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Category: Russell Martin

Dodgers Web musings: Manny Ramirez goes 'Moneyball'

Or maybe that should be the other way around. Our favorite dreadlocked, greatest-quote, not-talking, power-hitting, feeble-swinging bundle of contradictions has taken his waning talents to the Oakland A’s.

You probably missed that chapter in the book, but for an A’s team woefully shy on talent, it is a small gamble. At least financially. Pedro Gomez at ESPN reported that Ramirez signed for $500,000. Of course, the Dodgers still owe him $8.3 million in each of the next two years.

The Manny who absolutely electrified Dodger Stadium in 2008 is now 39 and coming off a year in which he sat out almost the entire season after being busted a second time for using performance-enhancing drugs.

He’ll have to serve a 50-game suspension first, but he wants to play, so best of luck and all. Manny is now Oakland’s problem, though it might make for an interesting sequel.

Also on the Web:

— Pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday and Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick writes that it will the first time in a decade they so with an ace. You can possibly figure out who that is.

— The Times’ Patt Morrison has an interesting Q&A piece with Sue Falsone, the first head female trainer in any American professional sport.

— Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti gives a video interview to Fox at a Kings game where he confirms that he wants to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term contract.

   

— ESPN’s Buster Olney says Yankees catcher Russell Martin has dropped weight for this season. Where have we heard about Martin adjusting his weight before? Oh yeah, here.

— Believe it or not, he’s still here: Brett Tomko has signed a minor-league deal with the Reds.

— And while on ex-Dodgers, infielder Blake DeWitt — the Dodgers’ future second baseman only two years ago — has accepted a minor league assignment with the Cubs after clearing waivers. He’s 26.

— Hong-Chin Kuo is ready to start his new life as a Seattle Mariner: “We all face challenges in life. I had one last year and my teammates helped me through it — everyone helped me through it. My coaches, my wife, everyone.”

— The Jeremy Lin phenomenon reminds some of Nomomania. Wait, check that, it’s Fernandomania.

— Don Mattingly tells Dodgers.com's Gurnick that despite not having an established closer like Jonathan Broxton, he is more confident in his bullpen this season.

— Robert Timm at Dodger Dugout offers his two cents on the team’s coming spring.

— Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers Web musings: Clayton Kershaw and the long term [Videos]

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.

--FanGraphs’ David Laurila has a lengthy and detailed Q&A with Dodgers scouting director Logan White, while Dodgers Thoughts’ Jon Weisman interviews farm director De Jon Watson.

--MLB.com’s Spencer Fordin looks at the Dodgers' top 20 prospects, while ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider status required) rates their system 12th overall in the majors.

--The Times’ Dylan Hernandez talks to James Loney about his bizarre freeway accident. Loney blames it on a blow to his head.

--The Times’ Bill Shaikin adds an 11th and, really, possibly final Dodgers bidder in Michael Heisley, the 75-year-old owner of the Memphis Grizzlies. He could bring Jerry West into the deal.

--ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew looks at what could be next for Matt Kemp.

--Reuters’ Sue Zeidler writes that the second round of bids on the Dodgers is due around Feb. 23.

--NBC Sports’ Tony DeMarco thinks that with the right owner the Dodgers could be a power fairly quickly.

--Fox Sports' Mike Martinez checks in with shortstop Dee Gordon. Gordon on how many bases he’s capable of stealing: “a hundred.”

--Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth is auctioning off a Kershaw-autographed copy of his new book, “Arise,” on EBay to raise funds for a Watts literacy center.

--Daily Breeze columnist Mike Waldner looks at the Dodgers auction situation: “McCourt's first, last and always goal has been to line his pockets.”

--Oh, goody: Russell Martin tells the New York Daily News he’s all giddy the Yankees have added Hiroki Kuroda.

--And finally, Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has found a video of a vintage TV commercial, this one from 1981. Warning: Hope you like looking at a shirtless Bill Russell.

 

-- Steve Dilbeck

 

Meet the new Dodgers, same as the old Dodgers

Dodgers1_600

Ah, what to make of this? General Manager Ned Colletti saying he hopes you like this year’s Dodgers, because they are pretty much going to be next year’s Dodgers.

Kinda gets you all tingling, eh?

