July 2006

Maddux and Lugo

More on this later, but obviously we’re pretty excited to get two guys of this caliber in here. For anyone who thinks we’re not taking a shot this year, hopefully Ned has made it clear that he hasn’t given up on 2006. And, in my opinion, the best thing about this is that he didn’t have to sacrifice any of the prospects who have contributed greatly at the big league level this season.

In fact, as I type this, Greg Maddux is doing a conference call in my ear with the  media and both that call and the one with Ned should be posted online shortly so you can hear it.

2006 Media Game

I can’t believe I’m actually taking the time to write about this. It’s really too bad that Derek Lowe had to take his family to the airport, because otherwise he was going to "cover" this event. While it would have given him a chance for some payback in ink, it would have been an error on his part and would have brought the total number of errors on the day to more than 20, I believe. The box score only has 15, but those were the ones I could find on the scoresheet. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.

In the end, the Electronic Media, led by Dodger bullpen coach Dan Warthen on the mound, walked away with an easy victory, 22-9 against the Print Media.

On the print side, half the guys had more errors than hits, but Diamond Leung of the Riverside Press Enterprise paced the "offense" with a 2-for-4, 3 RBI performance.

On the electronic side, there were many offensive heroes, but among those whose names you’d recognize were Dodger broadcaster Pepe Yniguez (3-for-4, 3 runs) and FSN Prime Ticket’s Jim Watson (2-for-4, 3 RBI). A lot of that team was made up of behind-the-scenes guys who cover us on a regular basis at the stadium.

Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register was the only regular beat writer to play and would have been D-Lowe’s prime target for hazing, as the two Michigan natives beat each other up on a daily basis. But Plunk was respectable, going 2-for-3 with his family in the stands. Tony Jackson of the Daily News didn’t play, but he was kind enough to blog about it before the game. Steve Henson gets a free pass, as he was celebrating his wedding anniversary off site.

Several local columnists turned out, including Kevin Modesti, Randy Youngman and Greg Patton and I must give props to MLB.com’s Amanda Branam for being the only woman brave enough to battle this out-of-shape, testosterone-filled bunch. Patton looked impressive at shortstop but the rest of the writers could have used some fielding tips from Cesar Izturis…

Mariano Duncan and Dan Warthen were kind enough to stick around and throw BP the whole time, mixing in some changeups and eephus pitches with their 40 mph batting-practice fastballs.

I wish I could come up with some more descriptive play-by-play, but let’s face it, it’s not worth my time writing it or yours reading it. What matters is that these guys (and gal) had a great time, or so it seemed, and an annual tradition that had stopped for a couple of years seems to have been revived.

Box_score_2

Campanella's stamp

For those who couldn’t be here today, there was a very nice pregame ceremony today to unveil the Roy Campanella stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. The set of four stamps also includes Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott and Mickey Mantle. During the pregame ceremonies, Don Newcombe spoke to the crowd about what Campy meant to the game of baseball and members of Roy’s family were on hand. Also part of the ceremony was Russell Martin, who we hope will carry the torch for the long line of great Dodger catchers – Campanella, Yeager, Scioscia, Piazza and others.

Campy_stampAccording to Bill Arnold, this brings the number of players immortalized with a stamp to 30, including Jackie Robinson, who has appeared most often with three different stamps.

And, to echo one of the comments on the blog, the L.A. Times did have some nice articles today, including the latest in a series he’s written on the Negro Leagues.

And finally, our congrats go out to Bruce Sutter and all of the other great baseball people and players who were enshrined in Cooperstown today.

Nomar to the DL

To make room for Betemit, Nomar is heading to the DL, retroactive to July 25. It was everyone’s hope that he would be able to play by Tuesday, but while he can swing just fine, he can’t run full speed and cut corners just yet.  He’ll be eligible to come off on Wednesday, Aug. 9 vs. Colorado.

Looking for a sweep

Still a move to be made before first pitch to make room for Wilson Betemit, who becomes active today and is in the lineup:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Drew, RF

Ethier, LF

Betemit, 3B

Loney, 1B

Izturis, 2B

Hall, C

Hendrickson, P

Loney recalled today

Prior to today’s game, the Dodgers will recall James Loney from Triple-A Las Vegas. Loney was leading the Pacific Coast League with a .372 average, the sixth-highest mark in minor league baseball. While with the 51s, he played nine games in the outfield and 74 at first base. He’s basically been getting some playing time at first, left and a little in right field, which is a good thing. With Nomar down for at least a couple more days, this gives us a first baseman/outfielder for now. Betemit will arrive later today and be activated tomorrow, when another move will have to be made to free up a roster spot.

