27 February 2009

Close to closing

My wife and I just closed on the house we were purchasing. Sometimes it seemed like it would never get done, but it was. Can't the Dodgers close with Manny too?

The Dodgers and Manny are okay with the 45 million over two years with the opt-out after one year --- it's only the deferrals of money that keep them apart. I never like deferrals in contracts. A deferral is an interest free loan made by the player to the ball club. Why should a player do that? The true value of a contract with deferrals is less than the quoted value, but people just see the total amount and judge based on that. I wonder if large companies struggling in the bad economy will start trying to defer some of their workers' salaries. California was deferring tax refunds before the budget was finally passed.

If the Dodgers can't afford to pay Manny 25 million now then what makes them think they can afford the deferred payments a few years from now when Manny isn't even on the team anymore and they have to pay all these good young players entering late arbitration and free-agency? It doesn't seem like sound financial planning. I'd rather see Manny leave than see the Dodgers go into extreme cost-cutting mode a few years from now.

But whatever. I can't see into the future, and I don't know what the Dodger finances are really like, or even what the team will be like in a few years. I can only really see the Dodger season ahead, and I know I want Manny in it. Can't these sides come to a compromise? Defer less of the money, or treat the deferrals like a real loan with interest. Don't insult Manny and his evil but brilliant agent by trying to pass off your deferrals as full value. And Boras probably has nowhere else to go at these prices. If he can get the Giants or some mystery team to bite at these prices I guess we'll know soon, but I doubt it. Both sides need this. Make it happen. Close the deal.

20 February 2009

DeWitt loses his job

I've had a really stressful week --- trying to buy a house --- which combined with a lack of real Dodger news meant no posts. But now the Dodgers have signed Orlando Hudson, the O-dog, apple of Vinny's eye, and that's news big enough to break through even when I can't think of a single damn thing to write.

Blake DeWitt is forced into competition with Casey Blake, which will be no competition at all. Then he would go be forced into a competition with Mark Loretta, which is just kind of sad. I think Loretta might win, too. Or maybe Casey Blake moves to right field if Manny isn't signed, which would send DeWitt to third with no competition, unless Loretta was again competition. So with the signing of Hudson it looks like we now have a choice between Manny and DeWitt in the lineup, which is also no competition at all. But then no one can compete with Manny. Not for stats and not for money demanded either.

Mind you I don't know if Casey Blake would be better than Blake DeWitt, but I'm sure Torre and the temper boys ( Bowa and Duncan ) probably think so. And they're probably right, even. DeWitt is no sure thing, and Casey makes more than him. That always counts for something, right up until the strikeouts pile up and we all realize the player we once thought we knew was eaten by a lazy, powerless, smiling alien, and then even Pierre looks like a better option. You know who I'm talking about. But Casey Blake probably won't get eaten by an alien, and he's probably good for at least an OPS of 0.750, and that seems like enough to hold off DeWitt. That's kind of depressing.

It seems like signing Hudson might cost the Dodgers two young players: DeWitt and whoever they would have drafted in the first round this year. Not starting will cost DeWitt valuable development time, and likely Colletti will trade him at midseason for a bag of bean-eating middle relievers. Bean-eating because they stink up the joint.

I guess now the Dodgers can go to Boras and say "Hey look, now we have a plan B that doesn't involve Juan Pierre!" I don't know if Boras buys that or not, but I do. This signing does seem to give the Dodgers an escape hatch from everyday-Pierre-land even if Manny isn't signed. That's something.

13 February 2009

Broxton Blows Them Away

Yesterday there was plenty of discussion of Big Bad Jonathan Broxton in the comments at Dodger Thoughts. I tend to fall on the side that considers Broxton a fine pitcher whose failures are unfairly magnified, though I do understand the emotional reaction and will confess to nearly losing patience with him at one point last season. It's really a strange thing and I can't justify it. Broxton is clearly an elite reliever by strikeouts and walks and runs allowed.

Since I have nothing else to write about today I thought I would break down all eight of Broxton's blown saves last season into three categories: horrific, regular, and unfair.

May 11

Broxton was pounded. He gave up 6 runs and got only one out. He gave away the lead and the tie and any realistic shot at the game. This loss was 100% on him. A horrific blown save.

