March 2008

What a trip…

It’s hard to even know where to start with this amazing trip to China. Regardless of how today’s game turns out (we’re currently losing 5-3 in the sixth inning), this has been every bit as incredible as we had hoped.

In addition to an early morning trip yesterday to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, after yesterday’s game we had a very special look at Chinese culture. Joseph Reaves, who joined the team last year as Director of International Operations and the guy who was the team’s main liaison for the trip, arranged for a private tour on rickshaw through the hutongs of Beijing, which are the older neighborhoods that have not been run over by all the changes here during the past few years. In addition to stopping by the house that Chairman Mao lived in during his twenties, just the smells of food being cooked and the up close view we got of one of the courtyard homes was one of the true highlights of the trip.

We’ve also had the chance to eat some very authentic food, much of which I actually don’t even know what I was eating, but the Peking Duck (or Beijing Duck, as it’s now called) was pretty good.

The weather, which was supposed to be very cold, has been incredibly nice. A little brisk, but nothing too bad and certainly better than Wrigley in April.

One thing you definitely notice in this city is just how many government workers are around on every corner. It seems that almost every 20 steps, there is one or two police officers or army personnel standing around and it’s not as though they’re watching our every step (or at least it doesn’t seem they are). It’s a very interesting dichotomy between the communist government and capitalist society. I can’t say we’ve been here long enough to truly understand it all, but it’s definitely unique to witness.

At the end of the day, though, this trip has been about goodwill and you can really tell just how much we’re able to see that coming to life before our eyes. Just the fact that the TV production crew that is bringing the game to FSN Prime Ticket right now is made up of both people from China and Chinese Taipei says something about the bridge the game is building here. There are Dodger logos all over Beijing now that these people will wear with a true understanding of what they mean. In fact, we brought with us several hundred LA pins that we had intended to give to just the media but we’ve handed them out to every stadium worker, security guard, police officer in sight and they are genuinely very appreciative of the gesture. With each one we hand out, we have been saying, "shay shay need ah bong mong," which means "Thank you for your help."

We also had the chance to introduce Jet Li to a number of our players before he threw out the first pitch. His "One Foundation" seemingly does great work here in China and it’s amazing to think about his goal…1 person + 1 dollar + 1 month = one big family. If every person simply gave one dollar a month, the goodwill that would ensue is hard to fathom, especially in a country with 1.3 billion people.

I’m sure there’s tons I’m forgetting, but hopefully all the media coverage will fill in some of the blanks. Among the many places to look are MLB.com/dodgers.com, FSN Prime Ticket, KABC 790, Yahoo Sports, the Los Angeles Times, FOX News, and ESPN the Magazine, as reporters from all of those outlets have come with us to document this historic series.

Next stop…Phoenix.

Today's lineup in Beijing

I’ll definitely have one more long post before we go, but since the lineup is what always seems to get people fired up on the blog, here’s the group for Game 2 in China.

Hu, SS

Paul, RF

Kemp, CF

Jones, DH

Lindsey, 1B

Chavez, 3B

Lombard, LF

Gonzalez, 2B

Ardoin, C

Stults, P

And you can watch it at 10:05 p.m. PT on FSN Prime Ticket or, if you’re not in LA, on MLB.TV.

And we're underway…

The first Major League game on Chinese soil is underway. It’s a little cold here in the "press box," which is just some seats outdoors behind home plate, but that’s actually not the reason I got chills before the game. Standing on the field while they played the Chinese anthem and the U.S. National Anthem was pretty powerful when you think about how groundbreaking this is.

In case you can’t listen on KABC or watch on MLB.TV, I’ll try to post what happens inning by inning to keep you updated. So far, the crowd is filling in quite nicely and while they seem a tad unsure when to cheer and when not, there’s a big league atmosphere in terms of the video board graphics, sound system and the fans are into it…

In the first inning:

George Lombard took the first pitch, which will be making it to the Dodger archives. He then grounded out to second off Justin Germano.

Chin-lung Hu and Matt Kemp both grounded to short.

