Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kennedy, Fox vs. McCourt, Bobby V. and More

Adam Kennedy will be 36 years old next year.  It seems like it was only a few years ago that he was a promising St. Louis Cardinal that was traded to the Angels along with an overweight starting pitcher (Ken Bottenfield) for Jim Edmonds.  That was almost 12 years ago.  Now the Dodgers are zeroing in on him as  a utility infielder.  Honestly I’m fine with the signing as long as Aaron Miles is allowed to go elsewhere.  Kennedy’s numbers suffered last year because at age 35 he moved to Safeco for a year.  I think he’ll do much better playing back at home in SoCal.

Miles can walk as far as I’m concerned.  “Walk,” now that’s something that he was unable to do on the playing field with his OBP about the same as his BA.  As well as Miles played as a Dodger last season, the addition of Adam Kennedy over him is an improvement to me.
I would have preferred Wilson Betemit over Kennedy, but perhaps the price wouldn’t have been right.  Kennedy has to be signing for somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000 I would guess.
Now if Ned is planning on signing both Kennedy and Miles, I’ll throw my hands up in the air and give up.  He couldn’t possibly be considering that?  No, please don’t tell me that’ll happen.
So Judge Gross extended the negotiation window another week between Fox and the McCourt owned Dodgers.  Their Mediator, retired Judge Joseph Farnan, worked his magic between McCourt and MLB and other parties back in October.  Can he possibly resolve the TV contract dilemma?  I’m surprised that Fox is considering working with McCourt, they have an ironclad contract that doesn’t allow him to negotiate with others until Nov. 2012.  I see no advantage in them tearing that up.  

One thing seems certain though.  The Dodgers purse strings are tight due to the uncertainty of the ownership situation and Colletti has let it be known that he really has very little more than can shell out on additional player  acquisitions.  It looks like Hiroki Kuroda’s Dodger career is a thing of the past.
Congratulations to former Dodger Bobby Valentine who has reached an agreement to take over as manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I always felt that Bobby would one day be the Dodgers skipper.  Who knows what the future holds, but it doesn’t look like that’ll happen anytime in the near future.

It’ll be interesting who ESPN puts in the booth with Hershiser next season.  It was refreshing this past season to have both Orel and Bobby in the booth as compared to Joe Morgan’s anti-Dodger bias that we had to endure for so many years.

Gilbert, King and McCourt...in happier times
My favorite in the ownership sweepstakes is Dennis Gilbert, (with Peter O’Malley a close second).  Tony Jackson at ESPNLA  and Steve Dilbeck at the L.A. Times report that Larry King has joined the Gilbert group.  His financial contribution will be small, but he brings some celebrity clout and Dodger fan bloodlines that date back a long way with him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

After All These Years, Still an Egomaniac

1999 Vero Beach photo, Pete Rose joins his son Pete Rose Jr. who was attempting to make the Dodgers roster

When it comes to Pete Rose, I just can’t get past what a self absorbed egomaniac he is.  For some crazy reason, Rose’s story was picked up by the Yahoo Sports as David Brown went out and interviewed that miserable, lying, self-absorbed, arrogant man again.  I read the pieces, and again, as much as I thought I couldn’t despise the guy any more, I was proved wrong again.

I guess he wants us to feel sorry for him.  I say, "No way, no how."  Here is a guy that as a player was, in my opinion, a complete showboat.  I’ll give him this, he wanted to win, but he didn’t care how dirty he had to get to accomplish that.  In the sportsmanship arena, Rose was a zero.  Ask Ray Fosse, ask Bud Harrelson.  Rose was as dirty a player as there was.  Sure he hustled.  But he did that in more ways than one.

Now I know I'll get a lot of criticism from Rose's fans.  They are a loyal lot.  I think they are flawed in their reasoning and blinded by their worship of him.  But as a player, he was over-rated.  Singles and singles.  Yes, it's a skill to bang out singles on a consistent basis.  And Rose did that.  But there were far more valuable players of his era.  The games leader in hits and definitely, leader in meaningless hits too.  

Pete is a documented  womanizer,  liar,  tax cheat, and gambling addict.  He used people and attempted to deflect his sins on others to protect himself.  He destroyed friendships and betrayed people, ruining his legacy on the process.  A first ballot Hall of Famer, due to his longevity, who lost his reputation and access to baseball by gambling his way out of the game.