May 25

Kershaw's debut. Broxton comes in with a 3-2 lead, a man on third, and one out. Ideally he would get a strikeout here but instead he gives up a fly out and the run scores. In the eighth inning he gets Pujols, Ludwick and Glaus in order. Broxton gives up no hits in his outing. The Dodgers win the game in the tenth, due in part to Broxton's excellent work in this game. Unfair blown save with very good pitching.

May 27

Broxton comes in with a 1-0 lead, with runners are first and third and one out. DeWitt boots a slow roller that probably would have scored the tying run anyway. Broxton gets the second out of the inning but then goes on to give up two hits to score two more runs. If the fielding had backed him up Broxton would have given up the lead but not the tie through little fault of his own. As it was he wasn't able to stop the bleeding after the error and the game was lost, so in that respect it was poorly pitched. Unfair blown save with poor pitching.

May 31

Broxton give up 3 runs and 4 hits in the eighth inning, turning a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 loss. A horrific blown save.

July 1

Broxton gives up a double to turn a 6-4 lead into a 6-6 tie in the seventh inning. He will pitch a perfect eighth in which he retires current Dodgers Ausmus and Loretta. The Dodgers will go on to win in extra innings. This is a legitimate blown save but not a meltdown. Regular blown save.

August 9

Broxton is now the closer. The Dodgers take the lead in the top of the tenth against the Giants on a Jeff Kent home run. Broxton makes a throwing error and gives up two singles and a double to allow the Giants to win 3-2. A devastating loss. A horrific blown save.

August 24

Broxton comes in to close out a 2-1 victory over the Phillies. Instead he allows a few baserunners and gives up a game-tying single to Pedro Feliz. Broxton then gets Rollins to preserve the tie. The Dodgers will go on to lose in extra innings. This is loss number three in the Dodgers near-season-breaking eight game losing streak. But Broxton did not lose the game on his own. Regular blown save.

September 26

The Dodger rally off Giant reliever Brian Wilson ( a genuinely bad closer ) to turn a 2-4 deficit into a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth. Broxton comes in to close the game. He allows a baserunner who steals second and goes to third on Martin's throwing error. The tying run comes home on a sac fly, and Broxton then gets the last out. The Giants will go on to win off of another pitcher when Dave Roberts singles home a run. Broxton could have pitched better but this blown save is not his fault, since without the throwing error no runs scores on the fly ball. Unfair blown save.

Of Broxton's 8 blown saves last year, 3 were unfair and not really his fault, 2 were legitimate blown saves but did not by themselves cost the team the game, and 3 were horrific blown saves that lost the game. Broxton had 14 holds and 13 saves last year. That's 27 successes versus 5 genuine failures with the lead on the line. That's not a fabulous ratio but it is a good one. The idea that Broxton can't be a closer is based on emotion and not reality.

11 February 2009

March Madness

Dodgers sign Milton

Milton will initially compete for the fifth spot with Jason Schmidt, Eric Stults, Claudio Vargas, Ramon Troncoso and Shawn Estes.

That's six contenders. How are the Dodgers going to choose just one? I'm so confused, and I bet you are too. Forget about projections and upside and arm health and all that. We need something simple and final. Therefore Dodgerama is going to sponsor an old fashioned single elimination mini-tournament to sort it all out. I'll have to throw in McDonald and Weaver to fill out the bracket with eight.


1. Schmidt

He gets the top seed because of his huge contract.

2. Stults

He's filled the fifth starter spot before with decent results. He's made 14 starts for the Dodgers over the last 3 years, with 5 quality starts. That may not seem like a lot but in this group I think it is.

3. Troncoso

He probably has the best combination of raw talent and health among the official six candidates. But he's never started at the big league level before.

4. Milton

He gives up lots of home runs.

5. Estes

A long time ago he won 19 games in a season. These days he barely keeps his strikeout rate above his walk rate.

6. Vargas

He's never been good.

7. McDonald

In my opinion he's the best pitcher on the list, but it seems he will start the season in the 'pen to limit his innings.

8. Weaver

Someone had to fill out last slot of the bracket. But I have a feeling there will be no Cinderella story.

Round one

Ideally each round would be decided by some relevant statistic. For example, the first round could be based on likely strikeout rate, then the next round on walk rates, then the last round on home run rates. But that's kind of boring, so instead the first round matchups will be won by the pitcher who has pitched for the fewest evil teams in his career. If needed the tiebreaker will go to the pitcher whose name least resembles the name of a crappy fast food chain.

