Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Claudio Vargas signed

Veteran righty Claudio Vargas was signed yesterday to add depth to the Dodgers' rotation and compete for a possible starting rotation spot. The deal is only for a year and for the minimum $400,000, but could be bumped up more with incentives.

I can't help but think of last year when the Dodgers signed Chan Ho Park in very similar fashion and I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it was. Then he went out and appeared in 54 games with 5 starts, and posted a 4-4 record and 3.40 ERA. Obviously, a minor signing turned out to help them big time, and he was great pitching out of the bullpen and in spot starts.

So, maybe it can happen again with Vargas. And if any team can make it happen, it's the Dodgers. They've done it with guys like Jose Lima, Wilson Alvarez, and Park. From my fantasy baseball playing days, I know that Vargas was once a promising rookie with the Montreal Expos a few years back, but that never panned out.

With Brad Penny gone to the Red Sox and Derek Lowe probably to the Mets, the Dodgers have to try to replace them. Vargas won't set the world on fire, but like I've pointed out before, maybe the Dodgers can continue to rebuild broken down pitchers into getting a solid season out of them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dunn and Abreu are now targeted

With Manny Ramirez in some sort of a deep hibernation, the Dodgers are going forward and making overtures to other free agents. The 2 big names being floated around today are Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu.

First, let's look at both players. Dunn does 1 of 3 things each at bat: strike out, walk, or hit a home run. There's really not a whole lot else going on with him. He was 7th in all of baseball with 164 K's (Matt Kemp was right behind him with 153), 1st in walks with 122, and 2nd in homers with 40. I'm not sure there's any player in baseball with numbers as weird as those. If you can live with his K's and .236 AVG, then his OBP of .386 and power numbers are great.

Abreu is not the power hitter he once was, hence will not be someone to replace Ramirez. But, he still can drive in runs. For 6 straight seasons, he's been at nearly exactly the 100 mark. He did hit 20 homers last year after not getting to that mark for 2 straight seasons, so maybe he can get to that again. His walks used to top 100, but haven't in both seasons with the Yankees. Perhaps in the NL, he can be more patient again.

From the report I read on, it seems as if the Dodgers are more interested in Dunn, and less so in Abreu. Still, I can't blame them and certainly do commend them for reaching out and trying to make things happen while Manny takes his sweet time. And that's the right thing for the Dodgers to do. They can't just assume Manny will be back. What if he gets another offer and bolts to them? The Dodgers have every right and are only smart to be aggressive.

So what happens from here? If Manny is smart, he'll come to his senses and realize that the Dodgers are the only team that truly wants him back. If not, he could absolutely regret not signing with them.

Who would I rather have? I'm really mixed on this one. Dunn's power stats can't be denied. Getting 40 and 100 would be really sweet. Watching him get on base would also be nice. But, I think his K's would be hard to take on most nights. It's hard to believe that someone with as good an eye as him strikes out that much, but he does. If the Dodgers are slumping and he's K'ing all the time, he could take a lot of heat.

With Abreu, the Dodgers would have to remember that it's not the guy that won the Home Run Derby a few years back. He'll get hits, steal some bases, play good D, but won't be the power hitter of Manny. If fans understand that, it could work.

I guess I never really answered which one I'd rather have, but it's too hard to say. They won't do what Manny did down the stretch, but they both can help the Dodgers win in their own ways.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Around the NL West

Let's take a look at how the other teams in the NL West have fared this offseason...

Arizona Diamondbacks
The DBacks were in cruise control for most of last season until the Dodgers caught and passed them at the end. So far, they have not made a big splash, instead relying on their young stars that lead them to the NLCS in 2007 and into the last week of 2008 of being NL West champions.

They started off by resigning Jon Rauch, who gathered 18 saves in splitting the role with Brandon Lyon. Should Lyon not come back (he's been linked to the Twins), he and Chad Qualls could get their shot at closer. Augie Ojeda was resigned for a year to back up 2nd and SS. Felipe Lopez was signed to play 2nd after spending last season in Washington. He'll hit for a decent average but provide no power. Scott Schoeneweis was acquired from the Mets to get bullpen depth.

Randy Johnson was not retained, as they never really seemed to want him back. He recently signed with the Giants. Eric Byrnes is still with the team, though he's been rumored to go to the Red Sox.

Colorado Rockies
The Rocks went from NL champions to the forgotten child of baseball last season. With a core of solid, young players, the thought was that they'd take the next step in being a force. Instead, they tanked. And with that, changes have been made.

It all started on November 11 when Matt Holliday, a perennial All Star and stud hitter, was traded to the Oakland A's. In return, the Rockies received closer Huston Street, lefty starter Greg Smith, and blue chip outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The loss of Holliday is obviously huge, but they did get good talent in return. They must have thought the chances of signing Holliday to a long-term deal was slim, so they pulled the trigger.

Street closed 18 games last year, but he also blew 7. Still, he forms a nice combination with Manny Corpes for the end of games. Smith was 7-16 last year, but with a somewhat respectable 4.16 ERA. Gonzalez only hit .242 last year, but his upside is much better. With the departure of Willy Taveras to the Reds, his playing time will come.

The only other additions are lefties Alan Embree and Glendon Rusch. Embree will provide more bullpen depth and Rusch could provide starts when needed.

San Diego Padres

The Padres have probably made the most noise this offseason for a team that hasn't actually done anything. But the Jake Peavy saga just refuses to die. For a team that went from a favorite in the West to start last season to a complete joke by the end, they have a largely unchanged roster. Puzzling.

Peavy had been heavily rumored to go to the Cubs, but it just never happened. Lesser talk was also to the Braves and Dodgers, but with an asking price of too many prospects, both teams balked. The Pads really need to figure out what they want to do with him. At this point, they won't get the prospects they want, so if they truly do want to move him, they have to lower their demands a bit. So far, it hasn't happened.

The other signings haven't been that big of a deal. They reupped with Brian Giles, who had a nice bounce-back season last year with a .306 AVG and .398 OBP. Jody Gerut was also brought back, and he hit .296 in 100 games in centerfield. Luis Rodriguez will most likely return as the starting SS, a role he took over from Khalil Greene (who has moved on to the Cardinals). Rodriguez his .287 in 64 games.

Then there's the mystery of Trevor Hoffman, who despite being a franchise icon and career MLB leader in saves, was not offered a chance to come back. The Dodgers have talked about getting him, but there hasn't been much else. I suppose he could resign, but that does not seem too likely.

San Francisco Giants
The Giants started off the year looking old and lost, probably because they were old and lost. But, they have turned their roster over to a team that could be a sleeper in 2009.

Their rotation should be solid with the addition of Randy Johnson. He was 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 173 K's in 184 IP last season with the Diamondbacks. Teaming with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez will give the Giants good depth. If Johnson can somehow get anything out of Barry Zito, he should be signed as pitching coach as well.

The other big addition is SS Edgar Renteria, who will take over the role of Omar Vizquel, who looks to be as good as gone from the Bay. Renteria saw a big dip in his numbers last year with Detroit, but is clearly an offensive upgrade from Vizquel. The Giants still don't have a big, middle-of-the-order hitter, which is a concern.

The only other noteworthy additions are Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry. Affeldt had a 3.33 ERA in 74 games with the Reds last year, and Howry had his worst season in years with a 5.35 ERA in 72 games with the Cubs last year. If they're both on, it makes their pitching that much stronger.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Are the Dodgers Manny's only option?

With the New York Yankees putting a stranglehold on the rest of Major League Baseball by signing Mark Teixeira yesterday for a boatload of cash (like they always do...), Manny Ramirez may have just found his way back in Dodger blue by default.

The Dodgers are still officially the only team to have offered Manny a contract, which has since been pulled. It was for 2 years and $45 million with an option for a 3rd year. Thanks, but no thanks, was the response. He was still holding out hope for a much longer deal, ala the type of deals the Yankees gave to C.C. Sabathia and Teixeira.

The Angels and Mets have been been linked to him, but they have passed. The Angels say they're looking elsewhere, and the rumor in New York is that Omar Minaya can't talk ownership into going after him. The Yankees? Maybe even they can't afford to spend more money at this point.

So that leaves LA (the real LA team, not the one stealing the name in a cheap ploy to get more recognition). Now that leaves the Dodgers with another big question: do they really want him back?

It's obvious they're not going to throw long contracts out there, which is why they passed on all the big name stars. They have the money, but not the patience to sit through more could-be Juan Pierre/Jason Schmidt results. And let's not forget about the Andruw Jones debacle, but at least that's only a 2-year deal. For those reasons, I can't at all blame the Dodgers for their approach to go with short deals and continue to develop from within.

But there's the problem - building from within was getting them a .500 ballclub last season until Manny arrived. The rest is history. As Dodger fans, how could they accept anything other than bringing him back? Even by making their youth movement known to the world, it'd be a tough sell to the fans that they are really trying to win if they don't make another offer to him.

Of course, anything can change, as we've seen with both Teixeira and Rafael Furcal supposedly signing with one team only to go with another. But if the Dodgers truly are the only team left for Manny to go to, both sides really have no choice but to see #99 back in left field at Dodger Stadium.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The mailbag is back for this week, and here's the topics: if the Dodgers are going to make another offer to Manny, why they haven't entered the bidding for Mark Teixeira, compensation for Type-A free agents, salary amount committed for the upcoming season, if anyone will be on a World Baseball Classic team, and free agent pitchers they're interested in.

Read and be joyful.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Raffy is back in Dodger blue

After weeks of wavering and never really sure what was going to happen, Rafael Furcal has resigned with the Dodgers. This just a couple days after it looked as good as gold that he would go back home to the Atlanta Braves. It's been a weird few days.

So here's how everything has turned out. Two weeks ago, the Oakland A's were looking to give Furcal the magical 4th year he wanted, but for only $9 million (I say "only" as if that's chump change!). Probably not too willing to go to the A's, he declined saying that he thinks he's worth more.