He had the Queen City at his feet,  (still does for the most part), and he blew it.  He had the respect of the baseball establishment and he didn’t care.  He threw that away because of his arrogance.  He even had America cheering for him and willing to forgive him, but his pride disallowed him to come clean.  He just kept lying.  THEN, just as an upswing of support arose to possibly push him into the Hall of Fame through his buddy Joe Morgan’s vets committee, Rose ‘fessed up to his transgressions, simply because he was releasing a book and it would garner more sales.   Rose's timing of that couldn't have been worse, but it was planned and calculated.  He admitted to betting on baseball on the very same day that the announcement that Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were inducted to the Hall, taking away their day in the sun.   As selfish an act as he's ever made.  Pete’s not a Red, the only color he recognizes is green.
Now what is the “hit king” doing?  He sells his autograph for a living.  And there are enough mindless idiots out there that pay in order to keep this egomaniac going.   He sits in a Ceaser’s Palace booth and signs his name for a living.  Pete isn’t too proud to be a carnival show.  If it’s for some good money, he’ll sell his soul to the Devil, over and over again.
For a price, Rose has even signed the following inscription on balls.

If you’re willing to spend five grand, you and three others can even have dinner with the hit king.  Imagine that, watching Pete Rose stuffing his face and bragging about his exploits for $5,000.  He even throws in a sculpture of his hand holding a black baseball signed “Charlie Hustle.”  I guess its a reminder of the night that he “hustled” you out of 5 grand.
Oh, I’ve heard the excuses before.  He deserves to be in the hall because: 
He’s the all times hits leader 
His transgressions happened after his playing days were over, 
Ty Cobb was a murderer, Rogers Hornesby a Klansman, Ruth a drunkard, etc., etc.,
Steroids were much worse
Giamatti was unfair to him
His hustle was to be admired
He did no harm, because he bet only on his team to win
To all that I say, “phooey.”  Pete made his bed so he can sleep in it.  Gambling on the game is the one action that will destroy it.  If you can’t have confidence that the games are straight up and honest, then you can never have faith in the game.  Baseball would become the WWE.  There’s a reason that Landis banished the Black Sox 8, and that was because they tarnished the confidence the fans had that the game was straight up and honest.  Guess what?  Pete Rose did the same thing.
And the argument made by some that since Rose bet on his team to win, so it wasn’t a factor that affected the integrity of the game is complete nonsense.  With Rose having big money on a particular game, as a manager, he throws out such things as: protecting his players from injury or saving a pitcher for later in a series.  Yes, in a 162 game season, sometimes you don’t throw all your eggs in a basket to win one game, because in the end, it may be detrimental to the team for the remainder of the year or to a player, for the remainder of his career.  (See June 27, 2010 - Joe Torre’s destruction of Jonathan Broxton in order to win ONE game on National TV against the Yankees.  Torre, the egomaniac, destroyed Broxton as a player that day in an effort to win one meaningless regular season game against his former team).
Shawn Turner, Stockton Record
Anyway, getting back to Rose.  In 2011, Rose's arrogance continues.  When asked about Game 6 of the 2011 series, he calls it a sloppy game.   Not as good as Game 6 of the ’75 Series that he participated in.  When the reporter compares greenies of his era to steroids, Rose equates those amphetamines to the cup of coffee that he drinks.  He tells Brown that he doesn’t look or act his age, (70).  Well I’ve got news for you Pete.  You do look 70, there’s no doubt about that, and your 30 something Playboy model silicone enhanced girlfriend looks ridiculous next to you.  Also, as far as not acting your age...that’s the most honest statement you have ever made, but it’s nothing to be proud of.   As far as maturity is concerned, Pete has never had it, and probably never will.  But according to him, life is good, even when asked if he thinks baseball will ever reinstate him.

He tells Brown: “I don’t worry about it. I’m at ease.  My mind is clear.  I got a good job. I got a pretty girlfriend. I got another grandson on the way in two weeks.  So there’s a lot of good things going for me.”
Sure Pete,  sure.  Whatever...

Friday, November 25, 2011

2003, Great Pitching and Practically No Offense...and the Jason Romano Incident

The 2003 season was probably one of the strangest in Dodger history.  A second place finisher (85-77) that probably had the best pitching staff in baseball.  With Kevin Brown leading the way with a line of 14-9, 2.39 ERA, 5.4 WAR, and number 2 starter, workhorse Hideo Nomo's (218 innings pitched), who had an amazing resurgence at age 34 (16-13, 3.09 ERA, 3.9 WAR).  The remainder of the staff was followed by Kaz Ishii, Wilson Alvarez and Odalis Perez, all but the latter having above par seasons.  It was the bullpen of that staff that was rock solid, with a perfect Eric Gagne recording 55 saves on his way to the Cy young Award (2-3, 1.20 ERA, 15.9 K thru 9IP ratio, 55-55 in save attempts, 4.3 WAR), Paul Quantrill (2-5, 1.75 ERA in 89 appearances, ), Guillermo Mota (6-3, 1.97 ERA, 76 appearances).  The entire staff led the league in ERA (3.16), Games saved, Shutouts, Least amount of hits allowed, runs allowed and home runs allowed.  Additionally, this was a solid defensive core with Izturis and Alex Cora up the middle, Beltre at third.
Joey Thurston was a disappointment for L.A. in 2003.

