Ah, the wonder that is Ronald Belisario. What to make of our hard-throwing Venezuelan right-hander?
Say this for him, he’s in camp on time this year, a first for him in his four years with the Dodgers. Of course, last year he never did make it.
He told a Venezuelan newspaper he was late to spring training last season because he lost his passport. In a stunning development, on Wednesday he admitted it was not true. He told reporters in Phoenix he could not leave his native country because he had tested positive for cocaine.
If only things were so simple. Because then he added he had only used the drug once, could not remember when he was tested or what entity had tested him.
I don’t know, wild guess, but if you had only used cocaine once in your life and it was only a year ago, just maybe you’d remember snorting the white powder. And particularly where you were tested and by whom when busted. Particularly, you know, since you only tried coke once.
The Times’ Dylan Hernandez has learned from an individual familiar with the situation that Belisario was actually tested by the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela when applying for a visa. Not that you could expect him to remember that. He was tested because of a previous DUI arrest in Pasadena during the 2009 season.
Plenty to get to today, leading off with … so the Dodgers have signed Clayton Kershaw to a two-year, $19-million deal. Exactly right for the moment or does more have to be done?
Buster Olney argues in this ESPN video that the new owner’s first order of business should be to sign Kershaw to a long-term deal. He argues Kershaw would be only 26 in his first year of free agency and free-spending teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies would be circling.
Olney estimates a five-year deal for Kershaw would cost between $100 to $120 million.
Meanwhile, Robert Timm at Dodger Dugout argues there is risk in signing any pitcher to a long-term deal and the Dodgers were smart to settle for a two-year agreement.
Also on the Web:
--The Left Field Pavilion has organized a charity softball tournament of teams representing several Dodgers blogs on Saturday at the Big League Dreams fields in West Covina.
Play starts at 8 a.m. Admission is only $3 and includes a drink. Fans are asked to bring a box or bag of food for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
--It never ends: USA Today thinks the Dodgers could be in line for a $5-billion TV rights deal. Guess that $3 billion Frank McCourt wanted to sign up for with Fox might have been just a tad low.
--Eric Stephen at True Blue LA has his Dodgers preview. He doesn’t think Jerry Sands makes the 25-man roster, but Josh Fields does.
It seems Ned Colletti’s off-season maneuverings aren’t exactly converting the skeptics. Guess a $90-million payroll just doesn’t buy what it once did.
So the team that returns the National League Cy Young Award winner and MVP runner-up is not exactly getting a lot of off-season media love. Of course, they did have Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp last season and all it netted them was an 82-79 record.
Know those power rankings that are still the rage in professional sports? In the early results, the Dodgers are not faring well. Not even as good as last year’s squad.
Sports Illustrated’s Joe Lemire ranks the Dodgers’ baseball’s 18th-best team. That’s actually down four spots from where he had them finish last year. Arizona is listed at No. 11 and San Francisco at No. 15.
“It’s a sports-business circus here,” said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at USC.
Farzad claims the three current favorites in the bidding are the Rick Caruso-Joe Torre group, the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten group and Steven Cohen.
--Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan doesn’t think South Korean conglomerate E-Land's financial backing of Peter O’Malley should negatively affect his bid.
Wrote Newhan: “No one has the ability to put the organization back together faster than the former owner.”
--Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall said he was staying with the team despite overtures from potential owners wanting him to run the Dodgers should their bids succeed. But, really, what else is he going to say?
--Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick said the Dodgers were thrilled with the results of their "young guns" mini-camp in Arizona. Also joining the prospects were Chris Capuano, Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen and Scott Elbert.
Photo: Ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw and slugging center fielder Matt Kemp celebrate after Kershaw's shutout against the Detroit Tigers last summer at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images / June 20, 2011
Hiroki Kuroda confirmed what Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said earlier this month: Colletti remained in contact with his agent until he decided to sign with the New York Yankees three weeks ago.
Kuroda said the Dodgers were exploring ways they could fit him onto their roster, even though they had already signed free-agent starters Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano.
“They were unable to ever make a formal offer,” Kuroda said in Japanese. “I couldn’t wait any longer.”
