Sunday, October 30, 2005


PR Run Amuck

What to make of Depo's demise at the hands of McCourt and Lasorda? I'm still too bowled over to make heads-or-tails of it. I've read many stories, heard quite a bit of (mostly inane) commentary, and laughed at a few posts, but one quote from an
LA Times article keeps sticking in my craw:
A strategic communications firm hired by the Dodgers in spring training became frustrated by DePodesta's seeming indifference to public relations and helped convince McCourt that someone more fan-friendly was necessary.
You know ownership has hit rock bottom when it gives a PR firm a voice in baseball decisions. One of the things I have always enjoyed about this and similar sites is they focus on winning baseball games. Argue whether this player, that manager, or some other style of play has the best chance of winning, but it's always about winning. As Dodger Thoughts rightly points out, that is the Dodger way. Maybe it's his wife's counsel, Lasorda's kibitzing, or his precarious financial position, but whatever the reason, it's clear that McCourt has taken his eye off the true goal.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Wag The Dog

Some quick thoughts on DePodesta's termination.

Something smelled fishy when DePodesta did not join in on the meeting between McCourt, Lasorda, and Hershiser, but who expected the firing of the GM? It sounds as if McCourt overrid DePodesta's authority in picking the manager, and ultimately decided to remove DePodesta altogether.

In some ways, this situation is no different from Tracy's, whose "creative differences" with DePodesta eventually led to the dismissal. Right or wrong, bosses have the right to dictate an employee's role and judge his effectiveness. Still, 18 months on the job is nowhere near enough to evaluate a GM, unless he shows himself to be utterly incompetent. (DePodesta wasn't)

The McCourts own the team, and they have decided to make DePodesta the sacrificial lamb for the lost season. It's a convenient way of earning some PR reprieve, saving their "brand" in the short term at the possible expense of long term stability of the "product"... Obfuscate the crisis at hand by creating a bigger diversion, which may end up backfiring.

Way to wag the dog, Wormtongue Tommy! A return to the Dark Ages of FOX without the stupid money to throw around!

Perhaps it's not so gloom-and-doom. The McCourts may end up hiring a terrific GM, although it's hard to figure out why such a candidate would want to come to LA if he knows that his authority would be limited. At this rate of turnover, it wouldn't be surprising that if the team needed a new farm director, and a new scouting director, and a new.... My previous post's title "McBroke And His Dominatrix", which was meant to be a joke, doesn't seem so funny anymore.

Somewhere, the Pink Mouse roars.

Monday, October 24, 2005


The PR Problem, AKA "McBroke And His Dominatrix"

What a crappy way to start the week. Nothing like getting a flat tire on a Monday morning while going to work. Anyhow...

There was yet another turnover in the PR staff, as the incumbent VP of Communications was ousted after just six months, and was replaced by Tipper Gore's ex-aide. It seems as if the McCourts change PR people like the fictitious band Spinal Tap change drummers.

Also, the LA Times on Sunday stated that DePodesta's job may not be safe, either. Such guesswork isn't worth elaborating on, except to say that his detractors probably wish for a quick, mysterious death by either spontaneous combustion or by choking on someone else's vomit. (Eeck, couldn't help that one last reference to "This Is Spinal Tap")

The following quote caught my eye.
Dodger employees and prospective employees, according to sources, have been directed by the McCourts and their lieutenants to "think of the McCourts as the brand and the Dodgers as the product."

Assuming that this is indeed true, here are some thoughts.

  1. Given their backgrounds, the McCourts are certainly intelligent and, at times, bold.
  2. As with any sane business owner, their objective is to turn a profit, either from team operations or from a related venture.
  3. They are learning the business of baseball on the fly by applying their backgrounds in real estate and law as they see fit.
  4. Their public personae of "mean" and "penny-pinching" may or may not be apt.

The so-called "family operation" back in the O'Malley era is a fond notion that most fans, rightfully or not, associate with the glory days of Koufax, Drysdale, and Valenzuela. The McCourts tried to revive some of these ideas this year. (Tie-ins to the 1955 season immediately comes to mind) In other words, the McCourt "brand" was to become the successor to the O'Malleys in spirit. The reason to do so not only lies in the hopes of greater profits, but also in raising their own public stature for future benefit.