This Dodger club entered the 2003 campaign with a lot of questions offensively. They  won 92 games in 2002, that was good enough for a 3rd place finish in a tough NL West behind the powerhouse DBacks and GIants.   Gary Sheffield forced management's hand and the result was a trade to Atlanta that brought them Brian Jordan. Newcomer Fred McGriff, along with Eric Gagne and promising rookie Joey Thurston donned the cover of Baseball Weekly in March, but by the end of the season, only one remained on the roster and Thurston didn't even make the opening day cut after having a horrid Spring Training. 

General Manager Dan Evans attempted to get the club some offensive spark midway through the season with the acquisition of Jeremy Burnitz and Ricky Henderson who had reached the age of 44 and was snatched out of an independent league in New Jersey.  Neither made a significant impact.  It was the year of the Fred McGriff experiment.  The 39 year-old McGriff entered the year needing 22 homers to reach the 500 HR mark.  He went down with an injury half way through the season, still 9 short of the mark and is remembered primarily as a disappointment in L.A. 

Jolbert Cabrera hit .282 BA, .332 OBP, .770 OPS for the Dodgers in 2003

This was a club that simply couldn't score runs, running out such players during the year as Chad Hermansen, Jolbert Cabrera, Wilkin Raun, Jason Romano, Ron Coomer, Mike Kinkade, and Darryl Ward.  Ward came over from Houston known as a power hitting first baseman and hit a meager .183 with a .211 OBP and was released following the season.  Kinkade, who showed promise the previous season with a .360 BA in 60 plate appearances, fell flat in '03 hitting .216 before taking off to Japan the next year and never returning to the majors.  Coomer's best days were gone (.240 BA, .299 OBP), Ruan's best days never came (.220 BA and OBP) and then there was Jason Romano.

Jason was the 1st round pick of the Texas Rangers in the '97 draft.  He was well thought of as a prospect out of high school in Tampa, Florida. By the time the Dodgers acquired him, he was already in his third organization and his prospect status had faded to suspect.  But then in 2003, at AAA Las Vegas, he started to heat up.  His versatility as a middle infielder and outfielder that could cover all three positions was valuable to the club and he was called up.  But Romano never really hit in his time as a Dodger, collecting 3 hits in 36 at bats.  Jason was remembered by a large group of Dodger board posters for much more than his abilities as a hitter.

On May 22, 2003, Romano attained near cult status in Dodger Message Boards when he took down a fan that was running on the field towards left fielder Brian Jordan.  In a forearm shove, Romano decked the on-field pursuer who was being chased down by Dodger security staff.   Over at my favorite message board, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, posters were reminiscing about the Jason Romano incident.  I was amazed to find a clip of the event on You Tube:
What resulted on Dodger message boards following this incident was a heroic rise in popularity of Romano.  Posters surfaced by the name of "Romanofan" in various renditions.  He received accolades for months.  It got tot he point that Ben Platt, the Dodger's Web master, put a clip from Romano on the Dodger web site where he acknowledged his fans.  Had this occurred a  few years later, there would have been a clamor for a Romano Bobblehead to be given out.

The '03 Dodgers never really contended after the all star break.  Sitting in a first place tie with San Francisco on June 23, they fell deeply our of first and finished the year 8 games over .500 but a distant 15 1/2 games behind the Giants (100-61), in second place.  2003 was proof positive that the saying "good pitching beats good hitting" is not the complete truth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Toss Up

By the time this post is up, the MVP award will already have been announced.  Whether its Braun or Kemp that win it, they are both deserving of the honor.  Many argue about who has superior offensive stats.  The end result is that they are both almost identical in many offensive categories.  BA, XBHits, RBI, HRs, OPS, Slg wOBA, VORP, OBP, Runs, SBs, you run the numbers...those guys were neck and neck.  Then you look at the defensive stats and Kemp may get the nod for playing CF vs. a corner.  Braun gets a nod or playing the season in a pennant race and his teams Division Title.  Then you have to say that Kemp’s offensive numbers are more impressive for having played in a pitcher’s park like Dodger Stadium instead of Milwaukee’s Band Box.
Every time I think Kemp has a sure lock on the award, a Braun supporter jumps in with different points that make me think the award is going to the Brewers left fielder.
I can say this though.  Matt Kemp had a dream season.  It was the type of year that we dreamed of out of him ever since the days he was having trash can wars with Jeff Kent.  The tools came together this year.  The focus was there for 162 games.  When he hit his stride, Kemp was Secretariat in the home stretch.  With few games left and 8 or 9 homers to reach the 40 plateau, Matt went on an unexpected run and just missed the mark by an at-bat or two.

