Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reaction in Giant-ville and in Florida

Here I am at yesterday's Braves-Yankees Spring Training game wearing my www.ThinkBlueLA.com t-shirt.  Got a lot of comments, mentioned in the later part of this post.
It has been a frustrating week knowing that the biggest Dodger story in possibly decades has arrived and I am 3,000 miles from home on vacation in Florida.  What am I to do?  I scan through a many stories as possible on the cheap internet connection at this time share property, that does not have wireless capability.  Battling for computer time has not been easy with grandkids wanting to log on.  Then off to the Disney Parks, heck, right now Im pounding out these words as I stand in line (now going on 90 minutes) for the Kilamanjaro Safari ride at Disney's Animal Park.

One thing I am aware of though is that they are very afraid in Giant-ville.  The new ownership news has people very worried.  My emails have come filtering in.  I know they're worried because of the unanimous criticism of the sale.  Typical of the Giant faithful who I have learned to lovingly loath.  I guarantee you that if the sale fallen short of the $1 billion mark, they would have laughed at the low price tag.  Here is one of the classic responses sent to me from a Giant fan co-worker that constantly tries to give me a hard time:

"$2 billion for the Dodgers !! Up goes the ticket, concession and parking!  Not a good time to live in LA LA land! No way are the Dogs worth that much.  What a bunch of stupid investors.  Can't wait for the Giants to clean their clock again.I am so glad I am a Giants aficionado! Beat LA!"

Now deep down I know he does this to get me to take the bait and respond, but it so much better to do it in person.  Something that I will calmly do once I return to work next week.

Harry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle had this to say: "The predominant thinking is that the Dodgers will ignite in a bidding frenzy with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and other well heeled clubs for the bigger free agent...Giants fans might have good cause to fear a Dodgers organization flush with cash and competent owners, in contrast with recent disarray and penury under McCourt."


Some reaction at Spring training venue in Kissimmee Florida

I attended the Braves-Yankees game at the Atlanta Braves complex at Disney yesterday, wearing my www.ThinkBlueLA.com t-shirt that was kindly donated to me by that bulletin board's founder and coordinator, Ron Cervenka.  Needless to say, I kind of stuck out, and since it was the day after the Dodger sale was announced, quite a few voiced their opinions to me and asked for mine.

A Red Sox fan in attendance told me that he thought it was great for the Dodgers and told me that he could have warned me about McCourt eight years ago.  "The guys is a swindler and always will be," he said.  "I was so grateful that he didn't get the Red Sox when they were for sale, he wanted to tear down Fenway."

A Braves fan told me that Stan Kasten will be a good fit in L.A.  "He let Schurholz do his job without interruption," he said and added "he let the farm system develop, don't expect him to dip into the free agent market too soon though, he's a 'build from within' guy."

More than one Yankee fan told me that with the Dodgers selling for $2 billion, they could only imagine what the Yankees are worth.  One guy speculated that it would be $4 billion saying, "Twenty-seven world championships, how could we not be at least two times the value of the Los Angeles Dodgers?"  

Hiroki Kuroda warming up in the Yankee bullpen

Hiroki Kuroda started for the Yankees.  He spotted my shirt after he finished warming up and I shrugged and pointed to the LA logo.  He nodded and laughed.  I hope he does well in the Big Apple, he was a stand up guy for us.

It was tough to do with the arm stretch, but I got us both in a shot.
For the most part, the comments were positive.  I heard nothing but good comments about Magic Johnson and most wished us luck.  "I'd love to see a Yankees Dodgers World Series again," said one Yankee fan.  "I always knew we were true legitimate champs when we beat the Dodgers.  I thought we'd see them in the series a few years ago when the Phillies beat them.  They need to get back to prominence in baseball, there's nothing like a World Series against the Dodgers."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pure Magic (and Partners)

I received the following press release from the Dodgers at  8:45 PST tonight.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Stan Kasten
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt Announce Agreement With Guggenheim Baseball Management

LOS ANGELES, March 27, 2012 - The Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt today announced an agreement under which Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC (“GBM”) will acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion upon completion of the closing process.  The purchasing group includes Mark R. Walter as its controlling partner, as well as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly.  Mr. McCourt and certain affiliates of the purchasers will also be forming a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property for an additional $150 million.

The Los Angeles Dodgers stated, “This transaction underscores the Debtors’ objective to maximize the value of their estate and to emerge from Chapter 11 under a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all creditors are paid in full.”

Frank McCourt stated, “This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community.  We are delighted that this group will continue the important work we have started in the community, fulfilling our commitment to building 50 Dream Fields and helping with the effort to cure cancer.”