Then a "mystery" team was thrown into the mix, which turned out to be the Braves. They wasted little time in supposedly getting him signed to a deal, but then the Dodgers were talked back into the mix. As I said on an earlier post, he must have not wanted to leave the Dodgers at all.

Now he's back in LA, but a compromise had to be reached. He wanted 4 years, the Dodgers wanted 2, so they settled on 3. It makes sense. I've seen that the deal is for either $30 or $33 million.

Since he is officially back (at least I think...), the Dodgers can now quit worrying about the leadoff spot and shortstop. What he can do hitting leadoff is anything from drop down a bunt to hit 15-20 homers. In the field, he has a cannon arm that is hard to match. It's obvious to see why he would have been very hard to replace.

Of course, that's all contingent on his health, which has been horrible the last couple of years. I guess it's worth rolling the dice on it, because when he's healthy, he's easily an All Star. Can he withstand a full season of good health? Just like any player, who knows. But it's worth the risk. With all due respect to guys like Orlando Cabrera and Jack Wilson, the Dodgers would have taken a hit if they lost Raffy and gained one of those guys.

Now that Raffy and Casey Blake are back, it's time to turn to Manny. For awhile, it looked as if it was just the Dodgers in the running, but of course the Yankees had to join the fun. So it looks to be down to those 2. Who's going to get him? That'll be the next big story.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Furcal thing is getting confusing...

It seems like everyday, there's a new "Rafael Furcal is on the verge of signing with..." rumor. Today it got even crazier.

"Sources" were spreading word that Furcal was about to sign with his old team, the Atlanta Braves, by today. The deal was something around 3 years/$30 million with an option for a 4th. Just like his signing with the Oakland A's a week or so ago, this was a done deal. Signed, sealed, and delivered. Furcal is as good as gone!

So of course that meant that this thing isn't done yet. Now comes word that nothing has been signed, and the Dodgers are still in the mix. The holdup, like it has been since day one, has been the amount of years desired (4) and the amount of years offered (2). And neither side appears to be budging from that.

My guess is that Raffy really doesn't want to leave LA, or he would have been gone already. He must be holding out every hope that the Dodgers kick in another year guaranteed, which doesn't seem like it'll happen. He must have some nice property near Dodger Stadium.

As always, I'll keep you posted...

Monday, December 15, 2008


A new mailbag has been posted, and here's what's going on: why Joe Beimel wasn't offered arbitration, if Dodger fans will turn their backs on their team, signing Mark Loretta over Nomar Garciaparra for the utility role, and who closes with Takashi Saito likely on his way out.

Read happily.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Manny and Furcal rumblings

Here's the latest word on 2 of the Dodgers' biggest free agents, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal:

Just when it looked like the Dodgers were the only team that really wanted Manny, the good old Yankees jump right in. If the Yanks lose out on Mark Teixeira (who was just offered an 8-year deal from the Angels), then they could turn to Manny to add that extra offensive thump. Manny and A-Rod hitting back-to-back? Wow, that could be scary. Scott Boras still wouldn't get his long-term deal; rather, it would be more like 3 years.

Furcal has not made any noise since turning down the A's offer of 4 years about a week ago. One agent claims the reason he did so is because he truly does not want to leave the Dodgers. The Dodgers are still holding firm that he won't get 4 years, but will get a bit less than that with provisions against injury in case that happens (again). If Raffy does leave, then it's down to signing Angel Berroa, Orlando Cabrera, or trading for Jack Wilson (a rumor that never seems to go away).

Saito's LA days likely done

The speculation came true, as the Dodgers have non-tendered Takashi Saito, officially making him a free agent. He's now eligible to sign with any team, including the Dodgers.

Based on the Elias Rankings, Saito is the best NL reliever of the past 2 years. But, his elbow injury suffered in the 2nd half of last season made the Dodgers not want to commit too much to him, obviously wary of his health and not wanting to sign damaged goods again, ala Jason Schmidt. It's unfortunate because Saito is brilliant when he's on, but that ship looks to have been sailed.

It's not like the Dodgers didn't offer a contract, because they did. They wanted him to sign for $2.5 million with incentives. Saito's people, however, wanted $3.5 million, which is the amount his value would have increased to had he been offered arbitration. I wonder if we'd even be having this conversation if he didn't look so atrocious in his playoff appearance against the Cubs. But he did, and here we are.

Where do the Dodgers go from here? With Saito highly unlikely to come back, Jonathan Broxton is now the closer. His stuff is fantastic, but I think there's still some hesitation to just hand the job over to him since he's been a big shaky at it in the past. Corey Wade had a great year, so he may get his chances as well. Hong-Chih Kuo would be an easy choice, but with his bad arm history, there's no way he can go out there day after day.

So, if you look at my previous post, that could leave the Dodgers making a run at Trevor Hoffman. Right about now, that looks like a good option. If anything, it gives them another option in the 'pen that can get the job done. I think the Dodgers should seriously consider making an offer to him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If Saito is out, Hoffman could be in

With Takashi Saito's status uncertain, the Dodgers could shift their focus to Trevor Hoffman, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.

Hoffman's contract situation with the San Diego Padres has been ugly to say the least. There's some definite bad blood going on there, despite the fact that he's the all-time saves leader. Their offer was for $4 million, but was yanked off the table for whatever reason. Weird.

The Dodgers have to decide if they want to roll the dice with Saito. He missed 2 months at the end of last season with an elbow injury, obviously a big deal for a pitcher. He tried to come back for the postseason, but was horrible in his only appearance against the Cubs (thankfully the Dodgers were up big). It sure looks like the Dodgers would rather release him and move on, not being fully convinced he'll have the same effectiveness that he had as a closer since 2006.

If Saito is indeed gone, then Hoffman is an interesting option. True, he's 41 and understandably doesn't have his best stuff he once had, but he's still pretty darn good. The start of last season didn't go so well, but he turned it around to go 30/34 in save opportunities.

If anything, he can be a mentor for Jonathan Broxton, as well as play a key role in the late innings, whether it's closing or not. I think it'd be worth a shot at a 1-year deal.

4 teams courting Furcal

With Casey Blake and Mark Loretta signed, and with C.C. Sabathia gone and Manny Ramirez taking his time in deciding what to do, the Dodgers are now focusing on retaining Rafael Furcal. The holdup is the same - he wants 4 years, and the Dodgers aren't willing to go that high.

At last check, Raffy is being pursued by 3 other teams as well: Oakland, Toronto, and Kansas City. I thought the ship had sailed as far as the A's were concerned considering he turned down their last offer of 4 years and about $9 million per. He got the years he wanted, just not the money. Smart of not, he's playing hardball and not backing down from what he thinks he deserves.

The Royals are looking to get rid of Jose Guillen and his remaining $24 million to make an offer. Their interest seems serious. I'm not sure about the Blue Jays other than they've thrown their hat in there, whether that serious or not.

The contract that the Dodgers have on the table right now is understandably incentive-laden. It's for 2 years with an option for a 3rd. Seems fair in my mind. Raffy is an electric player, but I think it's kind of hard to claim that he's so valuable when he only played in 36 games last year and was banged up in '07 as well, causing his numbers to take a big dip.

Should he decide to go elsewhere, all indications now are that the Dodgers will look to replace him in-house, with Angel Berroa being the leading candidate.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Manny and C.C. updates

A few quick notes on the 2 biggest free agents this offseason, Manny Ramirez and C.C. Sabathia...

The Dodgers and agent Scott Boras talked Monday night about Ramirez to see where each other stands. While there's definite interest on both sides, the Dodgers have not put their 2-year/$45 million deal back on the table. The story is still the same: Manny wants a long-term deal (believed to be a whopping 6 years), but the Dodgers will only go for 2 with an option for a 3rd. Talks should/will continue.

As for Sabathia, the Dodgers are certainly not the only team that are hot on his trails. In addition to the Brewers, Yankees, and Dodgers, there's also the Red Sox and Giants that have thrown their names into the giant hat of his. Hearing that he has verbally expressed his interest in LA, it's still an encouraging sign, even with more teams stepping up. Keep in mind, however, that the Dodgers have not officially made an offer, but stay tuned.

Blake on his way back to Dodgers

Casey Blake appears to be on his way back to the Dodgers, signing a 3-year/$17 million deal earlier today. After being acquired from the Cleveland Indians towards the trade deadline last year, Blake played a key role in pushing the Dodgers to the postseason.

There was plenty of doubt if any of the left side of the infield from the postseason would be back for 2009, but now it looks as if only Rafael Furcal is in limbo. Signing Blake gives the Dodgers the comfort of not having to make a trade for another 3rd baseman, such as an Adrian Beltre, and they can now focus on their other needs.

In 58 games with the Dodgers after the trade, Blake didn't exactly set the world on fire with a .251 AVG and .313 OBP. But, he's a career .264/.334 guy, so I expect him to pick up those numbers now that he's more familiar with the National League. Even more encouraging was his .985 fielding % in 56 starts at 3rd base - obviously a great number.

Depending on who is signed to beef up the offense (like that Manny guy), Blake will probably be about a 5-7 hitter, which is where he's most useful.

Mark Loretta the utility man

With Nomar Garciaparra on the verge of retirement thanks to his injuries finally getting the best of him, the Dodgers have found a perfect replacement to fill the utility role: Mark Loretta. Loretta was signed today for 1 year and $1.4 million.

Loretta has long been known as a solid hitter, as evidenced by his career .297 AVG and .361 OBP. He'll be entering his 16th season, and is capable of playing any of the infield positions. With the way the Dodgers cycle through injuries all year, he'll definitely get his playing time.

