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Friday, April 15, 2005

Pickoff Moves

FJT On The Dodgers' Lost Season

Jon sends encomiums to a Fire Jim Tracy column about the differences between the 2003 Dodgers and the 2004 Dodgers at the trade deadline. It's a great column that deserves to be read in its entirety, one I have only a couple comments on:
2004 was supposed to be a rebuilding year—-Jeff Weaver in, Kevin Brown out, no Vladimir Guerrero, no sign of Green’s shoulder—-fans would have understood if new GM Paul DePodesta couldn’t turn around this old and creaky ship right away. But DePodesta was proactive: he got offensive help before the season started (Milton Bradley), and in July he tried to patch up the team’s weaknesses (starting pitching, Jim Tracy starting Juan Encarnacion every day). The fans fussed but the 2004 version of the Dodgers nevertheless won the NL West and won a playoff game for the first time in sixteen years.
"Offensive help" which essentially fell into his lap. Somebody was going to get Bradley after a lackadaisical spring training incident made it clear that the Indians no longer wanted him on their team. I bag on Bill Stoneman for his bass-ackwards acquisition of AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, but DePodesta needs to be credited accurately on jobs well done, with rotten tomatoes when earned. The problem with last year's midseason trades is that the Dodgers are still betting on the come with them; Choi is a disappointment at worst and an enigma at best, and Brad Penny remains sidelined with ongoing injury problems; what he'll be when he returns to the club as a real, live starter is anybody's guess at this point.

Moreover, giving DePodesta the credit for the 2004 club's success requires a significant leap of faith I'm not willing to make too easily. Outside of Jason Grabowski, Jayson Werth, Milton Bradley, a half season of Steve Finley, three games' worth of Brad Penny, Hee Seop Choi's vanished bat, and the excision of Juan Encarnacion, Paul LoDuca, and Guillermo Mota, last year's Dodgers were still a Dan Evans Production™, a point made recently by Joe Sheehan ("As much as I like DePodesta, Evans' fingerprints were all over last year's team, and he didn't get proper credit. He remains an excellent GM candidate.") The 2004 club was a fun one, especially for the soul-crushing way in which the Dodgers annihilated the Giants' postseason hunt, but ascribing too much to DePo without balancing the actual merits of his work invites the same kind of voodoo analysis we've come to expect from hacks like Joe Morgan.

Escobar Rehab Start

Correspondant Daniel Zappela writes to let me know Escobar's rehab start went just fine, allowing one hit, walking two batters and striking out seven hitters in three innings.

Fenway Fisticuffs

Is there anything sillier than last night's smackdown at Fenway? What probably happened: the fan was in all probability not looking to hit Shef (or if he did, based on the replays, he didn't get hit that hard). Shef, startled by the contact, reacted by smacking down the guy's beer, and fortunately, a security guard interposed himself thus defusing the situation. But, man, talk about lame fights.

The Oppressive Weight Of Nonymity

David Ross, as a Pirate: .333/.375/.667, 15 AB.

More Blog Consolidation

Thanks to Richard for picking up the motion of the Texas Rangers Blog to SPORTblogs in the guise of Lone Star Ball. Sidebar adjustments a-comin'.
And with that, I'm off to Dodger Stadium tonight. Enjoy, folks. I'll be in the cheap seats.
Every story has to be about something, i suppose
this one says i lose my head
as the feeling starts to grow you know?
i can feel love thumping at the doors of my heart

feel love thump as it tears me apart
feel love pump as the worrying starts
i can feel love thumping
at the doors of my heart again
at the doors of my heart again
i can feel love thump
bom-bom be bom-bom.
-- English Beat, "Doors Of My Heart"

Dan evans was a shipwright GM. I defended a bunch of times and I liked the way he was conservative with trades (with a few exceptions, but they haven't really hurt us). He worked constantly with little pieces and while he did make mistakes, his problems were not glaring like the Fred Claire and Kevin Malone days. Problem is, DePodesta complemented Evans' core workings and commitment to developing the farm system with explosive decisiveness and audacity. Finley was a pretty big trade and so was Bradley. Not really Evans's style. So while it remains to be seen whether DePodesta can be the maintainer that Evans was, the fact is, both men did each other a favor. Many Evans bashers lost their muster after the Dodgers got to the postseason(mediocre is what my friends called him) and DePodesta had a solid base to build on and trade away. Not to mention that most of the coaching was brought under Evans' watch. Ironically his bullpen seems similar to the way Evans collected relievers. Dennis Houlton will hopefully turn out to be as good a pickup as Mota or Duaner sanchez.
Joe Morgan lost his ability to think a while ago. I'm not a slave to moneyball either because I think it misrepresents sabermetrics a little but nor do I think somehow Beane is a dehumanized robot that wants to assimilate ballplayers into drones. Morgan has made so many laughable comments over the years, I've stopped noticing. And as you point out, you need to show evidence to prove your point. DePo's 2004 trades are still in doubt. So is Beane's. Like you said, we will just have to wait and see. Morgan is too impatient for that

Very good points Rob. I'll quibble with your characterization of the Bradley situation, though. The opportunity may have "fell into his lap," in the sense that the Indians wanted him out of Cleveland, but DePodesta did what Evans never did (unless my memory fails me): he traded the best offensive prospect in the organization (Gutierrez) for Bradley. That's being proactive and productive, in my view. DePo deserves credit for that.

Also, you can't fault DePodesta for Penny's injury. DePo spotted a weakness--starting pitching--and he got a proven starter who dazzled while he was healthy. The NLDS against the Cards proved that DePo's analysis of our midseason needs was correct. I give him credit for being proactive in addressing that weakness; he can't be blamed if injury ultimately foiled his good intentions.
And to clarify--maybe my thesis was a little muddled--I wasn't trying to argue that DePo was the reason we had success in 2004. I was mainly trying to compare and contrast the 2003 & 2004 seasons in terms of how the GMs responded to clear midseason needs. I think DePo inherited a good but significantly flawed team and was proactive in trying to maximize the team's chances for success. For that he deserves credit and has earned currency.

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