October 2006

If you can't live without baseball…

Be sure to check in on the Japan Series, where Rafael Furcal is playing. MLB.com has created a landing page for all things Japan Series.

While Takashi Saito isn’t playing in that series, I’m curious what people’s opinions are of him in the NL Rookie of the Year race. I know that some think it should only go to someone who has never played professionally in another league but when you consider that some people compare Japanese baseball to a Triple-A equivalent, I’m not sure I see the difference between being "called up" or "called over" from there. Just some food for thought.

And continuing the international baseball theme, Fernando Valenzuela is back at it again. He made his first start on Sunday and went 4.1 innings for Mexicali, allowing three earned runs in a no-decision. Last year, he went 4-2 with a 4.30 ERA, including a 4-1 mark and 3.89 ERA at home. In 2004, he was 2-2 in the regular season and 1-1 with a 4.02 ERA in four playoff starts. I don’t know about you guys, but I find it unbelievably impressive that he can go eight months without pitching, then work himself back into shape and pitch competitively during the winter. Pretty cool. His son, Fernando Jr., is also on the team and is hitting .315 with two homers and eight RBI in his first 15 games.

Watson hired

I know many of you have been asking who will replace Terry Collins and Roy Smith and I’ve got an answer on one of them. Terry’s position will be filled by De Jon Watson, who comes to us from the Indians. He grew up in LA as a Dodger fan, so he should know what it means to be a Dodger. And he’s worked with the Marlins (including their 1997 World Championship team), as well as the Reds and Indians, helping Cincinnati bring in guys like Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.

Here’s the story from dodgers.com and the official press release we did. Tony Jackson at the Daily News has an article with more quotes from Watson and Logan White.

Also, earlier this year someone was asking me what products are used to get uniforms clean. While I hadn’t had much luck in tracking down exact names until now, there was a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that credits a  New Jersey-based company named Eisco as one that "sells uniform cleaning products to every MLB team and about 20 percent of the minors." I hope that helps whomever was looking for the info.

That’s all for now.

Fall Classic

Good to see the series tied 1-1. I hope it goes seven, to be honest. There’s not much I find more exciting than a do-or-die game to decide the champion for the year.

As for another "fall classic," if you’re up for a good baseball read, check out Jerry Crasnick’s book License to Deal, an incredibly real look at the life of a baseball agent and the business side of the baseball. I’m about two-thirds done and it’s a very enjoyable book. I’m particularly intrigued in reading about Matt Sosnick, who as you might remember, was the "other" agent involved in the Luke Hochevar debacle with Scott Boras last year.

Crasnick, a longtime baseball writer whom I respect quite a bit, also wrote one of the best features on Russell Martin this season. The article ran in September on ESPN.com and also in Baseball America.

Offseason news and notes

Every couple of weeks during the offseason (or whenever it’s warranted), we’ll put out a news & notes press release with some updates on the team. We did that today, and it can usually be found at the bottom of the home page under the "official team releases."

It hasn’t been posted yet, so I’ve pasted it at the bottom of this post.

Other things to check regularly throughout the winter are the website for the Arizona Fall League which has several of our top prospects participating in it and currently has a headline featuring Dodger prospect Anthony Raglani and a "Beat the Streak" Fantasy game with Matt Kemp as the ad on the front of the site (he hit in 16 games last year in the AFL).

Also, for any of you who watch The Daily Show on Comedy Central and saw Jon Stewart bounce his first pitch at Shea Stadium on last night’s show, rest assured I’ve offered him the chance to come out to Dodger Stadium and redeem himself next year. We’ll see if he’s able to make it out to the left coast.

I’ll keep posting new stuff as I think of it and hope you’re enjoying the postseason (I’m guessing the person who posted early this season who was a big Jeff Weaver fan is happy these days and on a personal note, I am too, as he was always a good guy for me to deal with).

Also, I have to say that I was surprised to hear Tim McCarver talk about how the Dodger farm system teaches pitchers to throw at a hitter when they square around to squeeze and then point to Guillermo Mota as an example. He repeated it three times, but Mota spent a grand total of 20 games in our minor league system and 112 with the Expos’ organization. Just thought I’d clear that one up. That’s all for now.

