Dodger Thoughts: Paul DePodesta

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.

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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.

Reading is fundamental

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
9:56
AM PT
Sorry I haven't done any Spring Training game wraps the past two days. I took Sunday off for my son's birthday, and then just felt I had nothing much to say after Monday's rainout/shutout doubleheader.

Anyway, please check out Tony Jackson's ESPNLosAngeles.com piece from Monday for a recap of the day, which begins with a short feature on left fielder Marcus Thames.

Or, read the best story of the past 24 hours: Barry Svrluga's tender feature in the Washington Post on Chad Cordero, the pitcher trying to make a comeback after losing his daughter to SIDS.

Or read Jayson Stark's nuanced feature for ESPN.com on Rays manager Joe Maddon's optimistic but uncertain relationship with new designated hitter Manny Ramirez.

Or check out Baseball Prospectus' online chat with Paul DePodesta.

Or stop by Bob Timmermann's latest piece for Native Intelligence, on the NCAA tournament.

Or enjoy Marcia C. Smith's appreciation in the Register of Bobby Grich's efforts to celebrate Angels history as president of the team's alumni association, inspired by an experience he had as a child:
... Grich was an 8-year-old, sandy-haired boy from Long Beach, taking in his first baseball game with his father at Wrigley Field the year before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. All he wanted was an up-close look at "my hero," Steve Bilko, a slugging first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels of the competitive, Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

"When the game was over, I ran down to the dugout," said Grich, his voice rising like a kite catching wind. "All the other kids were around him and I was in the back."

So he tore an empty popcorn box into a long strip, stuck a stubby pencil at its end, stretched it over the crowd and into the strike zone of Bilko and screamed, "Steve Bilko, please sign my autograph!"

"He saw how adamant I was," Grich recalled. "In pencil, he autographed "Steve Bilko" on this little piece of cardboard box. I was so thrilled and so excited that I grabbed it and ran all the way up the aisle, waving to my father, shouting, 'I got Steve Bilko's autograph! I got Steve Bilko's autograph!'"

Grich went home, taped the autograph into his scrapbook on a page with the game's ticket stub and the box score he clipped for the next morning's newspaper. Now, 54 years later, he still keeps that souvenir.

"So when I got to the big leagues, any time a kid asks me for an autograph, it's a rare that I turn down an autograph because of what a thrill it was for me to get his autograph," said Grich, who was in uniform Sunday as a spring training guest instructor and signed autographs for 30 minutes before the game. ...

* * *

Cubs at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
It will never be a clean slate for Paul DePodesta, whose post-"Moneyball," sadly controversial tenure with the Dodgers made him a third-rail persona.

But this piece by Mark Simon of ESPN.com, following DePodesta's first conference call with reporters since the Mets hired him as vice president of player development and amateur scouting — a title that probably drew guffaws from those who viewed him as nothing more than a stat geek — is a good way to wipe the slate as much as possible.

You can tell people a thousand times that "Moneyball" wasn't about on-base percentage, that it wasn't a rejection of scouts, but some will never believe you. Well, here are some excerpts from No. 1,001:
For those who think that the Mets espousing Moneyball philosophies will mean a strict adherence to baseball analytics and a formulaic, stats-over-scouts approach to player acquisition, some clarification may be in order. ...

“Moneyball has taken on a lot of connotations that weren’t intended," DePodesta continued. "Moneyball doesn’t have anything to do with on-base percentage or statistics. It’s a constant investigation of stagnant systems, to see if you can find value where it isn’t readily apparent. It can be anything. At the time, it happened to be using statistics to make us better decisions. That’s not always the case. There are new frontiers we need to conquer.” ...

There was excitement in DePodesta's voice with regards to his primary role, overseeing player development and amateur scouting. The Mets will have directors for each, both of which will report to DePodesta. Former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi will oversee the professional scouting side of baseball operations.

"For me the draft is the best day of the calendar year, though it's certainly not the most glamorous," DePodesta said. "It's something I love getting involved in, getting out and seeing players. With my background from the last few years, I'm probably not as married to the college player as some may think. I have certain things I look for, pitching- and hitting-wise, but I'm open to any type or shape of player and any type of background."

What’s the message that DePodesta wants to send to the statistically inclined portion of the fan base, one that has reacted overwhelmingly favorably to the news of each of these hirings?

