November 1, 2005
Frank McCourt has apparently listened to a lot of advisors in nearly two years as the Dodger owner. But he should have listened to perhaps the wisest of all baseball gurus … Yogi Berra.
Yogi once said … : “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
When McCourt closed the deal and took control of the team, that’s what he should have done … just watch … for about a year.
The 2003 Dodgers were winners but hadn’t made the playoffs … their seventh straight year without a playoff appearance. But general manager Dan Evans, who’d run the team for two seasons, was nearly finished clearing away some contract deadwood, and was assembling a team that might contend.
In December 2003, he dealt sore-armed and sore-headed pitcher Kevin Brown … and actually got some talent in return (Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban). He brought in outfielder Juan Encarnacion, and it only cost him a low-level minor league prospect to do it.
Evans added Olmedo Saenz and Jose Hernandez to a versatile bench that already included Jolbert Cabrera and Robin Ventura. He grabbed a hard-throwing righthander named Duaner Sanchez after Pittsburgh cut him loose. Evans took a flyer on pitcher Jose Lima. Maybe he could still pitch … and if he couldn’t, it wouldn't cost much to cut him loose.
The rest of team – Green, Lo Duca, Gagne, Beltre, Roberts, Cora, Izturis, Nomo, Ishii, Dreifort, Mota and some others – stayed in place. And for the most part, so did a crop of highly prized minor leaguers that would be the core of the Dodgers in 2007 and beyond.
That’s what Dan Evans put together heading into the 2004 season … a good but not great team, but one with a chance to win … with fewer payroll problems than the Dodgers had seen in years … and with a strong minor league system intact. And Evans had done it with front office spending hemmed in by money constraints as the team changed hands from Fox to Frank McCourt.
All McCourt had to do was take over the team … let Evans continue polishing the Dodgers for the arrival of those kids in the minors ... and do nothing. Just observe a lot by just watching.
McCourt quickly dismissed Evans … brought in Paul DePodesta … and as the team Evans largely assembled sailed into first place, DePodesta began taking it apart. Still, the Dodgers won the NL West title, and then came 2005 ... and you know the rest.
Now we’re back where we started … but with fans angry, players surly, McCourt sullied. Any of the candidates GM’s mentioned for the Dodger GM job – Pat Gillick, Gerry Hunsicker, Jim Bowden – will do a fine job of fixing the big league roster in a hurry … and, thank goodness, that crop of hot-shot minor leaguers is STILL intact ... even enhanced a little (not EVERYTHING DePodesta did turned sour).
Now all Frank McCourt has to do is hire one of the three GM candidates mentioned above, then do what Yogi says ... : Sit back and observe a lot just by watching. If McCourt can do that this time, we will all like what we see.
October 31, 2005
And Now What?
We're talking about the departure of Paul DePodesta today on TOTC. It was less than a month ago that we had the (now former) Dodger General Manager in studio. (And by the way, I owe my producers a lunch for landing the interview!)
Personally, I'd welcome the return of the scrappy, loveable Bobby Valentine to the Dodgers. I've always been a big fan of him on the field and in the dugout. And had the Dodgers not traded him to the Angels, he never would have caught his spikes in that awful fence and broken his leg in a hundred ways and ended his playing career. So coming back to the team closes the circle.
October 22, 2005
Houston in 7
I just had to get this in before the first game of the 2005 World Series started.
Why? Well, though I didn't post it here, I had the Angels and the Astros going to the World Series. And I would like to see a 7-game series with the possibility of Roger Clemens getting three starts to take the trophy home to Houston. And the Astros are a gritty team, not unlike the Angels of 2002, and not unlike their opponents in this series, although the White Sox have the ability of getting the long ball out of their 2-spot in the lineup as well as 7, 8 and 9, or at least in those games played in Chicago.
It will be interesting to see how White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen manages his lineup in the games in Houston. He's not so far removed from his days in Florida that he has forgotten how to deploy the National League kind of strategy, but it does likely put Carl Everett's dangerous bat on the bench, and in a tight game it could force him to remove his starting pitcher from a game, which is something he hasn't had to think about for a week.
I believe that the Chicago relief pitchers will show signs of rust at first, but they'll be in the fray and effective in short order. And I predict that either Roger Clemens or Roy Oswalt will be named the World Series MVP.
October 21, 2005
It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 'Til It's Over
Okay, it's over for the Angels and the Dodgers, but this will be a World Series worth watching, unlike last year's which looked like a good matchup on paper and ended in a Red Sox sweep.
And the off-season maneuvering promises to be interesting. Who wants to be the next Dodger manager? Will Manny and Johnny stay in Boston? Who will keep Joe company on the bench in Yankee Stadium? Does Brian Cashman finally escape the Evil Empire and find a less stressful job? Will a minority get hired to fill any of the prominent front office or bench openings?
