2008 Dodgers preview: McCourting success
By Tracy Ringolsby
Mar 5, 10:47 am EST
For all the questions about Frank McCourt’s ownership in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have shown a willingness to spend money in the four years that the Boston parking-lot magnate has owned the team.
It has not, however, been well spent. I have to agree. Juan Pierre? Jason Schmidt? Esteban Loaiza? (though he will be our 5th starter. I think I'd rather see someone in there from the minors and save the money. But Loaiza should do well.)
This is a team that has led the N.L. West in payroll five of the last seven years – three of four under McCourt’s guidance – and has one division title to show for it. And like 82 injuries. While the GNATS can spend twice as much and they will never win anything. Congratulations, you were the worst team in the NL West last year. Here's hoping you spend wisely in the future so you can still be in last place.
The new leadership hasn’t stood still; it just hasn’t moved forward. So it went backwards?
The Dodgers are on their third general manager (Dan Evans to Paul DePodesta to Ned Colletti) and third manager (Jim Tracy to Grady Little to Joe Torre) in four years, but still trying to find a way to rebound from a fourth-place finish. They boast about the depth of their farm system – put together under the guidance of Evans, the first employee McCourt fired – but the Dodgers show virtually no confidence in the ability of the young players. This is true. We do have a young team though. Kemp, Martin, Loney, Bills, Broxton, Ethier, Laroche, Abreu, and Hu, are all under 25. The only guys on the team that can actually be called old are Nomar, Kent, and Sweeney. (I'm not going to include Schmidt. Not because he isn't old, he is. But more because he will be injured the length of the contract.)
As a result, they plopped down $44 million over five years a year ago to sign center fielder Juan Pierre, and then moaned about his lack of plate patience and arm strength, which certainly weren’t secrets around the league. ( As I recall the Giants were offering 3 years 30 million ) Then, this offseason, the Dodgers shelled out $36.2 million over two years for center fielder Andruw Jones, who’s coming off a season in which he hit a career-low .220, and moved Pierre to left field, which means runners can now go from first to third on singles to left. That's very good analysis Tracy. Are you a freaking investigator?
That’s not all. It isn't... no?
Trying to beef up the rotation, without giving any of the well-hyped arms in the system a chance, the Dodgers spent $47 million over three years two winters ago for free-agent righthander Jason Schmidt, whose history of arm ailments with the Giants should have been wellknown to the Dodgers in light of the fact that Colletti and trainer Stan Conte both came from San Francisco. Wooohooo Tracy.... You're really on the ball today. Who were those well hyped arms? Can you name any of them?
So why the shock when Schmidt, after six starts, a 1-4 record, 6.31 ERA and 25.2 innings pitched, ended up needing mid-June shoulder surgery? That setback left the Dodgers with a best-case scenario that he could be ready this spring. And when the Dodgers were in need of a starter while trying to hang on in the pennant race last year, they ignored potential help from within and put in a waiver claim for Esteban Loaiza, much to the glee of Oakland, which was able to unload the $7.85 million he is guaranteed this year. Who then was supposed to come in from the farm? WHO? Who was ready to excell from AAA? Can you name any of them?
After all that, surely the Dodgers are ready to give the young players a shot in 2008? Think again. The two main areas where veterans are possibly blocking youth are in left field and 3rd base. The 3rd base thing has kinda solved itself. And the left field debacle is well documented. Just not by you.
They not only went out and brought in Jones, but also gave a three-year, $35.3 million contract to Japanese righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who is coming off a 12-8, 3.56 ERA campaign with the Hiroshima Carp. He has looked really good. Lets not forget that the home stadium for the Hiroshima Carp has a center field wall that is 380 feet. 380!!!
The lack of respect for the organization’s prospects permeates the clubhouse, where the old and the new have wound up feuding, and it was a major factor in Torre being hired to replace Little as manager during the offseason. Oh boy... You are a "Mole". You know what Joe Torre does to Mole's? He squashes their grapes. Better wear a cup.
While the trademark pitching remains strong, the offense has sputtered without legitimate No. 3 and No. 4 hitters. The Dodgers ranked 10th in the N.L. last year with 735 runs scored and did nothing over the winter to give fans hope that they will be any more productive in 2008. Andruw Jones anyone? How about full time from Loney and Kemp who are known producers!
