Dodger Thoughts is moving

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
9:19
PM PT

Jeff Lewis/US Presswire

Hi everyone. I'm packing up gear.

January 31 marks the last day for Dodger Thoughts at ESPNLosAngeles.com. Please follow me to my new location, which will have the dodgerthoughts.com URL.

Please note that it could take a few hours before the process of redirecting the URL to the new site is completed. But everything should be ship-shape soon enough.

I would very much like to thank everyone at ESPNLosAngeles for giving me the opportunity to be part of their team for two years. It's been a great addition to the Los Angeles sports landscape, and I was proud to be part of it. (In fact, you might still see me over at ESPNLosAngeles on a freelance basis.)

And now, on to the next chapter ...

Prospect pantheon

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
8:25
AM PT
If you want to dive into some serious Dodger prospect details, you could do worse than Kevin Goldstein's new report at Baseball Prospectus or Brandon Lennox's ongoing countdown at True Blue L.A.

The future of Hong-Chih Kuo

January, 29, 2012
1/29/12
7:55
AM PT
Been meaning to wonder aloud about Hong-Chih Kuo, who remains unsigned with February just around the corner. The Dodgers declined to offer salary arbitration to Kuo for obvious reasons following his massive struggles in 2011, but the memory of his 2010 dominance makes him a good guy to have at Spring Training on a low- or no-guarantee contract. A small item in this Nick Cafardo notebook in the Boston Globe (via MLB Trade Rumors) indicates that a few teams feel the same, and Kuo could be signing somewhere soon. Los Angeles? I don't know ...
Can the seventh-best team in the National League in 2011 become the fifth-best team in 2012?
  • Nothing's official yet, but Bud Selig thinks the expansion of MLB's playoffs to 10 teams could come this year, reports The Associated Press. "Under the new format, whenever it begins, the non-division winners in each league with the two best records will be the wild cards, meaning a third-place team could for the first time win the World Series."
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A contemplative Vin Scully inside the Green Monster at Fenway, 2004. (And from a couple days ago, here's Scully interviewing Tommy Lasorda at Busch Stadium in the 1980s.)
  • Hiroki Kuroda talked to Dylan Hernandez of the Times at some length about leaving the Dodgers for the Yankees.
  • Paul DePodesta talked to MLB Clubhouse Confidential's Brian Kenny about "Moneyball," the Dodgers and his current team, the Mets.
  • The Mets could have the largest single-season payroll cut in MLB history – more than $50 million, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Speaking of money: Here's a yearly progression of the highest-paid player in baseball dating back to Nap Lajoie's $6,200 salary in 1902, provided by William Juliano at Bronx Banter.
  • Juan Pierre, 34, has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies, joining Scott Podsednik in the competition for a spot on their roster. Something tells me that a .279 hitter in 639 at-bats with 27 steals would have gotten a better contract if evaluation methods in baseball hadn't changed to de-emphasize batting average. His OPS+ was .657 and he was caught stealing 17 times.
  • Another former Dodger, Brad Penny, might be headed for Japan, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Penny, 34 in May, had a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts and 181 2/3 innings for Detroit in 2011.
  • Noted by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports: If Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension is upheld, his first 2012 game would be May 31 at Dodger Stadium. It's a weekday afternoon game.
  • This year, Stanford may well have first pair of classmates picked first in both the NFL and MLB drafts: quarterback Andrew Luck and pitcher Mark Appel, writes Jack Blanchat of the Stanford Daily.
  • Some of you might find this interesting: According to this MediaPost story by Mark Walsh, ESPN now feels that "instead of determining how to shoehorn its programming from traditional media to mobile platforms, the process is now reversed, with mobile becoming the starting point."
  • Maybe the craziest collection of trick shots you'll ever see is in this video, which is kicked off by Don Mattingly and his son Preston.
  • Even crazier ... this IHOP commercial from 1969 (via Emma Span).
  • Farewell, Robert Hegyes. Hegyes wrote about his "Welcome Back, Kotter" experience at his website. Groucho Marx and Lucille Ball were fans.

* * *

The deadline is fast approaching, but there are still spots open to play in TheLFP.com Softball Tournament on February 11 at Big League Dreams in West Covina, where readers of Dodger blogs will play with and against each other. Sign up and be part of the fun.
Potential ownership groups featuring Peter O'Malley, Magic Johnson, Joe Torre, Steve Cohen and Stanley Gold are among those whom Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com is reporting have gained first-round approval in the bidding for the Dodgers.

