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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ascot, Four-In-Hand, Bow, A Tie's A Tie: Angels 3, Cubs 3

It's pretty telling that this year the Cubs previews for the most part have photos of the iconic Theo Epstein on them, and no player. That's because, unfortunately, the team is not especially good, and because the major hope they have for the future is in the future. Strangely enough, the Cubs and Red Sox have still not finalized compensation for the "deal" that sent Epstein to Chicago, long after all parties agreed that was what was going to happen. (Former Cubs pitcher Chris Carpenter had to have bone chips removed from his elbow, sidelining him for 2012, leading the Red Sox to revisit the issue. Not that they wouldn't have anyway.)

The Angels got two runs on a Kendrick double and a Pujols homer, but that was it, as Cubs starter Paul Maholm settled down thereafter. Chicago got one back in the fifth off a two out double by Joe Mather, who scored on a Howie Kendrick error. The Angels more or less left the field in the sixth, leaving things to their minor league reserves. (There was a funny story about Albert Pujols miscounting outs and prematurely heading to the dugout, but, hey, it's spring.) Garrett Richards (who is so unfamiliar to me that I missed the final "t" in his name) managed a good outing (sub-quality-start level!) in his final bid for the fifth starter role, giving up only two earned runs (three total).

Really, I'm ready for the season to start.

Angels recapMLB Box

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Barry Zito, Ballhawk

The Giants have a significant scavenger bird problem at AT&T Park (think pigeons and seagulls), and have thus far unsuccessfully brainstormed ways to chase them off. A native red-tailed hawk (nicknamed Bruce Lee) does what he can, but he's only one predator, and there are a lot of gulls. Bay Area Sports Guy suggests Barry Zito, falconer.

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Friday Was Old Folks' Day

So, these were things that happened yesterday:

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Figure Eight: Dodgers 6, Cubs 3

Yesterday was a split-squad day for the Dodgers, who I have followed almost not at all this year. In fact, this was the first and only game I planned on seeing them at, mainly due to the fact that I have a real loathing for their home park at Camelback. It's also because I don't expect them to do much in these twilight hours of the McCourt ownership fiasco. While I'm moderately optimistic about the new Magic/Kasten/Guggenheim partnership, I can't quite lick the feeling that the purchase price comes with hidden strings that may eventually tie down the team like Gulliver.

4A journeyman Fernando Nieve got the start, and amazingly — or not so amazingly, if you looked at the Cubs lineup for any length of time — he did pretty well through four innings, surrendering his only run in the fourth on a two out solo shot to Ian Stewart. Stewart had landed on the Cubs as part of the deal that sent don't-know-what-to-do-with-him quandary outfielder Tyler Colvin to Colorado. Colvin showed hope for eventual slugging in AA, but largely fizzled in three years of major league service. Stewart had injury problems in 2011 that precluded success, and so both ended up in a change-of-scenery trade.

Despite the split squad, if you squinted hard, you could sort of see today's lineup as a regular season game lineup for the Dodgers if Andre Ethier were injured (say) and the team needed to give Matt Kemp a day off. Dee Gordon got the leadoff duties, and against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster he did nothing at all. The big rap on Gordon is that he lacks the experience to handle major league pitching (especially given his rapid ascent through the minors). Yesterday did little to dispel that, though eventually he did knock Manny Corpas around for a triple with two on, a hit that eventually cost Corpas the loss. I'm not sure I qualify Corpas as a major leaguer at this point, but it was a nice piece of hitting and an even more exciting few moments of baserunning.

From the pleasant surprises department, we got Matt Angle, who reached three times on an infield hit, a single, and a walk. Angle was a waiver pick of the Dodgers earlier in the year; he's speedy as all get out, but lacks any kind of offensive value with the bat, lacking both strike zone judgment and power. Another 4A suspect, Luis Cruz, managed to pick up a couple hits, as did regular James Loney.

The pitching staff held up well against the Cubs' popgun offense, though that was admittedly expected; it wasn't much of a contest. When you are throwing in a Logan Bawcom in a game, there's a reason. The Cubs accordingly managed to scratch out a run in the ninth, with a leadoff triple by Marlon Byrd, but Steve Clevinger knocked him in at the cost of an out. That foreclosed on the Cubs chances for the game.

Dodgers recapMLB Box

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Gedankenexperiment: Worst Case TV Scenarios

Returning to my piece from the other day on the implications of viewership erosion with respect to the long-term viability of the Dodgers' TV payouts, I got into a protracted discussion with Jon Weisman on a private Facebook baseball group. He complained that my arguments treat all subscribers as though they were not sports fans. Presumably, sports fans will be more willing to pay for cable packages carrying their favorite team(s); that is, the overall Fox/ESPN strategy is sound, and the cable carriers themselves will have no choice but to hand over an increasing fraction of their revenues to the one thing proven to keep viewer interest.