Of course, this year’s Dodgers have been a major disappointment and have struggled for more than four months just to climb to .500. Crowds have disappeared. Belief that anything will ever change as long as Frank McCourt owns the team permeates everything Dodgers.

Which, naturally, explains why you shouldn’t expect significant changes to this team next season. That would require signing a major bat, which is hard to do when you’re bankrupt, or even when your plan all along was to reduce payroll.

Colletti acknowledged that McCourt had yet to let him know how much he can spend in the offseason, and good luck with that. He has attorneys to pay, you know.

Both Manager Don Mattingly and Colletti said it’s the offense that needs upgrading, a statement’s shock value that resonates right up there with "desert needs more water."

The only troubling thing to this is that it seems immediately reactive to this year’s team and not part of an overall plan. I suppose some of that is always inherent with the job, but a year ago it was the rotation that was a problem –- as anyone paying attention knew it would be going into the season. So Colletti opened this season not only with five starters, which is always wise, but an extra one on board just in case. The extra one, Vicente Padilla, went down to injury just as the fifth starter, Jon Garland, did, but the plan was solid.

This season it was the offense that struggled -- as anyone paying attention knew it would be going into the season, though maybe not so extreme.

So now the emphasis is going to be to add a bat, and I sure hope you believe Juan Rivera can do this for a full season. Big bats cost big money, which McCourt was loath to spend even when he was pretending to and not dropping $35 million on divorce bills.

The good part to this .500 season is that having a crummy team, and battling constant injuries, enabled to Dodgers to get a good and encouraging look at a lot of young players.

Still, it’s not like the next wave will be reminiscent of the Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and James Loney invasion. Most of the promise comes from young pitchers and a couple of light-hitting infielders.

And then there is the rotation, which at the moment has only three sure starters: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly.  How much do you really like Nathan Eovaldi and Dana Eveland?

To the team’s great credit, they have continued to play hard, though as Mattingly has recognized, it is always dangerous to place too much credence in the performance of late call-ups, either good or bad.

There is plenty that needs to be added next season. And there are 10 current Dodgers who have contracts ending within the next three weeks. Plenty of bodies will come and go, yet the team figures to look very familiar.

RELATED:

Dodgers get back to .500 with win over Giants

Kenley Jensen is making batters look silly

Andre Ethier is headed for knee surgery

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Juan Rivera, the Dodgers' recently acquired left fielder, is congratulated by ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw after scoring on a balk against the Giants in the fourth inning Saturday in San Francisco. Credit: W. Henderson / Getty Images

Flashback to a miracle comeback, and you're welcome

Dodgers logo
Ah, yes, I remember the day well. A day much like today. An off-day following another Dodgers’ loss.

The team eight games under .500 and 7½ games back. Absolute toast, I was certain. So certain I wrote a column declaring the Dodgers’ season over. It was July 26, 2006.

The Los Angeles Daily News so loved the column, they didn’t run it in the sports section, but stripped it across the top of A-1. Their very own little rabble rouser. It was just so cute.

Of course, as you all know by now, it was simply a ploy to inspire the disheartened Boys in Blue. Their manhood all challenged, they proceeded to win. And win some more. And then win like it was all they knew.

After that column, the Dodgers came back to win 11 consecutive games and 17 of their next 18. They ended up in a tie for the National League West with the Padres and advanced into the postseason as the wild card.

And to this day, not a word of thanks from the Dodgers for turning their season around.

Alas, here the Dodgers are again, eight games under for the first time since that day in 2006. Albeit, nine games back this time.

Continue reading »

Dodgers Web musings: Despite estrangement, L.A.'s love for the Dodgers runs deep [Video]

Catching up on the Web on a dreary Sunday morning:

--The best relationships survive the rockiest of times, and The Times’ Scott Gold and Reed Johnson write that Los Angeles’ love affair with the Dodgers runs too deep for fans to ultimately abandon the team.

--Manager Don Mattingly admits to The Times’ Dylan Hernandez that he probably should not have sent Matt Guerrier back out for the Dodgers’ fateful eighth inning Saturday .

--The Times’ Kevin Baxter looks at chapel service offered throughout baseball ballparks.

--Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes that Frank McCourt has built up so much debt that there is only about $300 million in equity left in the $800-million franchise.

