December 2006

Wrapping it up

Just got back to Los Angeles after a busy week. I’m personally very happy with everything that’s been accomplished this week, from the Organization of the Year honors to the numerous signings, all of which make great sense to me. Of course, my opinion isn’t the important one, so if you want to hear Ned explain his thought process behind all of this, tune in tomorrow morning to AM 570 at 8:20, when he’s going to be talking to Fred Roggin, T.J. SImers and Tracy Simers. If you miss it, you can also go to their website a few hours later and hear the audio. And if you want to ask him questions yourself, be sure to take part in Tuesday’s web chat next week.

From reading the comments, it sounds like there are mixed feelings about Luis Gonzalez (which actually isn’t even officially done yet), so I’ll at least give a few of the key reasons behind why I like him.

- He had a very productive season last year with 52 doubles and is one year removed from an All-Star selection in 2005; with the speed that’ll be ahead of him in the lineup, doubles should drive in plenty of runs

- Over the past nine seasons, he has averaged 27 home runs and 94 RBI while slugging 23 or more homers in seven of those nine campaigns and logging 100 or more runs batted in on five occasions. I know 2001 somewhat skews the numbers, but the idea of him replacing J.D. Drew’s 20 homers is very doable

- His 20 home runs at Dodger Stadium rank second only to Barry Bonds among active players who have never played for the Dodgers

- He appeared in 153 games for the Diamondbacks last year, the ninth time in the past 10 seasons that he has played in 145 games or more; he committed just one error in 150 games in left field

- Once again, the "good guy" factor is something that really means something in baseball. I know it’s hard to see that unless you’re around it every day, but what he’ll contribute off the field will be on par if not better than what he does on the field

- A one-year deal does not block our prospects long-term; Most people believe Kemp still needs time in the minors and he’s only 21 years old. Everyone still thinks he’s got a bright future ahead of him and that’s why this wasn’t a long-term deal that blocks any of the kids. Loney may very well be ready (or he may not, we won’t know until we see it every day), but he should get about 40 games at first base and a bunch more spelling Gonzalez on some days and Ethier on others (plus possible DH games, etc). In my opinion, this is an ideal way to break a kid into the Majors (facing primarily right-handers, without all the pressure of an every day job at 22 years old)

- For those who believe this team is old, I’m not sure what to say; in the every day lineup, there should be only two guys over 35 (Kent and Gonzalez) and five guys under 30 (Pierre, Furcal, Ethier, Martin, Betemit). Penny and Billingsley are under 30, Wolf is 30 and Schmidt and Lowe are both in their mid 30s but are bonafide stars based on their track records.

I guess I’m not too sure what power hitter people wanted Ned to go get – we were in on just about every power-hitting free agent there was, but in cases like Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, we can’t make Los Angeles further East than it is. And it seems like most people didn’t think that trading for Manny made sense, given the price. As for the other guys rumored to be available (Andruw Jones, Vernon Wells, etc.), I’d be stunned if either of those guys gets moved for anything less than a gargantuan package of prospects and both are one-year rentals and will surely test the market, given the current landscape.

Anyway, the best part about the winter is that we all get to debate the moves and then we’ll see how they turn out once the year starts and ends. Plus, with eight starting pitchers and no major holes at this point, Ned can approach the next two months from a position of strength and hopefully that will stand land us some pretty good players before we head to Vero.

Until then, keep checking the blog regularly, as I’m thrilled to see such great debates and people checking in every day.

A long day

It’s been a long day but a fruitful one by all accounts. While I don’t exactly have a ton of details to share with everyone, I can tell you guys that we’re on the verge of signing Luis Gonzalez and hopefully there will be news on him and Jason Schmidt tomorrow. So far, this team is loaded with pitching, a pretty solid offense and Ned has yet to trade a single one of the kids, which is hard to fathom.

I hope you’re all as happy as I am…it’s been a long day, but a very good one for Dodger fans everywhere.

The other side of the Winter Meetings

There are a couple other sides to the winter meetings that you guys don’t usually get to hear about, read about or see, so I figured I’d share them with you this morning. My day started early – 7 a.m. to be exact – as I met with a group of students from Indiana University, my alma mater.