Bill Shaikin of the Times has reported that Mark Cuban and Dennis Gilbert did not advance, though The Associated Press initially had a conflicting report on Cuban. Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal writes that a group led by cable investor Leo Hindery and New York financier Marc Utay did advance.
Tags:

Ownership

By offering big bucks up front and an opt-out clause after four years of a seven-year deal, the Dodgers were finalists in the bidding for Prince Fielder after all — and perhaps would have signed him if Detroit, reeling from the ACL injury to Victor Martinez, hadn't swooped in.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com makes note of this, and we can glean more from a report by Jon Heyman and Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com ...

(Read full post)

Can Kershaw repeat?

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
7:24
AM PT
At lunch Wednesday with Dodger publications director Jorge Martin, we marveled with glee not only at Clayton Kershaw's magnificent 2011 season, but our inability, despite knowing all about how hard the job of pitching is, not to expect him to dominate every time out in 2012. Our heads tell us he might not pitch as well this year as last. Our hearts tell us he can pitch even better.

It got me to wondering how pitchers with seasons like Kershaw's followed them up the following campaign. And the news isn't exactly good.

Here are two charts – the first an appetizer, the second the main course:

Top 20 individual Dodger seasons since 1958

Player YearAgeERA+ ERA+ next year Change
Koufax196630190Retired ---
Koufax196428188160 -28
Hershiser19852617190 -81
Brown200035169151*-18
Brown200338169110*-59
Kershaw201123163TBD ---
Sutton197227162144 -18
Sutton198135161112 -49
Koufax196529160190 30
Koufax196327159160 1
Nomo199526150122 -28
Welch198528150106 -44
Drysdale196427149118 -31
Messersmith197529149125 -24
Hershiser198829149149 0
Hersisher19893014988 -61
Hooton19813114887*-61
Penny20072914767*-70
Hooton197727147130 -17
Reuss198132146113 -33
Average 291591234-33
* did not pitch enough innings to qualify for ERA title in following year

Top 50 individual MLB seasons since 1958, ages 21-25

Player YearAgeERA+ ERA+ next year Change
P. Martinez199725219163 -56
Z. Greinke200925205100 -105
D. Chance196423198108 -90
C. Buchholz201025187122*-65
V. Blue197121185102*-83
J. Santana200425182155 -27
B. Saberhagen198925180118 -62
K. Appier199325179131 -48
M. Prior200322179110*-69
D. Righetti198122174105 -69
F. Hernandez201024174111 -63
T. Lincecum200925173114 -59
F. Hernandez200923172174 2
J. Peavy200423171134 -37
J. D'Amico20002417172*-99
T. Lincecum200824169173 4
J. Candelaria197723169115 -54
R. Clemens198623169154 -15
D. Ellsworth19632316799 -68
K. Millwood19992516799 -68
A. Anderson198825166110 -56
K. Appier199225166179 13
S. McDowell196825165127 -38
T. Seaver196924165143 -22
B. Webb200324165129 -36
S. Carlton196924164111 -53
M. Mussina199425164145 -19
C. Kershaw201123163TBD ---
B. Sheets200425162128 -34
G. Nolan197224162102*-60
T. John196825161119 -42
S. McDowell196522161120 -41
J. Magrane198823161124 -37
C. Zambrano200423160135 -25
A. Hammaker198325159164*5
J. Jurrjens20092315984*-75
R. Halladay200225159145 -14
M. Fidrych197621159149*-10
B. Zito200224158135 -23
B. Blyleven197322158142 -16
D. Bosman196925158118 -40
M. Mussina199223157100 -57
J. Guzman199225156109 -47
R. Jones197525156120 -36
A. Pettitte199725156104 -52
F. Tanana19772315499 -55
D. McLain196824154135 -19
J. Palmer196923154134 -20
R. Clemens198724154141 -13
T. Glavine199125153134 -19
Average 241681258-43


As you can see, there's a host of great names on these lists, including Hall of Famers and Hall of Very Gooders. Just because there's a decline after a great season doesn't mean that there weren't great seasons in their future.

But a decline following a great season for a young pitcher is common, and on average pretty significant.