Earvin "Magic" Johnson stated, "I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles."
Guggenheim  Partners,  (L-R) Todd Boehly (Pres), Alan Schawartz (Executive Chairman), Mark Walter (CEO)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Most Important Week in Los Angeles Dodgers History

As we bounce around the banter about the latest injuries, the season predictions, who makes the roster, the starting rotation, the lineups and batting order that should be in place, a far more important decision is about to occur.  The future of the Los Angeles Dodgers is in the balance.  Five days from today, a decision should be made with regard to who the new owner will be.  I believe it is safe to say that this will be the most important decision in L.A. Dodger history.  The scary part is that Frank McCourt, a man that we have seen destroy the franchise, is the one to make the decision.

Steve Cohen may be the front-runner in the battle for ownership of the Dodgers
 A week from today we just may be giddy over having the most wealthy owner in MLB.  A  man that promises to upgrade Dodger Stadium and spend liberally on upgrading the fans experience at Chavez Ravine.  An owner that will own the club outright by paying in the neighborhood of $2 billion in cash.  We might be looking at Tony LaRussa entering through the administrative office doors and a housecleaning of the front office staff.

St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke also owns Arsenal of the English Premier League
A week from today we may have an owner that is in a pickle with the NFL and who might be forced to unload the Rams to own the club.  A man that may spark even more controversy in the franchise as the speculation will surface over the the Dodger Stadium parking lots, building an NFL Stadium in them and the dealing with the NFL after two other L.A. Stadium proposals have already been put on the table at other Southland locations.

Magic Johnson, a popular choice
A week from today we may be welcoming L.A. favorite son and new Dodger owners Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten  We could be examining the finances of his ownership group and questioning if the team is owned by an entity like a teacher’s union.  What few people are aware of is who the other players in this ownership group are.  There is a non-disclosure agreement in place, so the financing of this group may be more secure than originally thought.  We will hear the excitement of Magic and his ideas to turn the franchise into a championship team again.  Positivity will probably be in the forefront of a Magic ownership.
Apparently it is tomorrow (March 27) when MLB ownership gives the blessing on the finances of these final three groups.  It’ll be Saturday when McCourt makes his final decision.  These are the things that should be weighing on Frank McCourt’s mind.
First, receiving a quick cash payment must be in his interest.  To pay off all his debt and his wife by April 30th.  Speculation is that he owes as much as $1.1 billion, much more than earlier beleived.  Sure, every proposal will get him the funds, but the non-complicated nature of a Cohen purchase is an advantage for the hedge fund guru.
Second, the parking lots.  McCourt really wants to hang on to those things.  He has made a living using land as parking lots and cashing in on a low maintenance cash cow holding.  Add to that the equity he’ll have in the lots and the possibility of getting a piece of an NFL team pie (i.e. the Rams) from Kroenke just might move that bid to the forefront to McCourt.
Third, if McCourt is true to his word that he truly cares about Los Angeles, he may award the team to the Magic Johnson’s group.  It would be a historic ownership group that would be popular to L.A. fans who love the NBA legend.  Imagine that, the Dodgers, pioneers in breaking the color barrier with Jackie Robinson would continue in that pioneering spirit with Magic Johnson being the first African American owner in MLB.
Whoever gets the team, I can only hope that they are dedicated to putting a winner on the field and making the Dodger Stadium fan experience the best in Major League Baseball.  This 24 year World Championship drought has simply been too long.  
The tumlutous story of former Padres 2004 first round draft pick Matt Bush gets even more tragic.  His saga is detailed in Jeff Passan's article today for Yahoo Sports.  Bush has thrown away a career and possibly his life of freedom in the process.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blogging at 31,000 feet

Did I ever mention I love flying Virgin America?  I’m flying over Texas  at the moment on my way to Florida for a vacation with my wife and  grandkids.  The last time I was on my way to Florida in March, the ultimate destination was Vero Beach, but we all know how that isn’t an option anymore.  There’s no doubt I’ll catch a grapefruit league game or two while in the Orlando area, but Florida Spring Training will never have the appeal to me that it once had.  Back to the Dodgers.

