OK, it’s a continuing theme, albeit a two-day theme.
Yet it bears repeating, unfortunately. Two Los Angeles-area baseball teams, both suffering a disappointing season and now heading into the offseason from opposite directions.
The Angels have a mandate to return to their winning ways. Owner Arte Moreno told The Times’ Bill Plaschke he was angry over the team’s play and would spend what it takes to return his team to the postseason.
"If you want to continue to perform at the highest level, you have to keep building the business," Moreno said. "And that's what I intend to do."
What a concept. A team with commitment. A team with a plan.
This was in stark contrast to a story the previous day in The Times from T.J. Simers, chronicling how uncertain things are with the Dodgers’ offseason plans.
I almost felt sorry for Ned Colletti as Simers asked him about his ability to spend in the offseason, and the general manager was forced into a lot of I-don’t-know-yet responses about the Dodgers' financial resources.
One team is immediately letting it be known it will do whatever it takes to return to the top. The other is still foundering.
"We know where our weaknesses are, we know where we are thin, we know where we have to go to market," Moreno said. "It's going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we're committed to winning."
Also out there on the Web:
-- ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark's always entertaining season review has Dodger John Lindsey in the Debut of the Year. After waiting 16 years in the minors, Lindsey never actually played in his first official game.
-- The New York Times’ Dave Anderson talks to pitcher Carl Erskine on the 55th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beating the Yankees for their first World Series title.
-- SportsIllustrated.com’s Jon Heyman has a list of the 38 potential new managers to be hired his offseason and at No.1 is Joe Torre. Checking in at No. 26 is Tim Wallach, who Heyman said reportedly turned down an opportunity to interview in Toronto.
-- Congratulations to Kirk Gibson signing for two years with the Diamondbacks. Should be fun. Gibson told the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro he wants the team to improve in a variety of areas, from picking off opposing base-runners to deking defenders, and somehow transitioned into wanting his pitchers to be able to show bunt before pulling back to slash.
"If Todd Helton wants to come charging in there, he better be ready to hit the deck," Gibson said. "That's what I'm talking about."
-- Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth has served Frank and Jamie McCourt with a class-action divorce from the fans, demanding full custody of the Dodgers. Good stuff.
-- ESPN/LA.com’s Jon Weisman has teamed up with his staff’s creative people to offer a series of online postseason Dodgers baseball cards.
-- According to MLBtraderumors.com, the Dodgers will have the 16th pick in the June draft, one spot ahead of the Angels. Got ’em there!
-- The Riverside Press-Enterprise’s David Lassen warns that retooling the Dodgers will be a serious challenge, with Colletti saying there won’t be major roster revisions.
-- SportsIllustrated.com’s Joe Posnanski offers a terrific look at Vin Scully. Really well done.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue
OK, it’s a continuing theme, albeit a two-day theme.
This should be a no-brainer, right? As easy as hitting a Charlie Haeger fastball. Simple, logical … and far from a done deal?
Don Mattingly, rookie manager, needs a veteran presence as his bench coach. Mattingly said Monday he wants it to be someone with previous managerial experience.
Larry Bowa has managed both the Padres and Phillies. Figures he’s done all he can as a third base coach and would like to become the bench coach. Mattingly would like him to become that guy too.
Only so far, it hasn’t happened. So far, you should be nervous that it might not.
Understand, Mattingly is not being given free rein to select his own coaching staff. It’s a meeting-of-the-minds thing.
"We won't have anybody that he's not comfortable with or anybody that I'm not comfortable with," said General Manager Ned Colletti.
This is not an unusual arrangement, though I suspect not the preferred one by managers. Particularly young managers who will be keenly critiqued. Let them succeed or fail on their own, with their own staff.
But here, Mattingly essentially has to get approval for his coaches.
So why wouldn’t the Dodgers want Bowa back? One concern is, because he’s hurt Matt Kemp’s feelings. Or is it his silly agent, Dave Stewart? Or that he asks too much of the kids. You know, like playing hard.
"Baseball’s a funny game," Bowa said. "You get a reputation of being too tough, and a lot of general managers don’t want that, a real tough guy. I’m not tough, I’m fair. I’m real honest."
Earlier this season, Bowa said Kemp was an amazing talent who had yet to learn to play hard all the time. It was absolutely correct. Kemp even agreed. And yet, an uproar ensued.
"I didn’t get on anybody," Bowa said. "I said, 'Matt, you’ve got to play this game the right way.' Then he said in the paper, 'Larry’s right. I don’t run hard all the time.' I mean, if that makes you lose your job, maybe it’s time to move on somewhere. When I say something about a player, I’m trying to make him better."