Logan White is pure genious.  Kemp and Kershaw are proof of that.  Particularly Kemp, who was drafted in the 6th round after hundreds of players went before him.  Hopefully the new ownership realizes what a gem Logan White is and continues to keep him on the payroll in the same or even higher capacity.
UPDATE:  The BBWAA announced Ryan Braun as the National League MVP at 11:00 AM PST.  Braun collected 20 of the 32  first place votes that were cast. Braun finishes with 388 points to Kemp's 322.  Phillies pitcher, Roy Halladay, who  finishes second in the Cy Young Award voting cast by the same organization finished ahead of Kershaw for the MVP vote in 9th place.  Now THAT makes a lot of sense.  About as much sense as Ryan Howard getting some votes.

Interestingly, SF Giants flagship station (KNBR) is saying that Kemp got robbed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kershaw and Koufax...Another Look at the Two Great Dodger Lefties

To me it was anticlimactic.  We all knew it was likely to happen.  We knew that the voters for the Cy Young Award weren’t San Diego Padre bloggers that refused to vote for anything Dodger.  We knew that he out pitched his competition and was the most deserving of the honor.  Kershaw’s 2011 season was the best for a Dodger starter since 1988. When Clayton took the mound, a win was as predictable as the setting sun.
Clayton Kershaw is about as special as you’ll ever get in a pitcher.  Logan White was spot on with this pick, and the 2006 draft had some amazing talent in it: Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer off the top of my head.
That’s one Rookie of the Year (Longoria), Three Cy Youngs (Lincecum and Kershaw), many All Star appeareances, three Gold Gloves (Longoria, Kershaw), and numerous league leaders in such categories as wins, ERA, winning %, strikeouts and more.
I can’t argue that White should have picked Lincecum over Kershaw.  Based on what we will see in the future from those two, I’d go with Clayton.  Based on head to head matchups...my nod goes to Clayton too. 
Numerous comparisons to Koufax are inevitable and they are surfacing on many blog sites.  Those comparisons have valid reasoning but I see a few differences that are noticeable.

The Dodger "K" Men compare their claws.  Koufax fingers are an inch longer that those of  Kershaw
First, there are decided differences with physical tools.  Specifically, their hands.  There are those that have nicknamed Kershaw the “Claw.”  At least baseball-reference.com mentions that.  However, the true “Claw” out there was Koufax.  Sandy’s hands are enormous in size.  That natural physical tool played a role in Koufax’s physicality on the mound, I have no doubt.  Pitching coaches will say that pitchers with larger hands and long fingers have an advantage because their fingers are in contact with the ball longer and they are able to generate more spin on nearly all pitches.  Pitching grips come easier and maneuverability is more fluid.  This isn’t to say that pitchers with small or average size hands are doomed, not at all, but those with large hands definitely have an advantage.  Sandy has some enormous paws.
Second, velocity and repertoire.  Kershaw’s velocity is fine, but it isn’t “blow them away” stuff.  Clayton has more pitches in his arsenal and is able to mix his slider, curve, change and fastball to fool hitters.  Koufax had that nasty curve and an infamous hissing 100 MPH fastball.  That fastball also was effective in that it gave hitters the optical illusion that it was rising.  If Sandy’s curve wasn’t effective, he’d just blow hitters away, such as in the 7th game of the 1965 World Series.  They knew he was just throwing the fastball, and they still couldn’t hit it.  If Kershaw only had a fastball working on the mound, he doesn’t have the physical ability to throw it past hitters time after time.
Now those two points shouldn’t concern Dodger fans regarding Kershaw’s future.   Kershaw will continue to be effective.  In fact, that second point about Kershaw having a greater arsenal of pitches is an advantage he had over Koufax.  Additionally, he has reached epic levels of success at a much younger age, particularly in his ability to harness his control, a problem Clayton had early in his career.  Kershaw’s change up still has room for improvement.  His slider has replaced his curve as his out pitch.  The ability of Kershaw to mix his arsenal of 4 pitches that are quite effective has hitters continually off balance.
What made Koufax so impressive was his off the charts velocity and intimidation factor.  Deep down, I see Clayton as more finesse and Sandy as a power pitcher with a nasty curve.  Both are great pitchers and Clayton will probably take home a lot more hardware before his promising career comes to an end.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Outrageous Proposal, But Something to Think About