This effort to be associated with past glory has largely failed. A better year wouldn't have made much difference, I believe. As a fan, I flat out don't care how nice a man Frankie is, whether Jamie can bake a mean apple pie, or how they project a leadership quality that will surely bring the World Series to Chavez Ravine. When I go to a game, I'm happy as long as the team is winning and the environment is relatively affordable and safe. Forget the "brand." I care about the "product."

Maybe that's the reason the PR staff has completely been upended again. It is difficult enough to promote the team when the team finishes 20 games under .500, one of the best players goes berserk (again), and the manager is fired. Instead, imagine trying to promote the ownership, the masthead that oversaw this entire mess. The McCourts may have reduced the PR job to that of a replacement-level drummer, an impossible job to fill.

To be fair, I understand that businesses are run in the interests of the owner. Perhaps the changes were overdue in the corporate team. Times have changed, and the business paradigm should evolve accordingly. Such a change is no different from DePodesta's roster overhaul from a financial perspective: shedding the overpaid, underperforming employees while acquiring those who will be more productive.

PR is virtually useless when the product goes sour. One course of action would be to forget about the "brand" and focus on the "product" exclusively, for now. Field a team within an acceptable(ly high?) budget that wins consistently year after year and everything, including the image problem, will take care of itself. Unfortunately, there is a strong possibility that DePodesta's plan probably won't reap rewards until about 2007 or so.

The McCourts have found it difficult to maintain any positive public image while restructuring the team under their philosophy. Some of the criticism is well-deserved, some not. Another losing season or two might mean alienating many fans, which would be quite an ignoble feat given the heralded history of the Dodgers, a team with the greatest attendance figure in all of sports. A good 2006 campaign is a must.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Half-Baked Lineup Ideas

Tentative lineup for 06, assuming that Bradley is gone:
3B Aybar
SS Robles or Perez
CF Drew
2B Kent
LF ????
C Navarro
1B Choi + platoonmate
RF Werth

C Bako?
OF Ledee, Repko
IF Young?

Trade bait:
C Phillips
CF Bradley

Reinforcements in 07?:
3B LaRoche
?? Guzman
C Martin
1B Loney

The only regulars virtually guaranteed of starting roles next year are Kent, Navarro, and Drew. Bradley's probably gone, and his production must be replaced. An outfield acquisition is highly likely, as that fills an immediate need and doesn't hinder the long term goal of easing in the primo prospects, until Guzman is shifted to the outfield, anyway. A short term hedge in case the corner infielders do not pan out wouldn't be a bad idea, either.


The team could simply long-term either Matsui or Giles in the free agent market, but that may be cost prohibitive given the dearth of quality FAs. (The bidding has apparently started at 3 years, $35.5 million for Godzilla.) Another route would be to sign a second-tier free agent such as Lawton and hope for the best, but to do so would probably require a bigger offensive upgrade elsewhere.

The trade route may be more sensible. There are a lot of names swirling out there, including Manny Ramirez. Acquiring an mega-contract like ManRam is probably out of the question unless the other team is willing to chip in a significant dollar offset. Which raises the question: Why would a big market team like the Red Sox pay to get out of a contract when the savings cannot be efficiently reinvested to make up for the lost production?

Instead, it sure would be nice to acquire someone relatively underpaid like Dunn, as new GMs look to revamp their rosters and payrolls. Unfortunately, acquiring such a player still will cost aplenty, and DePodesta has shown great reluctance to trade the top-tier prospects for short term gain. It figures to be seen whether DePodesta's small market counterparts are more willing to trade now that free agency looks closer for Dunn, Huff, and others.

Somewhere in between the albatross contracts and the desireable ones are the likes of Jenkins, who is owed about $7 million a year until 07. While Overbay is the player most often mentioned as trade bait, he's cheaper. Overbay was an outfielder in college, and Milwaukee might be ready to call up Fielder to play 1B. Trading Jenkins instead Overbay might give the Brewers the payroll room to improve other parts of their roster and perhaps improve on their freakish .500 record last year. For LA, Jenkins is a reasonably priced #5 hitter who shouldn't cost a bundle of prospects.

On a greater scale is someone like Burrell, who is owed about $12 million a year until 2008. The Phillies just fired their GM and may be looking for a change of direction. No team will take on Thome and his bad back unless he comes steeply discounted. (Cleveland? Seattle? Dream on.) Someone else with a large contract (Abreu? Burrell?) may go instead. Too bad that ManRam just acquired 10/5 rights, because otherwise Burrell, Thome, and a prospect for Manny and Arroyo sounds about right for both teams...maybe LA can do something here?