Bob Schaefer spent the last three years as Joe Torre’s bench coach and said he won’t return. Schaefer, remember, confronted Kemp in the dugout over his continual failure to back up second base but never publicly criticized the outfielder.
Mariano Duncan, the Dodgers’ first base coach, is not expected back. Duncan said he’s been given permission to talk to other clubs, which is code for you won’t be retained. Duncan said if he can’t find another major league job, the Dodgers might have something in their minor-league system for him.
Rick Honeycutt could return as pitching coach and Jeff Pentland as hitting instructor. Tim Wallach, if he isn’t hired to manage in the majors, could become the hitting coach.
That still leaves room for a veteran, honest coach who respects the game. Who gives straight answers. Who has been through the wars.
"If they want me back, I’d be glad to come back," Bowa said. "Because I sort of consider this unfinished business. Even though we won the division, to me the ultimate thing is a ring."
I was talking to ex-Dodger Jay Johnstone a couple of weeks ago about the team, when without prompting, he suddenly said:
"You give me nine Larry Bowas and I’ll win the World Series every year."
Mattingly needs Bowa back. And so do the kids, even if they don’t realize it.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Dodgers' Web musings: This could be good for Tim Wallach -- USA Today reports over half of teams could be looking for new manager in offseason
Tim Wallach is primed and ready to become a major-league manager, but was passed over -- as it turned out, before the season began -- to become the next Dodgers manager.
But Wallach, the ex-Dodger who's spent the last two seasons managing the Dodgers' triple-A Albuquerque team, could find another team or two calling this offseason.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale estimates there could be as many as 16 teams looking for a new manager this offseason.
"It's going to be a circus," Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane told Nightengale.
Elsewhere on the Web:
-- The Dodgers may yet lose Wallach, but they will not be losing one of their assistant general managers to the Diamondbacks.
Both Logan White and DeJon Watson both received phone calls informing them that they had not made the finals of the Diamondback's search for a new general manager.
ESPN/LA.com's Tony Jackson gets a reaction from both.
-- The Riverside Press-Enterprise's David Lassen writes that newbie reliever Kenley Jensen, who was a catching prospect just over a year ago, has the makings of a closer.
-- Yahoosports.com's Tim Brown says that if the judge doesn't rule the Dodgers are jointly owned by both McCourts -- likely forcing a sale -- don't expect Major League Baseball to force a sale. Brown said MLB is stuck in a bed of its own making when it approved the highly leveraged purchase.
-- The New York Times' Bill Witz profiles Joshua Fisher, the 24-year-old University of Minnesota law student whose site DodgerDivorce.com has made him one of the go-to experts on the McCourts' divorce.
-- SportsIllustrated.com's Lee Jenkins writes that the last shred of dignity was peeled away from the Dodgers' facade when Torre resigned.
-- MikeSciociastragicillness.com wants to see 16-year minor-league vet John Lindsey get more playing time the last two weeks of the season.
-- ESPN/LA.com's Ramona Shelburne said that some may question Don Mattingly's hire as the next Dodgers manager because of his lack of experience, but no one should question his work ethic.
-- Steve Dilbeck
A done deal. Quietly, without announcement. Without a single other candidate. All very secretly.
Don Mattingly was going to be the next Dodgers manager before a single pitch was thrown this season, before the first player reported to spring training.
Major League Baseball knew, gave the Dodgers its stamp of approval, wished them all the best.
Tim Wallach never had a chance, but then neither did anyone else.
General Manager Ned Colletti said he told Joe Torre when he hired him, he wanted someone on his staff who could be his successor. And Torre pointed to Mattingly.
"Prior to last season we decided, 'OK, he would be the guy,'" Colletti said. "Cleveland has asked permission and Washington was asking permission, so there was somewhat of a clamor for him and it pushed us a little faster to come to a conclusion.
"He was somebody we had in mind since he first came here. I thought continuity was going to be important to us as an organization for a long time."
Of course, that was before the Dodgers morphed from a team on the cusp of the World Series to a team with a sub .500 record. And Mattingly, the hitting coach, saw his team become inept at the plate.
But none of that mattered, because they had their super-secret agreement signed and in place.
The Dodgers kept baseball apprised of their plans and of how they were grooming Mattingly. And baseball knew the Dodgers had a strong record in hiring minorities.
So when it came time to sign Mattingly, the Dodgers called MLB and were granted an exception to the rule requiring them to interview a minority candidate. A dog-and-pony show that would have served no one was avoided.