After peeking at .335 for San Diego in 2004, his average has settled down into the .280 range the last 4 seasons. For a bench player, that's fine. While he'll never be confused with a power hitter, he hit .330 against lefties last year. He also has a career .987 fielding %. Both are encouraging numbers for next season.

With 2 lefties starting on the right side of the infield (James Loney at 1st and Blake DeWitt at 2nd), Loretta will get chances in later innings with left-handed pitchers on the mound.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sabathia tells Colletti of interest coming to Dodgers

Take this for what it's worth, but GM Ned Colletti has said that C.C. Sabathia has told him he would like to play for the Dodgers. This conversation occurred during the Winter Meetings on Sunday.

There had already been reports that the Dodgers either have or were thinking of offering a huge deal for Sabathia (read a few posts back), but nothing really came of it... until now. For Colletti to flat out say that the ace free agent wants to come aboard, that would certainly be a good sign.

Still, will it happen? Well, I would think there's a definite chance of it. First, the Dodgers have lost Greg Maddux officially, and Derek Lowe and Brad Penny will soon be right behind. Two, Manny Ramirez never accepted the 2-year/$45 million deal he was offered before the start of free agency. Finally, Sabathia makes his home in Southern California, so if the money is there, he would seem to be more than willing to come.

We all know the Yankees are still hanging over his head, and with a deal like the one he was offered, it's no surprise. But if the Dodgers do step up, I think it's not out of the question that we all look forward to the big lefty on the mound Opening Day in Dodger blue.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Raffy says no to A's 4-year offer

In a bit of surprising news, free agent Rafael Furcal has rejected the Oakland A's offer of 4 years and anywhere between $35-$40 million. Despite getting the multi-year deal he was searching for, it still wasn't enough.

The holdup in this deal appears to be the money, as Raffy still feels he's worth more than the money they were offering him. The A's were certainly the leading contenders for him, even with Bobby Crosby as their shortstop right now. But, he's going to roll the dice once again that he can get a deal that matches the 3-year/$39 million deal the Dodgers gave to him.

2 other teams that appeared to be in the running, the Blue Jays and Cardinals, are also set at SS. The Blue Jays have John McDonald or Marco Scutaro, and are also not looking to spend more money. The Cardinals just recently traded for Khalil Greene from the San Diego Padres.

I guess there's something that the Furcal camp knows that the rest of us don't, because this left me scratching my head. I can't imagine another team giving him a 4-year offer considering how injury-prone he's been the last 2 years. Rejected the A's deal would seem to indicate to me that the years aren't the issue and that the money is.

The Dodgers can still come back with a similar structure of a deal that they want to give Manny Ramirez. It obviously won't come close to the dollar amount, but a short-term deal (maybe 2 years) for $12-$15 per? That could happen.

We know how electric he can be when he is healthy, and that's what he's banking on right now. But, the Dodgers of all teams know how risky it is to sign players who can immediately be decimated by injuries. The last thing they need is another Jason Schmidt or Andruw Jones type of result.

The rest of the winter will be an intriguing one for Raffy. Once Spring Training comes around, it will be real interesting to look back at this time and see if the A's deal was one he should have said yes to, or if he truly did make the smart move and not sign.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Andy Pettitte could fill a rotation spot

*** UPDATE ***
Maybe not. Joe Torre says that Pettitte's unlikely to come, and that his goal is to still be a Yankee. Nothing official has happened anywhere, though, so stay tuned.


With so much talk on who is leaving the rotation (Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux) and if guys like C.C. Sabathia and Randy Johnson will be offered deals, one name has emerged as a possible fit: Andy Pettitte.

Unless you know absolutely nothing about Joe Torre and Pettitte, then it's hardly worth mentioning the time those 2 spent together in New York. Take away Pettitte's 3 year stop in Houston, and Torre was his manager practically his whole career. Now that he's a free agent, a reunion seems like a good possibility.

Pettitte will turn 37 coming May, and he will be entering his 15th season in the Bigs. Last year with the Yankees, he was 14-14, 204 IP, 4.54 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 158 K. That's the highest ERA he's had since a 4.70 spot in 1999. On his career, he's at 3.89.

This could make sense for a few reasons. One, they need a damn pitcher! With likely only 3 guys returning to the rotation (Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Hiroki Kuroda), it would be nice to add another quality arm. Two, it would be great for young guys like Kershaw to learn from someone as good as Pettitte.

While his numbers dipped last year, I think a return to the National League would do him some good. Take away his injury-plagued 2004 season, and he had wins of 17 and 14 in '05 and '06 with the Astros. Pitching at Dodger Stadium and in the NL West against mediocre teams would be a nice fit.

So, chalk this up as another rumor for now (on top of all the others), but this does seem to have some legs underneath it. We shall see.


Here's another edition of the mailbag, with the free agency theme continuing. This week's topics are why the Dodgers are reluctant to sign Rafael Furcal for 4 years, what to do with Manny Ramirez, how free agents who left the team in the past have done, and who the top prospect would now be.

Here it is.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Billingsley takes a fall

In some freak news that broke over the weekend, Chad Billingsley was the victim of some bad weather by slipping on ice and breaking his left fibula in his home in Reading, Pennsylvania. He's already had surgery and the word right now is that he'll be fine for Spring Training. Phew...

This is just the latest bad news to his the Dodgers rotation since the end of the season. Derek Lowe won't be back, ditto for Brad Penny, and Greg Maddux looks like he'll returning. Thankfully, this happened before December started, so there will be plenty of time to heal before pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.

Here's a piece of advice for Bills... why the hell do you still live in Pennsylvania? Move to LA! Geez, I live in New York and I nearly slipped on my driveway just a little while ago going to my car. Maybe he'll rethink his offseason living arrangements after this.

I do feel badly for him, obviously for busting up his leg, but this is just the latest bad news to hit him since his season ended with a thud in the NLCS. He didn't do anything right in Game 2 or Game 5, and now he breaks his leg. Man, that's tough.

Let's not forget just how good of a season he did have, though. 16-10, 3.14 ERA, 201 K's. Despite the setbacks, hopefully he's primed to get even better next season. He definitely should have a chip on his shoulder after the way this season ended.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dodgers mull making their pitch to Sabathia

C.C. Sabathia is about to be a very, very rich man. Now all he needs to figure out is which coast he'd like to play on. For the Dodgers, they hope he makes Southern California not just his winter home, but his home year round.

Reports are surfacing that the Dodgers are considering offering Sabathia a 6-year deal worth $110 to $120 million. It's not quite the $140 the New York Yankees threw in his face, but still a pretty hefty chunk of change. It must be nice to be C.C. these days.

In addition to the Yankees and Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers still have their 5-year/$100 million offer out there. Plus, the San Francisco Giants are believed to be in the bidding. Gee, I bet they're still thrilled about that ridiculous contract Barry Zito signed a couple years ago. Ouch.

Sabathia could not have possibly had a better ending to his season, as he was practically unhittable with the Brewers to push them into the playoffs. True, he didn't look so hot in his only start against the Phillies, but it's hard to blame him considering how many innings he had to log just to get to that point. He proved just how dominant he can be.

So now the ball appears to be in his court. I should note that the Dodgers haven't officially made an offer like they did to Manny Ramirez. It's just a strong rumor, and one that appears to take place soon. There's no way both Sabathia and Manny will be signed together, so it may be a case of first come, first serve. And either way, you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Could The Big Unit land in LA?

The likely exits of Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, and Brad Penny may have opened up the door for Randy Johnson.

The Big Unit is suddenly available, all 45-years-old of him, after the Arizona Diamondbacks said they couldn't afford him anymore. What's a bit strange is that he offered to take a 50% pay cut from his $26 million contract (by my math... that makes $13 million) a year, but it still didn't work out. Seems to me that the DBacks just didn't want him anymore.

So, one team's loss is another team's gain. He's also been linked to the St. Louis Cardinals, and was to the Chicago Cubs, but that probably won't happen since they resigned Ryan Dempster today. It's possible it can come down to which team he likes more - the Dodgers or Cardinals. He probably can't go wrong either way.

Even though he's old and has a bad back, he still put up 30 starts last year, and posted good numbers: 11-10, 3.91 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 184 IP, 173 K, 44 BB. I'd take that. I think most fans would love to see what he could do with young Clayton Kershaw. Now that would be fun to watch.

If a deal can be reached for a 1-2 years, I'd go for it. He's obviously a hall of famer, and still looks like he's got some game left in him. Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Kershaw, and Johnson could be a nice rotation. We shall see.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Manny places 4th in NL MVP voting

The legendary 2 month run of Manny Ramirez was good enough to push him into 4th place in 2008 NL MVP voting. With 1 more vote, he would have tied for 3rd place (Ryan Braun). Not bad for a guy who could turn out to be basically a rental.

Give props to Albert Pujols, who won his 2nd in a row. Pujols deserved it, because... well, he's Albert Friggon' Pujols! The guy came into the season with bad right elbow that seemed like it could cut his season down. But, he produced monster numbers like he always does. Ryan Howard finished in 2nd.

Back to Manny, and it only goes to show just how huge of a run he had. If you're reading this, then you're most likely a Dodger fan anyway, so it's not like I need to ramble on about his impact. But if you're not, it's hard to accurately describe just how refreshing it was to see a player like that in blue. It's been a long time since Dodger fans have felt that good about an offensive player like that.

As of now, he's an ex-Dodger, as the contract offered by Ned Colletti after the season has been pulled. Time will tell if the love fest will continue or not.


Here's another edition of the Dodgers mailbag. This week the topics are the sense of signing Manny to a big deal and not plugging other holes with that money, why Gil Hodges isn't in the Hall of Fame, Andruw Jones being in horrible shape again this year and if that could void his contract, the plan for Scott Elbert, and the chances of Eric Stults starting next year.

Read and be happy about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Martin being shopped? Not so says Colletti

"We aren't trading Martin," he said. "I've never brought that up to anybody."