Infield: 1B

If a big name outfielder is indeed acquired, there would be less financial wiggle room to upgrade the infield. Konerko's bat would be nice, but it would seem that an upgrade at 1B is not a priority given that the Choi/Saenz platoon did just fine offensively. (I refuse to refer to Phillips as a 1B.) Not upgrading 1B with someone like Konerko may mean better served upgrades elsewhere.

The problem is that Saenz may attract more attention from an AL team, as he seems better suited to being a DH. It's possible that Choi needs a new platoonmate.

One name that I recently noticed was Matthew LeCroy, a DH/1B/C recently outrighted off the Twins' roster. It looks as if he might be a younger version of Saenz: good righthanded bat with an .800 OPS, shaky glove, and slow as molasses. Given that no less than 3 players on the roster can play 3B, perhaps having a 1B platoonmate who can instead catch on occasion isn't a bad thing, especially when the 21 year old starting catcher will catch the bulk of the games.

Infield: "6-5-4"

LaRoche might be ready in 2007, so hopefully the 3B situation might be resolved by then, and Aybar did look smooth with the glove at the end of the season. But was his .901 OPS in 86 ABs a true indication of his abilities? His SLG and OBP are significantly higher than his minor league numbers in ANY GIVEN YEAR.

Add to this the injury to the Gold Glove shortstop, and the left side of the infield is potentially a mess. Maybe Perez, Aybar, and Robles prove themselves. If so, the problem shifts over to 2B in 2007 if Kent's bat is not retained.

It would be nice to acquire a proven hitter who could fill in at shortstop for half the season, shift over to 3B if others prove deficient, and then shift to 2B after Kent's contract ends. More or less a 6-5-4 relay...

6 then 5 then 4
6 minus 5 plus 4

Garciaparra has been rumored about for the past two offseasons, and he very well could be pursued again, especially since he has shown a willingness to switch positions this year with the Cubs. His injury history and declining range are worrysome, but it seems that he may be a good hedge against the current infield uncertainty IF he's willing to shift around according to the team's needs. A two year offer with a team option for a third sounds reasonable.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Half-Baked Pitching Staff Ideas

While DePo's away in Europe, there ain't much goin' on here. Might as well throw some ideas around. Here are some thoughts on the pitching staff.

The 2005 season's silver lining may have been the bullpen, as the younglings gained valuable experience while Gagne, Alvarez, and others mended. Here is next year's pitching staff, for now.

Starters - Penny, Lowe, Perez, Houlton? Jackson? Billingsley mid-year??
Closer - Gagne
Setup - Sanchez, Brazoban, Broxton
ROOGY - Schmoll
Swingman - Dessens (mutual option 06)
Others - Osoria, Wunsch?

Assuming that Gagne returns back to his old dominant self, the bullpen certainly looks deep, while the rotation seems shaky at the back end. (My guess is that Weaver rejects arb and gets his 4 or 5 year deal elsewhere.) It seems as if the #5 spot is Houlton's to lose, but can the young Billingsley or even Jackson be counted upon to hold the other free spot? Can Perez stay healthy the whole year? The rotation could use one more pitcher with a major league track record.

Unfortunately, there are slim pickings in the free agent market outside of Weaver and Burnett. There probably exists some organizational desire to avoid a long-term contract, as that would block the blue chip prospects on their way in 2007 or so. (Not to mention $$$.) If free agency is a seller's market, then the trade route would probably be cost-prohibitive also, and DePodesta surely doesn't want to give up prospects for a marginal starter. And I'll be damned if another scrap heap special makes the team after the failed Erickson experiment.

So here is my outlandish idea that just could work... Would it be a bad thing to convert Sanchez back to a starting pitcher? (He was a starter in the minors before 2002.) I don't remember the source, but there were murmurs during the last winter that Sanchez and his "rubber arm" might be given a look as a starter in spring training. Now that he has seemingly mastered the changeup, wouldn't his 3 pitch repertoire be more valuable starting games instead of setting up for Gagne?