So the challenge for our dear Kershaw is to buck history. This much I'll say – if anyone can do it, if anyone can imitate Sandy Koufax (at a younger age), he can.
A bundle of clickable goodness today ...
  • Andre Ethier had some interesting comments in an interview Tuesday with ESPN AM 710.
    ... Asked about wanting to be with the Dodgers long-term, Ethier said, "It comes down to the security part, too, but it also comes down to unfinished business and I feel like, yeah, I'm facing that decision now where hopefully it doesn't come down to me having to leave and [I can] be a part of this team when we start rebounding and getting back to where we need to be."The ownership limbo seemingly affected the Dodgers' ability to deal in free agency this offseason, with general manager Ned Colletti saying earlier this month the team was essentially done with its offseason acquisitions because "we're at our payroll." So when news broke Tuesday of the Detroit Tigers nearing a deal with marquee free agent Prince Fielder, it wasn't lost on Ethier.

    "Why can't the Dodgers be doing that? Look at the markets those two teams are, and the stability you see through the front office and the team being able to operate … on the level it should be," he said, adding, "you don't try to think of it too much as a player, but obviously if you're not going after the big fish like other teams are, like our partners are down there to the south of us, the Angels [who acquired Albert Pujols], it's tough to go out there and keep competing year after year if you're not going out there and making your team better every year. "I think that's the situation we've been in. Obviously it's going to get better from here on out because of the sell and getting new people in there."

    Ethier, who hit .292 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs in 2011 before ending the season with a right knee injury, said he's aiming for a "strong, solid" 2012.

    "I've kind of dealt with this knee thing for the past two years, put it off for one off-season and then last season it just became a thing where a lot of things started multiplying and getting worse and something where I couldn't quite get back my swing … It was very frustrating and I learned a lot from that."
  • Ethier participated in a prank on Dustin Pedroia for a Boston radio station. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has more.
  • Matt Kemp's new contract looks even more valuable in the wake of the Prince Fielder signing, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports offers up a wintertime preview of their 19th-ranked MLB team, the 2012 Dodgers.
  • Former Dodger co-owner and managing partner Bob Daly had even more to say Tuesday (in an interview with T.J. Simers of the Times) than Ethier. Daly is highly critical of Frank McCourt, critical of the Dodgers' offseason signings and critical of himself for not trading prospects for a bat in the middle of the 2002 season — though I would say that was a period in which the Dodgers didn't have a whole lot of trade value in the system.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times wonders if the potential interest of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke in buying the Dodgers could be the first domino that leads to Frank McCourt becoming an NFL minority owner.
  • In a separate post, Dilbeck also offers why the Dodgers might win the National League West, despite all their uncertainty.
  • Just when I think I can't read any more Hall of Fame voting insight, here comes Lewie Pollis of Behind the Boxscore with a new take, about what he calls "a mistaken assumption about the balloting process: that writers' own observations of players were expected to be primary factors in their votes."
  • Daryle Ward, who infamously batted .183 and slugged .193 at age 28 for the 2003 Dodgers, received a 50-game suspension from MLB for testing positive for a banned amphetamine. Ward, who has a .768 lifetime OPS, hasn't played in the majors since 2008.
  • Former Dodger infielder Wilson Valdez, who ended up the winning pitcher for the Phillies over the Reds in a 19-inning game last May, was traded to the Reds today.
  • There's speculation about whether Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns 4.5 percent of the Lakers, will get involved with a Dodger ownership bid, such as Magic Johnson's. Bill Shaikin of the Times addresses it today. Soon-Shiong bought Johnson's share of the Lakers in 2010. Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com interviewed Soon-Shiong in November.
  • The Left Field Pavilion blog has invited all prospective Dodger owners to come out to the Dodger blogs softball tournament February 11 and "meet the bloggers and fans of the team you are trying to purchase."
  • Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, 26, is about to become a free agent that MLB teams can bid on. More on Cespedes at Baseball America. The Dodgers are not rumored to be pursuing him. "Projections based off his Cuban numbers show a good but not great hitter with 25-homer power and poor strike-zone control," writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Sam Miller of the Orange County Register is quickly emerging as a baseball writer of the highest order. He has two new freelance pieces: an account of Scott Boras' beginnings as an agent for Baseball Prospectus, and a pitch-by-pitch account of how the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson for ESPN the Magazine.
  • Kevin Kaduk at Yahoo! Sports blogs about a law in Florida "that any ballpark or stadium that receives taxpayer money shall serve as a homeless shelter on the dates that it is not in use."