In the bottom of the first, Chan Ho Park got Scott Hairston to ground to third, former Dodger Oscar Robles was out on a comebacker and then he fanned Kevin Kouzmanoff swinging.

Gameday…

Yet another whirlwhind 12 hours since the last post. The Great Wall was an overwhelming experience for everyone who took part in it. The sheer size is beyond description and seeing Dodger jerseys everywhere you looked while we climbed up to the top of it was a special sight. To think that this was built centuries ago, without modern technology, is simply astonishing and speaks to the will of the people here to accomplish what they set out to do. This despite losing countless lives throughout the process.

We should have some great footage of the visit to share with everyone when we come back, as FSN Prime Ticket had a camera crew there following Matt Kemp around.

And as it turns out, apparently only the second of the two games here will be on TV, and that will be on FSN Prime Ticket on Saturday night in Los Angeles (10 p.m.). The first game, which starts in about five and a half hours, will be available on KABC radio 790 AM.

Speaking of which, after we returned from the Great Wall yesterday, we had a welcome receptions in which several MLB officials, Chinese dignitaries and celebrities (Jet Li, included) were on site. While this was going on, KABC’s Doug McIntyre was hosting his morning show live from a room nearby in the hotel, so he had special guests stop by throughout, including Frank McCourt, Joe Torre, Bud Selig and Dave Winfield, among others. If you missed that, you can tune into Steve Mason on 710 AM at 3 p.m. to hear Frank McCourt, who recorded an interview yesterday for today’s show.

It’s extremely early in the morning, as a group of us are planning to visit Tiananmen Square before we head to the ballpark. Here’s the lineup for the first game ever played on Chinese soil:

George Lombard, RF

Chin-lung Hu, SS

Andruw Jones (CF) – and don’t forget to check out his blog from China

Matt Kemp, DH

John Lindsey, 1B

Lucas May, C

Terry Tiffee, 3B

John-Ford Griffin, LF

Ramon Martinez, 2B

Chan Ho Park, P

And back on the other side of the world in Vero Beach…

Pierre, LF

Furcal, SS

Sweeney, 1B

Martin, C

DeWitt, 3B

Young, RF

Repko, CF

DeJesus, 2B

Loaiza, P

More from Wukesong Stadium later today…here are the game notes for the series. Download game_notes.doc

Heading to the Great Wall

We finished our first workout this morning and it’s quite a circus here, but in a good way. There’s so much going on at once, from media requests, press conferences, meet and greets with the Chinese National team (managed by former Dodger Jim Lefebvre) and the actual workouts themselves. I’m underneath the stadium in a small office posting this before we take off for the Great Wall with most of the team.

We’ve added yet another blogger, Andruw Jones, to the mix, as he’ll be sharing his thoughts throughout the trip to China. Plus, don’t forget that Tommy Lasorda is blogging from Vero Beach while he manages the team over there. And if you think the Dodgers have a lot of blogs, get this – I was reading up on the plane and at last count, they believe there are 35 million blogs in China, with some websites that translate the most popular ones. That’s some serious bloggage.

More great news, too. You all can watch the China games in Los Angeles this weekend. Our partners at KCAL and FSN have stepped up to help get this done, so Friday night at 10:05 p.m., turn on KCAL and Saturday night at the same time, tune into FSN Prime Ticket. As it currently stands, Friday will be the audio live from Rick Monday and Charley Steiner, while Saturday will be Steve Lyons and Kevin Kennedy from the studio in LA.

Kevin actually emailed me a bit ago to say that he was one of the coaches that came over here in 1984 when the Dodgers conducted the first clinics in China. He was a minor league manager of ours, so it’s come full circle for him.

I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting already…I know at one point on the flight, I was in the cockpit with the two pilots, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Ramon Martinez and Brian Falkenborg. Brian actually stayed in there for the landing, which he said was pretty cool. I guess that’s a benefit to being on a charter.