Schmidt (1) v. Weaver (8)

Schmidt was the Giants ace for years. Weaver pitched for the Yankees, but that's not enough to overcome Schmidt's tour of evil, especially since Weaver was actually a double agent working against the Yankees while in New York. Weaver wins in an upset!

Milton (4) v. Estes (5)

Estes had that 19-win season with the Giants, and to top it off he was with the Padres last year. Milton was comparatively an Angel. ( Uh, not literally. )

Troncoso (3) v. Vargas (6)

Vargas lost this matchup the moment he first wore the hideous Snakes cap back in 2005. If only he had known back then what that decision would cost him today on some blog.

Stults (2) v. McDonald (7)

Both of these fine young men have spent their entire careers in the Dodger organization. This is one of those matchups where you can only say it's a pity one of them has to lose. Stults wins on the tiebreaker.

Round Two

Round two will be decided by which pitcher has the best movie quote somehow associated with him.

Milton (4) v. Weaver (8)

Milton was the name of a character in Office Space who said "I'm going to burn down the building." In Ghostbusters Sigourney Weaver's character says, "I am the keymaster," when she is demonically possessed by Gozer the Gozerian. Milton wins in a tight battle, because while Gozer failed, Milton actually did succeed in burning down the building.

Stults (2) v. Troncoso (3)

Eric Stults sounds like Eric Stoltz who plays Lance in Pulp Fiction who says "You gotta stab her once, but it's gotta be hard enough to break through her breastplate into her heart, and then once you do that, you press down on the plunger." I'm pretty sure that can beat any quote from the movie Tron. Stults wins!

Final round

The final round will be decided by coolest anagram that can be made from the pitchers' first and last names.

Stults (2) v. Milton (4)

I have a feeling it might come down to these two in real life as well. In real life it's the guy who's already done well in spot duty as the fifth starter for the Dodgers against a veteran who knows how to be a veteran. Since Stults always seems to be an afterthought for the Dodgers until they really need him I think Milton wins in real life.

But in this competition it is the ferocious Metric Lion v. the wily Cult Sister. Cult Sister tries to brainwash the Metric Lion, but the beast's precision with logical metric units makes him immune to mind tricks! He calculates the perfect leap down to the last nanometer and devours the Cult Sister!

So Eric Milton wins! It may be an arbitrary victory, but it's no less arbitrary than giving each guy 20 spring training innings and deciding who gets the spot based on that. I like my way better.

10 February 2009

Weaving a Tall Tale

Last night while I was reading my wife came from the computer and told me that the Dodgers had signed Jeff Weaver to a one year contract worth 5 million dollars.

I didn't believe it, not even for a second.

We discussed after what number would have worked better. She wanted to tell me of a contract that would outrage me, but 5 million dollars was just too high, especially considering a previous conversation we had where we wondered if Weaver had even pitched last year. ( He did, but only in the minor leagues. ) The details of the real contract suggested indifference more than outrage. Half a million if he makes the team as a reliever; no incentives.

She had rejected the idea of making his fake contract a multi-year one; that would just be unbelievable when a guy like Randy Wolf gets only a one year deal. We decided that a guaranteed one year deal for two million where he would compete for a starting spot would have been the best play, which would have been not much of a play at all. I might be gullible ( or pessimistic ) enough to believe that Ned Colletti would sign Weaver for two million, but I'm not yet crazy enough to get too upset about a two million deal for anyone. I think the lesson in all this is that it's hard to build a good contract prank around Jeff Weaver.

After the failed prank we agreed that Weaver is this year's Chan Ho Park. Then we tried to remember who is this year's Sele/Erikson. We couldn't remember. ( Turns out it's Shawn Estes, ex-Giant. ) We also reasoned that Randy Wolf is this year's Randy Wolf. Wolf doesn't have a hard act to follow.

The last time I believed a prank story about a free agent contract was when my mother told me in the 1988 off-season that Orel Hershiser had signed a contract. I was thirteen years old then, and he had been my favorite player since 1985, so I was overjoyed to hear this, and I just as I started to express my verbal relief, she says, as it was the most natural truth in the world, "the contract is with the Milwaukee Brewers."

