November 2006

Steve Bisheff Hangs 'Em Up

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Dodger fan and if you’re a Dodger fan – or a fan of LA sports at all – you’ve probably read Steve Bisheff countless times in your life. For more than four decades, Steve has covered sports here in Los Angeles and today, he penned his final column for the Orange County Register before retiring.

It seems kind of strange to wish him well and congratulate him on a blog, given that in his final article, he talks about the days of crafting articles on a type writer, but the entire Dodger organization would be remiss if we did not congratulate him publicly. In the few years that I’ve known him, Steve has always been extremely professional and thorough and I’ve really enjoyed reading his work. In the farewell spread of today’s OCR, there’s an extremely complimentary quote from Tommy Lasorda, whom Bish covered for many years.

There’s no doubt, the world of sports media is changing almost every day. We even had someone post clips from yesterday’s press conference on You Tube, which is kind of hard to fathom. But there’s a lot to be said for an old school guy who did his job the right way and in all my time at the Dodgers, I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Steve.

So get your last read while you can and be sure to check out his favorite ten columns over the years, including this one on Vin Scully from last season.

Good luck, Steve. You’ll be missed in the press box and we all wish you and Marsha well in retirement.

Today's press conference

Everything went very well today at the press conference and to be honest, it would be really tough to find two nicer guys than the two newest Dodgers. While that might not mean as much to everyone else, for someone who has to regularly ask them to give their time to the media, community, sponsors, fans and other team events, I’m really looking forward to working with these guys.

In response to the comment about how bad the audio on the conference calls sound, I’m glad to say the problem isn’t on the Dodgers’ end. We actually have a top-notch conference call system that we use, but unfortunately when writers call-in from across the country on cell phones, the sound gets worse and worse. It sometimes sounds like they’re riding a bike through a wind tunnel, but there’s not much I can do other than ask them to please hang up and try to reconnect.

Also, as most of you know by now, the names are back on the jerseys due to popular demand. This was the first time a Dodger donned the new jerseys, which also have a couple other very minor differences that few will notice (the shadows have been dropped from the lettering on the back and the blue piping is no longer on the road jerseys). There’s also a new batting practice jersey that we’ll put up online once it’s available for you guys to purchase it, but I think it looks pretty cool.

That’s just about all we’ve got from now. We’re going to take Juan to the Clipper game tonight, since he’s a big basketball fan, so if you happen to be going, keep an eye out for him on the Jumbotron.

Happy birthday Vin

I’ll try to write more later today after the press conference, but in the meantime, we’d all like to wish a happy birthday to Vin Scully. He did a rare call-in this morning to AM 570 because they asked to wish him a happy birthday and he obliged. I learned from this that he’s had three hole-in-ones, which is pretty darn impressive. I’m still seeking No. 1.

KLAC posts podcasts on their site, but this one is not up yet. Check back later if you missed the interview and are longing to hear the Voice of the Dodgers during the winter.

It's official

Twelve years after we first drafted him, Randy Wolf is coming home to the Dodgers. We have signed him and plan to have him and Juan Pierre here tomorrow for a media conference that you guys will be able to watch (live, I think) on dodgers.com. Later today, there will be a conference call audio link posted to the site that you can also listen to.

As much as it pains me to root for him, of course I will. However, given that Randy is a graduate of El Camino Real, which beat my high school baseball team, Chatsworth, at Dodger Stadium in back-to-back years in 1993 and 1994, it’s hard to believe he’s on our team now.

However, because he grew up in the area and played against us regularly, I’ve been following his career for the last decade and to be honest, I’m really excited he’s going to be with us. One national writer told me yesterday he has thought that Randy would be the best bargain of the winter and the fact that he took less guaranteed money to come home to LA says a lot about him. 

Our rotation is really starting to take shape and one thing any true baseball fan knows is that you can never have enough pitching. There are going to be a lot of talented arms in Vero Beach in February and as Ned has pointed out, one or some of those arms might even help us land a bat before we start heading to Dodgertown.