APChristina-Taylor Green
On the morning of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords' emotional resignation from the House, I checked in on the website in memory of Christina-Taylor Green, Dodger scout John Green's 9-year-old daughter who died in the mass shooting that severely wounded Giffords.

Here's what the memorial foundation has been up to:
At the time The Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation (C-TGMF) was being formed, The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (CFSA) held funds in Christina-Taylor’s name. CFSA provided a way to capture the outpouring of love that we felt from our community, many other parts of the nation, and the world.

As CFSA handled the financial oversight of the donations, they provided time for the new foundation to define its mission and initial goals. Before the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation’s 501c3 status was finalized, CFSA funded several projects, including upgrading the technology at Mesa Verde Elementary and Cross Middle schools with SMART Boards, Physical Education equipment, computers and arts programs.

In conjunction with The Allstate Foundation, The Christina-Taylor Green Little Hands Playground was built at Mesa Verde Elementary School, an outdoor space open to students and to neighborhood residents.

Several other contributors participated in the completion of the playground. Community volunteers provided help with construction. Donations were provided by The Little Tikes Corporation, The Sundt Foundation and The JohnJay and Rich Care For Kids Foundation. The Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health also partnered on building the project by, among other things, getting design ideas for the nearly 2,000-square-foot play area from Christina-Taylor’s classmates. For details about the playground and its dedication, read more at AZStarnet.

Before school started in August, our foundation partnered with Tierra Antigua Real Estate to collect school supplies and backpacks. Hollaway Elementary and Drexel Elementary schools were the recipients of these items.

“Stuff the Hummers”, our last project of 2011, was a huge success. C-TGMF partnered with Team up for Tucson to benefit The Salvation Army in their annual toy collection for Tucson area children in need. Not only did we surpass all goals for toys donated, we also collected 125 bikes, setting a new record of 10,000 toys/bikes. Our foundation and its volunteers look forward to a long term partnership with Team up for Tucson in hopes of breaking records every year so we can continue to help our local Salvation Army provide toys for needy children in the Tucson Area.

The C-TGMF will be issuing a call for Grant Proposals in the spring of 2012, and we hope to fund multiple small projects. The goal is to give out approximately $50,000 in grant money for projects that will help carry out the mission of the foundation:

The mission of the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation is to honor the life and memory of Christina-Taylor through charitable and educational projects that reflect and embody her interests, values and dreams.


Earlier this month, on the anniversary of the shooting, Karina Bland of the Arizona Republic wrote movingly about Christina's survivors, including mother Roxanna and friend Suzi Hileman, who had taken Christina to meet Giffords.
... "Suzi is a dear friend and neighbor," Green says. "I want Suzi to heal. I don't want to bring any more sadness to her."

Each woman has a strong network of friends, but they circle back to one another. A glass of wine. Coffee. Lunch. They live blocks apart.

At times when Green wants to cry, or shout, or rant without someone hushing her, or trying to fix what is upsetting her, she turns to Hileman: "If I need to whine, I go to her house." Hileman does the same.

There is no comforting them: Christina-Taylor is dead, and nothing anyone can do can change that.

"We both get it because we both went through it," Green says.

A year later, Green still cries most days. Time hasn't changed that. ...

Here are some pictures of Christina.
Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers are close to a contract — a nine-year, $214 million contract. That's a bigger deal than I expected Fielder to get, and I'm not surprised or particularly crushed that the Dodgers didn't top it.

My main concern was that the Dodgers might miss out on a great deal on Fielder under the misguided notion that they couldn't even consider him. With their new TV contract staring them in the face, the Dodgers still could have afforded Fielder even at this mammoth contract size, but I won't lose sleep over the fact that they're stuck without him. Life and baseball move on, and we'll dream of what might happen for the Dodgers after the new owner is in place.

Forbes (via Maury Brown), by the way, says that based on initial offers, Frank McCourt can expect a minimum of $1.5 billion as a sale price. Man.