Los Angeles did exercise its option on power-pitching Brad Penny, who, for all his size and bravado, barely averaged more than six innings a start in 2007. And was 3rd in the Cy Young award.
He did, however, compile a 16-4 record, which was a tribute to the Dodger bullpen. Also back is Derek Lowe, who is 40-37 (with two losing seasons) in the first three years of his four-year, $36 million contract. What a sack of crap!!! I mean seriously!!! If a 3.65 ERA and a ERA+ of 120 is really that bad, consider that he GNATS have had no pitchers with his numbers over the last 3 years. Well, I guess if you include current Dodger Jason Schmidt then ok. If you're going to bag on the Dodgers, do it towards Juan Pierre.
Chad Billingsley, the expected No. 3 starter, is one prospect who has gotten a chance to shine. Then come Kuroda and Schmidt. Or Loaiza, since Schmidt will be on the DL come opening day.
The rotation’s depth? Since they’re still paying him, the Dodgers can always turn to Loaiza. At some point, though, they will be forced to give opportunities to the promising arms of Clayton Kershaw and Eric Cyr. As a noted Dodgers fan and having considerable knowledge of the current prospects, I find Tracy's understanding of the Dodgers organization to be fikle at best. Eric Cyr!?!?! No mention of James McDonald, Erik Stults, Greg Miller, Hong Chi Kuo, Justin Orenduff, Ramon Troncoso, Jon Meloan, Eric Hull even. This dummy goes with Eric Cyr?!
The saving grace has been the bullpen, where Takashi Saito, a setup man in Japan, has emerged as one of the most consistent closers in the big leagues over the last two years. He has quality setup men with the combination of righthanders Jonathan Broxton and Scott Proctor (a Torre favorite while with the Yankees), along with lefty Joe Beimel. Good. Nice work Tracy. Takashi was also a starter and closer when he played in Japan.
Catcher Russell Martin, one of the few Dodger prospects who has been given a chance to play, has emerged as an All-Star, providing major offensive punch with his ability to get clutch hits. Since we already mentioned James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsly, and Johnathen Broxton as Dodgers prospects that are currently playing. Lets not forget that Delwyn Young, Tony Abreu, and Andy Laroche have been given the chance to play. Andy has been injured as has Abreu. Young is likely to make the team in a utility role.
The Dodgers did create a spot for homegrown first baseman James Loney last year, but that meant moving Nomar Garciaparra, who was in the first season of a two-year, $18.5 million deal to return to the Dodgers, to third base. He will share time there this year with Andy LaRoche, who has shown only flashes of being able to handle the job. Congratulations Cheyenne, Wyoming... You have your very own Bill Plaschke. Chalk this up to the list of the growing stupid writers. If he keeps this up he will be given his own spot on the stupid level meter. So far we have Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver, Bill Plaschke, and waiting in the wings is super prospect Tracy Ringolsby.
Veteran Jeff Kent opted to return for another year at second base. Rest assured his welcome back won’t be joyous after he pouted in the final weeks of last season about the lack of respect the young players give the Dodger veterans. This has been a well documented cat fight that stupid azz reporters, such as yourself, have blown way out of proportion.
Rafael Furcal remains at shortstop, and he’s a shadow of the explosive table-setter who originally came up with the Braves. And was injured most of the year last year. Did you do any homework before writing this Tracy?
What gets the Dodgers in trouble is their lack of infield depth. Garciaparra is the primary third baseman, but also the alternate at first. Mark Sweeney anyone?
With Pierre in left and Jones in center, Matt Kemp, a target of Kent’s barbs last September, has the edge in right. The Dodgers don’t have much experience on a bench that includes one-time Oakland phenom Andre Ethier and oft-injured Jason Repko as the outfield backups. Woot!!! Looks like a friggin awesome team. With the exception of Pierre. I would rather have oft injured Jason Repko out there. Andre Ethier on the other hand is a proven player. He has all the makings of being a 5 tool player. If he was given full playing time he would hit 25 homers, bat 290, and play great defense.
Susan Slusser covers baseball for the San Francisco Chronicle. Actually the brilliant people over at Yahoo screwed this one up. Tracy Ringolsby wrote this. All he has to do is produce a few more articles like this and he will be inculded in the Hall of Shame along with Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver, and Steve Phillips.