A huge portion of the people at the meetings are young students or people right out of college seeking jobs in baseball. There’s a huge job fair in which hundreds of minor league teams (and some big league clubs) hire employees for the upcoming season. Chris Haydock, our assistant director of player development, and I, both went to school at IU and a group of kids who came down asked to meet with us so we gladly spent some time chatting with them about how to crack into the industry.

After that, I had breakfast with two former Dodger colleagues, Tom Seidler and Dan Simon. Tom, whose mother was a co-owner of the Dodgers with the O’Malleys, owns the Visalia Oaks, a minor league team in that town. Dan, who used to design all sorts of merchandise and other things at the Dodgers, now owns his own company called Studio Simon, which is responsible for designing a huge portion of minor league logos, brand identities and the like. Not surprisingly, he actually designed all the logos for the Winter Meetings, too.

Dan has a booth at the trade show here and Tom came to see many of his clients at the trade show, which is another huge portion of what goes on behind the scenes. Every imaginable promotional company, bat maker, bobblehead creator, etc. is here trying to get baseball teams to utilize their services for the coming season.

Anyway, those are two sides of the meetings that rarely get any attention, so I figured you might enjoy hearing about it. Stay tuned for more news later today.

The other side of the Winter Meetings

There are a couple other sides to the winter meetings that you guys don’t usually get to hear about, read about or see, so I figured I’d share them with you this morning. My day started early – 7 a.m. to be exact – as I met with a group of students from Indiana University, my alma mater.

A huge portion of the people at the meetings are young students or people right out of college seeking jobs in baseball. There’s a huge job fair in which hundreds of minor league teams (and some big league clubs) hire employees for the upcoming season. Chris Haydock, our assistant director of player development, and I, both went to school at IU and a group of kids who came down asked to meet with us so we gladly spent some time chatting with them about how to crack into the industry.

After that, I had breakfast with two former Dodger colleagues, Tom Seidler and Dan Simon. Tom, whose mother was a co-owner of the Dodgers with the O’Malleys, owns the Visalia Oaks, a minor league team in that town. Dan, who used to design all sorts of merchandise and other things at the Dodgers, now owns his own company called Studio Simon, which is responsible for designing a huge portion of minor league logos, brand identities and the like. Not surprisingly, he actually designed all the logos for the Winter Meetings, too.

Dan has a booth at the trade show here and Tom came to see many of his clients at the trade show, which is another huge portion of what goes on behind the scenes. Every imaginable promotional company, bat maker, bobblehead creator, etc. is here trying to get baseball teams to utilize their services for the coming season.

Anyway, those are two sides of the meetings that rarely get any attention, so I figured you might enjoy hearing about it. Stay tuned for more news later today.

Another busy day

Once again, I apologize for only getting to post at the end of the day, but we’ve been going non-stop since arriving here yesterday morning. Today we officially got Saito back, which is a huge boost for the team, given all that he did last year. When you compare his numbers to the other relievers around the league, he stacked up against just about everyone one of them. We’re all hoping for a repeat.

If the reports are all accurate, it appears that three Dodgers might be coming to the end of their careers with the team – Greg Maddux, J.D. Drew and Eric Gagne. If that does happen, there will of course be a touch of sadness, particularly for Eric, who all Dodger fans really grew to love over the years. And while I’m certainly not saying we won’t sign him, Scott Boras informed the media tonight that Eric will likely sign this week and I know that from Ned’s perspective, it’s tough to give a ton of guaranteed money to someone who you haven’t seen pitch and who just started throwing a ball for the first time last week.

At the end of the day, if Eric decides to leave for the most money, I wouldn’t really blame him. I’m sure he’s hopeful that his arm and his back will recover, but if they don’t, this could be his final contract and if that’s the case, he probably feels like he has to go for the most money. I guess that’s all I can say until I know if he actually signs elsewhere.

Most of our time today was spent meeting with various companies that we deal with throughout the year – ESPN, FOX, TNT (our new broadcast partner), representatives from the Hall of Fame, MLB photos and numerous others. This is a great chance for us to come up with new ideas for ’07 and learn about some of the things other teams are doing.