09 February 2009

Werewolves of Los Angeles

Last night I heard Werewolves of London on the radio. I like this song and enjoy hearing it. But as the song began, I tensed up, on my guard, because I wasn't sure what would follow --- if I would hear the real thing, or if I would hear the rip off song All Summer Long, which begins the exact same way as Werewolves of London does and ends up being some kind of wretched chimera assembled from parts of the Warren Zevon classic as well as Sweet Home Alabama. And it's sung by Kid Rock. Noooooooo!!! I guess some people like it but I can't stand it.

I'm not sure --- maybe the two songs don't start out exactly the same, but it's close enough to fool me. It sure was the first time. I well remember my feeling of disorientation and confusion, and then anger. Where were the "aaahooo's!" Where were the lyrics about chinese menus and Trader Vic's? Who the heck was this punk singing --- it sure wasn't Warren Zevon! After setting me up to think I was hearing one thing it had horribly become some unoriginal song about days gone by and lost love and something about Sweet Home Alabama? --- what the hell?

The Dodgers are just beginning. Their core is young and still new and promising. I feel like we've just heard the opening of their song. And I'm excited. I think it's going to be a good one. But my guard is up, a little bit. I'm hoping for Werewolves of Los Angeles, but I might instead get Frustration All Summer Long. In the Kid Rock song he's mooning over stuff that happened back in 1989; if things go sour this season it will be tempting to yearn for the glory days of 1988. Again.

I think the Dodgers still have a transformation to make. They are good, a contender, but not great. They are not an undoubted elite team that the opposition fears to play. We know what they did last year, so it would be foolish to count out this team, even if Manny leaves. But we should also know how fortunate they were to get as far as they did last year. Better teams, teams with more wins, didn't get the chances the Dodgers had. You can't count on luck and fortunate circumstance every year ( though the NL West may be just as bad this year ). You won't always get an infusion of Manny at the end of the year.

I don't think resigning Manny is the key to the transformation of the Dodgers. Obviously the Dodgers are better if he is around, but they did lose eight straight games with him last year. It's the young core of the team that matters. It's Kemp and Loney and Martin and Billingsley and Kershaw and Ethier and Broxton and DeWitt and McDonald. They have arrived, most of them, as solid major leaguers at least. And some of them are already stars. But the fierceness of talent is not yet on full display. Kemp hasn't yet wielded his full and ferocious power. Kershaw isn't yet a killer with the strikeout. There is another level of performance that the young Dodger stars need to reach. Not all of them, necessarily, but most of them. Unlike a werewolf transformation the Dodgers' transformation won't happen all at once. In fact it's already been happening. Billingsley is already an ace, or near to it. Ethier hit like a slugger the last few months of last year. They are on their way. I think it's going to happen this year. They are going to become a 95-win team. That's the optimism in me. The part of me that howls, irrationally, exuberantly, without reservation. Aaaaahooooo!

07 February 2009

Allegation and Collusion

To me the most damning allegation in the "Alex Rodriguez tested positive in 2003" story has nothing directly to do with A-lightning-Rod*. It's this line: Three major league players who spoke to SI said that Rodriguez was also tipped by Orza in early September 2004 that he would be tested later that month.

*--- This is a horrible nickname for A. Rodriguez, I admit, because it's too long and complicated. But I think in that way it's also fitting as a one-time nickname because he is such a complicated player and subject.

I guess I wasn't paying enough attention when the Mitchell Report came out, because Orza was accused of something similar in that report. I find the subject of which players were using and what punishment they should have and what effect it should have on their hall of fame candidacies tedious, which I guess is why I missed it the first time, but this accusation against Orza is something else again.

For better or worse we ( most fans and baseball writers ) have decided that we don't want baseball players juicing and that we care about actually enforcing that rule and we want those who break that rule to be caught and punished. This is a statement about what kind of competitive framework we want for baseball; without some kind of competitive framework we can't have any confidence in the game as a fundamentally fair thing. Another statement about the competitive framework of baseball is that we support a particular team and want that team to do everything it can to win including going after the best free agents it can get. Simply put, all teams should try to win, which doesn't mean they have to try to maximize winning right now, but they should be aiming for winning at some point.