I have been intrigued by the possibilities of Chad Billingsley having a career year.  I truly believe that the Dodgers future in 2012 hinges on his right arm.  The loss of Hiroki Kuroda has magnified the importance of Chad stepping up and being a legitimate number 2 starter.  I don’t think it was beyond the rhelm of thinking by Dodger fans two years ago to expect Billingsley and Kershaw to be the 1-2 punch that Cain and Lincecum are to the Giants.  The biggest problem that Chad seems to have had the last two years since his 2009 All Star appearance was mental, not physical.  Something that Chad admitted to Dylan Hernandez two days ago saying, “Sometimes I can get in my own head.”
So working on his mechanics has been the key for Billingsley this Spring.  Since day one in Spring Training, Rick Honeycutt has broken down his delivery piece by piece.   One mechanical flaw identified was a foot angle and landing that was determined to be throwing his delivery out of whack.  A.J. Ellis is saying that his pithces have a better bite to them.  A  greater explosiveness as they cross the plate.
With Chad and Kershaw having all-star type stuff,  The Dodgers will win this division and surprise a lot of people.  The results this March so far at Camelback Ranch for Chad haven't been earth shattering, but promising.  Billingsley has been working on his mechanics in detail.  In the process, he has been getting men out.  It will be a welcome sight to see Chad bite off the opposition with that twisting breaking stuff that he used to throw a few years ago during this regular season.  I truly believe that  2012 will be his year.


While on the plane, I have had the ESPN documentary, “The Announcement,” on Magic Johnson playing in the background.  Though it looks like Steve Cohen has the upper hand in landing the Dodgers, especially with his partnership with Patrick Soon-Chiong, I can’t help but hope that Magic Johnson somehow wins out in the bidding process.  Twenty plus years after what many of us thought was his death sentence announcement of his contracting the HIV virus, Johnson is a finalist and possibly the first African American Owner in a Major League sport.   That is quite a story.  I have to believe that Magic would tackle ownership with the Dodgers with the same vigor and approach that he took when leading the Lakers to five NBA Championships.

Either way: Cohen or Magic -  we are in good shape.  Not sure about Kroenke though.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Enough About Dodger Stadium Naming Rights

While so many are in an outrage over the possibility that the new owner of the Dodgers may sell Dodger Stadium naming rights, I must say that I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner.  In fact, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it would eventually happen.  Heck, had a corporate sponsorship landed us a CC Sabathia, the place could have been re-named "Victoria’s Secret Field" as far as I’m concerned.  Frank McCourt didn’t back off from plastering Dodger Stadium with corporate logos all over the place, and to his credit, he held off on renaming Dodger Stadium, something that might have helped him alleviate some of that financial strain.
Dodger Stadium's outfield walls once were void of advertising.  Those days are long gone.
It is what it is.  Corporate sponsorship feeds the coffers of the game.  There was a period when baseball cleaned up the stadiums and kept corporate logos to a minimum, but those days are gone.  The almighty dollar has prevailed.  If it enhances the financial standing of the game, I’m for it.   Dodger Stadium will always be Dodger Stadium, no matter what it is formally called.
Look back at the old fashionable ballparks pre-1960s.  Corporate sponsorship played a big role.  Fact is, the personality of Ebbets Field was enhanced by the Abe Stark “hit me, win a suit” sign, the Bulova Watch and Gem Razer signs, the Schaefer Beer scoreboard and the gobs of advertising on the outfield walls.

While many contemplate which corporate name would fit well, let me throw this out:  “Blue Diamond Almonds.”  I have no idea if that would be a corporate match for the Dodgers, but could there be a better corporate name fit for Dodger Stadium? 
  This is the best idea I've had since everyone ignored the suggestion I tossed out last year that the Dodgers replace the "Don't Stop Believing" 8th inning song with Count Basie's "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball." LINKED HERE

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Holy Oblique Batman! Not the Upper Torso Again!

The dreaded oblique injury.  It seems that this is the nagging injury that has effected a lot of Dodgers over the last 10 years.    Dave Roberts, Chad Billingsly, Jeff Kent, Alex Castellanos (during AZ Fall League play), Rafael Furcal, Jon Garland, and even Dioner Navarro.  These are just a few Dodgers that have suffered from this injury that I remember off the top of my head.  I’m sure there are more.  Now we can add Ivan DeJesus Jr. to the list after having an excellent Spring Training campaign.
Former Dodger tore his oblique muscle doing of all things, hitting a home run off of Jake Peavy in 2002
DeJesus seemed to have fallen deep in the Dodgers infield depth chart this winter with the signings of Ellis, Kennedy and Hairston.  The likelihood of him making the club was remote at best, but he certainly had raised some eyebrows.  I hope he recovers and continues to tear the cover off the ball in Triple A.  The oblique injury reared its ugly head like it has so many times before.  It is perplexing why this injury has been so frequent in baseball over the last decade or so. 
The Dodgers Senior Director of Medical Services, Stan Conte, reports that this type of injury is up 250% since 1991.  Why is that? Conte has his theory.  Much of it has to do with the fact that today medical staffs are completing correct diagnosis of injuries now.  Prior to 1990, these upper torso injuries were called “rib cage injuries,” or abdominal injuries.  With the advent of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), these scans have been able to pinpoint an exact identification of player maladies.
Now, they just call these upper core injuries oblique tears or strains. 