As you might imagine, yesterday was pretty hectic leading up to game time. The team knew that it wanted to activate Tomko (who looked pretty efficient out of the ‘pen), but there was not a spot open. Ned, Kim, Roy and Bill LaJoie were literally on the phone with various clubs, including the Braves, up until about five minutes before first pitch.

I was standing in Ned’s office as the deal was literally getting completed and as soon as it was, he had to hustle downstairs to let Grady know and to inform Danys and Willy about their new homes. Both guys took it in stride, though it was obviously tougher on Willy, who has known no other organization since he was 16 years old. They’re both good guys who deserve good things down the road.

Once Ned and Grady had informed the players, Kim called me and told me I could announce it in the press box, which took place at about 7:37. The broadcasters got this just seconds before they went on the air and passed it along to all the fans. Ned made his way upstairs, where he met with the media to explain the move during the top of the first inning and then immediately headed back to his office to try and work some more magic.

I’m rarely in the clubhouse during a game, but had to head down there last night to say goodbye to those two guys and see if they would be willing to talk to the media before they left. Both guys obliged, which says a lot about them. I can’t imagine being told that I have to pick up my life and move it to the other side of the country in the next 24 hours and then have to explain my feelings to the world. Sure, these guys make a lot of money, but they are human beings with families and lives that they go into utter disarray for this period of time. And the thoughts that must go through your head when you’re traded have to run the gamut from excitement to disappointment to confusion to curiosity and a million others.

Finally, to answer one question about Nomar’s Spanish – from what he told me a while back, he can understand it pretty well but doesn’t really speak it that much. I’m sure he knows plenty of phrases – you’d be surprised how many other American guys on the team have picked up quite a bit just being around it so much – but Nomar certainly takes pride in his Mexican heritage and the Mexican-American community here in Los Angeles really seems to have taken to him quite quickly.

Here’s the lineup:

Furcal, SS

Repko, CF

Drew, RF

Saenz, 1B

Ethier, LF

Martin, C

Izturis, 3B

Martinez, 2B

Lowe, P

Betemit

There will be more on this later, but in case you aren’t watching or listening to the game, we activated Brett Tomko and acquired Wilson Betemit from the Braves for Willy Aybar, Danys Baez and cash considerations. I’m guessing you all knew this, but we’ve been running around like crazy with all the logistics, as this literally took place about five minutes before first pitch.

Today's game

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Drew, RF

Saenz, 1B

Ethier, LF

Martin, C

Izturis, 3B

Martinez, 2B

Billingsley, P

A few interesting notes from today’s game notes:

A LOT OF PAIN FOR THESE TWO TEAMS – The Nationals and Dodgers rank first and third in the Major Leagues, respectively, in days missed to the disabled list. Washington has missed a ******** 1,058 games due to injury while the Dodgers’ 763 days is third behind the Braves (766). At some point during the season, the Dodgers have lost six everyday starters to injury – Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Bill Mueller, Dioner Navarro, Cesar Izturis and Kenny Lofton as well as closer Eric Gagné, setup man Yhency Brazoban, starter Brett Tomko and key reserve outfielders Ricky Ledee and Jason Repko. Overall, the team has missed 672 games to the DL.                  

CAUSE AND EFFECT – Not surprisingly, the high number of injuries has caused the Dodgers to use 43 players this season, tied with Cincinnati for the third most in baseball behind Washington (47) and Kansas City (44).    

TAKE YOUR PICK – The top two candidates for NL Rookie of the Year are in the house this weekend. Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier leads all NL Rookies in batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.396) and slugging percentage (.532) while the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman leads in hits (111), RBI (68), doubles (31) and extra-base hits (45). Ethier has a .396 batting average since June 21, the fourth-highest mark in the Majors behind Atlanta’s Chipper Jones (.438), San Diego’s Josh Barfield (.403) and Minnesota’s Justin Morneau (.398) among players with 100 plate appearances during that span.

OLMEDO SAENZ HIS NAME IN HISTORY BOOKS – Olmedo Saenz was part of five double plays on Wednesday, tying the Dodgers’ individual single-game mark set by second baseman Teddy Martinez on Aug. 21, 1977 at Chicago. Saenz was two shy of the Major League record for a first baseman set by Curt Blefary of Houston, who was a part of seven twin killings on May 4, 1969. As a team, the Dodgers came within one double play of the franchise record which occurred on August 5, 1956 at Ebbets Field when Brooklyn turned six of them against the Cardinals.

SHORTSTOP GETS BETTER BY THE SECOND – Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal has raised his batting average to .275, the highest it has been since April 5, the Dodgers’ third game of the season. He continued his recent string of hot hitting on Wednesday when he went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer. Since May 1, the Dominican native is hitting .298 with 19 stolen bases and 49 runs scored. He has stolen 25 bases this season, which ties him for sixth in the Senior Circuit. He ranks also third in the National League with 418 at-bats.

