Chat with Tony Jackson
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPNLosAngeles.com Dodgers writer Tony Jackson stops by to chat about the MLB season.
Jackson covered the Dodgers for the Los Angeles Daily News for more than five seasons. He has covered Major League Baseball on a regular basis for 15 years in Denver, Cincinnati and Los Angeles.
Send your questions now and join Jackson Thursday at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT!
Tony Jackson (3:00 PM)
good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to this week's Dodgers on-line chat
Warren (Dalton, GA)
Internally what do the Dodgers think happened to Russell Martin last season? Did he drop too much weight in the offseason? Was he looking longball too often? Was the work not there? I'm curious because I hear conflicting reasons. Thanks.
Tony Jackson (3:02 PM)
Hi Warren. From what I understand, his biggest problem is he gets homer-happy at the plate and swings for the fences at times, as you mentioned. I think he has done a good job over the past year or so of cutting down on some of the distraction, on getting better at calling games and doing his homework, that sort of thing. I know he and Torre continued their regular phone conversations this winter. It's weird how this guy used to be the toast of Los Angeles, and now everyone is down on him. But this is a big year for him. He needs to bounce back and prove that he can be the Russell Martin of old.
Brian (Camarillo, CA)
Welcome back to Dodgers coverage Tony
Tony Jackson (3:05 PM)
Thank you Brian. It's good to be back, and I'm excited about the start of spring training.
Todd (Berkeley, CA)
Hi Tony. Whats the word on Gagne? Are the Dodgers really considering bringing him back?
Tony Jackson (3:12 PM)
I believe they are, Todd. There was a report by a Montreal television station this morning that they had actually signed him, but that turned out to be premature. My guessed, based on that, is that they are getting close to doing so. It'll be a very low-risk (or no-risk) minor-league contract, and it isn't even clear where he would fit into the bullpen if he were to make the team. My guess is he's probably done and this is just a spring-training experiment for the Dodgers and a last-ditch effort for Gagne to revive his career. But I have been wrong about these things before.
Lance Johnson (Buena Park, CA)
What will be the role of James McDonald this season? Will he be a starter in the back end of the rotation or a middle reliever?
Tony Jackson (3:22 PM)
Hi Lance. He's going to compete with several others for the fifth spot in the rotation, and I get the sense that Colletti/Torre/Honeycutt are hoping J-Mac emerges as the guy for that job. However, if he doesn't win that job, he's probably the only one of the candidates who has a bullpen spot to fall back on. For the rest of them, the only alternative is probably starting the season in Triple-A. I think J-Mac is on the opening-day roster regardless, as a starter or a reliever, and as the fifth starter, he also might be used as a swing man whenever there are off-days in the schedule that negate the need for a fifth starter.
Brandes (Nashville, TN)
Hello Tony,If Brian Giles does not prove to be healthy, what do you think the Dodgers will do aout a left handed bat off the bench?
Tony Jackson (3:28 PM)
Hey Brandes. The other candidate for that job is Doug Mientkiewicz, whom I would list as a slight favorite over Giles going into spring training. Mkz also had some injury issues last year, of course, but he seemed healthy when he came back in September, and Joe Torre loves him, so I think the job is his to lose unless Giles just has an incredible spring.
Todd (Berkeley, CA)
Whats the sense you have of how the organization feels about Charlie Haeger?
Tony Jackson (3:31 PM)
Well, I think they kind of view him the same way they view Eric Stults. There is a term in baseball for guys like that. They call them ''4-A guys," meaning they're probably too good for Triple-A and not quite good enough to stick in the majors. But guys like that are very valuable to an organization because you can bring them up whenever somebody goes on the DL and know that if you only need them for two or three starts, there's a good chance you're going to get quality work from them. Haeger also is a knuckleballer, which also means it's impossible to anticipate from one start to the next how he's going to perform. But I think you will see him in the majors from time to time this season.
Brian (Camarillo, CA)
What do you think of the competition between Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz for the lefty pinch hitter position?
Tony Jackson (3:33 PM)
Again, I think Mkz is the favorite. But Giles has been a star player in the past, and it's possible he could steal that spot. But I just think at his age, and given the questions about his health, it's a long shot. It was another low-risk deal for the Dodgers, just throwing stuff against the wall to see if anything sticks.
Todd (Berkeley, CA)
Do you think Pedro could come full circle and return to LA midseason?