So says Dodgers GM Ned Colletti in response to certain media members claiming that Russell Martin is on the block.

I guess all it takes is one year of slipping numbers, and people start going crazy. Never mind the fact that Martin was once again an All-Star, his numbers went down this year, so trade him dammit! Come on people, lighten up.

As you can tell, I'm certainly not a fan of trading a guy who should be part of their nucleus for years to come. But to be objective, here's a look at his numbers the last 2 years:

2007: .293 AVG, .374 OBP, 87 R, 32 2B, 19 HR, 87 RBI, 67 BB, 21 SB
2008: .280 AVG, .385 OBP, 87 R, 25 2B, 13 HR, 69 RBI, 90 BB, 18 SB

Are his '08 numbers better? From a power standpoint, yes. From an on-base standpoint, no. To me, he should not be counted on as a power threat, but as someone who finds ways to get on base and move runners over. If that's how he should play, then he certainly did his job.

In my mind, what's made people sour on Martin is the NLCS in which things pretty much fell apart. After playing very well against the Cubs, he only went 2-17 with 7 K's against the Phillies. If you can recall, he was a victim of getting beaned a couple of times during that series, which may have completely thrown him of mentally considering how mad he got when that happened. If that's what the Phillies were trying to do, it worked.

But make no mistake about it, trading away Martin is not the way to go. His work ethic is incredible and he wants badly to win. If the Dodgers can finally get a backup catcher that is respectable enough to play 1-2 times a week to keep Martin fresh, then I expect him to play much better at the end of this upcoming season.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Manny's deal pulled, but talks ongoing

The window for the Dodgers to have exclusive rights to resigning Manny Ramirez has just expired. So too does the 2-year/$45 million deal that was offered that could have gone up to 3 and $60. No need to fret, my dear Dodger fans, talks will be ongoing.

Such is life when dealing with agent Scott Boras. The chances of Manny taking the deal after not checking out the rest of the league was very slim in the first place. Therefore, this is definitely not a surprise. After the torrid way that Manny finished this season, only an idiot wouldn't at least check out what everyone else has to say.

The biggest obstacle remains the length of the deal and not the money. Supposedly, he's still pushing for a 6-year deal, which is highly unlikely to happen, especially in the National League without the DH. And with the recent history of giving long-term contracts to injured goods (see Schmidt, Jason) or average players (see Pierre, Juan), the Dodgers are only being smart in looking at the short term.

I haven't seen many teams that want Manny, obviously because of the contract. But I have seen the Mets, Yankees, and Angels as the other teams. The Yankees are set to offer C.C. Sabathia a 6-year/$140 million deal (Holy S*&^*&!!!), so if that contract is signed, I would think even the Yankees would have to pull out of a run at Manny. If the Angels lose Mark Teixeira, then they could be all about getting Manny. The Mets could do it just to get that added boost to finally get over the hump and into the playoffs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First offer to Manny is on the table

Ned Colletti has wasted little time in getting to work on the Dodgers #1 offseason priority: resigning Manny Ramirez.

The first offer has been presented to Manny's agent, Scott Boras. I've seen 3 possible numbers: 3 years and $75 million, 2 years and $55 million, and 2 years and $45 million with an option for a 3rd. The first couple of offers were reported by the Los Angeles Times and the last one by ESPN's Tim Kurkjian.

What people need to remember is that this offer has very little to do with money, and mostly everything to do with years. I'm not at all surprised to see these offers heavy on money and low on years. Manny's 36 right now and his knees aren't what they used to be. It's simply not a good idea for a National League team (hence, no DH) to offer 5 or 6 years at this point.

Manny will likely get more offers, so don't look for this issue to be resolved anytime soon. And as a key free agent, Manny and his people absolutely should wait it out to see what else they can get, because he's obviously that much of an impact player.

Buckle up, because the Manny Watch will only get more interesting...

Say goodbye to Penny

Brad Penny's 2009 option was not picked up by the Dodgers, as they have instead bought him out for $2 million on Wednesday. Today, he officially filed for free agency.

While the Dodgers could have exercised his $9.25 million option for next season, I think they did the right thing in cutting ties with him. He came off of the consecutive All-Star Game appearances in '06 and '07, and was primed to lead the Dodgers' staff this season.

But, the wheels clearly fell off the bus. He started on Opening Day and beat the San Francisco Giants (well, I could have beat them too...), but everything went downhill soon after. Lingering shoulder problems meant 3 different trips to the DL, and he was not even close to the same pitcher as before.

In all, he finished at 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA. Ouch. His fastball didn't have nearly the pop it had in the past, and it was obvious he wasn't physically right. A history of arm problems doesn't exactly help his cause as he gets older.

The oddest thing about the end of the Penny Era in LA was the end of this season. For those of you that don't remember, he was apparently so angry about being left off the postseason roster that he flat out packed up his locker and left. And with that, he was not seen once during the playoffs. I remember Joe Torre saying at one point that it was a mutual decision, so who knows what really happened. But that was the icing on the cake.

With Penny gone, Greg Maddux to likely retire, and Derek Lowe probably gone as well, the Dodgers are left with a thin rotation. Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Clayton Kershaw are the top 3, with James McDonald and (don't laugh) Jason Schmidt possibly in the mix. They could use another stud to solidify the rotation.

Hmm..... C.C. Sabathia???

An 18th Gold glove... and a career?

It appears as if the long, glorious run of Greg Maddux may finally have to come an end.

A couple days before picking up his record 18th Gold Glove, Maddux has indicated through his agent Scott Boras that he intends to retire. While the move is not official, at age 42 and having spent 23 years in the Majors, it certainly seems as if it's the real deal.

First, a brief look at his numbers. Of course, they're unbelievable. He has a career 355-227 record with a ridiculous 3.18 ERA. He's officially 8th on the all-time wins list, which he barely got to last year by going 1 up on Roger Clemens. He's played with the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, and Dodgers.

There's not a whole lot left for him to accomplish. He's won 4 Cy Young awards and a World Series ring, to go along with the insane amount of Gold Glove awards. He's generally regarded as having perhaps the most pinpoint accuracy in the history of baseball. After tasting playoff success with the Dodgers this year, I'm not surprised to see him ride off into the sunset.

We'll all wait to see when Maddux will talk, as everything else is still speculation. I've read that the Dodgers would welcome him back to anchor the back end of their rotation, which I'm sure he could still do.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Free agency update

Add Chan Ho Park to list of names who have filed for free agency. He has stated that he wants to start again. After putting up a 3.40 ERA in 95.1 innings this year, I think some team will give him a shot, even in his mid 30's. I thought the signing was a joke at the time, but he really proved all doubters wrong. The problem is that he's never been good anywhere but LA, so if he does leave, he better be careful not to self-destruct again.

Here's the list of who has filed:
  • Manny Ramirez, OF
  • Derek Lowe, SP
  • Greg Maddux, SP
  • Casey Blake, 3B
  • Joe Beimel, RP
  • Nomar Garciaparra, INF
  • Jason Johnson, SP
  • Mark Sweeney, 1B/PH
  • Chan Ho Park, SP

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bunch of rumors to catch up on

The offseason is now officially in full swing, thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies defeating the Tampa Bay Rays last night to win the World Series. I'm glad the Phillies won and in dominating fashion, since it makes the Dodgers not look quite as bad now. It pains me to say this, but congrats to the Phillies on a great season.

Now it's time to look at a bunch of different news on the boys in blue, courtesy of
  • Russell Martin's numbers dipped this year, so there's again talk that he needs more rest. Expect a decent backup to be brought in. That may or may not mean re-upping Gary Bennett. My guess... no.
  • Ned Colletti and agent Scott Boras have not had much contact yet. Boras' clients include Derek Lowe, Andruw Jones, and Greg Maddux. Oh ya, and some Manny Ramirez guy.
  • There have been early talks with Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, and Casey Blake.
  • Jeff Kent will likely retire, ending his great career.
  • A top starting pitcher is likely to be acquired, whether that be C.C. Sabathia or resigning Lowe.
  • Jake Peavy is probably not likely only because the Padres would want way too much in return.
  • Both Brad Penny and Takashi Saito are question marks.
  • While Juan Pierre and Jones have talked about being traded, neither has formally said that to the club.
As usual, lots of decisions on the table. This is already getting very interesting.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Another week of mailbag questions, centered around the resigning of "you know who." The topics are a timetable for signing Manny Ramirez, why the club hasn't given up on Jason Schmidt, why Russell Martin and Andre Ethier are eligible for salary arbitration, what Kim Ng does for the Dodgers, and Tony Abreu's health.

Read and become smarter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Berroa's option declined

The Dodgers have declined to exercise the $5.5 million option for Angel Berroa, choosing instead to buy him out at $500,000. Well, it's the Kansas City Royals who end up paying, his former team. For some reason, the Dodgers have the uncanny ability to trade for players without paying a penny of their contracts. Go figure.

He still belongs to the Dodgers, as he is salary arbitration eligible. Or, he could be non-tendered in December, then re-signed. The minimum he could be signed for is $2.85 million.

When he first came to the Dodgers, I thought he was the worst player on Earth. That's pretty much because he played like the worst player on Earth. But I'll give him plenty of credit - he was a key component of their turnaround in September by taking over full-time duties at shortstop. His hitting improved to be a good threat at the bottom of the order, and his defense was solid.

I think the key for him as far as rejoining the Dodgers is Rafael Furcal. If Raffy is back, he may seek out other teams to see if he can be a starter, and I wouldn't blame him. If there's no interest, I think he should be brought back more as an insurance policy and defensive replacement. There's definitely value to him.


The offseason means the return of a weekly mailbag (at least I hope... some weeks can be slow). This week's topics are whether Manny Ramirez is worth a huge contract, how Jason Schmidt is feeling, if Juan Pierre will be traded, and the coaching staff returning next season.