Stan Conte and Dee Gordon, August, 2011
Conte theorizes that though the identification of the injuries is now properly diagnosed, thus accounting for higher numbers, he also believes that the amount of these upper core injuries has risen.  He notes that the modern day player makes a quick transition from the resuming baseball activities at his Spring Training report date to actual games in the exhibition season.  The baseball activites of swinging, throwing, stopping and starting all create great upper torso strains.  If a guy works out all off season, his upper core may be strengthened, but the muscles attaching the rib cage and pelvis to the upper torso may not be strong enough to withstand the increased torque that is involved in baseball activities.  I would think that the year round training regimen many players engage in now might have something to do with it and players need to do exercises that keep the obliques strong.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that these injuries have increased at the exact same time that players began to bulk up during the steroid era.  I’m not tying oblique injuries to steroids, only to the increased belief that ball players need to increase upper body strength to be successful.
The truth of the matter is that it’s a guessing game as to what the real reason is, but that’s my theory.
Life has been quite hectic lately.  I have been catching up with about 4-5 hours of recordings of Dodger related material on my DVR.  I just watched the Dodger chapter on "30 Clubs in 30 Days" from the MLB network and couldn't help but notice Baseball Prospectus' predictions.  It sure would be nice to make them look bad this year.  Seriously?  Last place?  Even behind the Padres?  I love being the underdog.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dee Gordon and the Feet First Slide - Part Two

Dee prepares to take off
Dee Gordon attempted to steal second going in feet first during the first inning of yesterday’s game.  In a close play he was called out.  Just as I feared, he has stated that he will put an end to attempting steals by going in feet first.  “Im not doing that again,” he told Ken Gurnick yesterday. 

I can’t help but be disappointed.  First, because he abandons the idea after one failed steal attempt. Second, because he was safe.  It was close, but a bad call.  Third, because a minor league umpire by the name of Mitch Muchlinski who made a bad call, has impacted the thinking of Dee and convinced him that going in feet first when stealing is a bad idea.  

Bang-bang play, but we can see that Gordon's foot is touching second base just before the tag is applied.  Why care about this play?  Well, based on it - Dee is stating that he will not attempt feet first slides on steal attempts any more.

This is the time for Davey Lopes and Maury Wills to take Gordon to the side and tell him that the feet first slide is in his best interest if he wants to stay injury free.  Apparently they have been working with him on that sliding technique all spring.  It isn’t time to give it up after one failed stealing attempt.  Just my two cents.

Called out

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hoping that the Most Exciting Player in the N. L. Stays Injury Free

One of the reasons I really look forward to the 2012 season is to see how this team gels with Dee Gordon playing shortstop every night.  Gordon could be the envy of every team in the National League.  He will definitely open some eyes.  I can hardly wait to see the Giant fan base up here as they become fearful of the havoc he will cause on the base paths.  I have tried to tell some here, and these guys have no idea what they will be dealing with for years.  I dare say that he is potentially the most exciting player in the league.
                             Jennifer Hilderbrand, US Presswire

The kid is simply the fastest man I have ever seen on the baseball diamond and I have seen some good ones over the years.   Willie Wilson, Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, and Lou Brock, I’ve seen them all and none had the out and out foot speed of Devaris Gordon.  So that leads me to my greatest concern and this question.
How vulnerable to Injury is Dee Gordon?
I must admit that Dee’s slender frame makes me uneasy.  With the rigors of a full 162 game major league season, I wonder if Gordon can hold up through an entire year.  It isn’t like he is the kind of player that will avoid contact or collision vulnerable action.  To the contrary, aside from the catching position, I doubt there is a Dodger player on the roster that will be less active in physical contact activity.  With Dee’s head first dives, avoiding take out slides in double play break ups, taking extra bases and most likely numerous slides into bases due to his aggressive nature, the probability of Gordon going down with injury is quite high.  We saw it last season when he hurt his shoulder on a defensive play at first base as he dove and made a tag.