All right, then. Let us look at a worst-case scenario:

  1. First, assume cable has become completely unbundled. That is, currently, to some degree the costs of delivering Dodgers (or Angels) content is borne upon people who never view those games. The most recent best-case scenario I was able to come up with was 111,000 average viewers in 2009, a number that might be low; roughly double it and round down to the nearest hundred thousand, and admit 200,000.
  2. Convert the $3 billion figure to an annual, non-increasing figure: $150M/year.
  3. Divide the second figure by the first, on the basis that no longer will anyone get a "free ride" from uninterested viewers. That yields $750/year.
I really don't care how much you like the Dodgers, that's a lot of revenue to expect to make. Some fraction of it could be recouped in advertising dollars, but it seems very rich to me.

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Angels Option Mike Trout, Brad Mills To AAA

Per Mike DiGiovanna, the Angels have optioned OF Mike Trout and LHP Brad Mills to AAA Salt Lake. Trout was hitting .167/.286/.167 in six major league spring training at-bats this year. Mills had a 1.43 ERA in four appearances (three starts) this spring, and 14.2 IP, walking four and striking out nine.

Update: I apparently missed that Trout had a viral infection that caused him to lose 20 lbs this spring, which almost certainly screwed him up. He has gained back 11.

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Jason Isringhausen Makes The 25-Man Roster

Jason Isringhausen has made the 25-man roster, according to a tweet by Mike DiGiovanna. He ended the game yesterday with a 6.35 ERA and three holds in spring training.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Report: Abreu To Cleveland Deal Near

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Angels are near a deal to send Bobby Abreu to Cleveland, in which they will eat virtually all of his $9M salary for 2012.

Update 3/29: ESPN's Jim Bowden says there is no deal at present.

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Angels Major League Hitters Better Than Royals As Both Teams Batter Second-String Pitchers: Angels 11, Royals 8

Honest to God, I still have almost no idea who Eric Hurley is, save that he has done most of his baseballing in the minors, where he was an erstwhile first-rounder for Texas in 2004. He's apparently a survivor of shoulder surgery, a broken wrist, and a skull fracture from a line drive. Today, we may add to that (more) impressive score a survivor of the Royals lineup, for he coughed up a five spot (with two home runs) in the first inning while not looking especially useful. He didn't really look like a useful pitcher until the third, when he only faced four batters, but still, he walked a man, which isn't helping him towards his goal.

It was presage for both teams, because the Angels came storming back in the second, with back-to-back-to-back home runs from Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, and Hank Conger, part of a five-run inning of their own that knocked a Royals starter Everett Teaford around.

That pretty much set the stage for the rest of the game. While Teaford didn't take the loss, a nondescript 4-A reliever named Francisley Bueno did the honors in the fourth, giving up five consecutive hits from leadoff man Erick Aybar all the way through Vernon Wells, ultimately resulting in four more runs scored and, beyond that, the game.

The Angels relief crew from the sixth inning on was surprisingly strong, posting four frames of no-hit ball. While you might expect this of Scott Downs, it was a happy relief from Jason Isringhausen, whose spring has been a pockmarked mess that has, at times, come close to announcing his retirement. Kevin Johnson (who?) and Jordan Walden finished out affairs, and so to the end of the game. Kansas City, visibly, is on its way to better days, but not, at least, a win today.

Angels recapMLB box

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More Linkies On The Dodgers Sale

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Out Of Loek: Reds 5, Angels 4

Somebody had to deliver that awful pun about Loek van Mil's throwing a meatball to Ryan Ludwick, who then sent the ball sailing over the left field fence, sealing the game for the home Reds. Ludwick had only entered the game in the seventh, beset previously with some sort of flu bug lately, but proved his mettle at the end. Van Mil, on the other hand ended the day with one of the team's worst ERAs, at 9.53. Not that he was likely to make the team; he'll probably start back in AA or AAA.

Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo both pitched reasonably well, though you have to be concerned about the shockingly large number of hits Haren surrendered (nine in all). The Angels got a home run out of Vernon Wells, a rope that stayed up in the left field corner. The team's experiment with Peter Bourjos at leadoff did not go so well, as he struck out twice and only reached base once, on a walk. That's not part of the new, Jerry Dipoto Angels plan that emphasizes OBP.

Kevin Jepsen continued to disappoint, giving up a leadoff home run to Paul Janish in the eighth. Janish hit .214/.259/.262 in limited service last year, which is to say, the league pretty much showed he has nothing to make most competent pitchers fear for their paychecks. However, that adjective does not describe Jepsen, whom I view lately as release-bait. If he makes the team, it will be only as a short-term stopgap until some other roster move eventually forces his expulsion.

Jason Isringhausen posted a zero frame while failing to impress (i.e., I saw few if any swing-and-misses). It's the sort of meretricious thing you expect could land him a spot on the team, especially if the word "veteran" features as a net positive in the eye of the man doing the choosing. I hope and trust that after Vernon Wells, this is no longer the case in the Angels front office.

Finally, a few words about the new(ish) Goodyear ballpark:

Overall I give this a B-. Don't hate it, don't love it, but I would take it in a heartbeat over Camelback, which I loathe.