Here you are.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Let the Jake Peavy sweepstakes begin

It's common knowledge that this offseason will be a busy one for the Dodgers. Not only do they have the dilemma of bringing back Manny Ramirez (and at what cost?), but there's also C.C. Sabathia, who will demand top dollar as well. Now comes reports that the San Diego Padres are shopping ace Jake Peavy, and the Dodgers are on his list.

Peavy himself named 5 teams in which he'd be open to go to. Those teams are the Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Cubs, and Dodgers. Obviously, all are National League teams, and among the top tier as far as making a postseason run. Can't blame him for naming those teams.

Like any other trade of a superstar, there's 2 things that stand in the way: a huge contract and willingness to deal away top prospects. Thus far, the word is that the Padres have not heard the names they'd like to hear, so no deal is close. I could add another element, and that's Peavy's no-trade clause. He holds the key in all of this.

If the Dodgers do make a run, I'm sure they'd have to part with a couple of their Major League-ready prospects. Matt Kemp's name will be thrown around (because it always is), and probably Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald. All 3 of those guys have boat loads of talent, so getting rid of them would be tough.

I gotta be honest thought - I would be most open to moving Kemp. I just can't quite understand the guy. One second he's brilliant, the next second he looks completely uninterested. His inconsistency is his own worst enemy, and it caught up to him in the playoffs when he did absolutely nothing against the Phillies. A package of Kemp and maybe a younger prospect, and it would be an intriguing deal.

As for Kershaw and McDonald, I'd leave them alone. There's just WAY too much talent for both of them. And since one is a lefty and the other a righty, the rotation can be that much better for years to come.

I'm not sure how likely it is Peavy will be gone, but just him naming the Dodgers is a reason for optimism.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pierre wants to be traded

I guess this news shouldn't come as a surprise, but Juan Pierre has asked the Dodgers to trade him this offseason. The reason is pretty cut and dry: playing time. He used to have it, and he wants it again. With the Dodgers, that may be hard to come by.

I can't blame him, and I don't think any Dodger fans should either. Let's look at the facts. He signed a 5-year, $44 million contract for 2007, in which he proceeded to hit .293 with 96 runs and 64 stolen bases. Those numbers look pretty darn good, but there was a flip side. His OBP was only .331, which is way too low for a leadoff hitter. Plus, he was the center fielder with a weak arm, pretty much forcing teams to take extra bases on him. That got old fast.

The Dodgers needed pop coming into 2008, so they signed Andruw Jones. Well, we all know what a complete joke that turned out to be. But, with the emergence of Andre Ethier in Spring Training, Pierre was the odd man out with Matt Kemp already being in right. At the time, he was unhappy, and who could blame him? When Jones flopped worse than the XFL, Manny Ramirez was acquired, and the rest is history.

To Pierre's credit, I believe he has handled his demotion with as much class as possible. When he was given the start in Game 4 of NLCS, Joe Torre commented about how hard Pierre still worked each day, all to stay ready. That game, he played very well with a 2-3 night including a double. That was good to see.

The problem now is that he still has 3 years and $28.5 million left on his contract. Is that easy to trade? Uh, no. Plus, if Manny isn't brought back, the Dodgers would like to have Pierre still on the team as insurance. However, if the right deal comes along, then I can see him being moved. Time will tell.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Phillies leave no doubt as they win the NLCS

It took all of one at-bat to realize that the Philadelphia Phillies were destined to go to the World Series.

And it took another bunch of runners left on base for the Dodgers to realize that they had opportunities, but pretty much blew it each time.

Game 5 of the NLCS belonged to the Phillies for the entire game, as they cruised to a 5-1 victory, punching their ticket to the World Series. Cole Hamels was just awesome, and even when runners did reach base, the Dodgers resorted to their old ways of failing miserably when it came to driving them in.

It's hard to imagine just what in the hell happened to Chad Billingsley, but he was atrocious once again. For someone that had a 3.14 ERA in the regular season and pitched brilliantly in Game 2 of the NLDS in Chicago, everything fell apart. We all know about his bad performance in Game 2 (and his whining afterwards), so this start was huge for him. He got up 0-2 on Jimmy Rollins, ran the count to 3-2, then threw a fastball that was smoked out to right. The crowd was dead already, and this gave them even more reason to just sit on their hands. Ugh.

A double play from Chase Utley helped out Billingsley in the 1st, and only 1 run was scored. It got worse in the 3rd. Jimmy Rollins walked and stole 2nd, but there were 2 outs. It didn't matter as Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had RBI singles to go up 3-0. After an intentional pass to Shane F'n Victorino, that was it for Bills, finishing with 2.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. Chan Ho Park relieved and thankfully kept the game close when Pedro Feliz grounded out.

It's not like the Dodgers were getting killed, it just felt that way. But going into the 5th, it was 3-0 Phillies. The crowd would periodically pick it up a little, and there was a glimmer of hope that with Greg Maddux on the mound pitching well, something could happen.

Well, something did happen. Rafael Furcal had the worst inning of his life.

3, count 'em, THREE errors later by Furcal, and the Phillies went up 3-0. In fact, 2 errors were on 1 play where he booted a would-be double play ball, then made a horrendous throw home that scored another run. Then Carlos Ruiz grounded one to him with 2 outs, but the throw to 1st was in the dirt, scoring another. Much like Billingsley, I never thought I'd see Raffy just mentally be taken out of the game like that. Wow, I really did feel badly for him.

The game was virtually over then, but Casey Blake and Matt Kemp did single to open the bottom of the 5th, so it got somewhat interesting again. Then Blake DeWitt grounded into ANOTHER double play, and Jeff Kent struck out. That was DeWitt's 2nd DP of the game, and he just looked totally fried after that. I know the announcers thought it was weird that Joe Torre pulled him, but I think it was the right call. He was just completely done at that point, why risk making it even worse?

I'm sure nobody was shocked to see who provided the lone highlight of the night - Manny Ramirez. He was the only one to tag Hamels as he hit a solo shot into right to make it 5-1. The Dodgers were so inspired by that that they... did a big pile of nothing from that point on. Manny's last AB was a single up the middle in the 8th, a fitting end to a spectacular postseason. This October, he finished at a .520 AVG, .667 OBP, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 11 BB. Unreal numbers.

For all of the big hits the Dodgers got against the Cubs, it just wasn't happening this round. Take away both Manny Ramirez and all of Game 3, and their offense was downright embarrassing. Time and time again chances were blown with runners on. It's hard to believe just how lousy they were in those opportunities, but they were. And that's why they're on the outside looking in.

As poorly as the NLCS ended, nobody should lose sight on the fact that this was a great run from September on. They were easily one of the hottest teams in baseball over that span, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Manny was obviously a key factor in all of that, but the pitching staff was on fire as well. It really was a great time to be a Dodger fan.

This coming offseason will be HUGE for them, as there are a ton of decisions to be made. I can't recall the last time the Dodgers faced so many decisions like this, so it will be an interesting ride over the winter. There will be plenty of discussion not only about resigning Manny, but guys like Derek Lowe and Furcal, too. In my mind, the Dodgers will either look nearly the same or completely different from their postseason roster. It will be great to watch it all unfold.

For now, I'll salute the Dodgers for a great end of the season, including their first postseason series win in 20 years. Hopefully this will be the foundation for even more success in 2009.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Does Juan Pierre deserve another start?

One thing that I failed to mention in my game recap of Game 4 was the play of Juan Pierre. He got the start in center field over Matt Kemp after Kemp had gone 5-24 with only 1 RBI in the postseason. On the whole, I thought Pierre played very well.

Batting in the #8 spot, Pierre was in a spot where he wasn't too pressured to get on base like he would hitting leadoff or #2. His first AB he singled with 1 down. He was then easily thrown out trying to steal 2nd with Derek Lowe up. I don't know if it was a failed hit and run because Lowe swung and missed or if he just got a bad jump, but it was kind of weird how much he was out by.

His 2nd AB he lined out to 3rd, but then came right back in the 6th and doubled, which came right after Casey Blake's solo homer. Too bad both Andre Ethier and Russell Martin came up empty trying to drive him in, which goes along with my "they were not clutch" theme from last night.

I know it's easy to rip on Pierre, but it was good to see him get in there and play well. Kemp pretty much played his way to the bench, so I was glad to see Joe Torre make the switch. I know Kemp has all the tools to be a great player, but he's looked overmatched in both series. It was a good move.

Now the question is if it will happen again in Game 5. The Phillies are starting their lefty stud, Cole Hamels. The regular season stats for both men vs. lefties is pretty close: Kemp - .369, Pierre - .346. Will Torre stay with the man who went 2-3 with a run scored in his only start, or go with the man who has more power potential?

To give my 2 cents, I think I would rather see Pierre in there. In 375 AB's this year, he only struck out 24 times. Kemp has struggled much more with striking out, so that's a big plus for Pierre. I would much rather see the person who puts the ball in play then someone who has 9 K's in 25 AB's this postseason.

Bullpen falters in 8th as Phillies take a 3-1 lead

Where do I even begin with this?

In what seemed like a near certainty late in Game 4 of the NLCS, the Dodgers went from being a few outs away of tying the series to getting pounded in no time. The Phillies made big swings when they needed to, and took over late for the win, 7-5. It's now 3-1 in favor of the Phillies, who are a game away from the World Series.

It was an up and down battle for the Dodgers from the very first batter of the game, starting with Jimmy Rollins' single. Jayson Werth singled, and Chase Utley doubled home a run. Ryan Howard had an RBI groundout, and while Derek Lowe was tossing a water cooler and ripping up his jersey, the Dodgers were down 2-0.