About a month ago, Howard Cole over at the Dodger Blog at the O.C. Register wrote about the pending Astros move to the A.L. West and then he proposed that the Rockies would be a better fit in that division.   Now as the owners meetings start to get tuned up in Milwaukee, there is talk of that Houston move again and how some A.L. West clubs, (i.e. the Anaheim Angels and Oakland A’s), are not too happy with a second Texas team in the division.
Now let me throw something sacrilegious out there.  I don’t propose this, and I don’t ever see this happening, so please refrain from showing up at my doorstep with lit torches and pitchforks in hand.  But what if the Dodgers moved to the American League West?  I know it is blasphemy to even mention it, but just give it some thought for a minute.  If you as a Dodger fan knew that the Dodgers would win a World Series within the next three years if they moved to the American League, would you change your tune and support such a move?  I sure would.
What would result from the Dodger franchise moving to the Junior Circuit?  Would the end result be a positive one?  Is tradition so deep in baseball history that the move simply couldn’t be made?  Let me throw this out there.  The Dodgers and Giants moving west was about as drastic a change as possible to the game, and in the end, it was a positive step to advance the sport as a whole.  
Also, a league switch-er-roo isn’t unprecedented, as Milwaukee did so in 1998.  Granted, I’m aware that the Brewers don’t carry the tradition and prestige that the Dodgers do, but still, their league switch didn’t ruin the game.   Major League Baseball has made such drastic changes as realigning and setting up divisions, producing the League Championship Series’ and then the League Divison Series'.  Changing post season matchups to night time and advancing the game monetarily in the process.  Also Allowing Free Agency, creating the arbitration process, introducing the D.H.  
What I’m trying to say is that MLB, as much as it is stooped in tradition and what appears to be a reluctance to change, has been quite innovative and made drastic alterations over the past 40 years.  A move of the Dodgers to the American League would not be a change that would destroy the game.  In fact, there are those that would probably be for it and would say it’s a positive step.   Here are some of the pros and cons of such a crazy move that I came up with:
  1. It would definitely be interesting.  I believe that in the initial years following the change, the appeal to seeing the Dodgers in the new league would raise attendance in both the opposing parks and at home.  The lure of seeing our storied franchise facing A.L. opponents night after night could be quite appealing to many fans.  And the Dodgers always draw on the road.  Even in down years.  I recall attending the first inter-league game in Oakland between the Dodgers in A's.  I couldn't help be hear their conversation of the A's season ticket holders sitting next to me as they were absolutely giddy over the Dodgers being in town.
  2. Free Agent appeal.  There are always the solid free agents at the mid points of their careers that may want to move to a warm weather, popular franchise that would grant them the option to slide into the DH role as their career winds down.  A Dodger team in the American League would open up the Dodgers to some more free agents that today would never consider playing for them.
  3. The rivalry with the Anaheim club will reach more intense levels.  Can you imagine a pennant race in which the Dodgers and Angels are battling it out into the last week of the season and perhaps even facing off in a final 3 game series with the Division Title on the line?  That would be quite intense and Dodger move to the AL West would make the Dodgers-Angels to be the closest geographical divisional rivalry in baseball.
  4. Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Rays, Twins, Rangers would all be coming to town at least once a year.  Thats a lot of good baseball.  Trips to Yankee Stadium each year.  Heck, we still haven’t gone to the Bronx since inter-league play began.  As an A.L. team,we’ll be there and Fenway, Camden Yards, Detroit, every year.
  5. We’d get to stick it to the Giants because they’d lose their best natural rival.  As a current Bay Area resident that has watched Giant fans celebrate due to the ownership fiasco with McCourt.  I’d actually get pleasure in watching them miss us.  Especially after O’Malley played such a huge role in keeping the Gnats from moving to St. Petersburg in 1992.  Their unappreciative stance would be aptly rewarded with the Dodgers skipping over to the Junior Circuit.  No loss for me in seeing the Dodgers come to town, as I’ll just go to Oakland and see them play here for three series each season.  Let’s see the Gnats try to develop a natural rivalry with the Rocks or DBacks.
  6. As a Dodger fan, the AL West may be an easier division to win than the NL West.  No more trips to Colorado.  No more facing such pitching as Lincecum, Cain, Kennedy, Bumgarner, Latos, Cook, Bell, Chacin, Harang.  No more hitting in offensive graveyards like Petco or AT&T Parks. 
  7. A move of the Dodgers to the American League would be intriguing and possibly, very successful.  The McCourt fiasco has not endeared the L.A. franchise to the rest of the owners in the game.  A gesture for the Dodgers to voluntarily switch is complete “out of the box” thinking that could be possibly a popular move in the ownership circle, because it would solve the dilemma of the unbalanced leagues and in the end would increase revenues. Much more so than a Houston Astros move.
  1. The DH.  There's not much more to be said.  The rule stinks and I just don’t like the game as much when the rule is emplyed.
  2. American League baseball loses a lot of it’s strategic appeal due to...the DH.  In my opinion, its a much less interesting game.  (Yeah I know, that was #1, but it is such a strong point that it deserves mention twice).
  3. We lose the traditional rivalries that have built up over the years against the Giants, Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Cubs, Mets, Reds and more.  Even teams like the Pirates and Astros I would miss.  I think over the course of my life, I can think about crucial games or series against every club in the league at some time or other.  Those links would be gone.
  4. History.  The Dodgers are the National League.  Could the N.L. lose its identity with such a drastic change?  Jackie, Alston, Campy, Pee Wee, Newk, Lasorda, Sandy, Don, Maury, Garv, Fernando, Orel, Penguin.  Those names are key National League figures.  It is sacrilegious to move that franchise over to the other side.
  5. The Dodgers have performed awfully against the American League in inter-league play.  The make up of the team may be forced to change into one that is less pitching centralized and more powerhitting/OBP based.
  6. As much as it would be interesting to face some of the AL powerhouses each year, they could dominate us and send the franchise spiraling into the second division.  Also, facing such inter-division teams as the A’s, Mariners and Rangers for six series each year doesn’t sound as appealing as facing the Pads, Giants, Rockies and DBacks each year.
Okay, a crazy idea.  I know that, but what a story it would be if the league considered moving our franchise to the other league.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blockbuster Off Season Move to Be Announced