MLB BoxAngels recap

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Do You Believe In Magic? Thoughts On The New Ownership Group

If You're Not Paying For It, You Become The Product.
blue_beetle on Metafilter, by way of Scott Goodson at Forbes
I must constantly remind myself that there is at least one thing that the McCourts actually did right as far as Dodger fans should be concerned. The team has seen the postseason four times, which is three times more than in the entire post-1988 era under O'Malley and Fox combined ownership. Also he managed to double team revenue — in part through means widely derided among fans, such as radically increasing parking fees. But that, really, is the limit of it. The McCourts were and are venal, selfish in profoundly unenlightened ways. They lack any instinct of noblesse oblige to the team or its fans, have increased parking costs precipitously, and have roughly handled the front office and its employees when they weren't squandering funds, both internally and for themselves.

So, it is understandable that yesterday's announcement of the sale of the Dodgers to the Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten/Guggenheim Partners group would elicit hosannas from Dodger fans, whose "long-suffering" mantle has to be kept in context. Pirates fans haven't had a winning season since 1992, and while they're anomalous in sports, it's a useful tonic for those who might feel ill-used by the McCourts.

That said, it seems to me there are two things (at least) we need to be cognizant of as Magic Johnson's banner goes up over the stadium:

  1. $2 billion is a lot of money. The bid, as MSTI pointed out, is 100% cash. This is astonishing, and for the McCourts, the very definition of failing up. For that kind of money, the new owners will want some return; and I really fear what that would entail.
  2. Cable TV revenues are not what they seem. The numbers floated previously — $3 billion from Fox — are eye-popping, and underpin the enormous valuation of the Dodgers. Yet, cable TV subscribers are cancelling in record numbers.
    “Rising prices for pay TV, coupled with growing availability of lower-cost alternatives, add to a toxic mix at a time when disposable income isn’t growing,” [Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig] Moffett said. “For younger demographics, where in many cohorts unemployment is north of 30 percent, and especially for those with limited or no interest in sports, the pay-TV equation is almost inarguably getting less attractive.”
    So, we may read this fairly as the cable TV companies making a huge, all-in bet on sports generally and the Dodgers specifically as a means to stay relevant, while a large fraction of their audience leaks away to YouTube, Hulu, and other Internet-based options. This isn't just a case of satellite operators luring away more cable customers, as they, too, are suffering subscriber declines. More evidence of this trend comes from the fact that television ownership has declined for the first time in twenty years. Even Verizon's sexy FiOS service is reporting growth is finally leveling off, while 75% of the top twenty cable channels report declines in viewership.
Now, of course, some of this cable TV subscriber contraction can be laid on the current economy (the WSJ article on Dish Network above mentions this, especially for young potential customers), but the overall signs are unmistakeable. Trees do not grow to the sky. As with the housing bubble, there are ominous signs that the Dodgers new owners face a fiscal future that, while superficially better than McCourt ownership, is far less sanguine than it at first appears. The team's finances rest on a sand hill of TV viewers, many of whom are abandoning cable at a time the networks have bet big that sports will keep them around. I expect these deals will falter, either by bankruptcy (imagine Fox going Chapter 11) — or by inflation ($100M contracts for short relievers, anyone?). The net result is that the "free ride" for Dodgers (and Angels) fans will be over, and a lot of things will get that much more expensive.

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Why Mark Trumbo Won't Be A Regular At Third

Something I missed yesterday, but a wonderful analysis by David Schoenfield at ESPN SweetSpot on why Mark Trumbo will never be a regular at third base, or at least, why the odds are badly stacked against him:
I did a little search on Baseball-Reference and checked all players since 1950 who had played at least 300 games at first base and third base. I picked what I thought would be a reasonable standard of playing time; if you played 300 games at third base, it means a manager was at least willing to live with you out there for a couple seasons' worth of games. This would help narrow down players who had played both positions and highlight guys who may have made the first-to-third transition. I figured it would be a large list. After all, a lot of third basemen get shifted to first base, right?

There were only 24 such players. The list: Harmon Killebrew, Deron Johnson, Joe Torre, Dick Allen, Richie Hebner, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Enos Cabell, Ray Knight, Bob Horner, Darrell Evans, Pedro Guerrero, George Brett, Jeff King, Dave Magadan, Ron Coomer, Todd Zeile, Phil Nevin, Shea Hillenbrand, Kevin Youkilis, Jim Thome, Aubrey Huff, Wes Helms, Miguel Cabrera.

You know how many of those 24 converted from first base to third base? One.
Wow. The consequences of that are enormous. Trumbo never played third in the minors, which makes for a tough sell defensively. He has made some very nice plays there this spring, but we may write some of that off due to sample size.

Read the whole thing. His conclusion that Trumbo is a utility guy (with a goodly amount of pop) seems to me well-founded.