Tony Jackson (3:41 PM)
Well, he seemed to pitch pretty well for the Phillies last year, so it's kind of interesting that he's still out there unsigned. My guess is no, but anything can happen as the season goes along, and the Dodgers certainly weren't shy about adding starting pitching inventory last season. We'll see.
Brenton (Woodland Hills, CA)
How do you plan to cover the Dodgers this season? Can you report via your contacts from your home in Glendale or will you spend a lot of time in LA and on the road with the team?
Tony Jackson (3:43 PM)
Great question Brenton. I WILL be moving to L.A. for the regular season, and WILL be spending a lot of time on the road with the team, though I'm told we WON'T be making every single trip. I do look for us to keep up a heavy road presence though. It's very similar to covering the team for a newspaper, but with fewer constraints, and we can do so much more with a web site such as incorporating video and audio.
First off i just wanted to say welcome back to covering the Dodgers, you are by far my favorite Dodgers beat writer....My question is, do you get tired hearing everyone talk about how terrible our off season moves have been? We had a pretty great nucleus of players coming back.
Tony Jackson (3:45 PM)
Taylor, you flatter me!!! Thanks for the kind words. And no, I never get tired of hot-stove debates because that is one of the things that make baseball great. But you're right, the Dodgers are bringing back a pretty solid core. However, I think the fact the rest of the division, particularly the Rockies, Giants and D-backs, appear to have upgraded while the Dodgers seem to have largely stood pat is what is driving much of that criticism.
what do you think are the biggest needs for the dodgers to get over the hump and keep from being the new braves,and just making the playoffs and being bounced before the world serirs every year?
Tony Jackson (3:46 PM)
Well, Robert, I think once you get to October, it's almost ALL about starting pitching. Right now, the Dodgers aren't equipped to win a World Series, but that could chance when they get to the trading deadline -- or one or two of the starting pitchers they already have (Billingsley and Kershaw perhaps?) could evolve into those postseason-star type pitchers along the lines of a Josh Beckett, Andy Pettitte, Curt Schilling, etc.
Bob (Merced Ca)
Great to see you back, Tony. What is the story on the Rule 5 guys, what do we know about them?
Tony Jackson (3:49 PM)
Hi Bob. I have to admit I know very little about Armando Zerpa, but I know a LITTLE bit about Carlos Monasterios. He's going to be one of the competitors for the fifth spot in the rotation and had a really strong performance in winter ball in Venezuela, gave up just 71 hits in 82 innings. Dodgers are pretty high on him, but the reality is that these Rule 5 guys usually don't pan out. Just as with minor-league contracts, these are low-risk propositions where the team takes a flyer on a guy.
Tom (Agoura Hills, CA)
How do salaries work for the players on the 40 man roster but not on the 25 active roster? Are they at the $400,000 MLB minimum if they have never been called up? And if a minor leaguer making $70,000 gets called up and then sent down after a short period, does he get a pro-rated salary of the MLB minimum?
Tony Jackson (3:56 PM)
Another great question. For MOST of those guys, they are on SPLIT contracts, meaning they have a major-league salary and a minor-league salary, even if they're on the 40-man. So yes, you're right, he gets a prorated share of each of those salaries for the time he spends at each of those levels. The only exceptions are guys who are on straight major-league contracts. The example that pops to mind is Jason Repko, who by virtue of having been arbitration-eligible for each of the past three winters is one of the highest-paid players in all of minor-league baseball if he doesn't make the big-league club. He has the same $500k base this year he had last year, and he gets that money regardless of what level he is playing at.
Todd (Berkeley, CA)
Is there really momentum toward extending Torre another year or does Donnie Baseball get the call? If Torre does extend do you see Mattingly sticking it out to succeed Torre or does he bail?
Tony Jackson (3:59 PM)
I think the answer to both of your questions is yes. Torre says he still hasn't decided, and the decision is mostly his to make (although if he decides he wants the extension, obviously, salary will still have to be negotiated). I think it's becoming increasingly clear that Mattingly will succeed Torre, whether it's in 2011 or 2012, and based on what I'm hearing from my sources, there is no reason to doubt that. I think it's telling that he declined to interview in Washington this winter (he did interview in Cleveland before that). He must have had a pretty good indication that there is a strong enticement for him to stick around.
Tony Jackson (4:01 PM)
Looks like we're out of time, folks. Thanks for your participation. Those were some great questions. The past three of these chats have come from my home office. Next week's will come from the press box at Camelback Ranch, so there should be plenty for us to discuss at that time. See you then.
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