The blogs, twitter, ESPN news, and virtually every source for Dodger news is floating rumors that the Dodgers are on the verge of inking Matt Kemp to an 8 year, $160 million deal.  Apparently to be announced at a 1:00 PM PST dedication of a Dodgers Youth Dreamfield in Compton.  If true, this will be undoubtedly the largest and most important signing in the history of the franchise.

The Dodgers Dreamfield event came and went without an announcement.  Numerous sources state that Kemp still needs to take a physical.  We'll be watching to see if this signing is completed anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Dodgers announce that second baseman Mark Ellis is signed to a 2 year deal, $ 8.75 million with an option for a third year.  The 34 year old Ellis had a poor 2011 campaign.  Dodger brass must be hoping that he returns to his 2009/2010 form.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mike Marshall (the 80's Dodger) in the News, a Memorable Brawl from '87

In the news the other day was a report out of the Independent North American Baseball League where the Bay Area’s San Rafael Pacifics have named former Dodger outfielder, Mike Marshall as their Field Manager and Assistant General Manager.  Additionally, Marshall's wife Mary was named as the other Assistant General Manager.  This is the fifth stop for the Marshalls in independent league ball in the minors.  They have previously been in Chico, Yuma, Albany and El Paso.  The irony that Marshall is managing a team in the Bay Area and that his pitching coach is former Giant, Mike LaCoss is a story in itself.  Mike is probably one of the most hated former Dodgers in this region.

It is probably a fair statement to say that Marshall is not even that popular amongst Dodger fans either.  He was a ballplayer that many would label as being “soft.”  A Dodger that asked once to not be put into the lineup because of “general soreness.”  A teammate that Phil Garner brawled with in the batting cage because he refused to leave and go shag fly balls.  Virtually all of his teammates were sick of him, claiming that if Marshall was on the D.L., he’d disappear from the clubhouse well before games ended.
Nicknamed Moose, Marshall was part of the core of youngsters that came up in the early 80’s that were supposed to take over the club and continue the winning tradition that was started by the likes of Cey, Lopes, Russell, Garvey, Yeager, Ferguson, Rhoden, Welch, Buckner and others.   The winner of the hitting Triple Crown at Albuquerque in the PCL in 1981, Marshall also had his moments as a Dodger and was their All Star representative in 1984.  He played a key role to Divison winning clubs in ‘83 and ‘85 and the ’88 championship team, but for the most part he is remembered as a player that never quite lived up to his potential.

Marshall I believe had issues adjusting to the L.A. lifestyle and keeping his focus on the field.  Early in his career he shacked up with GoGos’ lead singer Belinda Carlisle and was known to hit the club scene.  From early on, his arrival to the big leagues wasn’t well received by his veteran teammates who didn't seem to adjust well to the kid with so much potential that many felt wasn't giving his all to the organization. 
In 1982, with the youngsters starting to see some playing time and Lopes already having departed to Oakland, an infield pop-up dropped untouched for a single after Steve Sax failed to call for the ball headed his way.  A livid Ron Cey said nothing but quietly was steaming mad.  The next game, when another pop-up to the mound was called for, this time by Marshall who was playing first, Cey stepped in front of him and bumped him out of the way while making the catch to end the inning.  It was quite apparent that the young guys weren’t welcomed by the old regime.
The newcomers of Sax, Marshall, Brock, Maldonado (traded away following the ’85 season) and Anderson never did take over with any confidence and though the team won division titles in ’83 and ’85,  the new group was perceived by many as inferior to the core that they replaced.  Marshall, paired with Brock was seen as the power of the bunch that underachieved considerably.
But there were moments of glory too.  Marshall in the World Championship year had a fine season and several key pennant stretch hits as the Dodgers made their way to the Division title and eventual N.L. pennant.  He hit a 3-run homer in Game 2 of the World Series against Oakland, a 6-0 Dodger victory.