A new post

You wanted it. You got it. OK, so it’s been a few days since I wrote and hopefully I’ll have some official news on Randy Wolf tomorrow. For now, I have to say that one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time is the reference to Borat on this blog.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I’ll write more in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us at the Dodgers, here’s to a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Pierre is official

The signing of Juan Pierre is now official and while it’s clear on this blog and others that it hasn’t been lauded by many of you, I sure you hope you will all give him a chance to win you over. I’m sure there are more moves coming, so let’s wait until we see the finished product before everyone judges the 2007 team.

I guess the one thing I’m surprised is how much everyone seems to be stunned by the price tag compared to other players around the league. I think that you have to look at each free agent market separately and not compare them from year to year. Putting Soriano’s contract aside, if Gary Matthews, a 32-year-old, is a $50 million player over five years and he’s got a career average of .263, a career OBP of .336 and only 78 homers and 315 RBI, I think that’s an indication of what it costs to get players on the open market this offseason. And if the reports are correct and he was offered four years with comparable annual money by the Giants, I’d certainly rather him with us than playing for our rivals.

I also think that when you talk about hard workers, it’s hard to cast that aside as just something nice to have. We’ve all seen players over the years who, once they sign a big contract, they’re not nearly as motivated (with the exception of a walk year). With Pierre, we’re not only getting a very talented leadoff man in his prime, but I don’t think we’re going to have some guy dogging it five years from now. Plus, with the way the market has currently been going, who’s to say that five years from now, $9 million won’t be a bargain for a leadoff hitter.

My final thought has to do with Matt Kemp, who many believe gets hindered by this signing. While I think most people agree that he’s still got some seasoning left in the minors, he’s actually played as much, if not more games in right field during his career than in center field. So maybe, when Pierre wins his second world championship, Kemp will be playing alongside him somewhere. Maybe not, but only time will tell.

A busy day…

Yesterday was obviously quite busy for us, with the Nomar deal coming to a close and all of the reports about Juan Pierre. Before I get into him, I’m happy to report that the Dodger family will have some new members this year, as Nomar and Mia are expecting twins and Jason Repko got married over the weekend (Nomar and Mia were actually there, as were the Tomkos). I talked to Jason the day before the wedding and he was really excited (though admittedly nervous). I have to say that you’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine guy in the Major Leagues and I’m very happy for him and Traci.

As for Pierre, while it seems opinion on the blog is split on him, I’ve got tons of people from around the league telling me (unsolicited) what an incredible guy he is and from my perspective, I hope that we’re able to finalize this thing. A few things I’ve noticed in researching him:

- Led the National League in hits last season with 204 and has finished in the Top 3 in that category while topping the 200-hit plateau in four of the last five seasons. Since 2001, he has registered 1,182 hits, the second-most in baseball behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.

- Has finished first or second in the National League in stolen bases in each of the past six seasons, including a career-high 65 steals in 2003. His 318 thefts since 2001 lead all Major Leaguers and his 325 career swipes rank seventh among all active players.

- Last year, set a career high with 32 doubles and matched his career best with 13 triples for the second consecutive season. Pierre did not commit an error in 384 total chances in center field.

- Has paced the NL in games for the past four seasons, as he has played in 497 consecutive games dating back to 2002, the second-longest streak in the Major Leagues behind Miguel Tejada (918). Over those four seasons, Pierre has also been the hardest player in the league to strike out each year and is the leader in that category among active players, fanning just once every 16.5 at-bats.

- One of the top bunters in the game, Pierre has ranked second in the Majors in bunt hits in each of the past four seasons after leading all of baseball in that category in 2001 and 2002. Since 2001, he has logged 135 bunt hits, 50 more than Alex Sanchez, who ranks second during that period. Pierre also has 72 sacrifice bunts during that span, the second-most in the Major Leagues behind Omar Vizquel.

And here are a few quotes I found from people online:

His baseball coach at the University of South Alabama, Steve Kittrell, recalled an incident about Pierre’s continual desire to work at his game.