And finally, ast night when we arrived, Jon SooHoo, Scott Akasaki, Kim Ng and myself went off exploring on our own and wound up in a part of town where no one spoke English. We wound up eating a dinner at 11 p.m. that was selected by pointing at pictures on a menu and it was certainly a memorable experience for us and the waiters, who got a kick out of our cluelessness. But, this trip is as much about experiencing other cultures as it is about sharing baseball with China, so we’re all very excited about the trip to the Wall.

If the Great Wall is wireless, you’ll hear from me there. Um…yeah. Chances are, you’ll see another post very late tonight in China, which will be early Friday morning in L.A.

China arrival…first Akasaki post

We are now in Beijing, 15 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Plenty of thoughts to share, but we’ll start with the hero who got us here, Scott Akasaki, our team travel manager. As I mentioned, he’ll be adding to the blog this year and here’s his first post…

TEAMWORK, SEATTLE AND REST

Putting together the first two Major League Baseball games in China has not been easy.  It has been the work of a small army of people working in collaboration from such cities as Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Peoria, Vero Beach, Beijing, and Tokyo.  The games, the travel, the hotels, the sightseeing, Chinese visa procurement, and all the other detailed logistics have been a collective effort – from concept to fruition, the groundwork set forth has been complex and has involved every level of cooperation, understanding, and patience.

Amongst all the work put in by everyone involved, I can only offer a singular viewpoint to the China Series – that of the Dodgers’ Traveling Secretary.  To say the least, there have been many phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and long days putting the Dodgers’ team travel together.  Over the next few days, I hope that I can provide you, the reader of this blog, with some different insight into how I view the China Series experience.

China is very far away.  Our journey started yesterday, Tuesday, March 11th, when we took three buses from Vero Beach, Florida to Orlando.  We stayed overnight at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and then flew five-and-a-half hours to Seattle, Washington.  We were able to stretch our legs for about one hour and many of us, walked around the terminal, sipped Seattle’s Best Coffee, or purchased magazines and gum – many had changed out of their departure-day business casual attire into comfortable athletic warm-up gear.  (I forgot to bring a change of shoes so I walked the terminal with my black dress shoes and my Under Armor sweats.)  During our technical stop, everyone seemed to be on their cell phone calling loved ones.  Arriving in Seattle meant we were one-third the way there.

As I write this, we are approximately 6 hours (or 2,952 miles) away from Beijing.  About two hours ago, we flew past Anchorage, Alaska and many of us took photos of a snow-capped Mt. McKinley.  Some brought video and digital cameras to record this historic trip.  It’s not everyday you get to see the tallest mountain in the United States above the clouds.  Some of us were even lucky enough to take a peak into the cockpit and see the skies from the pilots’ vantage point.

Back in Vero Beach, where we begun Spring Training on Valentine’s Day, the time is now 1:00 am.  Inside the plane, all the lights are off, many are asleep, and I hear snoring behind me.  Perhaps rest is the best idea for us right now because upon arrival, I imagine everything will be a blur: a morning workout; a trip to the Great Wall of China; a formal welcome dinner; two day games against the Padres; and then a return to the United States.  We will fit all those activities in three days.  Good night for now with more to come from Beijing.

Goodbye Dodgertown, Hello Beijing

It’s been a pretty hectic and heavy day, with half the team preparing to leave for China and the other half continuing under Tommy’s guidance in Vero Beach. It took exactly two innings for Tommy to get into a heated exchange with the umpires today and it was a classic moment…just seeing him in full uniform, run out onto the field, brought back great memories from his days in the dugout.

Adding to the significance of the day is the potential that it was the last day ever in Dodgertown for some of us. If all goes as planned, we’ll be in Glendale next year, which will be absolutely amazing for our fans in Los Angeles and something that many of us are looking forward to greatly. Still, on this day, it was weird to stand on the balcony of the administration building and watch a couple of innings knowing that we likely won’t be back. In fact, I stood there the night before, too, with the stadium empty and thought about all the legends who had played on that field over the years. What an amazing place…

As we pulled away on the bus and out of Dodgertown, it was an eerie feeling and yet, I’m hopeful that all of you have had the chance to experience Spring Training there at some point over the past 61 years. And for those who haven’t, which I’m guessing is the majority of you, well, that’s the reason why we’re moving to Arizona. Be prepared for a very, very cool experience in the future.