Bidness time

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
10:32
PM PT

Initial bids for the Dodgers officially have been made. Tony Jackson covered it for ESPNLosAngeles.com, while Bill Shaikin was on it for the Times. Not much in the way of surprises in a process that still has some time to develop. From Jackson:
... Although the passing of the deadline represents a significant step in the sale process, it isn't necessarily a major one. For one thing, additional bids are still welcome even with the deadline having passed, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. For another, even the groups that placed initial bids aren't set in stone, as there could be merging of groups, individual movement between groups and individual additions or subtractions within a specific group.

Two bidders said talks about possible group mergers were ongoing. They both spoke on condition of anonymity because Blackstone Group made them sign nondisclosure agreements.

"It would be a shock if they don't start talking merger," said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Sportscorp, which is not involved. "I think we'll get a half-dozen parties that are actually in the bid, plus or minus one."

What the passing of the deadline does mean is that the weeding-out process can now officially begin. This initial phase will involve eliminating candidates whose bids simply aren't competitive. Once that process is complete, Blackstone will submit its list of remaining candidates to Major League Baseball for a vetting process that already is underway in a preliminary sense -- MLB already is looking at all candidates who were given bid books -- but at that point will intensify.

There is no deadline for the submitting of those candidates to MLB, although the April 30 deadline for completing the sale -- and the April 1 deadline for selecting the owner and ownership group that ultimately will get the team -- necessarily means the process will move comparatively quickly.

One source in the Dodgers camp said McCourt views the April 30 deadline as rigid, but baseball commissioner Bud Selig said two weeks ago at MLB's quarterly owners meetings that he feels confident the sale will be completed on time and that "I think we're on track," both characterizations that seemed to allow for some wiggle room. ...

* * *
  • Mike Piazza said it's "no question" he would like to go into the Hall of Fame as a Met (Mets Blog via Baseball Think Factory).
  • Mike Silva's NY Baseball Digest has this story of close a 20-year-old Tom Seaver came to being a Dodger.
    ... “He was born to be a Dodger,” Travers said. “Born and raised in California, went to USC, had season tickets to Dodger games because his uncle has season tickets in Los Angeles, and he would use them every fourth and fifth day to see Koufax and Drysdale.”

    As luck would have it, Seaver was drafted by the Dodgers in the 10th round of the 1965 draft. Seaver wanted $50,000 to sign; the Dodgers offered $2,000 along with advice from a scout by the name of Tommy Lasorda. “Good luck with your dental career,” Lasorda said. This was in reference to the fact that Seaver was a pre-dental student at USC.

    Seaver would sign a contract with Atlanta the following year, only to see it voided by the commissioner’s office because his college team played some exhibition games. He couldn’t return to school since he was now considered a “pro.” The league responded by setting up a lottery with interested teams. The Dodgers tried to get involved once again, but ultimately failed to follow through, which led to the Mets winning Seaver’s rights in the lottery over Cleveland and Philadelphia. ...
  • James Loney is now the dean of the Dodgers in service time, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. No. 2, if you go by signing date, is Ramon Troncoso, followed by Matt Kemp.
  • The gang's all there: Eric Stults, Delwyn Young and Hector Gimenez signed minor-league deals with White Sox, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball put the Dodger farm system in the bottom 10 of the majors, while the Padres' kids were first in the National League.
  • Jon SooHoo passes along this vintage photo of Dodger beat writers from the 1990s.
  • New Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is considering a change in the nickname and uniforms of the erstwhile Colt '45s, reports The Associated Press. I trust the next Dodger owner isn't thinking similarly.

My favorite films of 2011

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
8:41
AM PT
The other day, Molly Knight and I were chatting on Twitter when we both realized how much each other loved the films of 2006. That happened to be my first fall working full-time at Variety, and it was a spectacular one for the movies, led by "Little Children," "United 93" and "The Last King of Scotland."

All three of those films would rank ahead of my favorite film of 2011, using the system I designed long ago. It's a system that is decidedly personal, because film is decidedly personal. I don't think there's any such thing as a "best" film, but only a "favorite" film, because what we bring to a film and what we desire from it is so idiosyncratic. Here's how I explained the system back then:
Ambition (1-7): How much the film is taking on, in subject matter and in filming challenges? For example, is it offering both a romantic story and social commentary at once? How difficult was the film to make technically? This allows one to distinguish between two equally well-made films when one is Casablanca and the other is Animal House. Ambition isn't the be-all and end-all, but it allows some extra credit to be given where it is due.