"We were in Starkville, Mississippi for a game, and I was letting the guys sleep in one morning because we didn’t play until three o’clock in the afternoon. I went out to get some coffee at 6:30 a.m. When I got back around seven, there was Juan, standing outside his room and swinging a bat. Just dry swinging," Kittrell said. "He was the hardest-working player I ever had at South Alabama.”

Third base coach Rich Donnelly, back when he was with the Rockies, said this:

"He puts 62 bunts in play and beats out like 28," Donnelly said of Pierre. "That’s 28 hits on your average. This guy is a nonstop worker. In 22 years in the big leagues, I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he does."

Those are some pretty bold statements who have seen a lot of guys come and go during their time. As a person who values hard work above just about any other quality, I’m pretty impressed by the things I’m hearing about Pierre.

Greetings from Indy…

Today would have been the 85th birthday of Roy Campanella, who was born on Nov. 19, 1921 in Philadelphia, PA and died in 1993 in Woodland Hills, CA. As you all learned earlier this year, the Campanella Award will be given out annually to the most inspirational Dodger, as voted on by his teammates, ensuring that his legacy lives on forever in the Dodger organization, though he obviously already cemented his spot in the team’s lore long before this season.

It’s been a few days since our last post, as I have been out of town and am currently posting this from the Indianapolis airport, where I just heard that the Cubs reportedly gave Alfonso Soriano more than $130 million over eight years. While I’m not sure whether fans would have liked us to spend that much money on him (or anyone), from my perspective that’s a heck of a lot of dough for one player. But, it’s all about supply and demand and obviously there has been a huge demand for his services. Only time will tell whether it pays off for Chicago.

My congratulations also go out to BIll Mueller on his retirement and we welcome him to the front office. While we all would have much preferred to be watching him play on the field this year (and he certainly would have wanted that, too), I do believe that he’ll be a big benefit to Ned and his staff throughout the season. And of course, we’re also on the verge of getting Nomar’s deal done, according to Ned, so be on the lookout for more news on that front early this week.

In response to the questions about the Vin Scully web chat, here’s what I can tell you about how the questions are selected. When you guys put them into the system, they’re routed through a central person at MLB.com headquarters in New York for profanity, etc. Then, I see all the questions on my screen and try to choose as many different questions from as many different people as I can. While you’re right, sometimes I will pick the same person more than once, I do try to vary it as much as possible.

The best suggestion I can give you guys is to put your questions in early because I do believe I see them in order of submission. If there’s a bunch of good questions up front, I might never even see the ones at the end, so log on early, get your questions in and then add others throughout the chat.

That’s it for now. Hopefully we’ll have more news tomorrow.

The calming voice of autumn…

With all the craziness that is this year’s free agent pool (read this great article by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan), there’s nothing quite like hearing Vin Scully’s voice during the fall or winter and I had the honor of actually hearing his voice during the live web chat he did yesterday with the fans. Everyone else probably could hear his voice in their heads through the words on the screen and I’m glad so many people got to participate. At the end, we still had tons of questions, so our sincere apologies that he couldn’t answer them all.

The morning was filled with stories about Spring Training, from the Arizona Republic locally in Phoenix to the L.A. Times, Daily News and a few in the Vero Beach Press Journal, including this opinion piece by Ray McNulty. Though Ray says Vero Beach will never be the same without the Dodgers, he acknowledges that a move really does make sense, as he has in his previous columns. In fact, while the traditionalist in me has always loved everything about Dodgertown, I think the first time I realized that a move really was the right thing to do came when I read a column of Ray’s last year that was similar to today’s. Anyway, there’s a press conference today at 3 p.m. in Arizona, so be on the lookout for the press release once it’s posted to the website.

Also in today’s papers was Bill Plaschke’s story about Joe Beimel, which I thought hit the nail the on the head. Joe clearly understands the ramifications of his actions and was, at least in my opinion, a model citizen throughout the year. Having him back next year will be a boost to the team and I’m hopeful that he’s able to sort through his personal issues with the help of those of us in the organization and his family and friends.

That’s all for now. Ned and his staff are still in Naples, trying to land us a big bat or two, a pitcher or two and other complimentary pieces. Here’s hoping they are successful in laying the ground work for a great offseason.

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