--In a video, "NBC Nightly News" looks at the plight of the Dodgers, with comment from L.A. Observed’s Kevin Roderick.

Continue reading »

Predicting the Dodgers' season: Take it to the bank

Dodgers-kemp_640
Here are this year’s 25 things I absolutely guarantee will happen with the Dodgers this season. As you recall, I went a perfect 25-for-25 last season. Anyway, that's the way I remember it.

1) Fans will wait all the way until the second inning of the season opener before their first brain-dead "Giants suck" chant.

2) The only Dodgers story of national interest this season will continue to be the ownership divorce.

3) Vin Scully will remain the greatest Dodgers treasure ever.

4) Tony Gwynn Jr. will be the Dodgers best center fielder. Unfortunately, he'll play in left.

5) No-shows will hit record numbers, though those numbers won't be released.

6) By mid-May, Jonathan Broxton will have lost his role as the closer. Hope I'm wrong, but can't shake it.

7) Matt Kemp’s bat will return, but defensively he'll still get some of the worst jumps in baseball.

8) The Dodgers won't be able to fight the temptation and by mid-summer will call up right-hander Rubby De La Rosa. And it will work.

9) Nobody will miss Russ Ortiz, Ramon Ortiz or Charlie Haeger. Really, this is progress.

10) James Loney will hit 12 home runs with 102 RBI, and the stat wonks will cry for his head.

11) Jamey Carroll will play almost as many games as he did last season (133), crooked digit and all.

12) After visiting his 23rd ophthalmologist, Jay Gibbons will finally find a pair of contacts that solves his vision trouble.

13) Frank McCourt will be introduced at Dodger Stadium and be booed. Again.

14) Rod Barajas will hit more home runs than Russell Martin managed in the last two seasons combined (12).

15) In August, Ronald Belisario will announce he's going to get that visa any day now.

16) The Dodgers will make last season's .322 on-base percentage look lofty.

17) Don Mattingly will deserve better.

18) Clayton Kershaw will win 15 games, strike out 220 and finish third in the N.L. Cy Young voting.

19) Andre Ethier will have a career year, and then be absolutely certain he'll be non-tendered after the 2012 season.

20) Jamie McCourt will celebrate so wildly after her divorce settlement, she'll balloon to a size 1.

21) Rafael Furcal won't go on the disabled list once all year. I'm feeling dangerous.

22) Kemp will not be romantically linked to a single diva. Tabloid sales plummet.

23) Carlos Santana will threaten to become Ned Colletti’s Pedro Martinez.

24) Regardless of the size of the crowd, stadium concession lines will still go 15 deep.

25) The Dodgers will repeat 2010, going 80-82 and finishing fourth in the N.L. West.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Matt Kemp will have a comeback year, at least at the plate. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Andre Ethier picks a bad time to be insecure: Thinks this could be his last season as a Dodger

The season is still two days away and I already feel comfortable handing out an award. Don’t wait for a game to be played. Don’t even bother to seal the envelope.

To Andre Ethier: Worst Timing of the Year Award.

The Dodgers had barely gotten off the plane in Los Angeles and Ethier was going off on one of his say what? tangents.

Before the Dodgers’ game Monday against the Angels, Ethier was asked an innocuous question about opening the season against the Giants. And he said:

"It might be my last one here with the Dodgers. You never know. A lot of signs are pointing that way, so we'll have to see. Six years for a Dodger is a long time, in the era that we're living in. So I'm going to cherish every moment I can, enjoy the season and try to make it my best one."

A lot of signs are pointing to this being his last year as a Dodger? On what planet? He’s signed through this season and under team control the next. He’s batting in the coveted third spot in the lineup. Next month, he’ll turn 29. He’s one of the key guys they’re building the team around.

Asked about his comments Tuesday, he did not back off one syllable. Guess the Dodgers' non-tendering Russell Martin rocked Ethier.

"If I don’t play well, we’ve seen them non-tender guys here, and if you play well, I’ve seen them not offer arbitration because they’re afraid guys are setting their salaries too high," Ethier said.

Ethier said he wanted to remain with the Dodgers: "Yeah, as long as the organization is moving in the right direction still, moving in a direction where they’re committed to winning and committed to constantly moving forward in an upward direction rather than if things don’t go good for a year or two here, rebuild and try to figure things out."