Quality (1-10): This is essentially how most films are graded - simply, how good are they. As objective as I can be, how well do I think the film succeeds in achieving its ambitions?

Emotional resonance (1-13)
: How much did the film affect me personally. This category gets the most weight because it's the most important - I'd rather see a flawed film that touches me than a technically perfect but emotionally stultifying picture.

Just to give you a quick idea of how this works, here are the scores of my favorite films of all time.

The Misfits: Ambition 5, Quality 9.5, Resonance 13, Total 27.5
Casablanca: Ambition 6, Quality 10, Resonance 11.5, Total 27.5

Both are great movies in my mind, with Casablanca being objectively better and The Misfits being the most powerful to me emotionally. Now, there probably aren't 10 people in the world who would consider these films equals, but that's the whole point, isn't it? This system helps us rank our favorites without trying to say that they're definitively the best.

And, for comparison, down near the bottom of the scale ...

The Bad News Bears Go To Japan: Ambition 1.5, Quality 2, Resonance 2, Total 5.5.

During my single days, I rated nearly 600 films using this system before it fell by the wayside. But I decided to hurriedly resurrect it to knock out the films I saw that were released in 2006. You'll see that list below.

Two last quick points: I wouldn't get caught up in single-point distinctions - those don't amount to a significant difference between films. In fact, each time I look at the list, I feel like tinkering with some of the grades.

The other thing is that in the past, an average film totaled about 16 points, which means that I did pretty well in what I saw this year. I honestly didn't feel that I saw a truly awful movie from 2006.

Now while I didn't see a movie in 2011 that I would rank ahead of the best of 2006, I did see plenty of good ones in a year that matched up well with 2010 – along with one truly awful, despicable one. So here, the day before the Oscar nominations are revealed, is my list for the past year ...

FilmAQERTotalComment
1Beginners49.510.524A wonderful grown-up multi-person love-and-loss story, perfect in tone.
2tThe Artist4.591023.5I know some don't get the fascination with it, but I found it simply winning.
2tMoneyball48.51123.5Some unnecessary missteps on the baseball side, but a really affecting story of a man at war with himself.
2t50/504910.523.5Sincere and meaningful, with some genuinely brilliant touches
5Martha Marcy May Marlene491023They should have gotten her treatment sooner, but otherwise, really strong, intense movie.
6tHugo49922An involving, well-executed ride. Got kids interested in origins of film, which was very cool.
6tA Separation49922"Carnage" for grownups. Serious themes and believable stakes.
8tThe Descendants489.521.5Too much voiceover and lag early on, but hits home hard in second half.
8tThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo498.521.5Pretty riveting, and enjoyed Mara and Craig greatly. Didn't like the Villain Explains It All ending much.
10tTake Shelter48921A sincere depiction of the confusion that comes with mental illness, with tremendous work by Michael Shannon
10tWin Win 3.58.5921Good entertainment, fun and unique story.
10tWarrior48921Except for its detour into conventional ESPN sports movie midway, very well-done.
10tThe Guard3.58.5921Sharp and entertaining, a good companion with "In Bruges."
14tTinker Tailor Soldier Spy3.59820.5Well-executed (though as challenging as anything to follow) and Oldman is amazing.
14tA Better Life47.5920.5Earnestness is mostly well-earned. Bechir is great. The gang stuff feels a little staged.
14tThe Help3.58920.5Solid storytelling that mostly feels familiar and not groundbreaking. Liked the performances.
17tA Dolphin's Tale47920After a somewhat rough start, I got swept up in the film despite (okay, maybe because of) its earnestness.
17tMidnight in Paris 48820Rachel McAdams' disaster character harms an otherwise smart ride.
17tRio3.58.5820Fun. This and "Gnomeo" are underrated as far as this year's animated movies.
20tRango3.58819.5Cool in its way but the story didn't completely enthrall me.
20tTyrannosaur38.5819.5Searingly intense with great lead performances.
22tHigher Ground47.57.519Slow-starting but kicks into something kind of unique.
22tCrazy, Stupid, Love37.58.519Fun but not special. Feel-good movie.
22tGnomeo and Juliet38819See "Rio."
22tJane Eyre38819Few complaints of this adaptation.
22tThe Tree of Life47819The ambition, care and commitment are evident, but I couldn't make all the connections the movie wants me to.
22tYoung Adult47.57.519On the edge of too unsympathetic, but overall it succeeded, and performances were great.
28Hanna387.518.5A good exciting ride. Ronan is awesome. Cate Blachett's Texas accent, not so much.
29A Dangerous Method47718Good elements, but didn't come together as an impactful movie.
30tCarnage37.5717.5Only partially successful adaptation of the play, with many of its strengths but more of its artificiality.
30tShame 36.5817.5Didn't dislike it, but we end up basically where we began.
32tThe Muppets36817You know, the plot wasn't much, but I enjoyed it.
32tThe Adventures of Tintin37717A good adventure built around a bland, bland central character.
32tCedar Rapids37717Lightly fun, mostly unassuming comedy.
35tCowboys & Aliens36716Kind of a mess, but I didn't mind all that much.
35tKung Fu Panda 236716Movie didn't hold me.
35tWe Need To Talk About Kevin36716Well-meaning, well-acted, but with serious flaws and lack of insight
35tThe Iron Lady37616More strange than entertaining.
39tJ. Edgar3.56615.5Not bad but not reveletory, kind of dull. Not once did I feel the actors disappeared into their roles.
39tMargaret35.5715.5Promising start derailed by contrived shrillness. Needed much more nuance.
41tAlbert Nobbs45615Well-intentioned but with inexplicable plot and character choices.
41tBridesmaids36615Melissa McCarthy as good as advertised, but otherwise almost as overrated as I thought "The Hangover" was.
41tMy Week With Marilyn36615Other than watching Michelle Williams, who is convincing, not much there. Lead male is two-dimensional.
44The Ides of March35.5513.5Boy falls in love with politics and an hour later is jilted. That's all there is?
45Cars 235513Flat and uninvolving - a big drop from the original.
46Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close3.5339.5As phony and manipulative as anything you'll ever see, to the point of being offensive. Garbage plotting.

