HIROKI KURODA, 35, starting pitcher
Final 2010 stats: 11-13, 3.39 ERA, 159 strikeouts, 48 walks, 1.16 WHIP in 193 2/3 innings.
Contract status: Free agent.
The good: More evidence that a won-loss record is not always indicative of how well a starter pitches. And Kuroda pitched very well, and actually grades out slightly higher than Chad Billingsley as the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter last season.
When he’s on, which he was more than not, he’s extremely tough. Can throw a variety of pitches for strikes. Quickly erased any lingering doubts about returning to form after getting nailed in the head with a line drive in 2009. Was actually his best overall season as a Dodger.
The bad: Nothing particularly glaring. Had a slightly rough April (4.42 ERA), but otherwise was pretty consistent all season. And stayed off the disabled list for the first time.
What’s next: One of the more challenging tasks for the Dodgers. Certainly, they’d love to have him back. The big question, of course, is at what price? He made $15.4 million last season. If they offer him arbitration, he’ll get more than that. A lot of money for a pitcher who turns 36 in February. Plus, he’s been mum on what he wants to do, and some believe he would like to end his career back in Japan.
The take:The Dodgers need to make every reasonable effort to bring Kuroda back. He still has excellent stuff, is a tremendous competitor, and although his English is not what you would like after three seasons, is well liked and respected by teammates and coaches.
The uncertainty is over how long you sign him. If he wants a three-year deal, it’s probably too risky. Not for the kind of money he’ll demand at his age. One year would be great, but two might be where the Dodgers realistically have to draw a line.
The Dodgers, however, currently have only three starting pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lillyand Billingsley). Getting Kuroda back would give them a superior four starters. This will come down to a question of that ol` Dodger favorite --- money, and on both sides.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue
HIROKI KURODA, 35, starting pitcher
Dare it be said, at this ever-so-brief moment, the Dodgers’ beleaguered rotation is OK. Actually on the verge of pretty good.
It’s been three months in the making, but for this week, the Dodgers have a set, five-man rotation of their choice. Unless you want to go and get all Cliff Lee on us.
It is the first time all season the Dodgers can actually say that. They have the five guys they want -- Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Chad Billingsley and John Ely -- all healthy, all pitching reasonably well.
It’s been almost three months in the making. It’s been through the failed Charlie Haeger experiment. Losing Padilla for almost two months. An poor spot start by Ramon Ortiz. Throwing green Carlos Monasterios into the soup. Losing Billingsley to the disabled list.
But right now they have a set five and they’re all healthy. Maybe it’s not exactly Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale-Claude Osteen-Don Sutton material, but it’s light years ahead of where they were.
They got a little lucky with the unexpected emergence of Ely. And after it appeared he hit a wall, he’s had two strong starts in a row (1.29 ERA).
Kershaw has been terrific since that ugly May 4 loss to Milwaukee, going 7-2 with a 2.38 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Kuroda has a 2.67 ERA in five June starts.
Billingsley returned from the DL to beat the Giants on Monday and set the tone for the three-game sweep.
And then there’s Padilla, who after a shaky first game back in Boston following his lengthy DL stint, has come back with two consecutive strong starts.
It’s peace in our time.
It could help steady a beaten-down bullpen. It could stabilize the Dodgers and lead them back atop the National League West.
It could also self-destruct at any moment. But for this moment, it’s as good as it’s been.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Come on, what did you expect? This is called smart business. Dennis Mannion, the team president, is a marketing guy. He understands the lay of the land.
Manny Ramirez has already honestly stated -- you know, back in the days when he was still talking -- he doesn’t expect to be back next season.
Now why would the Dodgers center their marketing campaign around a player everyone figures will be gone after one more season?
That the Dodgers' new media guide features Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier on the cover and not Manny, as Dylan Hernandez reported here in The Times, is simply displaying a keen marketing sense.
Now Mannion may be a laugh riot when it comes to quotes -- "I am against using individual players as a platform to market your team," he said -- but he knows which wheel to grease.
Kemp and Ethier are on the way up. Manny’s star is fading and he’s practically a lame duck. Now, if you were the Dodgers, just whom would you promote?
Mannion needs to be a little more up front with fans, though, and give them some credit. No need to massage the message. And really, he told Hernandez that promoting one or two individuals could lead to jealousy-fueled rifts in the clubhouse that would compromise the team's ability to win?
Told you he was one funny guy. Mannion visits the clubhouse about as often as he does the moon. Hypocrisy aside -- by the way, that Mannywood section will return this season -- Los Angeles has always been a market that relishes superstars.
The best Dodgers teams had identifiable faces, stars such as Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Garvey, Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser. In L.A., stars sell tickets. Without Kobe, the Lakers are the Clippers. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
Now, there is a great difference between a club promoting you as the face of the team and being the man in the clubhouse.