The Japanese right-hander took a one-year $10-million contract with the Yankees that included a full no-trade clause. The deal was officially announced this week.
The reasons behind his exercising a similar clause last year to prevent the Dodgers from trading him to an American League contender –- the Yankees were believed to be among the suitors -– were no longer issues. He wasn’t backing out of a commitment. He wouldn't be joining a team midseason, something he said he thought would take away from the joy of winning.
Asked whether he would have remained with the Dodgers had they made him a reasonable offer, Kuroda said, “It’s hard to talk about something hypothetical. Obviously, I was comfortable there. I liked it there. My family liked it there.”
In fact, Kuroda said his wife and two school-age daughters will remain in Los Angeles while he is in New York next season.
“Part of me is sad to leave Los Angeles,” he said. “I loved the atmosphere of the stadium.”
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly makes an appearance in a trick-shots video made by a group that includes his son, former Dodgers first-round draft pick Preston Mattingly.
The video starts with the elder Mattingly throwing a baseball to knock off a Giants cap from the head of a man wearing a bear suit. At another point, Preston is several stories high in the basket of a fire truck ladder, tossing a basketball and a football through a basketball hoop below.
The video, which also includes a cameo by former Evansville, Ind., mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, is a sequel to one made last year.
Joe Torre would be the “perfect” person to run the Dodgers, his longtime lieutenant said on Wednesday.
“He’s a great baseball mind who can get the organization back to where it should be,” said Larry Bowa, who was a member of Torre’s coaching staffs with the New York Yankees and Dodgers from 2006 to 2010.
“Hopefully, his group will get it,” Bowa said. “I’m a little biased, but I think he would be perfect.”
In particular, Bowa pointed to Torre’s understanding of both on- and off-field matters.
“He understands both sides of the coin,” Bowa said. “The best I have seen with that is [Hall of Fame executive] Pat Gillick,” Bowa said. "But Joe is right there. He has that kind of knowledge and that kind of work ethic.”
Of Torre, Bowa said, “He understands the baseball part of it. He understands the economic part of it. He understands the fans’ viewpoint, the players’ viewpoint, the minor-league viewpoint.”
Bowa said Torre makes decisions carefully.
“Joe’s not a spontaneous guy,” Bowa said. “Joe’s going to have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D. He’s going to have a backup plan. He’s not going to say, ‘I’m going to get this guy,' and have no other plan. Joe, he calculates his moves.”
When Torre managed the Yankees and Dodgers, he delegated a lot of responsibility to his coaches. Bowa said he thinks Torre would operate similarly as a team’s high-level executive.
“He trusts the people he hires and lets them work,” Bowa said. “He doesn’t just hire people. It’s ‘If I’m not here, can he take care of this area?’”
I surveyed the 20 writers who listed Braun at the top of their ballots. A majority them were against a potential revote, most of them citing concerns with the precedent it would set.
Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) of CSNPhilly.com was among the 15 writers opposed to voting again, but not of stripping Braun of the award if he is suspended.
“We already voted,” Salisbury said. “Why should we vote again?”
Salisbury’s solution: name the runner-up, Matt Kemp, the MVP.
Salisbury said he didn’t think doing so would set any precedent, noting the unique circumstances of Braun’s case.
“This award was just given,” Salisbury said. “This isn’t Ken Caminiti making an admission years later. He hasn’t even picked up his award yet. It hasn’t been presented yet.”’
Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) of the Chicago Tribune said he is in favor of a revote if Braun’s positive test is upheld.
Sullivan pointed out that there was a revote under similar circumstances in another sport. The 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award was subjected to a revote when the winner, Brian Cushing, was revealed to have failed a drug test. Cushing also won the revote.
Sullivan said if Braun is suspended and there is a revote, he would cast his new ballot for Kemp. He wasn’t alone. Regardless of how they felt about a revote, seven others said they would also vote for Kemp if Braun were suspended and ballots were reissued.
Heard it when Disney bought the team. When the Angels won their first World Series in 2002. When Arte Moreno bought the team and signed Vladimir Guerrero. And when Frank McCourt drove the Dodgers into bankruptcy.