Owners and the Players Union claim to support the competitive framework of baseball, in particular the two aspects of it detailed above. They undermine the game and our faith in the legitimate competition when they do not uphold the competitive framework. The Owners strike against the game with collusion ( among other things ). The Players Union, it seems, strikes against the integrity of the game by trying to circumvent the drug testing system.

When a single player juices and tries to circumvent the testing it is disappointing, but not surprising or indicative of widespread corruption. Players have been cheating for a long time. We can, perhaps with some amount of self-imposed naïvity, think of a player doing this as an isolated incident. It is, certainly, just one player. There may be lots of other cases of "just one player", maybe 104 such, for example, but they are all still individuals acting alone who in theory could be caught and corrected by large systems and organizations whose purpose is to do the right thing. You know, the player's union and the owners. But if the head of the player's union is ( allegedly, and I hope it's not true! ) warning players about upcoming tests then now we have an entire organization trying to defeat the competitive structure of baseball. It is the difference between a single soldier torturing prisoners on his own and the head of state setting a policy of jamming bamboo under fingernails as an interrogation technique.

When Randy Wolf signs a contract for one year and 5.5 million I wonder. Not too much, given the economy and his patchy performance and injury history, but I do wonder how the market for pitchers could turn so dramatically. That is not the contract I thought Wolf would get entering the off-season, and I'm sure it's not the contract he thought he'd get. He got plenty more his first time around with the Dodgers when he was coming off injury!

There are individual teams who don't really seem to try to win, or maybe they're just really inept. But there are also times when the owners band together in an effort to defeat the competitive structure of the game. A collusion to drive down the price of free-agents. They've done it before. I'm not saying they're doing it now, and honestly I don't think they are, but the bad economy would be the perfect cover for it, you know? Maybe ... maybe I do think they are doing it, because sometimes I think people will do whatever they can get away with. And there is also this depressing thought: maybe the owners are who I think they are. I sure hope not.

So maybe we have corruption on both sides. Rich men doing whatever they can to rip apart the competitive structure of the game we love. Maybe it's best just not to think about it too much. When does Spring Training start?

06 February 2009

April Investigation

The Dodgers open on the road, with 4 games against the Padres. I think opening against the Padres is a good way to ease out of exhibition games into the regular season. It's sort of like a major conference college football team scheduling a Division I-AA marshmallow team for an easy win to begin the season. I suppose the Padres could shock the Dodgers like Appalachian State rising up to beat Michigan, but that seems unlikely, especially if Peavy is gone by the start of the regular season.

Three road games against the Snakes follow the opening series. This is the moment Snakes fans have been waiting for. The time when they can avenge the shocking sweep near the end of last season that decisively put the Dodgers in charge of the NL West. Both Haren and Webb should be going in that series, unless the Snakes do something weird with their rotation. This should be the toughest series the Dodgers have in April, unless the Giants take a huge step forward.

After a week on the road, a week of drifting around the American southwest trying to find themselves, the Dodger arrive home to face the Giants in a three game series. Now the schedule for this series is an abomination, because there is a day off right in the middle of it after the home opener on Monday. Previous to this season I had only seen these split series during the opening week of the season when there were shenanigans with having opening day on a Monday or even a Sunday. What is so important about having opening day on a Monday? And if it is so important, why not just move the series up to Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday? Perhaps the Dodgers anticipate needing a full day to clean up the mess after fans riot opening day because it took forever to park and because they were enraged by the sight of Manny was in a Giants uniform.

If the Giants go with Lincecum on opening day the Dodgers should miss him for this series. The Giants may well be the third contender in the NL West along with the Dodgers and Snakes, so this could be an important early season series.

The Dodgers' first homestand concludes with three weekend games against the Rockies. In theory these are among the easiest games the Dodgers should have all year. After this series the Dodgers will have played every other team in the NL West. If they split with the contenders and dominate the bad teams they should have a record of at least 8-5. That's a winning percentage of 0.615, and realistically I think the Dodgers should finish the season with a winning percentage of +0.600 against their own division if they seriously want to contend.

After a day off the Dodgers go back on the road for a 9 game trip. The Dodgers' early schedule is road heavy, with road games outnumbering home games 16-7 in April. So even though the Dodgers don't face too many tough teams in April it may still be a tricky month. For this trip they have three in Houston, followed by three in Colorado, followed by three in San Francisco. Houston ended last year well and the Rockies always put up a decent fight at home, so those games will be tough even if the teams don't seem very intimidating. But it's the last series of the road trip ( and last of the month ) that looms as the most important of the trip and maybe even of the early season.