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Movies, Film

It still seems like such a significant period in my life, but it really was just so short.

Five seasons. Five seasons between the moment, at an exhibition victory over Dallas at the Coliseum in August 1975, when I fell suddenly and deeply in love with the Rams (and sports in general), and their departure from the Coliseum for Anaheim following the 1979-80 campaign. Five seasons that I was a Los Angeles Rams fan hard and true.

I still have the Lawrence McCutcheon T-shirt to prove it.

Almost immediately after moving from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1950, my dad's family had obtained season tickets to the Rams. He held them through '80, giving the long Woodland Hills-to-Anaheim commute a short try before deciding enough was enough. We got season tickets to the Dodgers the next year.

The Rams were serious Super Bowl contenders every one of those five years – something that not even the True Blue Dodgers of that era could say – and every one of those five years ended in disappointment. Bitter and bitterly cold in Minnesota. Rain-slogged against the Vikings in Los Angeles. Twin 37-7 and 28-0 pastings by the Cowboys, each in front of the Coliseum crowd. And of course, the so-close-and-yet-so-far lone Super Bowl appearance, with perhaps the weakest Rams team of them all taking a lead into the fourth quarter against might Pittsburgh, Jack Youngblood making Kirk Gibson look like small potatoes, only to let it slip away.

With their move to Anaheim, the Rams took my passion with them. I had dalliances with the Los Angeles Raiders and with the Bill Walsh-infused 49ers, dalliances that spackled the void but never meant nearly as much. The St. Louis Rams weren't even an eyebrow-raiser. And so I realize now that Friday marked 32 years since I last really cared about who won an NFL championship.

The Rams gave birth to me becoming a sports fan, but like an absentee father, they long since left me to fend for myself.

Say what you will about the Dodgers' downs and further-downs since 1988, but the passion (as much as I would almost want it to) has never fled. In some ways, it's kind of a miracle.
I wrote in October that the Dodgers could and should sign Prince Fielder. More and more people appear to be coming around to the idea, as this post at Hardball Talk indicates. T.J. Simers of the Times also picked up the banner.

Here's an excerpt from my piece, written almost exactly three months ago and before the Angels even signed Albert Pujols.
So guess what. The Dodgers should sign Prince Fielder.

Betcha didn't see that coming.