Keeping my head up…

You haven’t heard from me today because I’m just now finishing a long day on the golf course. While Ned, Roy and Kim were back at the office trying to make something happen in the next few days, several front office members joined Dodger players Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel, manager Grady Little, coaches Dan Warthen, Rick Honeycutt, Mariano Duncan and former Dodgers Tommy Davis, Willie Davis, Don Newcombe, Todd Zeile, Bobby Castillo, Maury Wills, Fernando Valenzuela, Rick Monday, Ron Cey, Kenny Landreaux, Jimmy Campanis, "Sweet" Lou Johnson and countless others (I apologize for those I left off), for the annual Dodgers Dream Foundation Charity Golf Tournament.

Though it’s unknown how much was raised for educational, recreational and athletic opportunities for local LA youth, the tourney has brought in tens of thousands of dollars in the past and this year is no different. It was played at Trump National in Palos Verdes on an incredible course and though our fivesome was awful (we finished last), everyone really did have a great time for the benefit of kids. And maybe I hit the ball so brutally because rather than keeping my head down like a golfer is supposed to, I was too busy trying to keep my head up during these tough times on the field.

Tomorrow, we’re going to try and get back on the horse and turn this thing around. I know I’ve said that for several days, but I’m simply not ready to give up. This division is still winnable, though we have dug ourselves quite a hole.

While no one ever likes to see teammates mix it up in the dugout, I’m hopeful that with Wednesday’s event behind us, it might spark this team like the Kent/Bonds dugout dustup did for the 2002 Giants. I covered that team as a reporter and I remember standing in the champagne-soaked clubhouse after the division series and Jeff saying that he thought that was the turning point in the season. There’s just no way of knowing what gets things going in this crazy game. Maybe it will be Tommy Lasorda’s vow that he’s not going to eat until we win. (I’m not kidding).

Whatever it is, I hope many of you are part of the sellout crowd coming tomorrow night or that you get to take in a ballgame over the weekend. Now is the time these guys need fan support more than ever and I know you’re up to the task. You’ve been incredible thus far and I truly mean that.

JR

Today's game

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Drew, RF

Saenz, 1B

Ethier, LF

Martin, C

Aybar, 2B

Izzy, 3B

Penny, P

As I was driving to the stadium this morning, having read everyone’s thoughts on the trade, here’s how I look at yesterday’s deal. At the end of the day, we got Elmer Dessens for Odalis Perez and we got three million dollars for Blake Johnson and Julio Pimentel. How that $3 million gets spent remains to be seen, but if the options were to release Odalis and eat the contract with nothing in return or do what we did, in my opinion, we made a pretty good trade.

And finally, after debating his "white flag theory" with Plaschke’s last night before reading this morning’s column, here’s what I don’t understand. He readily admits that he’s "not talking about trading the Russell-Martin-Andre-Ethier-Jonathan-Broxton-Matt-Kemp kind of kids." The problem is, those are the names that people are asking for when it comes to getting an impact player. If Ned, Kim, Roy and the group could get Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano or Dontrelle Willis or Barry Zito or pick-your-impact-player in exchange for lower-level prospects or Triple-A guys that aren’t valued as highly as these guys, something tells me we’d see those big names in Dodger blue tomorrow morning.

The key quote from Ned yesterday that most every story had with the exception of this article which suggests that we’re giving up is this one: "It really is a matter of who is available, and the difference-making players available are very, very few. Because of that, the requests coming back are for multiple (major-league) players. I’m not yet to the point of sacrificing two or three really good players for what probably would be a two-month rental."

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think most Dodger fans agree with that belief. None of us want to wait until next year. No one wants to see this team lose the way it has. We are well aware that in Los Angeles, you don’t get rebuilding years and we truly value the fact that you all spend your hard-earned money and time on tickets to come see this team play.

But it seems to me in this instance that Bill had the premise for his article and heard what he wanted to hear on Ned’s conference call. Please don’t get me wrong — I’m not looking to bash Plaschke. I actually respect him immensely, his years of covering the game and his right to voice his opinion. He’s truly one of the best writers in the country. But to leave out one of the main things Ned said because it contradicted his opinion doesn’t make sense to me. If we can get a quality starting pitcher for a bag of balls, trust me, Ned will pull the trigger.

More than anything this morning, I agree with Grady’s postgame comments from last night.

"It’s a real easy time and situation for guys to start pointing fingers. But it’s also a great time for each and every one of them to take a look in the mirror and ask if they’re doing everything they can."

That goes for all of us…

Incidentally, be sure to tune in tonight to KFWB News 980 at 7:00 p.m. to listen to the roundtable discussion that will include Frank McCourt, Ned and Grady.

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