We also had the Baseball America gala this afternoon for three hours (where we officially received Organization of the Year honors), followed by a team dinner at Lonestar Steakhouse, compliments of Tommy Lasorda, who sits on the Board of Directors there.

We just got back to the hotel and even at 10 pm, there are probably a thousand people milling around in the lobby. I’ll be joining them shortly for a little free time as soon as I post this.

I know some of you asked about when the new jerseys will be available and they should be any day now. Keep checking back, as we expect a story on the front of the site as soon as they’re reading for purchase.

A huge honor

As you’ve probably seen on the front of the site, we were named as Organization of the Year today by Baseball America, which is an incredible honor. We’ve never received this in the 25 years they’ve been giving out this award, which says a lot about what is going right these days at the Dodgers. From the scouting to the player development departments and the big league staff and front office, this is really pretty special.

I remember sitting at last year’s Baseball America gala and they honored the Braves with the Organization of the Year, and to think of what they’ve accomplished in the last dozen or so years, I can only hope we’ll be back on that path to winning year-in and year-out.

It’s been an extremely busy day here in Orlando. We took the red eye last night, arrived at 6:00 a.m. and headed to the hotel here at DisneyWorld, where we had League PR meetings all day long, followed by media briefings with Ned, a dinner/cocktail hour for all of the league’s PR Personnel and then another one with all of our minor league affiliates. It’s nearly nine o’clock here and this is the first chance I’ve had to stop and post something, so hopefully we’ll have more fun stuff in the next few days.

As for all the Manny rumors floating around – don’t get too excited. There hasn’t been much news coming out of MLB today, so the 200 media members in the lobby tend to float a lot of rumors. I even got a call from one reporter a few minutes ago telling me that he heard the deal was done. Definitely not true.

Enjoy the hot stove. Just keep your hands away from the flame.

Holiday Gift Idea…for you or someone else

Many of you have been asking about it and now you can get copies of Dodgers Magazine, the official publication of the Los Angeles Dodgers, delivered to your home.

For a limited time you can receive a package of the six editions of the 2006 Dodgers Magazine and the 2006 Dodger Yearbook for the bargain price of $25 (saving you $20). You can order them right here at dodgers.com.

The 2006 edition of Dodgers Magazine featured cover stories on Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and Dodger rookies like Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton, as well as a collector’s edition looking back at the 1981 Dodger World Championship team. You can also get a copy of the 2006 postseason magazine, which was sold only at Dodger Stadium during the NLDS.

We’ve really enjoyed putting this magazine together with a great mixture of current player features, dazzling photos and fond looks back at some of the great moments in Dodger history. If you have to satisfy your hunger for baseball during the cold winter months, this is a way to do it.

Check it out and hopefully you’ll have just as much fun reliving the 2006 season as we all did the first time around.

Quite an organization, quite a breakfast

This morning, I was fortunate enough to be one of several members of the Dodger organization to join Don Newcombe, "Sweet" Lou Johnson and Frank McCourt at the annual Los Angeles OIC Breakfast of Champions. Even if you’ve never heard of this organization, don’t stop reading. This was really cool.

The organization, whose slogan is Helping People Help Themselves, have named an award after Newk and the winner this year was Frank McCourt, who graciously accepted it on behalf of everyone at the Dodgers for the community efforts at the team. Sweet Lou, who introduced Frank, was nearly in tears on the dais because of everything, he said, that the organization and the McCourts have done for him. Frank’s speech was really very good, but the highlight probably wasn’t him or any of the high profile speakers like L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Burke or Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

The final honoree was Eva Mae Tucker, a graduate of the LA OIC, which serves as a mentoring program for African-American and other minority youth in Los Angeles. Though probably only in her early 20s, her speech was incredible and I’ve asked her to send me a copy that I will post portions of to the blog when I get it. UPDATE: Here’s the file: Download Achievement.pdf

Anyway, while this isn’t baseball news, it’s an organization supported by the Dodgers and certainly worthy of your time if you’re looking for a way to give back to the community.

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