(A similar idea would be to send Broxton back down to work again as a starter, but that would hurt the major league club in the immediate future and undo the major gain in his velocity. That's a no-go for me. )

The farfetched notion of giving Sanchez a shot at starting is obviously out the window if Gagne does not revert back to form OR someone fails to step up as a setup man. But it can't hurt as an experiment during spring training, right? If Sanchez can hold his own, I would prefer him at the back of the rotation than Jackson or Houlton, and probably most of the second-tier free agents, too.

So by starting Sanchez, you could save a few bucks on the pitching staff that you can instead use to bolster the lineup. According to Hardball Dollars, the current 2006 payroll is about $65 million with the arbitration eligible players figured in, minus Bradley. DePodesta can probably acquire two premier talents without going over budget, which is hopefully around 2005's $88 million.

Outlandish? Yes. Impossible? No.

I'll follow up with some thoughts on the lineup sometime later. Hopefully they won't be nearly as whimsical...

I just found this, a quick mention on former executive Bob Graziano getting what appears to be a decent gig.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Novus Ordo Seclorum

So it might not rank with the American Revolution, but the parting of Tracy should usher in full implementation of the DePo era in Dodger baseball. Much has been said good and (mostly) bad about Tracy. Even if you are a confirmed Tracy-basher, it would be a huge stretch to blame 2005 entirely on him -- but his firing does provide a clean break from that awful season. Now it's all up to DePo.

Turning to an even less revolutionary change, I have signed on as a contributor to the Blue Think Tank. Fresh from my victorious fantasy baseball season, I will lend a hand to secondhandsmog as we critique, discuss and mock the 2005-6 offseason antics. Soon the managerial selection circus will begin, then onto roster moves. Let the Tracy-free fun begin.

Sunday, October 02, 2005



I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet...
-David Bowie

Well, it's over. Time to forget this miserable year and look forward to next season. Many changes ahead...

Changes to this blog

New to this blog as co-writer is slackfarmer, an insightful poster at the forum who has apparently decided to move on from the riff-raff therein. (Didn't all Dodger bloggers evolve from their muck?) Welcome, slackfarmer! The check's in the mail, I swear!

Changes to the roster

It's way too early to start guessing the off-season maneuvers, but the focus of the overhaul will probably be in acquiring a big bat or two, and possibly a starting pitcher who will be cheaper than Weaver, as he'll probably move on to bigger dollars elsewhere. (Back to Detroit perhaps?)

Everyone will clamor for the likes of Matsui, Giles, and Burnett, but acquiring needs by trading away spare parts and/or prospects is a possibility, as that would both fill immediate needs on the ML roster and free up some much-needed room on the 40 man roster.

Was all that recent playing time for Aybar an audition for 3B next year or to bump up his trade value? Surely Phillips' value is higher than the last off-season, when he was acquired for less than nothing. What's this about Beltre being shopped around? So many possibilities...

Changes to the coaching staff

Will Tracy be back next year? Probably not, but we'll know soon enough. Is it possible that an in-house solution such as Royster or Collins has been discussed? It's not entirely outside the realm of possibilities. Will the other coaches be back? Their futures are in limbo until Tracy's situation is solved. Why do I start asking and answering my own questions the moment I mention Tracy? It must be the five years of listening to his talk that's affecting me.

To my knowledge, the coaching staff is one of the few parts of the organization that has been left relatively intact since McCourt's purchase. It may be time for an overhaul so that they are more in step with the rest of the organization instead of having "creative differences."

Other changes

I was watching the pregame show today and yet again there was a reference to the 1955 World Series champs. Terms such as "team" and "chemistry" were interspersed with images of "winning" and "championship". But which is the cause and which is the effect? Who can say, really.

The same goes to the public image of the entire organization, which is that of a team run by a cheapskate and his "Screaming Meanie" wife intent on squeezing every penny out of its fans. The players are nameless commodities whose values are determined by a spreadsheet run by a 32 year old kid with a fancy degree from Harvard.

The team's in ruins! Bring back St. Paulie LoDuca and his irreplaceable "heart-and-soul"! And on and on and on...

For me, one beauty of the game is when a crushed ball is miraculously caught by a diving fielder, or the meekest of squibs somehow falls in for a big hit. In the context of a full season, a parallel would be the production from key players and the emergence of the little-known players who earn and fill roles otherwise unoccupied. This year's team had its share of the no-names who filled in valiantly, but that was nowhere enough to make up for the lost production from the broken cornerstones.

The team image took a blow this year. And now on to next year and hopefully a return back to the glory days.

Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Open Letter To Jimbo -

Dear Jim:

It seems as though you're seriously fed up with your lame duck status next year, and think that you deserve an extension. After all, you're still the same guy who led the team to a playoff berth last year. So it can't be your fault that the team tanked this year, right? You obviously want to keep your job, and you don't want people to point their fingers at you for this disastrous season.

So you lay the blame on the roster overhaul and thereby imply that it's DePodesta's fault.
"Familiarity goes hand in hand with success, in my mind. ... Some of the elements we had last year that made us successful were [not here]." LA Times
Here's some advice, Jim. Don't bemoan how this year went south because LoDuca, Cora, Lima, and others aren't on this year's team, because that is an embarrassing marginalization of the truth.

What this sounds like is sour grapes from a man whose market value is low following a bad year and thus has little leverage in contract negotiations. Since you don't like your current situation and there's a good chance you'll be axed anyway, it couldn't hurt to roll the dice and ask for a major raise, right? Something to the effect of "If they don't want me, they still owe me another year of pay if I don't opt out...I'll still be paid no matter what so might as well shoot for the moon..." Why else take the tone of "Gimme a raise or fire me!" if otherwise?

It hurts to say this, but I think that you are a competent manager who respects his players and most of them in turn respect you. The embarrassment of Bradley's recent antics might have been ho hum in the days of Carlos Perez, Sheffield, and Devo. I daresay that you've probably done a good job minimizing the friction inside the clubhouse.

Or did you? Was the relative peace in the clubhouse in the past five years a product of your people-managing skills or the relatively easy-going nature of the players themselves? How would Davey Johnson, a man that I despise to this very day, fare with the current roster? Jim, how would you have looked after Mondesi went off on you with an F-bomb tirade?

We'll never know, and that's fine. But you're dropping the ball, Jim. Your mouthing off on the roster is no better than Johnson blowing up and getting ejected in his last game as the Dodgers manager. One parting shot, never to be heard from again...

I realize that you're not responsible for the injuries that ruined this season. You didn't throw that pitch that broke Werth's wrist in his first ST game and you didn't trip Wunsch as he warmed up in the bullpen. You didn't block the plate when Valentin hurt his knee, you certainly didn't tear up Gagne's elbow. (Although you kept putting him out there when he clearly wasn't 100%...)

But you also didn't foul off 14 consecutive pitches before hitting a homerun, nor did you hit the walk-off grand slam that secured a playoff berth. As much as you're mostly not to blame for this year's collapse, you are also mostly not responsible for last year's terrific finish.

Perhaps what you were really trying to say about the roster overhaul was that your boss kept acquiring players with a history of breaking down, physically and/or mentally, and that the end result wasn't too surprising. That's debatable, and ultimately that's not your job to decide, Jim. You don't go around telling your boss what to do. Speaking of which...

If your boss gives you an order, you follow it. If DePodesta asks you to develop certain young players and give away fewer outs, then you do that with no questions asked. Whether you're right or not, shit always flows downhill. No boss wants an insubordinate employee, especially after times of crises that reveal the true nature of a man's character. You just showed yours by questioning your boss's skills AND demanding a raise after the worst season in recent memory.

So let's say that you don't get your two year extension, which is likely. Who will you work for? Pittsburgh? Tampa Bay? Do you think those cheapskates will pay you handsomely AND field a competitive team? Believe that and Lou Piniella has a home he'd like to sell you in Tampa. The Marlins? They don't even have a stadium to call their own. The Cubbies? Mariners? They could be great opportunities, except those positions are safe, as far as I know.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

I think that you're a fairly good manager, Jim. I really do. But you are also eminently replaceable, either by a respected name (Leyland?) who might want to get back to coaching or by a young ambitious type looking for his first gig. (Girardi? Washington?) There are even talking heads who cover the team (Kennedy) who would jump at the chance to manage this team, one with a heralded history and more importantly, big market resources.

Maybe last year's success went to your head, Jim. I guess you started believing in all the accolades and view this season as an abysmal failure of others' undoing. Chances are that DePodesta would fire you immediately except that he doesn't want to risk another PR nightmare. So he'll probably play nice and offer a lowball extension that you'll surely reject, and agree to part ways as amicably as possible.

So long, Jim. Your probable parting is an appropriate end to a miserable season. Thanks for the memories, some good, some bad. It was nice knowing you.

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