By the time this series comes we'll know better if the Giants are contenders or not. It's not so much about the Giant's record at that point, but about how good their offense looks. If the Giants are 11-6 on the strength of a lot of one-run wins and great pitching but the offense still stinks, then they will probably fall back to earth later. But if they are 9-8 with an offense that is clearly better than last year, then they are probably legit contenders. This is the kind of series that could easily turn a good April bad for the Dodgers if they get swept. This is the series that defines the early season as much as any one series can --- a battle on hostile ground against the arch-enemies, the up-and-comers, the Manny-rivals --- the hated Giants.

The final day of the month is a home game against the Padres, but that game belongs to May. April ends with the Giants. May it end well.

05 February 2009

Angular Mannymentum

The attendance even in Los Angeles -- because they were averaging around 41,000 or 42,000 -- it went up to 48,000 or 49,000 the minute he got there. I mean, the very day he got there it went up 6,000 And you're talking about $50 or $60 a head. **--see below for chain of custody of quote

That's Boras talking there, and I think we all know who the he is. Spin is Boras's middle name, both for what his head does when he sits up in bed in the middle of the night and for the words that come out of his mouth. There are two strategies of verbal spin, and Boras employs them both. He exaggerates the magnitude of numbers and also isolates them from meaningful context.

I'm going to apply some torque to Boras's spin by find out what the numbers really are, and then attempt to put them into their proper context. First I will look at yearly Dodger attendance in this decade.

Dodger Stadium Attendance

Year --- average per game
2001 --- 37253
2002 --- 38655
2003 --- 38748
2004 --- 43065
2005 --- 44489
2006 --- 46401
2007 --- 47617
2008 --- 46056

There is a trend here that ended in 2008. Say, Manny joined the Dodgers in 2008. So Dodger attendance rose every year this decade until the year Manny joined the Dodgers. Therefore Manny hurt attendance!

That's ridiculous, but that's also what the numbers seem to say if they are isolated from context. Before going into that context, I think it's worth examining another conclusion that one could draw from the numbers. Here it is: Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers before the 2004 season. By far the greatest increase in attendance came between 2003 and 2004. So McCourt's decisions have increased attendance. Therefore McCourt has made the Dodgers more popular than ever!

I don't know if that's true or not. One problem is that it's a little too pat --- one would expect ownership changes to maybe take a year or a few to start having real effects, maybe? And there are outside forces at work that I don't know how to compensate for. If Dodger attendance falls this year it may well be the economy that drives it, not any decisions by management. Perhaps a similar case could be made for the increase in 2004. Whatever the truth, I have a feeling that the McCourts look at those attendance numbers and conclude that they are doing the right thing most of the time.

Boras framed the Manny effect with an in-season attendance breakdown, and of course that's not a bad way to do it. Let's get the numbers right first, though, okay?

Dodger average attendance pre-Manny in 2008 was 44577. ( Not 41 or 42 thousand something. ) Average Dodger attendance post-Manny was 49370. That is an increase of 4793 fans per game. That's a lot; it sure seems like a real effect.

But wait, Manny joined the team August 1, and the Dodgers were involved in an exciting division race in August and September. Maybe attendance spiked because of that. Or maybe attendance is usually higher the last two months of the season regardless. The obvious way to add context to our Manny breakdown is to examine the attendance change the last two months of the season in years when there was no possible Manny-effect.

Year --- pre-Aug -- Aug+Sep --- increase

2006 --- 45466 --- 48380 --- 2914
2007 --- 46730 --- 49391 --- 2661
2008 --- 44577 --- 49370 --- 4793

We don't know for sure, but it sure seems likely that Dodger attendance would have increased by about 2700 even without Manny around. Without Manny maybe the Dodgers would have faded from the race by mid September, but the same happened in 2007 too. I think a reasonable ( and tentative ) conclusion is that Manny added about 2000 fans per game. And sold a lot of wigs.

** --- The chain of custody for this quote is Jon Weisman <-- Rob Neyer <-- New York Daily News <-- Scott Boras <-- Nehchazgor, meaning that I followed a link provided on Dodger Thoughts to a blog entry by Neyer which contained a quote from a New York newspaper attributed to Scott Boras who was instructed on what to say by the demon Nehchazgor.