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Panik On The Streets Of Scottsdale: Angels 5, Giants 3

I suppose I should preface this by mentioning that my thoughts on last night's extraordinary news of the Dodgers sale will have to wait for a while or else I'll never get this recap out the door. Yesterday, a mostly regular-season Angels team beat a mostly regular-season Giants team, with the Angels scratching out single runs in the third and fifth off a clearly flaky Tim Lincecum. Lincecum uncharacteristically walked a pair and struck out only two; if he is going to return to dominance, he needs to step it up, and in a hurry. The Giants' ace has watched his walk totals increase while his strikeout rate has declined. His 2011 was not at the nearly 4:1 rate of his 2009, but it was still very respectable (220:86). Still, you get the impression that Lincecum will cease to wear the mantle of "top five starter in the league" soon if he doesn't stop this downward slide.

Peter Bourjos had a couple star turns in this game, ending the fourth with a spectacular grab of Brandon Belt's line drive in deep left center, just before us in the berms at the Giants' fine park in Scottsdale. Then, to start off the fifth, Bourjos smacked a screamer down the left field line for a double off Lincecum, and Bobby Wilson singled him home, a sort-of replay of the third. Unaccustomed to such abuse, the Giants fans in our section screamed, "Whatsamatter with Bourjos? He's a bum!" You wish, San Fran. You wish.

Brad Mills, one of the returns from the junkpile trade that shipped Jeff Mathis out of town, pitched surprisingly well. The two runs he allowed yesterday were the first all spring, so go him; perhaps a change of scenery will do him good. Or, not. We'll have to see. As one of the BPro wags put it, you will rarely go wrong betting against a sudden improvement. He did, at least, go long enough to qualify for the win (six innings), which is a good thing; I expected him to leave after four and change.

For the longest time, the game dragged on in late innings, still tied, and with little hope of resolution entering the ninth, I consoled myself that spring games go only to ten innings. After Jorge Cantu lined out to second, I found myself hung between hope (hard contact) and despair (one out closer to extras). Then, Trumbo doubled, instantly putting the winning run in scoring position. That brought Javier Lopez out of the bullpen for the Giants, who proceeded to walk the next two batters he faced before blowing the game open with a bases-clearing triple to Alexei Amarista. The Giants got one back in the bottom of the frame with Daniel Tillman walked the leadoff batter, a shortstop named Panik. I declined the invitation to panic, and even though he eventually scored, it came with a sac fly out from the left fielder, named Pill, and so the game came to a happy end for Angels fans. Amarista is making a real case to be on the 25-man when camp breaks, but I confess I have no idea what that would do to the bench.

Angels recapBox

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dodgers Sold To Magic/Kasten Group For $2B

Ken Gurnick tweeted that the Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten group has purchased the Dodgers, for $2 billion. Mind. Blown.

Update: McCourt has enough dough to buy the Mets. LOL.

Conflicting info on whether McCourt continues to own the parking lots. Jim Alexander says no, Molly Knight says yes.

Update 2: The answer seems to be "yes". Molly Knight:

Again, from McCourt's press release on the parking lots: "Mr. McCourt and certain affiliates of the purchasers will also be forming (1/2)
..a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property for an additional $150 million." (2/2)
Update 3: LAT on the deal:
If the deal closes as expected, the Dodgers would be owned by an entity called Guggenheim Baseball Partners and run by Stan Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
Molly Knight:
Someone better hand Jamie McCourt a stiff cocktail. She "only" gets $131 million out of the deal.

Update 4: ESPN LA.

Update 5: The parking lots will be controlled by the incoming Magic/Kasten group.

Update 3/28: The dodgers.com story is here, with additional biographic info on Stan Kasten here. Jon Weisman's take on the team's to-do list can be found at ESPN, while Mike Petriello's thoughts can be found here and here. "Finally seeing him on his way out, well… it’s like Christmas multiplied by your birthday times twelve Super Bowls, plus kittens." And puppies. And ponies. I hope. I want to get something out on this later today; my initial reaction is that the purchase price is so high that many of the issues MLB claimed to have with McCourt ownership are still around for the new Magic/Kasten group. Read this way, the McCourts' eviction can be seen as a pure morality play, a verdict rendered on the squandiferous and self-absorbed McCourts. That's perhaps a bit harsh, but I can't understand how MLB feels this incoming bid — which has even more debt to buy the team (at least half, by what I recall) — is in better straits financially.

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As If You Needed A Reason To Like Mark Trumbo

... this Jon Heyman piece for CBS Sports will make you like him even more:
"I'm here to do whatever it is to help the team win,'' Trumbo said. "I know what I bring to the table. For me, it's proving I'm capable on defense, because that's how I'll earn the at-bats.''
There's a lot of sugar in this piece — one must squint awfully hard, and perhaps find a peyote dealer, before Bobby Abreu begins to look like a Hall of Famer — but it's the Trumbo quotes that make it for me. Cheesy homilies from Bull Durham they may be, but he's got the good sense to know he's got to say them. Go, kid.


Yankees Release Preston Mattingly

A brief note from earlier in the day before I get to my writeup from today's Angels/Giants scrimmage: the Yankees released Preston Mattingly from his minor league contract signed in January.