"We talked to Major League Baseball and told them what our thoughts were, and they gave us their blessing," Colletti said.
Mattingly said the contract was signed shortly before spring training.
"It was for hitting coach next year, just with language that eluded to if Joe stepped down," Mattingly said.
Which he did Friday, on to places unknown.
Earlier this month, Colletti told The Times that Mattingly was the leading candidate to succeed Torre. Guess so, since he already had a contract.
The Dodgers could have just told everyone what the deal was when the contract was signed. It’s hardly unheard of. What exactly would be the downside?
Instead, there was a lot of suspense for nothing. Well, maybe not a lot of suspense. It was always presumed Mattingly would be next. It just wasn’t presumed to have already happened.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Say what you want about the time spent here by Joe Torre or how qualified Don Mattingly is to take over as the Dodgers manager, one thing that comes out of Friday’s announcement is clear:
Say goodbye to Tim Wallach.
General manager Ned Colletti acknowledged to The Times' Kevin Baxter this month that if Mattingly became the next Dodgers’ manager, the organization probably would lose Wallach.
``I think the world of Tim. He's going to be a very good big league manager,’’ Colletti told Baxter.
Just not with the Dodgers.
Wallach had a few things going for him that Mattingly did not: He’s from the Los Angeles area, he’s a former Dodger and he has spent the last two years managing in the minors at the Dodgers’ triple-A Albuquerque club.
He was also, it should be noted, previously the Dodgers hitting instructor.
Still, there’s no reason to believe this was ever a fair fight. It’s long been assumed that Mattingly had been promised that he could succeed Torre when he followed him here from New York as the hitting instructor.
There probably was no debate at all; Mattingly simply was designated the heir from the beginning. Even as a groundswell for Wallach grew, Colletti told Baxter two weeks ago, ``At this point, Donnie is probably the leading candidate.’’
Mattingly may prove to be an excellent manager. You can’t hold a couple of early mistakes against him as a career indictment.
But the most qualified choice was Wallach. And, like Mike Scioscia before him, he will ultimately get his chance to manage in the majors with another organization.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Things are so bad for the Dodgers these days -- hey, I’m not even talking divorce court -- they’re almost as far out of the wild-card race (eight games) as the division lead (nine).
They are down and not getting up. Further evidence for the bleeding-blue faithful is offered by SI.com’s Tom Verducci, who wrote that since the formation of the eight-team playoff format, only one of baseball’s 112 teams made the postseason after starting Sept. 1 more than 3½ games out (the ’07 Rockies were five back).
Which immediately turns the mind to … next season.
And a pair of Dodgers beat writers already agree the main focus will be acquiring a major bat for the middle of the lineup. You know, like Manny Ramirez used to be.
-- ESPN/LA.com’s Tony Jackson thinks if they could figure out the middle problem now, they might even still have a shot at a miracle comeback.
-- Dodgers.com’ Ken Gurnick writes there is no one in the farm system the Dodgers can turn to for a middle-order bat, and history shows the more they spend on a free agent, the greater their failure.
Also on the Web:
-- The Boston Globes’ Nick Cafardo previews Manny’s latest return to Fenway on Friday by talking to Dodgers’ third base coach Larry Bowa, who among other things, said Manny went to manager Joe Torre in Colorado and said he didn’t think he could play its big outfield.
-- Foxsportswest.com’s Steve Lyons, also the Dodgers’ TV color commentator, has written the Dodgers off this season in a piece about Manny, saying he wasn’t worth the money but he’d do it all over again.
-- ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick is not convinced Don Mattingly is a lock to succeed Torre, and said Tim Wallach continues to garner fans managing in triple-A Albuquerque.
-- TrueBlueLA.com’s Eric Stephen gives a long look at James Loney and where the Dodgers should go from here with the first baseman.
-- Foxsports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi said the Arizona Diamondbacks not only want to interview Logan White for their general manager’s job, but his fellow Dodgers assistant general manager De Jon Watson.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Maybe love is lovelier the second time around.
The Dodgers and the Dukes -- check that -- the Isotopes have extended their triple-A partnership through the 2012 season, the teams announced Monday.
The Dodgers originally called Albuquerque home to the triple-A Dukes from 1972 to 2000. The Dodgers moved their triple-A club to Las Vegas the following season but returned to Albuquerque last year as the Isotopes.
Last season Tim Wallach guided the Dukes into the playoffs and was voted the Pacific Coast League manager of the year. This year the Isotopes are currently five games out.