In 1987, Roger Craig piloted the San Francisco Giants
There was an incident in 1987 that is on highlight reels that address the Dodger-Giant rivalry to this day.  It was April 21, 1987, one of the only times I ever remember Mike Marshall showing any emotion and fire.  Giant Manager Roger Craig walked hot hitting Pedro Guerrero to face Marshall in the 10th inning of a tie game.  It was the second time in this game that Guerrero had been passed in favor of Marshall, and Moose didn't take to kindly to it.  What resulted is seen in this graining youtube video that chronicles some of baseball's top brawls ever recorded.

We see Marshall repeatedly mocking Craig as he points at him in the Giant dugout.   His final gesture at Craig as he crosses is quite graphic and emphatic.  Note how Hershiser, Guerrero, Hatcher and Scioscia look on.  Giant pitcher Scott Garrelts then throws a pitch behind the next hitter, Alex Trevino which results in Pedro Guerrero going bananas.  A 10 minute brawl breaks out with fans behind the Dodger dugout fully engaged.  This was back in the dog days of Candlestick, where fans would attempt to take on the Dodgers time after time.

After this event, Mike Marshall was public enemy number one in Candlestick and to this day, to rev up Giant fans about the rivalry, the Giants play this clip on their Jumbotron often when the Dodgers come to town.  

I'll make an effort to see Marshall's club compete sometime this coming summer.  I know he made the news this past season up in Chico when another brawl broke out up there, between him and former Oakland A Tony Phillips.  Both were suspended by the league for the incident.  I guess the passion continues to exist with Marshall, though we didn't really see it to much while he was a Dodger.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wilson Ramos Rescued and is Reported to be Fine

Preliminary reports from CBS News out of Venezuela are that Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been rescued.  Apparently a "rescue by air" was successfully completed by Venezuelan Security forces.  There aren't a lot of details, but the report is that he is alive and well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Precarious Life of Ballplayers in Latin America

Latin America is probably my favorite place in the world to visit.  I understand the attraction of Europe as a travel destination with it’s rich history and marvelous mixture of cultures all within short distances of each other. I understand Asia’s enchantment and the exoticism of Africa, but for me, Latin America is that region of the world that interests me the most, and is so close.
I have traveled the streets of Managua and Masaya, Nicaragua.  Climbed to the top of Costa Rica volcanoes, boated in Andean lakes in the Patagonian region of Argentina, bicycled on cobblestone streets of Uruguay, sat in the stands of Buenos Aires La Bombonera Stadium watching a riotous championship soccer match. I have watched Mexican League baseball in Mexicali and enjoyed numerous vacation venues in Mexican coastal cities, rode in a cable car to mountain tops in Bariloche and have enjoyed the beaches in Lima, Peru and endured tropical storms in El Salvador.
Without a doubt, cruising through Latin America streets is something I have indulged in and enjoyed.  I interact with the people, and there are so many other spots that I have yet to visit that I hope to do so before my life is through.  However, the recent kidnappings in these regions of the world have forced me to re-think this crazy travel hobby of mine.

Today, in the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela, Washington Nationals 24-year old catcher, Wilson Ramos was kidnapped out of his home by armed gunmen that will be seeking ransom from this athlete’s family.  The abduction of high profile athletes or their family members is on the rise in this region of the world, where lawlessness, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion is becoming more and more common.  In statistics that are 5 years old, the insurance industry estimated that 7,500 kidnappings a year are reported in Latin America.  Unreported abductions would probably double that amount.  Kidnapping has become a profitable and serious business.
Ramos at this time is most likely in a remote jungle outpost under heavy guard while negotiations will probably soon be underway to arrange his release in exchange for a multi-million dollar payment.  This is an ugly reality that is making travel to this region a precarious business.
In 2004, the mother of Florida Marlin relief pitcher Ugeth Urbina was kidnapped and held captive for 4 months before a successful rescue attempt liberated her.  A strategically planned commando raid was successful in freeing her, where one of her captors was killed. This was a rare instance where no ransom was paid.  Captors demanded $6 million from Urbina.
Two years ago, the 56-year old mother of journeyman pitcher Victor Zambrano, was kidnapped in a three-day ordeal that also resulted in a strategic rescue that safely returned her to her family.  The same couldn’t be said for Victor’s cousin, Richard Mendez Zambrano who the week before was kidnapped and killed.
In 2009, current Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba’s 11-year old son and his brother-in law were kidnaped and released a day later, most likely after a ransom was paid.
This most recent incident with Wilson Ramos has reached the highest levels of government that has gone public and called for Ramos’ return.  The AP is reporting that top investigators and law enforcement officials of the Venezuelan government are currently working on the Ramos case.  This is the first time that a player was abducted and not a family member.  The Venezuelan Winter League has continued on, with a moment of silence at the beginning of each game.  Arizona D-Back Melvin Mora requested that the league cancel all games until Ramos’ situation is resolved, but the League decided to press on.
Venezuela League President Jose Grasso is calling the Ramos kidnapping “an isolated event,” but locals know that not to be true.  Ball players in the region are now known to hire extensive security for themselves and their families and to change their routine and patterns of travel.
Insurance coverage for kidnappings in the region has become a big business, as well as the security and body guard protection industry.  As the region’s law enforcement has weakened in such countries as Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and various Central American countries, celebrities and athletes have seen the need to seek this coverage to protect themselves.
Washington Nationals officials confirmed that they are aware of Ramos’ abduction as they wait helplessly for news.  Rumors of Ramos’ death have filtered through social networking sites on the internet, but authorities of the Venezuelan government are saying that those are strictly rumors and nothing more.
The Venezuela periodical, El Periodiquito, reports a neighbor that witnessed the abduction state that Ramos’ family members attempted to follow the abductors as they fled, but were unsuccessful in keeping up with them.
Ramos Kidnapping
Urbina case:

Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times calls me “brave” for coming up with some positive accomplishments of the McCourt regime stating that I “tried really hard.”

To be completely honest.  I started writing that post thinking of a few positives from the McCourt group, and by the time I reached point number 3 or 4 and I started to measure up those accomplishments, I soon realized that I was just adding to the list of negatives that have been well chronicled over the past couple of years.
To those of you that fired off an email to me objecting to my post and thinking that I am in favor of that ownership.  Please read my post from January.  It was my open letter to Bud Selig, written well before the Commissioner assigned a conservatorship to oversee the business dealing of the Dodgers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Facebook Reconnection Brings Forth a Great Story About Sandy Koufax

I was browsing through Facebook, as I do every once in a while, linking up old friends from High School.  I came across  Liz Vargas Hambly , who actually was in choir with me and after reconnecting she reminded me that she was my dance partner on a few numbers we did. I looked at some of the pictures she has on her page and was blown away when I came across this.

There's  Liz , as a five year old, posing with Sandy Koufax.  It made me want to ask for her autograph.
Instead I got a wonderful story from her about her good fortune at meeting the Hall of Famer.  With her permission I post her story here.  Liz told me that wishes that “it was more eloquently relayed,” but I really don’t think it even needed to be edited.  Here is her story as she told it to me:
“...In 1965, my dad was a division director with the Catholic Youth Organization.  Pop later became the first lay Executive Director of the agency.   Walter O’Malley forged a wonderful relationship with CYO and the Tidings, the result of which was "CYO Night with the Dodgers". On that night, the winner of the Tidings “Most Popular Pro” poll was awarded a plaque. Sandy Koufax, of course, was the recipient, (runners up were Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, and Ron Fairly).   Msgr. John Languille, CYO Executive Director, was there to present the award, along with 5 year-old, Tony Hutson, a nephew of CYO Assistant Director, Father Hutson. (Note: Hutson was misspelled in the paper.) 
Apparently they wanted to balance out the group with another 5 year-old. They knew my pop had 7 kids…figured he probably had a 5 year old running around somewhere…lucky me!   Although my pop will tell you I was chosen because I possessed that special something they were looking for. 
I remember having photos taken on the field and in the dugout. I remember a clown giving me a piece of bazooka bubble gum, which I promptly split in half to share with my dad. I also remember how nice Sandy Koufax was; he was kind of my partner in the pictures. I should have felt intimidated by the big scene, but he had such a gentle demeanor, I don’t remember being nervous at all. I probably wasn’t aware of what a really big deal it was…I just knew I got to spend special time with my pop. 

These photos hung in our hallway throughout my childhood and young adulthood, and eventually I realized that, not only was Sandy Koufax a really, really nice man, but it was a great honor to have stood beside him. After all these years, I still have the hugest crush on him. Then again, who doesn’t, right?

A few years later, my dad and brothers John and Chris presented the award to Wes Parker.  Check out the marquee in the background...my pop’s name is quite visible.  I’ve also attached a gorgeous photo of my dad with Walter O’Malley...my pop cut a rather dashing figure, if I do say so myself.”

What a great story and special memories for the Vargas family.   Here again is another reminder of what the Dodger organization was under the O'Malley regime in a much simpler time with an organization that was more family oriented and charity minded.  

I just find it hard to believe that I never knew this story and that my dance partner was actually posing in photos with the great Sandy K.  Thank you for sharing the story Liz!  


The ’81 Dodger Reunion at Frank N Son’s this past weekend was really something I wanted to leave the Bay Area to attend. Unfortunately, work assignments did not allow me to get away.  Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts  LINKED HERE  has a story on the event.  A great read for any nostalgic Dodger fan that followed the 70’s-80’s Dodgers.