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Snakebit: Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 2

It is fair to say that Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is my favorite of the new parks in the Cactus League, mainly for its construction. Shade, in the infield at least, is nearly ubiquitous, which makes the sometimes scorching Cactus League much less formidable for the paying customers. I am less enamored of its predictable approach to "alternate" food. Every venue, save for concourse vendors and clearly-marked traditional hot dog hawkers, has its designated "alterna" chow. Here, a salad, there, a "burrito" as practiced in ancient refried-bean-and-yellow-cheese Mexican restaurants run by someone named Stan. But here I quibble; judging a spring training facility by the food is about like judging Miss America on her actual talents. Or something.

On to the Diamondbacks, who pulled off a worst-to-first turnaround nearly unprecedented in modern history. As BPro's writeup evinces, it had only been done three times by teams residing in divisions with more than four clubs, making it something of a rarity. They accomplished this feat by

Of course, it also didn't hurt that the rest of the division was not notoriously strong. The Giants' 2009 turned out to be a one-off, and with the Padres and Dodgers fighting for air amid the Moores and McCourt divorces respectively, nobody else was really poised to contend for the crown.

So, the Diamondbacks, for the moment, appear to be the class of the division, although I seem to recall thinking similar things entering 2011 about the Giants. With that in mind, we watched a split-squad Cubs team go down versus a very strong outing by staff ace Ian Kennedy, who pitched seven innings of one-run ball. Cubs starter Jay Jackson only lasted four innings but looked creditable, at least, which is all you can hope for from a minor leaguer who's hoping to eventually crack the rotation. He'll be playing out his age 24 season in AAA, and with a team as bad as the Cubs are expected to be, not to mention the usual injuries accruing to a starting rotation, he'll get his chance to shine sooner rather than later.

One of the fun parts of the game, I confess, was a guy I found myself cheering for in last year's postseason, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy got to Jackson in the fourth with a laser shot into the outfield berms. While it's kind of a stretch to think he'll have the impact this year he had on last year's NLDS (.438/.526/.813??), it's no big leap to imagine him becoming a high-OBP/SLG star the Snakes have needed at first base for a very long time.

For a spring training game involving the Cubs, actual attendance was surprisingly light, only 11,573. An engaging game at one of my favorite spring training parks: this is what Camelback Ranch should have been.

Cubs recap

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Monday, March 26, 2012

The End Is Nigh: Dodgers Sale Groups Whittled To Three

Bill Shaikin's latest tells us the roughly expected list: Magic/Kasten, Cohen/Soon-Shiong, and Kroenke (St. Louis Rams). What's not expected (and actually fairly bright news):
McCourt and his advisers have projected a sale price of at least $1.5 billion. Is that going to happen?

That might depend on whether McCourt includes the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale. The bidders would like him to sell the lots. He is not required to do so, and he has said he intends to keep them.

If he does, the offers for the Dodgers could drop to the point in which McCourt might not make much more than $1.1 billion, the approximate amount he needs to pay off debts and taxes, according to multiple people familiar with the sale process. McCourt could bet on revenue from future development.

The parking lot options might not be limited to "sell" or "keep." A bidder could get an option to buy them a later date, for example, or offer McCourt a share of any development revenue.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

How Much Wood Would A Grichuk Chuck? Angels 6, Rangers 5

It's probably beyond silly to try and pull anything of significance out of this game, other than Trevor Bell's surprisingly positive outing (4.1 IP, 3 K, 3 H, 1 BB), which even then failed to meet the minimum for a winning game (or a game of record). For myself, I found it impressive that I managed to make all but one of the substitutions based on the stadium announcer's calls, which at Hohokam amount to guttoral grunts.

One guy expected to win a role on the Rangers' 25-man roster (Michael Kirkman) stumbled badly and in fact took the loss, improbably on a Randall Grichuk RBI single. I could go on about Grichuk — a victim of unfortunate and star-crossed injuries — but I have my own burdens tonight, and so bid all of you a premature goodnight.

Update 3/26: For reasons I cannot entirely grasp myself (though "comedy" figures heavily), I must add that our experience at Tempe Diablo was one of the most annoying I have ever endured in any spring training game, ever, and that was due to the noticeably drunk Phillies fan sitting to Helen's right. He was so loud and grating that Helen got up in the third or so and wandered around the heavily populated stadium for much of the rest of the game. One of the many joys of spring training is the enhanced quality of the fans, in general; one does not make an extended vacation of baseball without being something of an epicurean. Fittingly, this dork was a local, using the day as an excuse to get blotto, I would gather, long before the game started, a first for us.

That brings to mind something else, something I am loathe to add, given this is the principal team I follow and write big annual checks to: Tempe Diablo is old. It is cramped. It lacks a complete outfield, cutting off a couple thousand paying customers. It has almost no shade in the sun. The food choices seem outdated and inadequate. Maybe it's just me, maybe it's just Helen, but it really feels like this is a park accommodating the Angels as they were before Mike Scioscia, a second-rate team without a history or a following.

I'm not sure I want them to move, and in fact I have a real moral reservation against it. Moving, after all, implies Arizona taxpayers will almost certainly be on the hook for whatever glossy stadium comes up. But it does seem to me as though you can see the end for this stadium.