"We are excited about extending our partnership with the Albuquerque Isotopes," De Jon Watson, Dodgers assistant general manager, said in a statement. "The partnership has been outstanding, the fan base has been great and we’re really excited to be reacquainted with our great fans in Albuquerque."
Tommy Lasorda managed the Dukes to the PCL title in their first year in Albuquerque in 1972. He joined the Dodgers as a third-base coach the following season.
-- Steve Dilbeck
His brother, Devon Ethier.
``He’s right-handed,’’ Andre said. ``He’s 5-11. Skinny. Pretty much every opposite.
``Quiet, doesn’t say a word. Listens. Doesn’t talk back. Everything you could be opposite, he’s opposite of me. I think the staff was glad to get an Ethier who won’t give them any problems.’’
Devon is a 6-foot, 160-pound pitcher/outfielder, 10 years younger than the 28-year-old Andre.
Andre said assistant general manager Logan White approached him earlier about the possibility of drafting his brother.
``Logan came up to be and asked me, and I said, `I’m sure he would be interested if he drafted him and it would be exciting for him and our family, especially for me,'’’ Andre said. "I never thought he’d get the chance to be in the same organization as me. He’s 10 years younger. It’s pretty neat.’’
Devon played at GateWay Community College in Phoenix, where he enjoyed modest success as a reliever (1-2, 4.70 ERA, 27 hits, 0 strikeouts in 23 innings) and outfielder (.315, 34 runs, 16 RBIs in 127 at-bats).
``He’s more about pitching,’’ Andre said. ``Hits low line drives, singles-type guy who gets on base. I think he’s has a decent stuff pitching, he just hasn’t really been coached well.
``It’s a thing where it’s a good opportunity for him to play pro ball and get a chance to experience it for a couple of years, and see where it takes him.’’
Andre said when he was drafted out of junior college, he was picked in the 36th round. After transferring to Arizona State, he was later selected in the second round.
The brothers spoke on the phone Wednesday morning after Devon had been selected. Andre said he hadn’t warned him it could be coming.
``He was caught off guard, shocked,’’ Andre said. ``I think it was the last thing he expected. I just let it be a surprise.’’
If the Dodgers think it’ll be a snap to sign Devon, they’d better be wary of his agent.
``I’ll do his negotiating,’’ Andre said. ``I know the ins-and-outs.’’
Continuing a baseball trend in this year’s draft, the Dodgers also kept it in the family by taking right-hander Chad Wallach in the 43rd round.
Son of triple-A Albuquerque manager and ex-Dodger, Tim Wallach, Chad completes the Wallach family affair. Brothers Matthew and Brett are already in the Dodgers' organization.
__ Steve Dilbeck
The spring afternoon was warm, but nothing unusual for Arizona. Nothing about the day or the individual could possibly portend what was about to happen.
Lenny Harris, the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch hitting instructor and baseball’s all-time pinch-hitter, was on a practice field throwing batting practice to a group of minor leaguers.
Just as he had done hundreds of times. Only this time, he suddenly fell to one knee and gripped his chest.
"I never had that kind of pain in my life," Harris said. "I didn’t know what was going on.’’
The batter he was pitching to was Matt Wallach, son of ex-Dodger Tim Wallach, now the manager at triple-A Albuquerque. Nearby were senior advisor of player development P.J. Carey and medical coordinator Jim Young.
"I remember the last kid I was throwing to was Tim Wallach’s son,’’ Harris said. "He asked me if I was OK and I said, 'No, my chest is hurting.’ And I remember hearing P.J.’s voice.
"Then my elbow started hurting a little bit more. The next thing you know, the trainer put me in a van and took me to the hospital. They’re telling me I had a heart attack and three hours later they’re saying I had clogged arteries."
Lenny Harris is 45 and just five years removed from his final playing season in the major leagues. He had just cleared a team physical, which included an EKG, four days earlier. He had no history of heart disease. No one in his family had heart trouble.
And he had a sudden, massive heart attack. The next day, March 26, doctors performed a triple bypass.
"I’m surprised I’m still alive,’’ Harris said. "I was fortunate to be right on the field in front of everyone. Usually when I get up and work out, there’s nobody on the street. I’m just running and jogging. I was lucky to be in spring training.
"Even right now, today, I’m still shocked about it. I never had any symptoms. I could run 2½ miles and not breathe hard or nothing. It was just amazing how it hit me. How it hit me all at one time.’’
Now, 11 weeks after his surgery, Harris is going back to work.
On Thursday he will report to the Dodgers’ training facility in Phoenix to start working with players selected in next week’s draft.