Gordon’s aggressiveness is his strength as a player.  He is a game changer and the type of player that can spark a rally and steal the occasional run when necessary.  For that reason I think he’s probably the most exciting player on the roster.  Sure, there is Matt Kemp who without a doubt is the most valuable, but Gordon's spark has the potential to really light up a crowd.   I just hope that as he grows over the years, he naturally bulks up and gains more strength.  Meanwhile, we can cross our fingers every time he collides with someone.
This leads me to another topic and an issue that I have with the modern game.  It’s the head first slide.  Is it really something that improves a players ability to steal a bag?  Wills, Brock, Aparicio, Lopes, Jackie Robinson all seemed to have enormous success sliding in feet first.  That head first slide leaves a player much more vulnerable to injury.  Apart from possibly getting hit on the noggin or tagged in the face there are the hand, wrist and arm injuries, shoulder vulnerability and broken and jammed fingers.  I wonder what Wills' feelings are on the topic today.

Based on a September, 1962 Life Magazine article by Wills, he said that he only went in head first when his legs were so bruised up from sliding that he had no other option: ”Until the bruises on my left leg got so painful... from too much sliding, I had tried only one headfirst slide all year--and that one helped win a ballgame...”  
Maury up front admitted to Life that the head first slide was a quicker way to reach the bag, as his feet first method was more effective in avoiding tags.  He even went so far to say that sliding late was a faster way to reach the base.  “I always slide later than most players.  Once you go into a slide it slows you down.  By staying on my feet two extra steps I get into the bag quicker.”
With all the influence of Wills over the past decade or so, I find it interesting that he hasn’t preached these tactics to the modern day players that all seem to slide in head first.  With Wills and Lopes around, and the injury vulnerability that Dee Gordon will face, I really wish those two would preach and teach the feet first approach to sliding to Gordon.  With Dee’s amazing speed, I believe that he could be the type of player that would have tremendous base stealing success going in feet first with late slides as Wills did.   Flash's son truly does live up to his father's nickname.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Quick Note - LA Weekly Exposes the Macciello Story

So it turns out that Josh Macciello doesn’t own gold mines worth billions of dollars.  Nor did he ever have the financial backing to finance a $2.2 billion dollar deal to purchase the Dodgers.  I don’t doubt that he thought he could swing the deal, but his partners were precarious choices at best.   Too bad, because Macciello’s “rags to riches” tale was a great story.   The Macciello saga is over and is chronicled in an LA Weekly article by Gene Maddaus.  The biggest surprise in all this is that nobody discovered these facts before this date.  Major League Baseball had to be aware though when Macciello never passed through the first vetting process and was never taken seriously.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jim Brewer photos at the LFP

Mike Brown over at the Left Field Pavilion site has had some fantastic vintage photos up that were obtained from the son of the late Jim Brewer, Dodger standout relief pitcher from 1964-75.  Take a look at them, over a series of three posts: they are quite amazing.   Linked HERE

There are some gems amongst the photos of Sandy Koufax, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, Manny Mota, Jim Gilliam, Charlie Hough, Mike Marshall, Walter Alston, Jim Gilliam, Jimmy Wynn, Bill Russell, Bill Buckner and Vin Scully.  There are shots of opposing players such as Davey Concepcion, Johnny Bench, and Hank Aaron.  There’s even a Jackie Gleason photo in there from what was likely a Hollywood Stars game.
Jim Brewer died in 1987, the day before his 50th birthday in a head on collision during inclement weather on a east Texas highway.  He was on his way to help out a friend conduct a pitching clinic at Southwest Louisiana University.  Brewer at the time was a minor league pitching instructor in the Dodger organization.

Jim was the all-time Dodger leader in saves at the time of his death.  He put up those numbers before the era of the one-inning save.  A left hander with a nasty screwball, Brewer represented the Dodgers in the 1973 All Star Game in Kansas City where he recorded the save in his inning of work, striking out Thurman Munson and Willie Horton to end the game.
Rob Neyer tells the story of how former Dodger G.M. Buzzie Bavasi, newly named the General Manager of the expansion San Diego Padres, begged the Dodgers to protect Jim Brewer.  Bavasi knew he would have to select him in the expansion draft. 
At the time, Fresco Thompson, the Dodgers G.M., was dying in the hospital, so Walter O’Malley asked Bavasi to stay on a few more days as the Dodger G.M.  What resulted was a conflict of interest to the Nth degree.  Buzzie was quoted as saying that he went to visit Thompson in the hospital and Fresco asked him outright who he planned to select from the Dodgers in the expansion draft.