MLB Gameday

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Future Suck: Padres 5, Cubs 1

The book on the Cubs this 2012 is that they'll need an awful lot of things to go right for them to even hit breakeven, which, among the Wrigleyville faithful, will amount to something like an impossible dream. The soberer thinkers among them seem to have scoped out a 71-win season as the greatest likelihood, which is to say a long, dreary spring and summer lie ahead. The offense has little to offer in the way of legitimate thrills. Save for young Starlin Castro (whom Al Yellon recommended the team long-term recently), the team's young position players largely fall into the placeholder category.

The good news, such as there is of it, is that the team's downside due to creaky veterans is somewhat limited. The lone bad Jim Hendry-era deal appears limited to Alfonso Soriano, who will haunt the lineup (or at least the payroll) through 2014. Marlon Byrd, not a liability but not really a star, has one more year on his contract, this one, as does the surprising (but not overwhelming) Ryan Dempster. Even more good news — perhaps the best in generations — came from the exodus of Theo Epstein to Chicago following a tiff with ownership in Boston. With an unmistakable "we're getting the band back together" vibe, he hauled in Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, both who had only briefly been running things in San Diego as the team's GM and AGM, respectively.

"I had low expectations — and they were dashed!"
— my friend Genny Dazzo
Something very like that happened with the Cubs yesterday, who committed two errors, both of which were followed by runs by the Padres. What surprised me immensely was that starter Travis Wood was charged with no unearned runs. Is this the opposite of homer scoring? However you call it, Wood seemed to me to be beset by much worse numbers than he really deserved, and pitched reasonably well the first time and a third or so through the order, his plunking of Will Venable notwithstanding.

That said, it was a Padres split squad he succumbed to, and that team is notably not going to be very good, either. They finished last in the NL West last year at 71-91, a record the 2012 Cubs might even envy if things go really badly for them. One spring game is never going to tell you the whole story for an upcoming season unplayed; the whole point of the exercise is hope. For the Padres, much of that has to come from the crazy rich $1 billion/20 year TV deal the team unexpectedly pulled off in February. For the Cubs, it's all about the draft and international signings. Neither team has much real hope for winning 2012, and only limited aspirations the year after, either.


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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mark Trumbo: Real Third Baseman?

Mike DiGiovanna seems to think so. I am not inclined to disagree, given the play he made in yesterday's spring training (there, I lowercased it — I contain multitudes) game.

Also, Kendrys Morales got his first homer yesterday since returning from the DL, which, yay.

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And Then There Were Three

Now that I'm in Arizona for my annual Spring Training fix (and does it really merit capitalization?), the Dodgers sale is down to three groups:
The three finalists include a group led by hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and Los Angeles billionaire and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong; a group led by Magic Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten; and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
It's weird how little I find myself caring about who wins the team, which is probably by itself bad, because it means McCourt has thoroughly destroyed my ability for rational thought when it comes to the Dodgers. After all, the last thing we need is another replay of the McCourt era, or to bring in (using an example of worst-case scenarios from other sports) a Donald Sterling sort of ownership. It's an enervation that seems to be going around in the Dodger blogosphere, albeit with Jon for entirely different reasons.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dodgers Valuation Up 75% To Headline The 2012 Forbes MLB Valuations

Not too surprising, being the team is actively being shopped in front of a much larger crowd this time.

Related And Belated:


Monday, March 19, 2012

Mariners Release Hong-Chih Kuo

MLB Trade Rumors tweeted that the Mariners have released former Dodger Hong-Chih Kuo. Kuo had a 17.55 ERA in 6.2 IP, recording four strikeouts. Kuo's injury-laden Dodgers career was ended when the Dodgers non-tendered him in December. The Mariners released him from a major league contract, which was non-guaranteed.

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Wilpons Settle Madoff Claims For $162M

I had thought that earlier comments — and now I'm just too damned lazy to look them up — about the Mets and the Wilpons getting away without paying a nickel in compensation to the Madoff victims was overstated. Just so, as today the Wilpons have settled claims against them for $162M, an interesting figure considering the 162-game baseball season; that's a million dollars a game, but a lot less than was being discussed publicly.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Regional Sports Network Pricing Climbs Through The Roof

In case you were wondering how the Angels were able to afford Albert Pujols' insane $250M/10-year deal, or why the Dodgers bidding is currently said to be in excess of $1.6 billion, this multichannel.com article about regional sports network fees is something to behold:
According to SNL Kagan, affiliate-fee revenue for all regional sports networks rose 44% in the past five years, from $3.2 billion in 2007 to $4.6 billion in 2011. At the same time, affiliate revenue for non-sports cable networks has climbed nearly 41% in the same period, from $12.3 billion in 2007 to $17.3 billion in 2011.
Cable TV networks are starting to fight back, but Time Warner Cable is conflicted now by their ownership of the Lakers' TV network:
Some reports have said based on the estimated $3 billion TWC paid the Lakers for rights to air their games for 20 years, the MSO will need to charge as much as a combined $3.50 per subscriber per month for the two networks to turn a profit.

“Based on the pretty substantial rights fee they were charged, they, in turn, will probably charge a pretty substantial [carriage] fee,” Berke said.