SCHOOL’S IN SESSION–  Dodger rookie closer Takashi Saito will visit Nishiyamato Gakuen (Nishiyamato Academy) of California in Lomita this Thursday, Oct. 19 from 11 a.m.-Noon.  Saito will visit with the school’s K-9 students and faculty.  The student body of Nishiyamato Academy is comprised primarily of Japanese citizens who make their home in Los Angeles. The academy is located at 2458 Lomita Blvd. in Lomita.  For more information, please contact the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Public Relations Department at (323) 224-1301.

BREAKING IT DOWN– Dodger hurler Brett Tomko will join KTTV/ FOX 11 Sports Anchor Rick Garcia on FOX 11’s “Extra Innings” pre-game show during the World Series to serve as the in-studio analyst. Tomko played an integral role in the Dodgers’ success in 2006, posting an 8-7 record with a 4.73 ERA in 112.1 innings pitched. Tomko will draw on his 10 seasons of Major League experience and two postseason appearances to provide in-depth analysis of this year’s Fall Classic.  Fox “Extra Innings,” an MLB wrap-up show, has been airing since 1999.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON– The Mexicali Aguilas of the Mexican Pacific League opened their season on October 10 and among the talented players listed on their roster are Fernando Valenzuela and Fernando Valenzuela Jr.  This marks the first time that this father-son duo has played for the same team on a professional stage.  Valenzuela, the former Dodger pitcher, rejoins the Aguilas for his third season with Mexicali and 14th season in the Mexican Pacific League. The National League Cy Young Award winner and Rookie of the Year in 1981 enjoyed 17 successful seasons in the Major Leagues including 11 seasons with the Los Angles Dodgers and he currently serves as the Dodgers’ color commentator for Spanish-radio broadcasts.  Valenzuela compiled a 173-153 career record with a 3.54 ERA which included 113 complete games, 31 shutouts and two World Championships with Los Angeles.  Fernando Jr. spent the 2006 regular season with the Mobile Bay Bears, the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He just completed his fourth season of professional baseball and is participating in his first season of winterball.  Through his first five games with Mexicali, Valenzuela Jr. is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with a double and three RBI.  His father will don his familiar number 34.  To date, Mexicali is tied for second place with a 3-2 record. 

TOP OF THE CLASS – The Dodgers had three rookies ranked among Baseball America’s top 20 Rookies for the 2006 season: catcher Russell Martin (10th), closer Takashi Saito (15th) and outfielder Andre Ethier (17th).  All three began the season as teammates at Triple-A Las Vegas.  Other current Dodgers that were previously tabbed by Baseball America as the Top Rookie of the Year are: Nomar Garciaparra (1997) and Rafael Furcal (2000).

IN RUSS WE TRUST- Baseball America ranked the Dodgers’ rookie backstop, Russell Martin, 10th among the top 20 selections for Rookie of the Year.  Martin made an immediate impact following his May 5 call-up as the team went 7-1 in his first eight starts and went on to post a 71-43 record when he started behind the plate.  Martin finished the season hitting .282 with 10 home runs.  He ranked among rookie leaders in the National League in batting average (.282, 9th), RBI (65, 7th), runs scored (65, 7th), total bases (181, 10th), stolen bases (10, T-5th), walks ( 45,7th), on-base percentage (.355, 8th) and extra-base hits (40, 9th).  In 117 games, the Canada native posted a .993 fielding percentage behind the plate, committing only six errors and allowing five passed balls while cutting down 25 of 96 (.207) runners trying to steal against him.  In addition, Martin led all NL catchers with 10 stolen bases. He launched himself into history, hitting the third in a quartet of consecutive home runs hit by Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth in what turned into an 11-10 extra-inning win on Sept. 18 against San Diego.  Martin was signed in the 17th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft out of Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida.