Not that Ethier appears certain of the organization’s direction: "I don’t know if this is going to be my last or not, but I want to make the most out of it and enjoy it the most I can because I’ve been here quite a while and you never know if you’re coming or going, and I’ve enjoyed my time in L.A. and that’s what I told him.”

Dizzy yet? What to make of this? Ethier has always drawn motivation from those he believed doubted him. Now he’s like the main man in the lineup and he’s trying to motivate himself because the Dodgers haven’t extended him like they did Chad Billingsley Tuesday?

General manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers had approached Ethier’s agent in the spring.

"We had a couple of discussions, but nothing that gained much ground," Colletti said.

Colletti was unaware of Ethier’s comments until they were read to him by a reporter before Tuesday’s game. Safe to say, Colletti did not look happy. Then he issued a terse no comment.

What GM would be happy to hear this crazy stuff on the eve of the opener? After what had been considered a positive and focused camp?

If Ethier felt this way, better to relay it through his agent or privately rather than rock the organization publicly. And how’s that Andre Ethier, team leader, going?

Ethier said he didn’t think his comments should be unsettling to the team or organization.

"I don’t know why that would be unsettling.... It ain't up to me buddy," he said. "That ain't my decision. My job is to go out there and play the best I can and if I don’t play well? You see they non-tendered Russ Martin. And if I do play well, then that’s another big decision. Do they want to keep me for one year and have me walk at the end of the year? There’s a lot of different scenarios"

Right, only not a single one that needs to be addressed a couple of days before the season.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Could A.J. Ellis sighting put him back in the battle for possible Dodgers roster spot?

Ellis-dodgers_175 Meanwhile, remember A.J. Ellis?

He would probably understand if you’d forgotten. His has been the most invisible of spring trainings, which made for some serious bad timing.

In theory, Ellis (pictured at left) came to camp in contention with Dioner Navarro for the backup catching spot behind Rod Barajas. Even though prior to camp, Manager Don Mattingly said Navarro would battle Barajas for the starting position. Which told you where Ellis was in the pecking order.

Barajas started playing reasonably well, and after a slow start, Navarro too. All while Ellis struggled, managing just three hits in 27 spring at-bats.

His fate seemed clear: back to triple-A Albuquerque.

Then Navarro hurt himself swinging the bat in a workout before Thursday’s game, which sort of symbolizes how Dodgers have gone down this spring. It’s those little things.

Immediately attention turned to Hector Gimenez, this spring’s unknown from Venezuela who has been turning heads. Gimenez started Thursday.

But it was Ellis who emerged the day’s hero, drilling a walk-off, three-run homer to cap a seven-run ninth inning that left the Dodgers with a 7-5 victory over the Rockies.

Understand, Ellis and home runs occur just slightly more often than a Halley’s Comet sighting. In his last two seasons at Albuquerque and Los Angeles, Ellis hit exactly … zero home runs.

So they’re not his forte. No one claimed otherwise; he’s more of a slap hitter. But he performed well behind the plate last season, was liked by teammates and finished the season like something was clicking. In his final 16 games for the Dodgers, he hit .417.

When the Dodgers let Russell Martin go and then re-signed Barajas, you momentarily thought Ellis would return as the backup. Then came Navarro. And in spring, Gimenez arrived.

Gimenez is still the more likely candidate to stick if Navarro is unable to start the season, if only because he’s out of options and Ellis is not.

Still, it was good to see Ellis rise to the moment Thursday. There’s a week left, and stranger things have happened. Sort of like an Ellis home run.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo credit: Morry Gash / Associated Press

Dodgers' Web musings: Ramon Troncoso pitches his way back into bullpen picture

Ramon_300 Love is a many-splendored thing, unless Joe Torre was going all goo-goo eyed over you in the bullpen.

Sometimes, that qualified as tough love. If Torre loved you, he tended to use you. And sometimes, too much.

Troncoso had been an unexpected delight in 2009, appearing in 73 games and posting a 2.72 ERA and even picking up six saves. The Dodgers assumed it would be more of the same last year, and things began well enough.