Of course, while I’ve spent about six months of my life in total in Vero Beach, that’s nothing compared to people like Maury Wills, Billy Delury, Tommy Lasorda and all the others who will undoubtedly share their thoughts with the media over the next week while they remain at Dodgertown. In particular, keep in mind for some L.A. Times columns coming next week and highlights on ESPN, as their crew will be following Tommy around for a few days. Plus, the last game on March 17 will be televised on MLB.TV

But among those leaving today with the longest time spent at Dodgertown are Jaime Jarrin, clubhouse manager Mitch Poole, dodgers.com beat writer Ken Gurnick and team photographer Jon SooHoo. In fact, the front of the site will soon have a tribute to Dodgertown in SooHoo’s likely final gallery, which he shot earlier today. He does some pretty impressive work with the lens and today was no exception.

So with that, there’s only one thing left to say and that’s thank you. Thank you to Craig Callan and his entire staff at Dodgertown for all of their incredible hospitality. All the groundskeepers, ticket takers, hotel staff workers, dining room attendants, lounge bartenders, security guards and everyone else who has made us all feel at home for so many years there – a huge thank you goes out to all of you, too.

And of course, last but far from least, an enormous thank you to the fans and people of Vero Beach, who have supported the team incredibly over the years and who we hope will come and visit in Glendale, where they’ll be joined by thousands of like-minded Dodger fans who can’t wait to see their team in the spring. We simply cannot thank you all enough…

Today's lineup

Pierre, LF

Furcal, SS

Loney, 1B

Martin, C

Ethier, RF

Young, 2B

Repko, CF

DeWitt, 3B

Lowe, P

We’re all running about getting ready for our 2 p.m. departure, first to Orlando, then Beijing. I hope to post one more time before we fly…

Responses from Ned Colletti

As we mentioned last week, you can now post your questions for Ned Colletti in the comments of the blog and he’ll answer a bunch of them every other week or so. The first group of questions came in and here are the answers.

I’ve got a question for Ned. Don’t you think that the team would be better with Either as the everyday left fielder? After all he’s a more complete player with some power, a better OBP, and a good throwing arm.

Posted by: fliegel@ptd.net | February 28, 2008 06:53 AM

Andre is developing into a very good player.  As Joe and the staff get more acquainted with Andre and others, I’m confident they’ll find a way to get a solid amount of at-bats from all the outfielders.  There is another factor to consider as well and that is competition.  There are many times that we feel a young player is better served when they must compete for a job and compete for playing time. The competition for playing time in the outfield will hopefully increase the focus and productivity of the entire group.  We feel very fortunate that we have four proven outfielders plus Jason Repko and Delwyn Young. And there is always the injury factor to contend with as well. In the matter of a few minutes last Friday, we lost Andy Laroche for two months and nearly lost Nomar Garciaparra for a prolonged period of time. We would have went from having a perceived surplus at a position, to being almost without a clear cut choice. It can happen that fast. Today, we have some outfield depth as well as competition for playing time.  The season is 162 games in length and many different unpredictable things will happen between now and the end. 

Question for Ned. If you had it to do over, would you sign Pierre? I am sure he will say yes to save face but I think secretly he must be having second thoughts. At least on the length of the contract.

