS presently. It's that time of the year.


Various and sundry signings around baseball over the weekend:

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