But Troncoso appeared in 14 of their first 20 games last April and began to slip. By the end of June his ERA was up to 5.45 and his confidence was shaken. He looked worn out. He was soon sent back to the minors, where he would spend the bulk of the next two months.

Troncoso entered this spring almost as an afterthought. The bullpen looked packed, with maybe one opening that hardly appeared earmarked for the 28-year-old.

But an injury to Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario’s latest AWOL routine have presented an opportunity, and Troncoso appears set on making the most of it.

Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson that last season Troncoso became reluctant to use the sinker that had been so effective for him in the past.

This spring he has retired 10 of his 11 batters and at least in the early going has been impressive. His ability to pitch more than one inning could help him jump back into the Dodgers’ bullpen picture.

"His role would be to kind of fit in the middle [ahead of] whoever you have setting up," Mattingly told Jackson. "He is a guy who is going to have to pitch multiple innings."

Also on the Web:

-- The Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth takes a great look at ex-Dodger Greg Goosen, whose death last week was almost typically overshadowed by that of Duke Snider’s passing.

-- In the New York Times, ex-Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca gives a moving first-person account of Snider and how he stood up for Jackie Robinson.

-- The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes that commissioner Bud Selig is again speaking volumes while refusing to comment on Frank McCourt’s ownership difficulties while aiding troubled Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

-- Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan profiles ace-in-the-making Clayton Kershaw, also taking another look at his off-season trip to Africa.

-- More from Passan: He writes that Dodgers reliever Travis Schlichting has the greatest mullet in the history of mankind, or at least baseball.

-- The Post-Gazette’s Ron Musselman writes that ex-Dodger James McDonald is thrilled to have a set role in the Pirates' rotation, where he is tentatively scheduled in the No. 3 spot.

-- TrueBlueLA’s Phil Gurnee profiles left-hander Scott Elbert, off to a slow start in Arizona.

-- More from LAT's Shaikin: Will the Dodgers let Matt Kemp run free on the bases this season, even if he’s the cleanup hitter?

-- Orange County Register travel editor Gary Warner takes a look a the Dodgers’ semi-new home in Phoenix and likes it.

-- The N.Y. Times' Ben Shpigel writes that catcher Russell Martin and right-hander Phil Hughes are bonding over their love of hockey.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ramon Troncoso in 2010. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

Dodgers Web musings: Ned Colletti sees a new urgency among Dodgers

Not that you could tell it by that offensive explosion to open the exhibition season, but it’s true, General Manager Ned Colletti is convinced the Dodgers are approaching this spring with a greater focus.

Colletti told ESPN’s Buster Olney there is a different feel to the way the Dodgers have approached spring this year.

"I think they've all taken on a new sense of urgency," said Colletti. "I've seen longer work, and more attention to detail."

That wasn’t always the case last spring. The Dodgers were less than thrilled with the effort some of their would-be stars put in at Arizona.

Humbling seasons, however, sometimes can have a positive impact.

Also on the Web:

-- The Times’ Dylan Hernandez profiles Juan Uribe, who said he was impressed with how the Dodgers pursued him before rejecting the Giants' late offer and coming to Los Angeles.

-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick talks to left-hander Ted Lilly, who says even at age 35, his hunger to win remains.

-- MikeSciosciasTragicIllness’s Mike Petriello thinks what appeared to be a pretty settled bullpen going into spring is suddenly looking uncertain.

-- ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson thinks partly because of that, Mike MacDougal has gone from longshot to a clear favorite to capture one of the three open spots.

-- OpinionofDaveKingmansPerformance’s Evan Bladh tries his hand at giving Dodgers lyrics to familiar songs.

Sample from "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" from "The Beverly Hillbillies":

Well now its time to say good by to Ned and all his kin.
Schmidt, Andruw, and Pierre thank him fer’ kindly droppin’ in.
We’re spectin’ that a change occurs with Dodger owner Frankie
To have a heapin helpin of a fed’ral bankruptcy

-- Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown has had it with Russell Martin’s excuse-making and lack of accountability for his downward spiral the last three years.

-- ESPN/LA’s Jon Weisman does a podcast, giving his overview of the Dodgers.

--The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta said Milton Bradley’s wife has accused him of spousal abuse in divorce papers.

-- ESPN/NY’s Adam Rubin said Mike Piazza is the latest ex-player to say he wants to purchase a team.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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