“We’re still going to be wrong, probably often, but hopefully we’re disciplined enough in our processes to be more right than we are wrong,” he said. “The guiding principle is uncertainty. We want to try to understand and corral that uncertainty as best we can to help us narrow our choices to guide our intuition to the best choice possible. Hopefully we’re right more often than we’re wrong and hopefully we’re right when it counts.” ...

"I'm probably one of the few people out there who was really, really concerned during my college years about being labeled a dumb jock," DePodesta also said (according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com on Twitter.), "and then was labeled a geek once I got into my professional career."
Maybe the Dodgers will retire a number this year after all ...
  • Steve Garvey and Tommy John are among a group of 12 eligible for the Hall of Fame if they can earn 12 out of 16 votes from a special committee, according to Inside the Dodgers.
    ... The 12 individuals who will be considered by the Expansion Era Committee in December for Hall of Fame Induction in 2011: Former players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub; former manager Billy Martin; and executives Pat Gillick, Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner. Martin and Steinbrenner are deceased; all other candidates are living.

    The 16-member electorate charged with the review of the Expansion Era ballot features: Hall of Fame members Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith; major league executives Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and veteran media members Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Ross Newhan (retired, Los Angeles Times) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated). ...

    I'm skeptical that Garvey gets (or should get) the support he needs, though certainly it's as good a look at the Hall as he's ever had. Personally, I think Miller is most deserving. The results announcement will come Dec. 6
  • Jared Massey of LADodgerTalk did some research and thinks that an abrupt change to Jonathan Broxton's slider caused his 2010 downfall.
  • Stadium Review offers a mixed review of Dodger Stadium, though correspondent Drew Cieszynski did say the fans were loud. You might quibble with some points, but overall it's a pretty fair assessment.
  • Paul DePodesta is moving from San Diego to the New York Mets as their vice-president of player development and amateur scouting, once again working for Sandy Alderson, the new Mets general manager. I'm always nervous about posting DePodesta news for fear that it will reignite a tired debate, but I didn't want to ignore it. Congrats to Paul.
  • End of an era: Next year, for the first time in more than two decades, Jon Miller and Joe Morgan will not be doing Sunday Night Baseball telecasts for ESPN, though Miller might stick around to do radio. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times believes that next year's booth might be Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine.
  • Rob Neyer of ESPN.com made note of the Toronto Blue Jays trading a player to be named later for Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo, whose option they bought out for $500,000. For that price (and an offer of salary arbitration they expect to be denied), the Blue Jays expect to pick up a supplemental first-round draft pick.
  • Matt Bush, known for years as the disastrous No. 1 overall choice of the 2004 draft (by San Diego), has been making a comeback, having converted from shortstop to pitcher. Tampa Bay has added Bush to its 40-man roster, notes David Brown of Big League Stew, after he did his best Kenley Jansen imitation, striking out 20 in 13 2/3 innings over 10 minor-league games this season.

Manny Ramirez is alive! He took batting practice at Dodger Stadium tonight and is close to a rehab assignment. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Rafael Furcal felt tightness and will be held back from starting a rehab assignment for at least a couple more days.

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Question: Are the Rockies more disappointing than the Dodgers this season, less or the same?

Related: Bob Timmermann explores "The Dodgers in 2010: The Year of Crabbiness" at L.A. Observed's Native Intelligence.

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Elsewhere ...
  • Zach Lee is expected to make an appearance at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, the team said.
  • Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), reports Alan Schwarz in a fascinating New York Times article.
  • Josh Wilker has a fine piece about Mickey Rivers today at Cardboard Gods.
  • Remember Brent Mayne, he of the last Dodger catching tandem that couldn't hit straight before this one? Mayne has a blog and an interesting post about ballplayers as social misfits. (via Hardball Talk).
  • If it's an upset that the Padres are in first place and the Dodgers are in fourth, it's another upset that the Dodgers had a more satisfying 2010 draft than the Padres did. Paul DePodesta tells the story of what happened to leave San Diego's front office disappointed at It Might Be Dangerous ... You Go First.
  • Claudio Vargas has been granted his release by Albuquerque, the Isotopes said.
  • Former Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo has had his second setback of 2010 — a shoulder injury, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Sweet-hitting pitcher Micah Owings, whose career ERA and slugging percentage each start with the number five, has been designated for assignment by Cincinnati.

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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