Manny is still the lead dog. He still sets the tone, still has the respect, is still the one with a World Series ring.
But it’s also undeniable that Ethier and Kemp now walk through the clubhouse with a slightly different air about them. They carry themselves like players who have arrived, not the youngsters of great promise.
This Silver Slugger excuse for putting them on the media guide cover is highly convenient. Kemp and Ethier are the future. A torch is being passed and it’s only smart to market it that way.
-- Steve Dilbeck
But Willie knew they found him guilty of not being a superstar.
He was a remarkable athlete who did some remarkable things for the Dodgers. Yet somehow with Willie, it seemed less about what he accomplished and more about what he did not.
He couldn’t hit as well as Tommy Davis, steal like Maury Wills. Didn’t have the commanding presence of Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale. He seemed more a role player on the great Dodgers teams of the ’60s, though his flashes of greatness only seemed to leave others yearning for more.
Willie was called up when he was only 20 and played 13 years with the Dodgers, 17 major-league seasons overall. And when he passed away Tuesday, he was still the Los Angeles Dodgers all-time leader in hits, extra-base hits, total bases, plate appearances and triples.
He had a deep voice, distinctive laugh. For a man others claimed was always in search of himself as a player, he gave off the appearance of easy-going happiness.
Very disappointing. Also, very understandable.
Maybe he sounds a little too self-congratulatory over the "taking the high road" bit by not addressing the various issues, but really, what does he have to gain by it?
"I'm not going to get into the back and forth of it," McCourt said Saturday. "I'll leave the process to the lawyers to deal with."
If I were him, I wouldn’t be mucking it up any worse with any additional back and forth. Some of the charges rendered by his soon-to-be ex-wife Jamie McCourt may prove inaccurate. Or each one legitimate.
But what exactly is he supposed to say about not paying taxes for the last six years? I feel just terrible about it? Don’t blame me, blame the system?
Documents filed by Jamie McCourt alleged the club plans to maintain its payroll below what it was last year for the next nine years. It was part of a proposal to attract Chinese investors. Proposals like that are loaded with manipulated numbers.
Tommy Davis was a phenomenon on those great early-’60s Dodgers teams, a hitting machine who seemed almost out of place in an offense spurred by speedsters Maury Wills and Willie Davis.
"We manufactured runs, and with the pitching we had, the formula was OK,’’ Davis said.
The legendary pitching, of course, included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres and Claude Osteen.
And although massive Frank Howard could provide some much needed pop, it was Davis who was the consistent offensive threat. His 1962 season remains one of the greatest in Dodgers history -- a .346 batting average, a team-record 153 RBIs , 230 hits and 27 home runs.
"It didn’t come totally together,’’ Davis said. ``We didn’t win.’’
That 1962 batting average won him the first of consecutive National League batting crowns, the only two in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
Davis, 70, now lives in Alta Loma with his wife, Carol. The father of three girls and one son, he continues to work with the Dodgers’ speakers bureau. He also makes visits to the team’s lower minor leagues for hitting instruction, as well as continuing to provide private hitting lessons. He also owns a small marketing company that manufactures T-shirts and hats.
Davis was born in Brooklyn, but didn't make it to the majors until the team moved to Los Angeles. And that might not have happened but for a late phone call.
"I was getting ready to sign with the Yankees because they had shown more interest," he said. "But then I got a call from Jackie Robinson."
It can be a precious gift, presented without announcement, without expectation.
Not sure how much Steve loved baseball compared with how much he loved the Dodgers, loved Vin Scully, loved picturesque Dodger Stadium.
There was no cable in his day, but he listened to every game. At night, his wife, Grace, might sit on the couch and watch "Gunsmoke’’ while he rested in his favorite chair, facing the television but listening with a single earphone attached to his small transistor radio to every pitch Sandy Koufax would seem to magically weave.
His brother was longtime L.A. City Councilman John Ferraro, and sometimes Steve would produce a pair of box seats to Dodger Stadium. Each time he would invite me, it was a mini-event.
Steve was normally reserved, and I’m not sure he ever felt completely comfortable around children. Normally, our drive up the Golden State Freeway from his home in Whittier was marked by long silences.
But that was OK, because we were sharing something unspoken. Nothing was forced but, much like baseball, played out at its own pace.
Steve insisted we always arrive in time for batting practice, and I could not imagine it being any other way. There would be a double bag of peanuts and a Dodger Dog. Steve bought me my own program and taught me how to score.
Sometimes, we’d be a couple rows back from Frank Sinatra, which was swell, but the celebrities to us were on the field. Don Drysdale looking mountainous on the mound, Maury Wills a blur on the bases, Tommy Davis a genius with the bat.
Scully’s voice beamed from thousands of radios and echoed softly throughout the stadium. We never left early. We took it all in. It was hard to get enough. Steve loved Sunday doubleheaders.