The bottom of the 1st would bring some noise for the Dodgers, but it would also signify an alarming trend that might have meant more to losing than the bullpen did. James Loney launched a 2-out double that scored Rafael Furcal to get back a run. Actually, it was mere feet from leaving the yard. But, with Manny Ramirez on 3rd and Loney on 2nd, Blake DeWitt lined out to end the inning.

And that would only be the beginning of not coming through in the clutch. In all, 12 men were left on base, and that would bite them in the end.

In fact, with the exception of the 4th and 9th innings, the Dodgers had realistic chances to put up a few runs in each inning. And more often than not, they failed miserably. Yes, they scored 5 runs, which isn't that bad, but it could have been so much better. Time and time again, runners were left stranded as another opportunity was blown.

It all boiled down to the same old problem the Dodgers have had the last couple of months when they lose: anybody not named Manny Ramirez cannot get a big hit.

To be fair, Rafael Furcal played great again, but he's a leadoff hitter and obviously not in an RBI position. The only big hits I can think of (except for Manny, of course), was the double by Loney and a solo shot by Casey Blake in the 6th, which initially gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. Manny is great, but not even he can win the NLCS by himself. He needs help.

Poor Blake DeWitt will have better nights, but last night was one he'd like to soon forget. He left 2 in the 1st on a lineout, 2 in the 3rd on a flyout, and 2 in the 5th on a double play. He was bad, but Russell Martin, hitting cleanup, was worse. In all, he left 8 men on base, including lining into a big double play to end the 6th in which the Dodgers could have extended their 5-3 lead. Oh ya, he was also 0-5.

The focus on this game will undoubtedly be if Joe Torre mishandled the bullpen in the 8th, but I don't know. I mean, if I was told Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade, and Jonathan Broxton would be in the game late with a lead of 2, I would have been all for it. I couldn't help but think at the end of the night that their youth finally showed. They're great pitchers, but inexperienced. Maybe the bright lights and big stage finally got to them.

I know people think Broxton should have come on in the 8th with 1 down, but I know that Wade has been fantastic all year. There's always that hindsight being 20/20 thing, so I guess Broxton should have been in. I just think it's unfair to only point at Torre for blowing the game. If the anybody other than Manny could come through in the clutch with runners on, then it would be 2-2 right now.

So now all the Dodgers can do is go out and win 3 straight, which they can do. Is it probable? Eh, not really, but it is possible. Win the next one in LA, take Game 6, and all of the pressure is on Philly for Game 7. It can happen.

Chad Billingsley has a huge start coming up. I can't imagine he's the most popular guy in the clubhouse after his sorry performance from Game 2. Not only did he refuse to retaliate after Brett Myers threw one behind Manny, but then he blamed his poor play on "pitch selection," more or less calling out Martin. He absolutely needs to step up and be the man. There's no other way around it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Big start carries Dodgers in heated game

The Dodgers rode a big, 5-run 1st inning to easily cruise past the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS, 7-2. The lead for the Phillies is now 2-1, but the biggest news of the game was not the result, but the near brawl that ensued in the 3rd inning.

First, let's backtrack just a bit. In the 1st, Russell Martin was beaned on a pitch from Jamie Moyer in the left leg that would load the bases. Clay Condry eventually relieved and brushed back Martin with a pitch high and tight. That appeared to be the last straw.

With the game comfortably in hand at 6-1 in the 3rd, Hiroki Kuroda sent a message himself by throwing one over the head of Shane "Hit me in the ribs, not the head!" Victorino with 2 down. Nothing happened then except for Victorino's whining, but after he grounded out, more words were exchanged. The benches were emptied, and Manny Ramirez had to be restrained. I say they should have let him go and watched him fight Ryan Howard. Now that would be fun!

Warnings were issued, but nothing happened the rest of the night. Martin was actually beaned again later in the game, but on a breaking ball by Chad Durbin, which did not at all seem intentional. This series has suddenly become very interesting.

As far as the game goes, the Dodgers used a patient approach to tee off of Jamie Moyer, who looked downright pathetic. I know he's had success this year, but you have to wonder how. I can't imagine any hitter would be scared of facing him.

To open the bottom of the 1st, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier singled. Manny came up and singled home Furcal, and runners were on 2nd and 3rd. That's when Martin was beaned for the first time to load 'em up. Nomar Garciaparra, playing for James Loney, struck out looking for 1 down. Casey Blake barely singled into right to score Ethier and keep the bases loaded.

Matt Kemp was up next, and needing a big at-bat after doing pretty much nothing in the first 2 games, promptly K'd looking. But don't fear, Blake DeWitt continued his amazing season by clearing the bases with a triple, and pretty much putting the game away at the same time. The other 2 runs were scored on a solo shot by Raffy in the 2nd and an RBI single by Nomar in the 4th.

The other story (besides the near brawl and DeWitt's triple) was Kuroda's great start. He finished at 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. He ran into some trouble in the 7th when Chase Utley doubled and Howard singled, followed by an RBI bloop single by Pat Burrell. That chased Kuroda, but Cory Wade came on and shut down the Phillies for 2 innings. Just like DeWitt, Wade has come out of nowhere and been huge just when the Dodgers have needed him most.

Back to Kuroda, and it was great to see him look so comfortable in a big situation, just like against the Cubs. It should be noted, however, that if he does start again, it'll be Game 6 in Philadelphia. His ERA is similar from home and the road (3.68 and 3.78, respectively), but his WHIP tells a different story: 1.08 at home, 1.34 on the road. Hopefully with 2 great starts already this October, he can ride his hot streak for a big road start.

Today's game sees Derek Lowe going on three days' rest against Joe Blanton. Losing the first 2 games pretty much gave Joe Torre no choice but to turn to Lowe, which is the right move. Plus, no lefties were used last night, so Hong-Chih Kuo, Joe Beimel, and Clayton Kershaw are all ready to go. Blanton won the clinching game in Milwaukee, so he's not to be taken lightly.

Today's game could very well determine how the rest of the series will go. Can the Dodgers hit well again today, or will the Phillies make a statement to end this thing early?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nomar in today, Lowe goes Game 4

A couple of notes about the next couple of games. First, Joe Torre has announced that Nomar Garciaparra will get the start today based on previous success off of Jamie Moyer. Where he'll be remains a mystery. It'll either be at 1st base in place of James Loney or over at 3rd base for Casey Blake.

My gut instinct tells me that Loney will be the odd man out. I'm not sure I can see Casey Blake getting benched after they traded for him during the season and have counted on his bat. Thus far, Loney is 3-7 while Blake is 1-7.

In other news, Derek Lowe is officially the Game 4 starter. Not surprising at all there, especially since no matter what happens tonight, the Dodgers will still be in a hole. Had the first 2 games gone to the Dodgers, it may have been a different story.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back to LA down 0-2

Game 2 of the NLCS saw something very similar to Game 1: an early lead for the Dodgers. This time, it was an RBI groundout by Blake DeWitt that scored Andre Ethier, and the Dodgers were feeling good.

2 innings and 8 runs given up later, and it's another dud in Philly.

The Phillies rode the wave of 6, 2-out RBI's en route to an 8-5 win and a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. It all started in the bottom of the 2nd, and right after Chad Billingsley struck out both Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth. What seemed like an innocent single by Greg Dobbs started a string of 5 straight hits, including an RBI by Brett Myers, that gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Want to know what else is funny about that inning? Ryan Howard K'd to end it. So Burrell, Werth, and Howard all K'd, yet everyone else got on base. Weird.

The 3rd inning started with the Dodgers trying to claw back, as both Russell Martin and Ethier walked. With 2 down, James Loney singled up the middle to cut the lead in half at 4-2. Matt Kemp reached on an error at 3rd by Dobbs, and the bases were juiced. Too bad DeWitt looked overmatched and struck out swinging to end the threat.

I don't know what it was about Billingsley, but he was just awful. The bases were quickly loaded in the bottom of the 3rd after only 3 batters, but they did get a forceout at home for 1 down. Brett Freakin' Myers then doubled down the right field line to score 2, and the game was pretty much over from that point. Shane Victorino added a 2-run triple for good measure. The never ending inning saw 4 pitchers total in Billingsley, Chan Ho Park, Joe Beimel, and James McDonald.

At that point, with the Dodgers down 8-2 and the game taking forever, I felt like I was watching an American League game. So much for the National League being about pitching and faster games. Not yesterday.

I know the Dodgers of earlier in the year would've rolled over and played dead, but these guys have 1 extra special ingredient these days - Manny Ramirez. And it was Manny, after taking a strange pitch that sailed behind him in the 1st inning, that launched a 3-run shot that just got out in left to make the score 8-5. And it was even sweeter watching him talking trash to Myers from the dugout.

I guess the hitters from both teams ran out of gas at that point, because from the bottom of the 4th on there was no scoring. Starting in the 6th, the Phillies used their strong bullpen of Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge to finish it off. Lidge was his usual up-and-down self, walking Manny and Loney, but K'ing Ethier, Kemp, and Nomar Garciaparra on some nasty changeups.

Like I said before, Billingsley was both awful during the game, and after it. During it, he went 2.1 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Obviously he was hurt in the 2nd when he couldn't get his team off the field with 2 outs. After the game, he blamed his poor outing on "pitch selection," which would seem to imply that Martin called a lousy game. Look, I can understand being pissed about getting pounded, but blaming Martin made him look very selfish. If you don't like the pitch, can't you just shake it off? Let's hope that was just the frustration of losing talking.

Giving up 8 runs in 2 innings is not exactly a blueprint for success in the postseason, but I'll be somewhat positive and look for what went right. McDonald was simply fantastic out of the 'pen, pitching 3.1 innings of shutout ball, K'ing 5. You could see what sort of nasty stuff he has, so look out for him in the future. Damn, his changeup was sick.

And then we saw the Manny Ramirez factor. His presence alone just turns this whole team around. The 3-run shot got them back in the game, and each time he's up, you can just sense that something big could happen.