Here are the reasons:
  • Fielder, who is only 4 1/2 months older than Kemp, might not play until he's 40, but no one's going to give him a 12-year contract. The big first baseman should be good for the next several years easily. For all the concerns about his physical condition, he has averaged 160 games per season since 2006.
  • He is truly awesome, not only supplying mammoth power (that admittedly would decline some playing regularly in Dodger Stadium) but also the mammoth on-base percentage that made Manny Ramirez so valuable during his Los Angeles heyday. Fielder's lifetime OBP is .390, including .381 in road games (.386 in 70 plate appearances at AT&T Park, if that sort of thing interests you). That ability isn't going to go away anytime soon. ...
  • The Dodgers – even the bankrupt Dodgers – can afford him.
That last point is the one I've sort of put out of sight, out of mind, out of a belief that it wasn't even worth thinking about. But then, I started to think about it. The Dodgers could always backload a Fielder contract so that the hefty portion (pun acknowledged but not admired) comes after the post-2013 local TV contract money can be accessed. However, the Dodgers should be able to afford Fielder even if they pay him the proper amount starting next year. ...

Wasting money on a bad signing is one thing, but the idea that signing Fielder to a market-value contract would lower the value of the Dodgers in a sale has always been fiction. Having this bird in the hand gives the new owners a tremendous head start toward rejuvenating the franchise and generating value. If signing good players weren't a value proposition, good teams wouldn't do it.

Payroll is payroll, whether Fielder is on the team or not. It's not as if the post-McCourt Dodgers are going to save money if Fielder isn't on the roster – they're just going to spend it on different players. Getting in the Fielder game now just means the Dodgers would know they're getting a superb player instead of a gaggle of Juan Riveras. You can add Fielder to the team and save the money elsewhere, instead of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.

We went through this Vladimir Guerrero eight years ago. Is there anyone who thinks the Dodgers would have had less value with Guerrero in the fold?

Think about it – you're a prospective Dodger owner. You're bidding more than a billion bucks for the team even with the possibility that the Dodger Stadium parking lot land will cost extra. Are you really going to let the presence of Prince Fielder - on a contract that is spread out years into the future - be what prevents you from buying the franchise? It makes absolutely no sense.

Getty ImagesReggie Smith
Reading Evan Bladh's recent post on Mike Piazza at Opinion of Kingman's Performance, I got to wondering about the Mike Piazzas of every team in baseball — which players were the most valuable to both the Dodgers and another team.

So I put together this chart of what I thought might be the best. Keep in mind that I tried as hard as possible to avoid technicalities — if the player wasn't significant to both teams, I wasn't interested. So no Duke Snider with the Giants, no Frank Robinson. And managing didn't count, so there's no place for Gil Hodges or Joe Torre.

Let me know what you think — some choices were tough, but with others I might simply have had a blind spot and forgotten about a better option. Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Arizona and Cincinnati were no picnic, to name a few. If you suggest someone in the comments below who is an improvement, I'll make the change.

Update: Changes made below thanks to some great reader suggestions. I took several of them and deliberated others before deciding to stick with what I had.

 
ArizonaSteve Finley
AtlantaDusty Baker Rafael Furcal
BaltimoreEddie Murray
BostonReggie Smith
Chicago CubsBill Buckner
Chicago White SoxTommy John
CincinnatiKal Daniels Jeff Shaw
ClevelandBrett Butler Orel Hershiser
ColoradoPedro Astacio
DetroitKirk Gibson
HoustonJimmy Wynn
Kansas CityTim Belcher
Los Angeles AngelsAndy Messersmith
MiamiGary Sheffield
MilwaukeeGreg Brock
MinnesotaRon Perranoski
New York MetsMike Piazza
New York YankeesAl Downing
OaklandBob Welch
PhiladelphiaJay Johnstone Dolph Camilli
PittsburghBurleigh Grimes
San DiegoSteve Garvey
San FranciscoJeff Kent
SeattleAdrian Beltre
St. LouisJoe Medwick
Tampa BayWilson Alvarez
TexasCharlie Hough Frank Howard
TorontoShawn Green
WashingtonPedro Martinez Mike Marshall


Here's how my initial selections shape up by position:

1B2BSS3BLFCFRFCSPRP
MurrayKentFurcalBeltreMedwickWynnSmithPiazzaHershiserMarshall
Garvey   GibsonFinleySheffield GrimesPerranoski
Buckner   Howard Green JohnShaw
Camilli       MessersmithWelch
Brock       DowningAlvarez
        Astacio
        Belcher

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History

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
21 1.77 239 198
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239