Former Dodger Executive, Buzzie Bavasi
Bavasi didn’t hesitate.  He told the Dodger G.M. he was going to take  Bill Russell and Jim Brewer.  At that point Thompson begged Bavasi to not take Russell, because he was a fine prospect which was exactly why he wanted him.  Bavasi told Fresco that he better protect Brewer then, because he would be crucified if he passed on him too.  He added that he could pass on Russell, because hardlly anybody knew anything about the young 19 year- old outfielder.  
So in the end, the Dodgers protected Brewer, and Bavasi kept his loyalty to the Dodgers and promise to a dying man, and he didn’t select Bill Russell in the draft.  In the end the Padres picked  Al “The Bull” Ferrera, Jim Williams and Zoilo Versalles from the Dodgers.  For the remainder of Jim Brewer’s Dodger career, he was their standout closer where he put up ERAs from 1969-74 of: 2.55, 3.13, 1.88, 1.26, 3.01 and 2.52.
A little known story about Jim Brewer dates back to 1960, his rookie year with the Cubs.  Jim was a wild hard throwing lefty that had difficulty finding the strike zone.  On August 4th, the Cubs were playing the Cincinnati Reds and veteran Billy Martin came to the plate.  Brewer let loose a fastball that came too close to Martin’s head.  The next pitch, Martin swung and let his bat fly in the process towards the pitchers mound.  The young rookie picked up the bat and as he was about to hand it back to Martin, words were exchanged.  The end result was that Martin clocked Brewer in the face with a punch, breaking his cheekbone and ending his season.

Billy Martin of the Reds punches Chicago Cub rookie Jim Brewer in the face, fracturing his cheekbone in the process
It took 9 years, but eventually a jury trial decided the fate of Martin in this case.  Brewer asked for $1 million, but was awarded $10,000.  It was said that Jim never fully recovered from the broken bones in his face.  Martin later said in his autobiography that the attack on Brewer stemmed from a serious beaning he received the year before that nearly ended his career while he played for Cleveland.  

In 1975, at age 37, Jim Brewer was traded by the Dodgers to the Angels for David Sells, a player that only lasted 5 games in the Dodgers organization.  With the trade ended a stellar Dodger career of a player that was as consistent as any pitcher they ever had.   Brewer never had an ERA over 3.68.  He was the “go to” guy in the last innings and he performed remarkably well in that role.  Here's a little known fact:  Jim was the perfect example of  a team player.  In 1967, when the Dodgers were in a tough spot following the retirement of Sandy Koufax, Brewer stepped in and spot started 11 times and did remarkably well in that role too.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dodgertown, Utah

During a short break while completing a work assignment in Salt Lake City, Utah this week,  I took an hour and traveled 41 miles north to Ogden, to seek out the Pioneer League digs of the Dodger affiliate Ogden Raptors.  What I found on this wintery March afternoon was a picturesque ballpark dropped at the base of the Wasatch range.  One of the most beautiful settings for baseball I have ever witnessed amongst a charming downtown setting.

Looking towards right field from the left field corner

View from the on deck circle near the first base dugout

View of Left Field line from behind the plate 

I didn't want to startle the maintenance man.  I had entered the ball park from a back entrance passing several "no trespassing" signs.  Once I approached him and asked if it was alright to take pictures, he didn't seem to care at all.  He just went about his business sprucing up the place with fresh paint.  I asked if he was the maintenance department during the off-season and he said he was.  A friendly man.  He told me to take my time and take as many pictures as I wanted.
Maintenance man touching up the stadium with fresh paint

Visting dugout is labeled

Snapshot taken as I drove by the ball park entrance

Where the Lasorda legacy began

The first official days of the Tommy Lasorda championship managing era began in Ogden where Lasorda led the Ogden Dodgers to three consecutive Pioneer League titles in 1966, 1967 and 1968.    Dodger careers of such players as Bill Buckner, Bill Russell, Charlie Hough, Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine, Von Joshua, Sandy Vance and Tom Paciorek started in this northern Utah town under the tutelage of Lasorda.

Tommy chronicled those years in his book, The Artful Dodger, where he tells stories of pitching hours of batting practice into the late hours to these players, converting Charlie Hough from a third baseman to a knuckleballer, playing a raw high school talent named Bobby Valentine at shortstop, and teaching his players at a young age to hate the Giant affiliate.

Bill Buckner, Tom Lasorda, Steve Garvey and Bobby Valentine in Ogden, 1968

One story I recall was that Peter O'Malley, (who then was in charge of minor league operations at the time) came out to watch the Ogden Dodgers play against the Giant affiliate and a huge brawl broke out.  The way Lasorda told the story was that he had spent the entire season preaching that the Giants were the enemy and to hate them, even at the rookie league level.  With his boss in the stands and the fight breaking out, Lasorda yelled at his team to "break it up," and to stop fighting.  After the game, O'Malley asked a young Bill Buckner about the fight and what his manager tells him to do when a rhubarb breaks out.  The young first baseman told him that their skipper instructed to keep fighting whenever he yelled "break it up."