It seems to me that a lot of the carriage fees are based on some very rosy assumptions, in particular that people won't just start dropping cable. It's very easy to see that it might eventually be the case that carriage fees for RSNs could approach $20, which would set an absolute floor on cable TV monthly charges. $100/month for basic cable? It's not an impossibility.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dodgers To Give Away Hello Kitty Bobblehead July 1

In a move that beggars the lexicon, the Dodgers are giving away a Hello Kitty bobblehead July 1. In other news, Hello Kitty has been signed to a 2-year deal. (Just kidding.)


So Wrong Dep't: Little Leaguers Must Return $1,200 Donated By LA Strip Club

How can you not hate that?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Santana Yanked After Taking A Line Drive To His Pitching Shoulder

Mark Saxon at ESPN has the details; he only threw 1.1 innings before getting nailed. He's day-to-day.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What The Jeff Moores Pullout On The Padres Deal Means

Apparently came the news last week that Jeff Moores withdrew his bid to buy the Padres on the heels of a rescinded vote by MLB to approve his ownership. According to a Maury Brown article in today's Baseball Prospectus, that's because — surprise! — Bud Selig didn't have the votes to get it past ownership, and in particular, because it was opposed by shadow commissioner Jerry Reinsdorf. The interesting outcome is that Jeff Moorad actually may yet end up keeping the team, thanks to a rich TV deal.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Lasorda In Decline

Grant Brisbee has a little fun with a Tommy Lasorda tweet mentioning that today is the birthday of Jimmy "Toy Cannon" Wynn, "who would have been 70 years old today". Wynn confounded this by not being dead, of course, and Lasorda later corrected the error, but it reminds me that Lasorda's seemed in a fog the last few times I've seen him in person; his radio spots do nothing to dispel that view, either.


Angels, Dodgers Mediocre Or Worse As BPro Rates The Farm Systems

Only a single sentence condemnation in today's Kevin Goldstein "Future Shock" review of farm systems:
19. Los Angeles Dodgers
Top 11 Prospects List
System At a Glance:
There's certainly pitching here, but it's more quantity than quality, and the organization is wafer-thin when it comes to positional prospects at the upper level.

23. Los Angeles Angels
Top 11 Prospects List
System At a Glance:
Without Mike Trout, this would be a nightmare, and he won't qualify anymore after his first big league game of the season.

Ugh. This is the lowest I've seen the Angels rated; you may recall Baseball America ranked the Angels 18th overall.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Angels Customer Service Hits The Skids As Five-Hour Lines For Tickets Enrage Fans

The Rev has the poop, surprising because it comes from an LAT article from the business side, in the person of Michael Hiltzik. The story is that 2,000 people waited up to five hours on the first day of availability for ticket package seating assignments, when this process had previously taken only two hours. Worse, the Angels designed the process to require their physical presence at the stadium, but only had half the box office windows staffed.
The worst thing is that Angels executives still don't get that they committed a huge blunder. When I spoke with the front office last week, they were not exactly apologetic. They weren't merely defensive. They were truculently defensive. At one point in our conversation, Angels President John Carpino intimated that I was taking this matter personally because my wife had been inconvenienced, as though no one who hasn't lived through the experience can imagine the frustration of being forced to waste nine hours acquiring 10 baseball tickets.
Hiltzik is normally one of the reasons I ignore the Times' business section — he is that section's answer to Bill Plaschke — but he's absolutely right in twitting the front office. The Angels have done a lot to make their team and stadium an enjoyable experience, but this is ridiculous. Was there any reason these vouchers couldn't have been managed online? Really a bad call, made worse by Carpino's evasions.

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Scott Boras, Man With A Tin Ear

I missed this hilarious ESPN New York story about Scott Boras' reaction to the Mets' historic drop in payroll from $143M last year to a projected $91M this year.
Speaking in generalities about big-market teams, Boras said: "When they are not providing fans with the highest quality of play, and they take an attitude of 'we're going to take on a development role,' knowing that the TV contracts, the market size and such allow them revenues that far exceed many of the clubs that have to pursue those development policies, that impacts the game. The major franchises who are getting the majority of revenues should provide a product, or an attempt at a product, that has the near-highest payrolls commensurate with the markets they are in."
In other words, he's publicly upset that the Wilpons won't be bidding up any of his soon-to-be injured free agents, and is saying as much. While I have no love for the Wilpons and their vile manipulation of team finances (which are scarcely better than what the McCourts subjected the Dodgers to), it's a sort of enemy-of-my-enemy situation with Boras. As the article points out, megabust Oliver Perez was a Boras client (3 years/$36M). Perez is out of baseball at age 29, if such a thing is conceivable — and yet Boras is lecturing the Mets on providing a quality product on the field?