Posted by: jhall1218@yahoo.com | February 28, 2008 09:45 AM

It’s constructive to point out where the club was when we signed Juan.  With J.D. Drew opting out to Boston, we had one outfielder with every day Major League experience – and that was limited to four months.  Andre Ethier was called up in May and had four good months and then struggled in September.  He was the only outfielder on the Major League roster with an experience who had ended the 2006 season healthy.  Prior to signing Juan, we made a strong bid to sign Soriano and Lee among others, but those players did not have an interest in playing in Los Angeles.  If anyone is expecting Juan to carry the club, then we’ve signed the wrong player.  We see him as a solid complementary player who has great speed and an admirable work ethic and with run-producing players around him in the lineup adds a strong deminision – without run production around him his value is dimininshed a lot.  Last season, in my opinion, the club never got untracked.  Even when we had the best record in the league in July, I didn’t see it.  I believe Furcal’s injury added extra pressure to Pierre – especially when we remember how well Furcal played in 2006 for us. I think it was compounded by the middle of the order failing to deliever more with runners on and lacking power. We still feel that if Furcal and Pierre are healthy all season and if the middle of the order – Jones, Kent, Martin, Garciaparra, Loney and Kemp or Ethier produce in the clutch that Juan’s value to the club increases dramatically.  If the players fail to hit in the clutch in the middle of the order, and Juan is healthy and gets 200 hits and steals 60 bases, then Juan’s value is diminished. As far as the duration of the contract is concerned, those terms are negotiated and sometimes you have to extend a player out longer than usual.  If you look back at the history of our deals in the last three off-seasons, only Pierre’s contract extends beyond three years. Many deals were for one or two years.  I believe in negotiating the short-term deal whenever possible.  From time to time, that’s not possible and so you either sign the player or you pass.  But at the end of the day, you’d better have big league players on your club. And the day before we signed Juan Pierre we didn’t have one everyday player on the roster who had played more than one full season in the big leagues as an outfielder.

Ned –

How do you deal with so many non-roster players ? Are they really expecting to make the team or do they hope to get noticed by another team ? If another team is interested, do you trade them or release them or something else ? I feel for a pitcher like Jason Johnson who does well, but has little chance of making the team. There seems to be a lot of talent in this pool this year.

Posted by: scottkinsey@yahoo.com | February 28, 2008 02:04 PM

The players in camp as non-roster invitees serve many purposes.  First of all, it provides the player with the opportunity to play in front of the Major League staff without being part of the 40-man roster.  Spring Training performances do not tell everything, but the impression a player leaves with the Major League staff and front office lasts a long time.  Even if a player doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, how they perform and carry themselves will go a long way in determining if they get called up during the season – or for that matter, picked up by another organization.  If another team shows interest, we can trade them or sometimes a team will wait to see if a player gets released so they do not have to send a player back. From time to time, there are key players who make a club better by being a non-roster invitee – Saito and Beimel are two strong examples. 

Ned –

A second question is if you could change anything about today’s typical player contract or baseball rules, what would you do ? To me it seems that managers might have to make a decision based on a contract or rules rather than what is best for team. For example, a team might choose to keep a player who is "out of options" instead of someone else.

Posted by: scottkinsey@yahoo.com | February 28, 2008 02:13 PM

The option situation is dicey from time to time.  In my mind, for us to outright a player who is out of options – thus exposing him to be selected by another team – I would have to know that we definitely have a better player available. There are times were a player who is out of options is kept, while a player with just a slightly better camp is optioned. While that might not seem fair to the player with the better Spring Training camp, it does provide the organization with an extra player in the event of injury or a lack of production.  Players who can play in the Major Leagues are precious and having as many as possible in the mix is important.   

Hey question for NED?:

First of all great job with the way you handled the job of GM this offseason, i think you did an exceptional job with the acquisition of Jones and Kuroda without letting go of the kids. Now onto the question, we all know the logjam is a somewhat problem but if a trade is necessary, wether it be Pierre or Ethier, what would you be looking for in return? Pitching, Fielder, Relief etc..

Posted by: dahustlasbac@yahoo.com | February 29, 2008 09:25 AM

We’re always on the watch for pitching.  As of now, the fifth starter spot is open and there is competition in the bullpen.  Rare is it when a team goes an entire season with just five starting pitchers, so that is a priority – not only for the Dodgers but for practically every other club as well.   We also feel that Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald are close to being Major League pitchers.  If they do not make the club out of Spring Training, it is imperative that they continue to refine their games in the minor leagues.  There’s more to pitching than just throwing.  It’s vital to be able to hold runners, know how to field the position, know to lay down a bunt.  That said, if we could find a bona fide starting pitcher who is easily better than who we currently have and the cost in players going back wasn’t excessive, we would do it.  Same with a reliever, although we’re pleased as of now with the choices in the camp.