"For us to have him back in the field is exciting, mainly because he’s healthy more than anything,’’ said De Jon Watson, the team's assistant general manager of player development. "We miss having him around. His energy is tremendous. The kids miss him. They’re all asking about him.’’
Harris will sport a new souvenir -- "I have a beautiful zipper, man, right on my chest’’ -- and the same enthusiasm that endeared him to fans at Chavez Ravine while playing for the Dodgers for 4½ years.
He will also bring a new awareness of how random life can seem. Harris said that during a three-week period after his heart surgery, he lost three friends to a heart attack, including ex-Dodger Jose Lima.
"I thank God I’m still alive, because I went to three funerals for friends who never did get to have the surgery,’’ he said. "They died on the spot.’’
Watson said he’d just had lunch with Harris shortly before he returned to the field to resume practice not long before suffering his heart attack. Everything had seemed so routine.
"You look at Lenny and you’re not thinking he’s a sickly man,’’ Watson said. "You see how big and strong he is. He’s just recently off the field as a major league player. He has no history of heart disease in his family. There were no indicators this man was sick at all. We were all shocked.’’
Harris said he had continued to stay active after becoming a coach. He runs, works out, plays basketball. A deceiving picture of health.
"My friends were all surprised,’’ he said. "They see me working out all the time. They’re like, 'How can you have a heart attack? Every time I see you you’re running around Dade County.’ And I told them, it’s not how much you work. You can look like the healthiest guy in the world and have a heart attack.’’
Now Harris advises friends and family to have a stress test to evaluate their heart. He has resumed working out. He is back attacking life, if eating a tad more intelligently.
"Now I’m real cautious,’’ he said. "I’m really afraid of food. I drink so much juice and stuff. The doctor told me he wasn’t putting me on any kind of diet, 'I just cleaned your arteries. You’re good.’ And I was like, 'Are you sure?’ He made it sound like an oil change.’’
Quick answer: Not likely.
Right-hander Jon Link, who came over to the Dodgers in the off-season from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade, was brought up prior to Sunday’s game against the Giants.
Russ Ortiz was designated for assignment. Assuming he clears waivers, he could join Triple-A Albuquerque. Ortiz said if the organization had a specific role in mind for him that could get him back to the Dodgers, he might accept an Albuquerque assignment.
This figures as a brief stop for Link. Possibly extremely brief.
The Dodgers are expected to bring up left-handed reliever Hong-Chih Kuo on Tuesday when they start a nine-game road trip in Cincinnati. And they could add right-hander Ronald Belisario shortly.
This is the first major-league call-up for Link -- who led all minor leaguers in 2008 with 35 saves at Double-A Birmingham -- and he understands it might prove a short stay.
"It’s good to come up here and get my feet wet,’" Link said. "Whether I have to go back down or not.
"It’s a good opportunity for me to show what I can do when games matter … even if it is only a short period of time. The opportunity is there, and I’m going to take it and run with it.’’
Link appeared in six games for Albuquerque this season, going 1-1 with two saves in 4 1/3 innings of work. He struck out three, walked three and had a 6.23 ERA.
Link, 27, said he was home Saturday when he got the phone call every minor leaguer dreams of from Albuquerque manger Tim Wallach.
"I was at home, playing video games and talking to my wife," Link said. "Wally called and said, 'Why aren’t you here yet?' And I paused and thought to myself, 'Oh, boy, did I miss something? Was I late to the field? Was something going on I didn’t know about?’ And I said, 'I’ll be there in 10 minutes.'"And he said, 'OK, do you have your flight information with you?' And I said, 'What?' He said, 'You’re going to Los Angeles tonight.'
"The initial shock of it was, 'Wow.' It was really something else. It was everything I hoped it would be when I first got my phone call."
Ortiz, 35, made the 25-man roster during the spring after coming to camp as a non-roster invitee.
After a solid spring, however, he was inconsistent the first two weeks of the season. In six appearances, Ortiz was 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA. In seven innings, he allowed 10 hits and gave up five walks.
"I threw three innings that went terribly wrong, and I think I threw [four] innings that went really well," Ortiz said.
"I’m not going to just put on any uniform to put on a uniform. I love to compete. I love to win," he said, adding that anytime you're "let go it’s disappointing. This is my third time.
"What comes next, we’ll see. It’s kind of exciting but at the same time disappointing."
If the Dodgers are still interested in Ortiz, he could benefit from going down and trying to become more consistent. A very long season awaits and all things are possible.
-- Steve Dilbeck