04 February 2009

Pierre is Gone

When I think of the Dodgers I never think about Juan Pierre anymore. When I think of Dodger outfielders I don't even think of Pierre. I think of young stalwarts Ethier and Kemp. I think of Manny ( will he come back? ) I think of Andruw Jones even, and wonder that a player could be so bad, and so secretly fat, and so full of smiles as he struck out. I think of potential Manny replacements such as Adam Dunn. I think of Repko, and marvel that he is still banging around with the Dodgers at the AAA level or so, presumably banging into fences and shortstops down there. Sometimes I even think about Milton Bradley and wish things could have been different. What a player Bradley is, when strong in body and mind! But no, he is long gone, and the Cubs will probably curse the day they signed him anyway, if he predictably breaks down while playing the field.

Pierre is still here, but he is already gone. I'm not saying he won't play for the Dodgers this year. He might even get 600 at bats with the team if things break right. I mean wrong. It depends on perspective. I have my own, but I won't deny Pierre his. He wants to play, and I admire that, even as I rue the possible consequences of his ambition. But I don't really rue. Not anymore. No worry, no rue, no dread, no fret. Why? Because Juan D'Vaughn Pierre is gone.

Pierre is gone because his claim to fame is gone. His claim to a piece of my mental energy is gone. His fame was his contract and that which it justified, his place in the lineup, everyday, like Groundhog Day, no matter what young player might be better than him. He's not as good as Ethier and Kemp, and now everyone knows it. Colletti knows it. Torre knows it. I think even Plaschke knows it. He will never start ahead of Ethier or Kemp again, if all are healthy. Mission accomplished. Not even the whisper that the Dodgers need him as a leadoff hitter can be heard. Furcal's return has drowned that out.

Pierre wants out. Get in line behind Repko. Watch Jones already get his wish. Settle in, Pierre, because you're in Blue for a while longer. Those three years left are a prison sentence. A penalty box. The wages of hubris. The wages of being human, and wanting money. You get paid, but you won't play. I bet that deep down Pierre cares a lot more about playing everyday than about getting paid a lot. So make that exchange! But that's not how the world works. He can't throw it back now. It's a part of him. An unwanted limb. The union wouldn't let him anyway.

Even the anticipation is gone. He hit his Dodger home run. It seemed impossible that it would ever happen, and then he did it, and that brief thrill was done. There's really nothing left. That's life, I guess.

03 February 2009


I miss the anticipation of a well hit ball.

I think anyone who has watched baseball on television for some amount of time has an intuition of what is a hit and what isn't right after contact is made. It's the speed of the ball reversed off the bat. You can tell it's going to be a hit. Where will it land? The ball has purpose. The batter has given it life. Anticipation. If a Dodger has hit the ball, I feel excitement. An opponent, dread. The moment of the well hit ball off the bat is a promise of action. Running, throwing. Tumbling and diving, if we're lucky.

And then reverse. Like the ball off the bat, the angle of view reverses abruptly, and we see what happens. Single, maybe double? Lineout? Sharp ground out? Find the hole? Over the fence? Into a glove? Reverse, and anticipation may become joy. Or regret. Or disbelief. ( How did he make that play? )

I remember all the times toward the end of last season when Jeff Kent promised safety and delivered dismay. A rip, a streak on the screen, a pulled bullet to the left, elation --- then reverse --- it's low, oh no, there is goes into the glove of the third baseman.

Now I know how this ends. This wasn't supposed to be about Manny. But it is. This is what Manny is. He's the feeling of the well hit ball, even before he makes contact. He comes up to the plate and it's like he's already whipped the bat around and created that sweet line drive contact with the ball. Even before he hits it we're wondering how far it's going to go. He's anticipation before there's anything to anticipate.

Look, I want the Dodgers to win as much as any other Dodger fan. I understand that Adam Dunn or some other slugging outfielder might be a better option for the cost than Manny. Or maybe that the money would better be used on pitching. Pick your argument, pick your writer, pick your formula, opinions vary. But winning is not why I want Manny back so desperately. It's the anticipation, the feeling of watching a legend. And the fans know it. We knew it the moment he stepped into Dodger blue. That's why we so desperately want him back.

And if he's not back? Well, then he's a memory. Like everything else.