Another question for Ned is after seeing what Ariz. and Colorado did last year, why do the Dodgers block their younger players with declining veterans? Why not just let the young guys play? After all even Boston stuck with Pedroria last year after a slow start and he came around to be a valuable member of that squad.

Posted by: fliegel@ptd.net | March 1, 2008 08:17 AM

It’s a tough call.  Los Angeles might be a tougher place for a young player to play so we need to be as certain as possible that the young players are prepared as much as possible for everything that is going to come their way.  In Colorado’s case last year, the key players for them, in my opinion, were Helton, Holliday, Atkins, Hawpe, Francis and Tulowitzki.  Of that group, only Tulowitzki is considered a young player.  The rest are in their prime.  Arizona is a younger club and a more accurate reflection of your point.  They however, did have a vast majority of their key players in their prime as well – Byrnes, Hudson, Webb, Davis and Valverde. When we have signed the veterans, it has been because we had not witnessed enough consistency the previous season to take that chance.  For example, Matt Kemp has a chance to be a tremendous player.  He had a wonderful 2007 season and had an historic early few  weeks in the big leagues in May of 2006.  From around July 1, 2006 through the end of the season he struggled, hitting about .180 without any power (11-for-62, .177 with 0 home runs and 6 RBI). His defense and base running are areas in need of improvement. So as we entered the 2006-2007 off-season, we weren’t convinced we should automatically make Matt the right fielder based on the last three months. Another example is James Loney, who looks primed for a great season. It took a little while for James to hit for power. During the 2006 season, he had hit 12 home runs in 468 at-bats and then started in Vegas in 2007 and hit one home run in 233 at-bats. So in more than 700 at-bats – most in AAA in a hitters league and ballpark – James had hit 13 homers.  We knew the power would develop, we just didn’t know when – which turned out to be last September when he hit 9 homers in little more than 100 at-bats.  In some cases, we would rather err on the side of the veteran.  One of the reasons being, if the veteran can’t cut it, there is still a young player available.  If there is no veteran available and the young player isn’t ready, the cost to acquire a veteran player from another club in season would be very prohibitive. As time goes on more and more of our young players will get the opportunity to play. And a year from now, we may be fielding one of the youngest teams in the National League. 

Question for Ned: In your discussions with Nomar, is he more concerned with regular playing time or seeing his family during the season and playing for the Dodgers? Likeable as he has presented himself, I feel this may answer whether or not we see Nomar in LA after this season.

Posted by: patriotacts425@comcast.net | March 1, 2008 03:43 PM

I think Nomar wants to play all the time and I know he enjoys being in Los Angeles near his family and friends.  He is also someone who has consistently told us that he’ll do what is ever best for the club – just so it’s communicated to him so he can prepare himself.

And finally, here’s the lineup in Fort Lauderdale:

Pierre, LF

Furcal, SS

Young, RF

Jones, DH

Kemp, CF

DeWitt, 3B

Lindsey, 1B

May, C

Hu, 2B

Quite a day…

It’s going to be a great day here at Dodgertown, with a record crowd in attendance and a ceremony honoring Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin. Everyone in the front office has been here since 7 a.m. preparing for a day that no one in attendance will soon forget.

On top of all the great things going on, Daisuke Matsuzaka is pitching for the Red Sox, and with that comes about 25-50 additional reporters from Japan, so the press box and the balcony of our offices will all be overflowing.

You can catch it all on KCAL 9 at 1 p.m., so pull up a chair, as Vin might say, and enjoy the day. Hopefully it’ll have an outcome like yesterday’s game.

Here’s the lineup:

Pierre, LF

Martin, C

Loney, 1B

Jones, DH

Kemp, CF

Ethier, RF

Hu, 2B

Martinez, 3B

DeJesus, SS

Loaiza, P

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