So now it's off to LA for Games 3-5. Hiroki Kuroda gets the call against Jamie Moyer. Moyer gets by on people thinking that he's too old, pitching too slow, and is too easy to hit around. Because of those reasons, he continually fools hitters and gets outs. The Dodgers can hit him, but can't fall into the trap that every at-bat will be a home run.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quick lineup notes for Game 2

Just a quick look at today's lineup. A couple of changes have been made, and they match what the lineup was for the series against the Cubs:

1. Rafael Furcal - SS
2. Russell Martin - C
3. Manny Ramirez - LF
4. Andre Ethier - RF
5. James Loney - 1B
6. Matt Kemp - CF
7. Blake DeWitt - 2B
8. Casey Blake - 3B
9. Chad Billingsley - P

This reflects the Phillies starting right-handed Brett Myers. It worked against the Cubs for 3 straight, hopefully it works again today.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Utley and Burrell power Phillies in Game 1

The Dodgers found themselves with a 2-0 lead going into the 6th inning, and were in clear control from the start. Derek Lowe was shaky in the 5th, but managed to get Jimmy Rollins to fly out to left to strand 2 and end the inning. All the Dodgers needed was possibly one more inning of solid pitching to get through this one.

Unfortunately for LA, it didn't happen.

The Dodgers suffered their first playoff blemish in 4 games as the Phillies took Game 1 of the NLCS, 3-2. Lowe was good, but Cole Hamels was just a bit better, and homers by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell in the 5th proved to be the difference.

The game started off promisingly enough for the Dodgers, as they got on the board right away. Andre Ethier doubled with 1 down in the 1st. Manny Ramirez then unloaded on a long double to dead center that just barely missed being a 2-run homer. It still was plenty deep enough to score Ethier, and it was 1-0.

The lead was increased to 2-0 in the 4th, and it all started with a ground rule double by Matt Kemp that just hopped inside the foul line and into the crowd in right. Casey Blake grounded out to get Kemp over to 3rd, and Blake DeWitt came through with a sac-fly RBI to get the lead of 2.

As I said before, Lowe had another good outing, just not quite good enough. He was dealing through 4, but seemed to have trouble with his stuff in the 5th. That's when he stranded 2 on Rollins' flyout to left, so no damage done. But in the 6th, he must have hit a wall, because Utley uncorked a 2-run shot, and Burrell lined a no-doubter 2 hitters later for the lead, which would never go away.

While the homers were legit, I can't help but wonder what kind of an inning the 6th would have been had it not been for Rafael Furcal's throwing error to start. Shane Victorino hit a soft grounded to short, and Raffy rushed his throw, which was high and off of James Loney's glove, allowing Victorino to go to 2nd. It's too bad that the game might have been lost on that one play, but in a tight, 1-run game, that's how it goes.

On the night, Lowe finished at 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Not bad, but it's the 6th that made it look ordinary. Compare that to Hamels' line of 7 innings, 2 runs, and 8 K's, and Hamels lived up to his hype. When that changeup is dancing like it was tonight, there's little that the Dodgers' hitters can do. It's just that good.

Being down 1-0 certainly isn't the end of the line, especially in a 7 game series. Here's what the Dodgers need to do to turn this thing around. First, someone other than Manny needs to step up. He was 2-4, and except for Ethier's 2-4, nobody else really stood out. The guys at the bottom of the order of Loney, Kemp, Blake, and DeWitt went 2-14 with 1 run and 1 RBI. That's just not going to get it done.

Two, they can't give away outs like Furcal did tonight. The Phillies are notorious for being a streaky hitting team. They were doing jack squat all game until they were given an extra out in the 5th. You know how that turned out.

Finally, now that Hamels is out of the way, they need to take advantage of their superior starting pitching at this point. And it all starts with Chad Billingsley on Friday afternoon. He just has to pitch like he has all year long, and they should be fine. Against the Cubs he was lights-out. Another big start would tie this series up at 1 and bring it back to LA for 3. It can happen.

It's official: Kuo's in and Saito's out

Hong-Chih Kuo has been declared good to go for the NLCS, and he's been added to the 25-man roster. That also means that someone had to get booted off, and that man is Takashi Saito. James McDonald still stays, as does the rest of the roster from the NLDS.

I talked about the possibility of this move yesterday, so just go back a couple of posts to read. If Saito looked that bad, then I suppose it's a good thing that this move was made. Well, Kuo absolutely needed to be added, but it's still somewhat surprising that Saito wasn't even good enough to beat out McDonald. Those must have been some horrible side sessions.

The chances of Kuo appearing in back-to-back games are probably slim, much like it was during the year. Having him there is good enough, so the Dodgers will take what they can get.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nomar could be at 1st base in Game 1

I just posted about what the lineup should look like for Game 1 of the NLCS tomorrow night. I also speculated about James Loney and Matt Kemp swapping spots in the order due to the lefty Cole Hamels going for the Phillies. What I didn't consider was that Nomar Garciaparra could start at 1st base.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, that could indeed happen. With someone who has stuff as nasty as Hamels, it's probably a good idea to get another righty in there. Nomar hasn't started a game yet, but that had more to do with the Dodgers' offense being hot and facing righty starters all 3 games against the Cubs.

So if Nomar does start, look for him to be in the #5 spot right in front of Kemp.

By the way, Rosenthal picks the Dodgers in 7. I've always like that guy.

Lineup notes for Game 1

Joe Torre has indicated that he will be juggling his lineup a bit for Game 1 of the NLCS against Cole Hamels. While the Dodgers only faced righties against the Cubs in Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Rich Harden, the Phillies will have Hamels and Jamie Moyer on the other side of the mound.

Here's what the lineup should look like Thursday night:

1. Rafael Furcal - SS
2. Andre Ethier - RF
3. Manny Ramirez - LF
4. Russell Martin - C
5. James Loney - 1B
6. Matt Kemp - CF
7. Casey Blake - 2B
8. Blake DeWitt - 3B
9. Derek Lowe - P

I have to also wonder if Kemp and Loney will switch spots. Torre didn't say anything about that, so maybe not. Loney definitely had the better Division Series, as his grand slam turned the whole series around. Kemp never really got on track, gathering 2 hits, but both were doubles at least.

As far as the starting rotation goes, it will remain unchanged from the last series. Lowe goes first, followed by Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. Game 4 will be interesting. It could be Lowe on 3 days' rest, Clayton Kershaw, or Greg Maddux. I would cross Maddux off the list because I don't think he matches up well against that lineup. Kershaw could get the start if the Dodgers have the series lead and if he hasn't been used all that much. Or, Lowe could go, especially if the Dodgers are losing and need a win.

Kuo's return could bump Saito

All signs point to a thumb's up for the return of Hong-Chih Kuo to the active 25-man roster for the NLCS, which is definitely a good thing. The flip side is that Takashi Saito may have just pitched himself out of the postseason.

With Kuo ready, Saito's horrible bullpen sessions look to have earned him a ticket to the bench for this round of the playoffs. Combine that with his awful appearance against the Cubs in Game 2 (3 batters, 3 hits for those of you that have forgotten), and I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised.

It's really too bad that Saito may be the odd man out, because when he's on, he's just as good a closer as anybody else. Unfortunately, after missing 2 months with a partially torn elbow ligament, I guess it would be asking too much to have him close out games in the playoffs like the Saito of old. It's just not going to happen. And that's the reality. The good news for him is that there's still the World Series to get to if the Dodgers are good enough, so he can always get added back on. Rest and rehabilitation worked for Kuo, it can work for him as well.

If Saito is able to convince the powers that be from tonight to tomorrow morning that he can get big hitters out, look for Kuo to replace youngster James McDonald, who has yet to appear in the postseason.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kuo aiming for NLCS comeback

The Philadelphia Phillies are sporting 2 of the studliest lefty hitters in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in all of Major League Baseball. What's the best way to counteract that? Good lefty pitching.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they might just have gotten their main gun back just in time.

Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a simulated inning of 4 hitters and 19 pitchers Tuesday morning in Dodger Stadium, and reported no discomfort. He used all of his pitches and looked to be in full command. That's just what Dodger fans (and management) have been waiting to see. And it could not have possibly come at a better time.

The real test will be on Wednesday to see if Kuo has any soreness from pitching the day before. If he does, then the situation gets that much more dicey. Hopefully he'll be just fine and ready to attack the Phillies' hitters.

One more reason to get excited over Kuo's possible appearance? He gave up only 1 hit in 5 scoreless innings against the Phillies this year, picking up a save along the way. Yup, I hope he's ready.

NLCS schedule

Game 1 - Thursday, Oct. 9 in Philadelphia, 8:22 ET
Game 2 - Friday, Oct. 10 in Philadelphia, 4:35 ET
Game 3 - Sunday, Oct. 12 in LA, 8:22 ET
Game 4 - Monday, Oct. 13 in LA, 8:22 ET
Game 5 (if nec.) - Wednesday, Oct. 15 in LA, 8:22 ET
Game 6 (if nec.) - Friday, Oct. 17 in Philadelphia, 8:22 ET
Game 7 (if nec.) - Saturday, Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, 8:22 ET

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An early look at the NLCS

Here's a bit of a breakdown of the NLCS between the Dodgers and the Phillies. Basically, it's a battle between the Dodgers right-handed starting pitchers vs. the Phillies' lefty bats, and the Phillies left-handed starting pitchers vs. the Dodgers' righty bats. It also gives a good look at possible late game matchups, such as Joe Beimel against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Check it out.

Final numbers for the NLDS

Here is the final tally for the Divisional Series against the Cubs. They should be fun to read considering the Dodgers WON IN A SWEEP. HA!