SLAMMIN’ SAMMY SAITO- Takashi Saito was ranked 15th by Baseball America in its 2006 top 20 Rookie rankings. The 36-year-old right-hander was invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and opened the 2006 season with Triple-A Las Vegas before having his contract purchased on April 7.  Saito posted a 6-2 record with a 2.07 ERA and 24 saves, which set a Dodger franchise rookie record surpassing Yhency Brazoban’s 21 saves in 2005. Saito became just the 12th Major League rookie to notch 24 saves since it became an official statistic in 1969. He ranked among National League rookie hurlers in saves (24, 1st), games (72, 2nd) and strikeouts (107, 6th).  He led all NL relievers in opponent batting average with a .177 mark (minimum 200 batters faced).  Prior to joining the Dodgers, Saito enjoyed a 14-year career with the Yokohama Baystars of the Japanese Central League.  The four-time All-Star posted an 87-80 career mark in Japan with a 3.81 ERA.

ANDRE THE GIANT- In his fourth season in professional baseball, Andre Ethier broke into the Majors and was tabbed by Baseball America as the 17th best rookie of the 2006 class.  Ethier finished the season hitting .308 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI.  His .308 batting average ranked third among all Major League rookies.  He also ranked among NL rookie league leaders in multi-hit games (33, 10th), hits (122, 10th), total bases (189, 9th), on-base percentage (.365, 3rd), slugging percentage (.477, 7th), extra-base hits (38, 10th) and outfield assists (8, 1st).  His 16-game hitting streak (July 26-Aug. 12) tied him for the second-longest hitting streak among all Major League rookies.  Ethier was acquired from the Oakland Athletics on Dec. 13, 2005 for outfielder Milton Bradley and infielder Antonio Perez. 

LAND OF THE RISING SUN–  Dodger All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal will be on the roster of 27 Major League Baseball All-Stars traveling to Japan this November to play in a newly-formatted, best-of-five competition against their counterparts from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in “All-Star Series 2006.” Presented by Yomiuri, “All-Star Series 2006” will consist of five games played in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka between November 3 and November 8. While the first to win three games in this competition will be crowned champion, all five games scheduled will be played regardless of the outcome.  Preceding the All-Star Series, the Major League Baseball All-Stars will go head-to-head against the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo on Thursday, November 2.  Furcal finished the 2006 season hitting .300 with 15 homers, 63 RBI and a team-leading 37 stolen bases.  He ranked among league leaders in hits (196, T-5th), multi-hit games (62, 4th), at-bats (654, 4th), games played (159, T-6th), plate appearances (736, 4th), singles (140, 2nd), stolen bases (37, 7th), runs scored (133, 10th), home batting average (.333, 9th), bunt hits (9, 6th), average with runners in scoring position (.346, 8th) and was the ninth-hardest player to double up in the NL (one GIDP per 93.4 at-bats).  Furcal was voted as the “Most Inspirational Dodger” by his teammates and coaches and received the inaugural Roy Campanella award.

A real off day

Posting from home today, as the Dodgers have closed the offices as a thank you to the employees for their hard work. Of course, I had to bring my car in for servicing, so I’m stuck here. But that’s okay.

To answer the question about Roy Smith, Ned has not decided on a replacement for him or if there will be one in that exact position. He’s currently in the process of replacing Terry Collins with a new farm director and we’ll go from there. From a personal standpoint, I know Roy really enjoyed connecting with you guys on the blog during the season and I will certainly miss him at the Dodgers and know he’ll do well, wherever he ends up.

The contest for the World Series predictions is now closed, so we’ll see how it turns out. And congrats to joshiegreer, who also won the final six games contest for four of the aweseome baseline seats to a game next year. Sorry for overlooking it, we’ll be in touch soon.

Finally, I have to pass along a great post from Dodger Thoughts, which most of you probably already saw over there, but which I found to be the perfect guide to the offseason rumor mill. The names you’ll see and hear as rumored future Dodgers are part of what make the offseason exciting, so enjoy them but like the commercials say, please enjoy responsibly. From Jon Weisman:

How To Survive the Hot Stove League Without Getting Burned

1) Rumors are not facts.

2) Teams and agents often float rumors to generate attention or to misdirect rivals. The media will report these rumors without much concern over how viable they are. The rumor is the news – whether it comes to fruition or not is not the media’s problem (or so the media has decided).

3) A report that agents, players or teams "were talking" is meaningless. People talk all the time. It doesn’t mean anything will come of it.

4) Any rumor attributed to an anonymous source is particularly useless.