And, of course, now that the Angels' off-season has been just a tad more impressive than that of the Dodgers’.
You sign the best hitter of his generation, Albert Pujols, and the top starter available, C.J. Wilson, and people tend to notice.
Added ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson: "The Dodgers are all about history and tradition and lore. The Angels are all about the here and now, and the future, both short- and long-term."
For the Dodgers, it's a bad convergence of the darkest point in their franchise history and one of the highest for the Angels. And it should be noted that last season the Angels, for the first time, outdrew the Dodgers in attendance.
Also on the web:
-- The roster is looking full, but General Manager Ned Colletti tells Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick: " ... There's also more work to do. We're by far a finished product. Take the rest of the winter off? No."
Colletti can't seem to stop his love affair with utility infielders. Gurnick wrote that the Dodgers had been trying to trade for the Mets' Daniel Murphy.
-- The Times' Joe Flint writes that the gloves are coming off between Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports in the battle over Dodgers media rights. The 2004 contract that prevented the Dodgers and Time Warner from partnering for a regional sports network doesn't apply to Time Warner Cable, that company argues, because it was spun off as its own seperate operation in 2009.
-- Scott Boras, funny man? Who knew? Speaking to The Times’ Dylan Hernandez on the off-season spending of the Dodgers and Mets: "Normally, they're in the steaks section, and I found them in the fruits-and-nuts category a lot."
Influential agent Scott Boras said he enjoyed watching the Miami Marlins spend as much money as they did at baseball's winter meetings.
That makes sense. Although Boras hasn't yet sent any players to the Marlins this winter, men in his line of work generally like to see teams spend money.
So how has Boras felt watching the Dodgers operate this off-season?
"Unusual," he said. “You know, it's ..."
Before he could complete his thought, he started laughing.
Boras turned serious for a moment, sympathetically talking about the financial obstacles facing the front offices of the Dodgers and the New York Mets.
But he could resist the temptation to joke for only so long, breaking into a smirk and saying of the two cash-strapped teams, "Normally, they're in the steaks section, and I found them in the fruits-and-nuts category a lot."
Boras didn't meet with the Dodgers at the winter meetings, which concluded Thursday.
"With my clientele, a team that's not in the certain area of the supermarket, they kind of don't pass those aisles,” he said.
When the laughs around him subsided, Boras again turned serious and predicted that the Dodgers would soon regain what he said was their proper place in the American sporting landscape. He pointed to several reasons the Dodgers should prosper under new ownership, including their market, their stadium and the strength of the brand.
"And the beat writers are absolutely phenomenal," Boras said.
-- Dylan Hernandez in Dallas
Photo: Agent Scott Boras fields questions from reporters. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press
Sometimes you want something to be true so badly, the blinders come on to all the potential pitfalls. History be damned, you just want to believe.
And so it is with the official news that Frank McCourt must bid a final adieu to the Dodgers by April 30th.
It’s in writing and everything, though we’ve been down that road before. Late Tuesday night the sales agreement reached between McCourt and Major League Baseball was finally filed in bankruptcy court.
As The Times’ Bill Shaikin reported, it wasn’t exactly all good news. As expected, the agreement does give McCourt the ability to keep the parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium and sign a "long-term lease" with the new owner. That’s plenty scary, so you just have to cross fingers that an agreement is reached for the team, stadium and surrounding property.
Otherwise, the agreement actually allows McCourt to build parking garages to replace existing spaces so he could develop the property. How insane is that? Somebody is going to drop a billion dollars to buy the team and stadium, only to watch McCourt develop the property around it? I’m thinking they’re going to want a lot more control than that.
But it’s still encouraging that the agreement does require McCourt divest himself of the team by April 30. Count the days.
— And finally, remember that scene in the John Cusack film "High Fidelity" when he envisions different scenarios on how to greet rival Tim Robbins when he comes into his record store? Including the one where Jack Black leaps over the counter?
TMZ plays off that on its premise of what you might say to McCourt if you ran into him in a restaurant.