Most important of all, who else out there thinks that Leo Mazzone leaving the Atlanta Braves for the Baltimore Orioles will be the most significant off-season move of the winter? While I'm sure that the Braves will find a suitable pitching coach to sit and rock next to Bobby Cox, I wonder if this will be the end at last to that sensational run of playoff appearances and division championships, the departure of the best pitching coach in all of baseball. This move alone may give Baltimore a leg up on signing Kevin Millwood, who is no longer the major talent he was when he first was traded from Atlanta to Philadelphia, but whose veteran presence made a difference to a young Cleveland Indians pitching staff. Rock on, Leo.
October 15, 2005
Right Where They Want Them
A sweep at home was a reach for the Angels. The Chicago White Sox put together the best road record in the major leagues this season, so if there was any surprise that they took one of the three games in Anaheim this weekend, it is that the one win came against the Angels' best remaining starter, John Lackey. Tonight's contest sees the Angels facing an old nemesis, Freddy Garcia, who has a career mark of 11-3 against the Halos, including a 6-1 record in Anaheim.
Los Angeles will send Ervin Santana to the hill in a situation that has become something of a weekly event for the rookie right-hander-- pitching the biggest game of his young career. Santana, who went 5-2 with a 4.06 ERA over the last month of the regular season, has compiled a 9-3 record at home, including a shutout of the White Sox way back in May, limiting opponents to a .233 batting average over 14 starts at Angels Stadium.
If this game were being played on the road, there would be good reason to be nervous, but I have a feeling that Santana will come up with a big game today-- seven innings, two runs or less-- before handing it off to the bullpen. The bigger question of where the Angels are going to find some offense might come from making minor adjustments, like starting José Molina, 7 for 15 against Garcia in his career and the Angels' best defensive catcher, and using Bengie Molina as the DH.
Mike Scioscia might also consider starting Jeff DaVanon in centerfield to give the Angels a hitter who has a more patient approach at the plate. But my hunch tells me that Vladimir Guerrero will finally make his presence felt in the postseason, and Santana's performance will energize the Angels to a win tonight and a big shift in the momentum of this series.
October 13, 2005
As awful as the umpiring was last night, there was one thing to admire: the careful restraint shown by Mike Scioscia. I watched him hustle out from the dugout to talk to the umpires and expected at any moment that he would explode in anger. But no. Long conversations. Careful reasoning. His anger was carefully kept in check.
What a great role model. We, too, should remember that life is a seven game series and one bad call does not mean the end of western civilization as we know it.
Meanwhile, want to vent a bit about the call? Blog away, Angel fans.
October 12, 2005
Slow News Day
There's not much to add to everything that has happened with the Angels in the past 26 hours. Well, there is this item from the Arizona Fall League.
And while the highest-paid starting pitchers for the Angels (Colon and Washburn) were non-factors in the series, you have to wonder if George Steinbrenner will stay awake at night cursing the $60 million he spent on a starting rotation of Johnson, Mussina, Brown, Pavano and Wright that produced one win in the 2005 postseason.
October 10, 2005
Which is more annoying? The misinformed national coverage that the Angels receive, or the inferiority complex that afflicts Angel fans?
As the Angels were giving up the lead to the Yankees in game four, Thom Brennaman, whose day job is as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks broadcasting team, referred to the "vaunted" Angels bullpen as the best in the American League. I suppose if Brennaman had not been spending so much time in the National League, he would have known that the Cleveland Indians, and not the Angels, had the best bullpen in the American League over the course of the regular season. And he would have been aware of the fact that the LA of A bullpen had only recently resembled its old self, and only because Kelvim Escobar had moved into the main setup role, moving Scot Shields down into Brendan Donnelly's old slot, and pushing Donnelly into limbo, where he belonged following a shaky post-all-star performance (3.95 ERA, .286 opponent's batting average, 1.50 walks+hits per inning pitched).
I guess when an announcer from Arizona can't stay up late enough to watch your games, it's asking too much from anybody east of the Mississippi to have a clue about your team.
October 3, 2005
The playoffs for both leagues are set and what a wild finish it was to get there with both the Red Sox and the Astros clinching wild card berths on the last day of the season. Don't know about anyone else, but I was hoping for 1 Game Playoffs between the Astros & Phillies and Red Sox & Indians to decide it. Oh well, here we are, so I though it would be a good time to post my predictions as to which teams will prevail in each series enroute to the World Series and which team will hoist the trophy as '05 Champions.
September 30, 2005
Struck a Chord?
I seem to have struck a chord regarding my choice for NL MVP. I have received quite a few comments for those making arguments for both Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and Derrick Lee of the Cubs. I thought I'd use this column to again state my case as to why Andruw Jones of the Braves should win the award. I'll begin by defining the award, which is given to the player who has been most valuable to his team and, more importantly, where would his team have finished without him in the line-up.