5) Making judgments about a general manager based on a rumor reflects poorly on the judge.

6) Many deals, if not most, are never rumored, but spring up out of the blue.

7) Many are eager to pass along rumors. If you are planning to post a rumor here, please check to see if it has been posted already. But whatever you do, don’t take the rumors too seriously.

And with that, enjoy the weekend!

A little revisionist history…

I just remembered that we had set up a contest for you guys to predict what would happen in the final six games of the season. The comments were pretty funny and there were those who thought I was being optimistic, picking the Dodgers to win four of six to get to the playoffs.

Turns out, I wasn’t optimistic enough. The winner of that contest was dhofs@earthlink.net, who correctly predicted the Dodgers going 6-0 and the Padres going 4-2. He also had the Phillies going 6-0 and the Dodgers winning the tie breaker to "limp into the playoffs." He was right on most accounts, except for the Phillies, so he gets the set of four baseline seats to a 2007 game.

So here’s another chance to earn some more of those prime seats. Pick the winner of both League Championship Series and the World Series, as well as how many games it’ll take each team to win. You’ve got until the end of the day on Thursday for your guesses, which gives people a little time to see how it starts, but the bold ones will put their predictions before they can see how it starts.

And dhofs, we’ll be in touch shortly regarding your tickets.

Thank you

There’s no good way to end a season without winning it all, but as I think about where we were a year ago and where we stand today, there’s really no denying that as an organization, we’ve made tremendous strides.

I’ll have plenty more thoughts as time goes by, but tonight I really just want to say thank you on behalf of everyone in the organization for all of your support. The stadium was rocking at points tonight, just as we had hoped. And, this blog has really become a great community for Dodger fans. We’ll certainly be keeping it up throughout the winter and while I can’t imagine I’ll be posting something every day, it’ll definitely be a place to come check out all the time, so be sure to do so.

Thanks again for everything and best wishes to all of you for a safe, healthy and happy offseason.

Today's game

Officially, it’s our first must-win of the year. This place will be electric, I know it.

Here’s the lineup that’s going to win Game 3.

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Anderson, LF

Kent, 2B

Drew, RF

Martin, C

Betemit, 3B

Loney, 1B

Maddux, P

Nomar will be available to pinch-hit, we hope, and he’s won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in the National League. We’ll present him with the award during pregame ceremonies today.

If you’re coming to the game, make sure you get here early. Introductions on the field and Nomar’s ceremony will start around 4:40 but as you can imagine, we’re expecting a lot of people here today. That means parking will be crowded, will call lines will be longer than usual and you’ll want to be here for all the festivities.

Also keep in mind that if you’re coming up the 110, you’re battling traffic for the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium and Rose Bowl, not to mention Staples Center for the Kings’ opener tonight.

Let’s see if Maddux can duplicate Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS. Most of you remember that day as one of the most exciting in recent Dodger memory.

News on Nomar

Nomar went for an MRI this morning and unfortunately, he does have a tear in his quad. Grady has said that he’ll be extremely limited, mostly pinch-hitting, for the rest of the series. James Loney will start tomorrow, but the rest of the lineup is not yet set.

Today's workout

We’re back in L.A. and as Grady and Ned have said, we’ve got the Mets right where we want them. OK, so maybe one win or two would’ve been nice in NY, but the home team is the one that’s supposed to win. So if we win the next two and have the momentum heading to NY Sunday night, I like our chances.

There’s a workout at the stadium today for both teams, so we’re obviously still pretty busy. But I wanted to let you guys know a couple things.

First, we’re really hoping that everyone who comes to the games the next two days is wearing blue. As you know, Tommy Lasorda calls this place Blue Heaven on Earth and we should actually make it look like that.

Second, I have to admit that Shea Stadium was rocking over the past two days and we have to keep pace with them. Every two-strike count, every big situation, the crowd there was on its feet. It’s up to you guys, the die-hards, to prove to the world that Los Angeles fans aren’t passive like people think we are. Get this crowd up on their feet and get them going. This place should rock like the ’04 NLDS or any of the great games down the stretch this season.

That’s all for now. If I get a lineup today for tomorrow, I’ll post it in a while.