Russell Martin - C
4-13, .333 AVG, .467 OBP, 2 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB

James Loney - 1B
3-14, .214 AVG, .214 OBP, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI

Blake DeWitt - 2B
3-11, .273 AVG, .273 OBP, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI

Rafael Furcal - SS
4-12, .333 AVG, .467 OBP, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB

Casey Blake - 3B
3-11, .273 AVG, .333 OBP, 2 R, 2 RBI

Manny Ramirez - LF
5-10, .500 AVG, .643 OBP, 5 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB

Matt Kemp - CF
2-13, .154 AVG, .154 OBP, 2 2B, 1 RBI

Andre Ethier - LF
1-10, .100 AVG, .357 OBP, 2 R, 4 BB


Derek Lowe - SP
1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

Chad Billingsley - SP
1-0, 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Hiroki Kuroda - SP
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Jonathan Broxton - RP
1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Cory Wade - RP
2.45 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Greg Maddux - RP
0.00 ERA, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Takashi Saito - RP
INF ERA, 0.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Dodgers vs. Phillies in the NLCS

The Philadelphia Phillies just got done wrapping up a 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, winning that series 3-1. As a result, the Dodgers will start off on the road once again, traveling to Philly in the best of 7 series. Game 1 is Thursday night at 8 ET on Fox.

Much more on this series to come in the next few days.

A sweep and a berth in the NLCS!!!

So much for this finally being the year the Chicago Cubs broke their curse.

If you were to listen to all of the so-called "experts" before this series, you would not have thought the Dodgers even belonged on the same field as the Cubs. Turns out, it was the opposite. The Dodgers survived a close one last night in Dodger Stadium to hold off the Cubs and sweep the NLDS by a score of 3-1.

The game featured a pretty good pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda against Rich Harden. Kuroda had been great against the Cubs in 2 starts this year, which included a complete game shutout at home. Harden was acquired by the Cubs for reasons like this - to give the Cubs a boost just when they needed it.

Harden wasn't that bad, but his rough first inning set the tone for the rest of the night. After Kuroda stranded a couple, the Dodgers went to work. Rafael Furcal popped up to 3rd to start things off, but Russell Martin hit his first of 2 doubles. Manny Ramirez found a hole to sneak a single by, and Martin barely beat the throw to 3rd. James Loney continued his amazing play with a double to score both for the 2-0 lead.

The Cubs must have thought it would be another long night, but to their credit, they kept battling back. 2 innings in a row (3rd and 4th), they would put 2 men on base, but could never get that 1 big hit that would have boosted them. Instead, they looked like they were all trying to hit the ball to the moon with 2 outs, where the Dodgers' approach to the plate was much more disciplined. And that was your difference these 3 games.

In the 5th, the Dodgers tacked on another run when Martin doubled home Furcal, who had walked. That run would prove to be big as the game would get tight later. Having more than a 1 run cushion was key in the Dodgers' bullpen relaxing and getting tough outs when they needed them in my mind.

The Cubs once again had chances in the 7th to score, but came up empty. Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome singled to chase Kuroda for Cory Wade. Alfonso Soriano, who was just plain awful at the plate all series, flew out, and Mike Fontenot lined out to Matt Kemp. That was a close one, as Kemp had to reach back to make the catch going backwards.

Up 3-0 in the 8th, the Cubs finally made a little noise, as Darryl Ward's pinch-hit single scored Derek Lee with 2 down. Jonathan Broxton came in and blew away Mark DeRosa in perhaps the biggest at-bat of the year for both teams. Broxton continued to bring the heat to put the Cubs down in order in the 9th, ending with a K of Soriano as the party was on.

The big first inning as a nice lift for the Dodgers, but their pitching was what won this game. Kuroda, in his first postseason start of his career, including Japan, went 6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. Like Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley before him, he was brilliant. Constantly getting ahead of the hitters, he let his stuff take over. Wade gave up a run in 1.1 innings, but still pitched well. Broxton just blew away all 4 hitters in his path. Consistent, big pitching all around.

The top of the order of Raffy, Martin, and Manny got on base 7 times, which was just like the other 2 games. Their ability to get timely hits set the stage all series. Unlike the heart of the Cubs' order, the Dodgers were able to drive them home with clutch hits. The Cubs - not so much. I guess scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs really helped the Dodgers relax and just play ball. Contrast that to the Cubs constantly hearing about all of that "curse" talk, and they wilted under pressure.

So with another party in LA, they now get plenty of time to soak it up, rest, and get ready for the National League Championship Series against either the Philadelphia Phillies or Milwaukee Brewers. That could easily go 5, as the Brewers looked rejuvenated at home. Game 1 will be Thursday night either in Philadelphia or home against Milwaukee. At this point, I'm not sure who'd I'd rather see. Both have great offenses, with a slight edge in my mind to the Phillies. But facing C.C. Sabathia would be scary, even if he was off the other day. The Phillies are deeper in their rotation, so that's a tough call. Hopefully they'll beat each other up for 5 games.

Dodger fans, enjoy the moment, and be thirsty for more!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Saito says he's A-OK

I just saw a report on the Division Series by ESPN's Pedro Gomez that Takashi Saito claims his right elbow is just fine. That's been in question since last night when he faced 3 batters in the 9th with a 10-1 lead, and promptly gave up 3 hard hit balls before getting yanked. So, eyebrows are understandably raised.

Look, it's not like he gave up hits to some scrubs. Getting lit up by Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and even Mark DeRosa isn't exactly out of the ordinary. What hurts Saito is that the first 17 innings of Games 1 and 2 have been FLAWLESS by the Dodgers. Anything negative gets highlighted even more.

Even though Jonathan Broxton has pitched the last 2 games, I would think he'll be the one closing out the game if need be on Saturday night. That's how lousy Saito looked. If the guy says he's fine, then I guess everyone needs to take his word for it. But, Broxton is clearly more prepared to assume the closer's role at this point. That seems the most logical solution to me, and probably many others as well...

So of course, about a few minutes after I wrote this, Joe Torre gave word that he's not ready to give up on Saito in the 9th just yet. I'm not surprised, and would somewhat agree that it's not the right thing to do to totally give up on him. Still, if it's a one run game in the 9th with the heart of the Cubs order due up, who would you rather see in right now? I gotta go with Broxton.

Dodgers throttle Cubs to take 2-0 lead

One swing by Russell Martin, and Dodger fans are starting to believe that this team is for real.

Even with the best record in the National League and home-field advantage, the Chicago Cubs have looked helpless the first 2 games, as the Dodgers took Game 2, 10-3. Up 2-0 in the best of 5 series, it now shifts to Los Angeles this weekend.

The game started off promising enough for the Cubs, much like Game 1. Carlos Zambrano was on the mound chomping away at his gum, and he K'd Manny Ramirez to end the 1st. Alfonso Soriano led off the bottom of 1st with a single off of Chad Billingsley, and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. The heart of the order was due up for the Cubs, and things were looking good.

Too bad for them, that was as good as it would get.

Billingsley bared down to K Ryan Theriot and Derek Lee, then got Aramis Ramirez on a fly ball to center. Bills never looked back, finishing the night at 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. For a guy making his first postseason start, he was as calm and cool as could be. Man, what a warrior he was out there.

The real fun started in the 2nd on consecutive singles by Andre Ethier and James Loney. After Matt Kemp struck out looking, the Cubs' defense just fell apart. An error by Mark DeRosa at 2nd allowed Ethier to score, and Derek Lee's error on Casey Blake's grounder loaded 'em up. Bills struck out (probably a good thing considering it wasn't a double play). Rafael Furcal then had the perfect bunt between the pitcher and 2nd to score another.

With the bases loaded and 2 down again, Martin unloaded on a scorcher to the gap in left and center to empty the bases, and in effect put the game away early at 5-0.

As Bills was dealing, more runs were tacked on from the 5th inning on. Manny hit another bomb; Kemp doubled home Manny; and Raffy, Manny, and Blake all had RBI singles. Needless to say, their whole lineup was clicking in every way possible.

It was an odd feeling for sure after the game, as it's been since the great 1988 team since they've looked this good in October. Throw in the fact that it's on the road against a loaded team, and it's just crazy to think that the Dodgers have won the first 2 games by a combined score of 17-5.

Seriously, is this the Dodgers I'm watching? Wow!

The whole offense was terrific again, as each position starter contributed to scoring 10 runs in some way. In the bullpen, Cory Wade continued his remarkable season, throwing 1.1 hitless innings. I remember when he came up, he had a reputation of throwing strikes. Who would have thought he'd have this much of an impact? Probably not even himself.

About the only negative of this game was the 9th when Takashi Saito came in. Quite frankly, he looked awful. 3 hitters faced, and the results were 2 doubles and a single. Jonathan Broxton came in and perhaps cemented himself as the only closer this postseason. He walked Felix Pie, but got Geovany Sota to line-out to 2nd, and struck out Kosuke Fukudome and Darryl Ward to end the game. As the announcers accurately said, it was a sloppy inning. But being up that much, it made no difference.

So now the scene is set in LA for perhaps a major upset. Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound against Rich Harden. Kuroda absolutely deserves to get the start, as he's shown the ability to shut teams down. However, there's also the starts in which he gets bombed, so we shall see which side of him shows up.

For Harden, it's the same old story today as it's been his whole career. When he's on, he's frighteningly good. When he's banged up, his velocity is down, and he becomes quite ordinary. In his last 2 starts, he's given up only 3 earned runs in 11 innings, but has also walked 11. The Dodgers have shown the patience this series to draw the walk, so that should be their game plan again.

As is the case with any postseason, momentum can quickly come and go. Right now, the Dodgers look like they are clearly the better team. It's funny how that works out sometimes. A big win by the Cubs tomorrow, and then the Dodgers are panicking about closing out at home. Obviously, the Cubs are the ones playing like they feel all of the pressure, so the Dodgers need to take the approach again that they have nothing to lose.

One more solid game, and it could be a glorious Saturday night in LA.