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Harry Wendelstedt, RIP

Harry Wendelstedt, father of current umpire Hunter, passed away today at 73; in Daytona Beach, Florida; of a brain tumor. He was perhaps most famous as the plate umpire on May 31, 1968, when Don Drysdale was pitching. With his scoreless streak on the line, Drysdale loaded the bases, and hit Dick Dietz, but Wendelstedt declared that Dietz had not attempted to move out of the way of the pitch, preserving the shutout.
Drysdale threw a 2-2 pitch that struck Dick Dietz on the elbow, and the shutout streak seemed to be over. But Wendelstedt, the plate umpire, immediately ruled that Dietz didn't try to get out of the way. Wendelstedt called the pitch a ball and told Dietz to get back in the batter's box.

"I'd never seen that call before in the big leagues," Lasorda recalled. "Never had seen anyone make it."

After a heated argument, the game resumed. On a full-count pitch, Dietz flied out and Drysdale wound up pitching a shutout. Orel Hershiser set the shutout record of 59 innings in 1988, pitching under Lasorda.

"Harry had a wide strike zone, he liked to see hitters swing the bat," Lasorda said, laughing. "Dick Dietz. Harry, he got him out. And the streak continued."

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Every Hall Of Famer: Duke Snider

Summer Anne Burton's wonderful series drawing every Hall of Famer continues with Duke Snider.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Angels Scout Ejected From Giants Workout, Giants Claim "Misunderstanding"

Mark Saxon in his ESPN LA Angels blog writes that Angels scout Jeff Schugel was ousted from a Giants workout. The Giants, for their part, claim it was merely a misunderstanding. Strange.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

The Angels' Third Base Dilemma

Reading this Monkey With A Halo gut-feel piece about the Angels' third base situation reminded me of Mark Klaassen's excellent review from last week at Fangraphs, which so far is the best thing I've read on that particular dilemma so far. The short version is this:
This is not to dismiss the fielding issue, as it is obviously important. But what about the notion of an “offensive profile?” It would be understandable if one assumed that Trumbo’s 29 home runs made him more valuable at the plate than Callaspo last season. However, we do have ways of establishing the relative value of events using linear weights-based metrics like wOBA. However, the simple heart of my overly-lengthy response is this: Trumbo’s 2011 wOBA was .327 (.254/.291/.477), and Callaspo’s was .330 (.288/.366/.375). Trumbo was worth six batting runs above average, while Callaspo was worth about seven in fewer plate appearances.

Trumbo is younger, of course, so perhaps after making appropriate adjustments, he comes out better. ZiPS does see regression for Callaspo this season, projecting his 2012 wOBA at .314. However, ZiPS sees Trumbo 2012 wOBA as being…. .314. So there is no help there, either.

That is to say, even though Trumbo has a nice home run total, because he rarely walks and has a low batting average, his bat is worth only marginally more than Callaspo, which is a surprising outcome. I personally could live with either, though you can see how Trumbo might be getting starts on days flyballer Jered Weaver starts.

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Irony Eludes The Giants Fan

It's long been theorized that the ability to use and detect irony is a sign of intelligence; may we infer the reverse? I certainly imagine that isn't an unreasonable outcome, and so I pass on this Hardball Talk report from spring training, in which Giants fans swing and miss at the obvious guffaw-inducing irony of calling out Ryan Braun for using steroids.

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

How Clayton Kershaw Might Retire A 300 Game Winner

An interesting Jon Paul Morosi story at Fox Sports about Clayton Kershaw's pursuit of 300 wins. Too early? Consider that Greg Maddux had only 45 wins at the end of his age 23 season, while Kershaw has 47. It's scarcely a guarantee, and a lot of good power pitchers have gone on to the great Tommy John surgery in the sky that so often derails careers (see also, Kerry Wood), but it is not an impossibility. An interesting starting point.

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A Useful Proposal For The NBA All-Star Game That Could Fix Some Problems With MLB's

From the husband of a Facebook friend, Aaron Bloom, comes an interesting proposal to increase participation in the NBA's "no-star" slam dunk contest:
So here is my idea: the NBA lawyers should put a provision in the next CBA relating to the dunk contest. The NBA fans should get to vote on who appears in the dunk contest (and the actual judging of the dunks should once again be done by past dunking legends, such as Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins). If a player is selected to appear in the dunk contest, then that player must participate or a sizable chunk of his salary will disappear (and go to a worthy charity). We could use legalese and call the fine something official sounding, like the “scaredy cat” fine.

There can, and should, be an “opt out” for players who are over a certain age or who have already participated in at least three dunk contests. Such a provision would protect NBA stars who have already been good sports, as well as keeping NBA stars who are past their prime from embarrassing themselves.

There could also be a provision to protect (legitimately) injured players from being fined. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Wouldn’t the LeBrons — err, I mean, players of questionable honor — of the world just fake injuries and get away with chickening out?” For a few reasons, I think not (even if we don’t require them to bring a doctor’s note).

Something like this would be useful for, say, MLB's Home Run Derby, which always seems to have a lot of no-shows (most infamously A-Rod, who infamously refused to play in last year's ASG altogether). I don't doubt but that A-Rod would use the opt-out legitimately — he's no longer a spring chicken, and has participated in plenty of ASG's previously. But I think this proposal would do a lot to change at least the perception that the ASG is a joke.


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