Without the Ogden success, it is doubtful that Lasorda would have ever arrived as the Hall of Fame manager that he became.  It was in those formative years that Lasorda not only proved that he could motivate and win, but also develop many players that arrived to the major league level.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Baseball Mourns the Passing of Umpiring Pioneer Harry Wendelstedt

A work assignment has me in Salt Lake City, Utah for the past several days and I must say, I barely have time to log in to the internet.  Checking out Dodger news has been nearly impossible.  As work has ramped up the number of tasks that I have, this has forced me to cancel my trip to Camelback Ranch next week, something that I really looked forward to.  I did get a chance this afternoon to drive up to Ogden and checked out the minor league digs of the Ogden Raptors.  I must say, that ball park may be in the most beautiful setting I have ever seen for a baseball field.  You can nearly touch the snow capped mountains.  I’ll post pictures tomorrow when I return home.  Unfortunately, I failed to bring cables with me that allows me to download the photos onto my laptop.

1969 photo of Harry Wendelstedt
I was saddened to read of the death of former umpire, Harry Wendelstedt, at age 73 today.  Harry, an umpire from 1966-98, was the umpire that extended Drysdale’s scoreless streak by ordering Giant batter Dick Dietz to return to the plate after failing to attempt to avoid a pitch.  That call took some guts, some say.  Others claim it was a “home field” call and that Dietz really didn’t have time to get out of the way.  I can’t say whether he got the call right or not because I never saw it in real time.    Former major leaguer Ron Hunt, the previous all-time leader in being hit by pitched balls said in a 2005 interview that he believed that Harry made the right call.  If anyone should know, he was the guy.   I will say this though, I have never seen that call made, ever.  How many guys lean their shoulder into slow curve balls these days to get on base?  And they get away with it. 
Jay Howell's ejection.  I'll never forget the video of this and what Lasorda said next, "I can't f$%#ing believe it!"
I’ll always remember Wendelstedt for ejecting Jay Howell from game three of the 1988 NLCS against the Mets.  Davey Johnson waited for the right moment and asked for the glove to be checked.  That seemed to be a moment when the Dodgers were doomed in that series.  I’ll never forget how Harry took the glove with pine tar over to the stands where then NL President Bart Giamatti took a look at it during the game.
Harry’s son, Hunter Wendelstedt, has said that his father was diagnosed with brain cancer ten years ago.  Surviving that dreaded disease for ten years is a testament to his strength, stamina and drive.  I must say that the news of his death is a great loss to baseball.  He was a guy that took control of the game.  He was fair, and a gentleman.  He probably deserves a Hall of Fame induction and it’s too bad that he didn’t live to see that recognition.

Wendelstedt, the founder of an umpiring school that bares his name in Ormand Beach, Florida, has influenced baseball officiating in a way that no other person has in the history of the game.  The Wendelstedt umpire school has produced more major league umpires than all other umpire schools combined.  If you graduate in the top levels from the Wendelstedt School of Umpiring, minor league jobs await.
Harry Wendelstesdt was a true baseball man. Hunter had this to say about his dad: “There’s been no one ever who loved the game of baseball and respected it more than him.  He lived for baseball.  He lived for umpiring.  When we were getting him into the ambulance he had the MLB TV on.  That’s all he would watch.”
Don Drysdale and Rosie are now playing games with Wendelstedt calling balls and strikes behind the plate.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Early Spring Scouting Wars

This morning the San Francisco Giants gave the “old heave ho” to Angels advance scout, Jeff Schugel.  Schugel, who was present at the Giants spring training facility in Scottsdale watching the action, was advised by a security guard that Bruce Bochy wanted him to leave.  The disbelieving scout remained along the first base line before he was asked a second time to leave.  The 10 a.m. workout was something routine that Schugel watches, as the Angels advance scout assigned to watch the Giants, Rockies, Astros and Royals.

Bruce Bochy, Gamesmanship? Or was he just being a jerk?
Schugel was surprised at the ejection but harbored no hard feelings towards the Giants.  “Maybe he (Bochy) was having a bad day,” he said.  Angel General Manager Jerry Dipoto said that the Anaheim club has no policy against scouts from other teams watching their practice.    Neither does anybody else as far as I know.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Bochy noticed the lone scout in an empty stadium and immediately wanted him out.  Within 3 hours of the event, the Giant administration is doing damage control, calling the entire episode a mis-understanding and saying that scouts are permitted to watch activities provided that they don’t go down on the field.
Gotta love the Gnats.  I have to believe that Bochy must have some personal axe to grind against this particular scout to insist he be ejected from the ball park. It's not like this is football where watching an opposing team run plays would give you a distinct advantage.  The Angels and Giants play each other in June.  I guess this brings some intrigue to that inter-league series.
Links: LA Times and SF Chronicle

In other news along the Giants front, Tim Lincecum gave up 5 runs in two innings, facing 13 hitters, the Giants ace gave up five singles, a triple and a homer. 
Work had me running around in some hard core physical training yesterday that I am definitely too old for these days.  The result was I returned home late,  tired, sore and beat.  I turned on the tube and watched as much of the game that I recorded on my DVR.  Fell asleep by the 4th inning out of exhaustion.  I must say though, win or lose...it sure is nice to see Dodger baseball again.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Will These Guys Get Playing Time?

Dodger prospect Scott Van Slyke
Jerry Sands, Scott Van Slyke, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Nathan Eovaldi, and Justin Sellers have all one thing in common besides being in the Dodger organization.  They have veteran players on the downsides of their careers that are in front of them on the depth chart for the next two years that keep them from getting significant playing time at the major league level.
De Jesus has fallen out of favor with the organization.  There has to be an unknown reason why because he has performed well.  Ivan won major league roster spot out of last year’s spring training.  After being sent back to Albuquerque following Rafael Furcal’s return from the disabled list, he never returned.  De Jesus didn’t even sniff a September call up after his Albuquerque season had ended (where he batted .310, with a .389 OBP).  He tore up the Puerto Rican Winter League.  Check out his numbers: 125 AB, 13R, 41H, 8 2B, 4 3B, 0HR, 13 RBI, .388 OBP, .328 AVG, .844 OPS.  How is it possible that he has fallen so deep in the depth chart that Uribe, Kennedy, Hairston, Mark Ellis and Sellers would all have to go down with injuries for him to get a call up?
Scott Van Slyke, a late bloomer in his player development, has come into his own and is a legitimate prospect that should be sniffing the big league roster.  As the Minor League Offensive player of the year last year he put up impressive numbers in AA Chattanooga.: .348 AVG, .427 OBP, .595 SLG, 1.022 OPS, all over 529 plate appearances in the pitching friendly Southern League.  He was amongst the league leaders in nearly all important offensive categories.  Frankly I believe we should be excited about Van Slyke as a potential Dodger this year as we are about Jerry Sands, but those two need to supplant Juan Rivera, Jerry Hairston, Tony Gwynn and James Loney to gain a roster spot and playing time.
Needless to say, other outfielders such as Trent Oeltjen, Jamie Hoffman haven’t got a prayer and Oeltjen is out of options, so the 28 year old outfielder will be out of the organization after Spring Training most likely.
On the pitching front, I must admit that I agree with the tactic that Colletti has taken.  The two year deals to Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano have created a stop-gap that will keep the likes of Eovaldi, De La Rosa (when he returns from injury), John Ely, Chris Withrow, Allen Webster, Michael Antonini and perhaps even Zach Lee and Chris Reed from getting to the show before 2014.  I’m not as concerned about the stop gaps created in the pitching department, simply because some of these young guys haven’t put up the innings that a full 200+ inning major league season requires.  

Nathan Eovaldi
On June 29th last season, I predicted that De La Rosa would possibly face injury if the Dodgers didn’t cut his workload back.  LINKED HERE   I was pleased to see them cut back Eovaldi’s workload in September.  It is probably best to pull back on the reins on some of those young arms and allow them to build up their strength before tossing them into a major league rotation.  A pitcher like Chris Reed will need to put innings on his arm to see if he can convert to a starting pitcher role and endure the rigors of a 200 inning season.  De La Rosa will need a full year or more to return to his former self.  Zach Lee needs to develop stamina and arm strength.  Doing it on the Major League level isn't that wise.
So as Spring Training games get under way, I’ve got a mixed opinion on the major league vets that are in place keeping the kids at bay.  A thumbs up for the pitching deals and a thumbs down for the acquisition of vets to fill in spots in the infield and outfield.  Spring Training, as a result, is rather anticlimactic.  Even if Van Slyke tears the cover off the ball (as he did today), and puts up amazing ST numbers, he’s still destined for Albuquerque to start the year.