So THAT’S How They Make Them Do Sprints

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* Stats blog Driveline Mechanics ponders the question: Do the Dodgers now have the best double-play combo in the NL? As you know, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Hudson signing, so I’ll be predictably tenative on that question. Right off the top of my head, I’m assuming that there’s no way that our boys are beating the fantastic Utley/Rollins combo in Philly or the huge bats of Uggla/Ramirez in Florida. And the survey says… middle of the pack. That sounds about right.

Another step in MSTI’s inevitable takeover of the web: I answered some Dodger preview questions for Cardinals blog C70 At the Bat. This did take place before Torre said that Casey Blake would not be moving to the oufield, but I think I ended up talking way more about Juan Pierre than I’d ever really care to.

* Jon Heyman vs. Buster Olney on Manny: Fight!

Heyman:

The Dodgers probably know that their offers of $45 million over two years or $25 million over one year aren’t going to get it done, either.

Olney:

The free-agent market collapsed after the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, to the point that productive veterans like Bobby Abreu and Orlando Hudson have been forced to accept a salary for about 20-25 percent of what they had hoped for when the winter began.

And yet by the end of this week, the Dodgers might wind up signing Manny Ramirez to a multiyear deal far above market value. A really, really good contract for a 36-year-old star outfielder in the current market is for $15 million or $16 million a year — and yet the Dodgers might be poised to offer Ramirez $20 million to $25 million for a couple of years.

[snip]

That’s a little nuts. No, that’s really nuts.

* Finally, maybe we shouldn’t underestimate Scott Boras, because though the ever-brilliant The Onion is clearly joking about getting Manny $20 billion (with a “b”) in stimulus money… you could almost see it happening, couldn’t you?  

It’s Time to Bring Down the Hindenburg

Something must be done. There’s no way around it, no matter how painful it might be. You know it, and I know it. It’s like a band-aid. Just rip it off! Andruw Jones cannot be a Dodger in 2009. This is, of course, nothing new, since most of us haven’t really wanted him to be a Dodger since about, oh, April 2, 2008. Clearly, you don’t need me to recap the historical abomination that was his 2008 season, other than that to say the rate in which he stole money from the Dodgers was basically criminal. Really, I think the saddest thing about Jones’ year was the fact that I considered what would be more valuable – Jones playing like he did for the insane amount of money he makes, or myself playing every day for the minimum (hey, I could probably get two or three lucky hits a month)  – and realizing that there’s actually reason to look into it.

But you think to yourself, “there’s just no way that someone as great as he was could have fallen that far, that fast. It’s basically unprecedented, and there still has to be a chance that he’s so embarassed by last year that he gets himself into better shape in the offseason and comes ready to play.” You would hope for that, and you would be wrong, because in the winter leagues he’s currently got just three singles against eight strikeouts, in sixteen at-bats. You think it can’t get worse? Thanks to Gil Miguel’s helpful Dominican updates over at the BBWC, we’ve got this from a DR paper:

Guillén sería la contraparte de Andruw Jones, que le hace un favor a los contrarios cuando está en la alineación.

Which roughly translates to “Andruw Jones does a favor to the opposition every time he’s in the lineup.” Remember, we’re not talking about facing Jake Peavy in PetCo Park, here. This is a league in which Jones’ teammate (and recent Dodger minor-league signee) Hector Luna has already parked 7 balls out of the yard – and this is a guy with 11 homers in 703 career MLB at bats. If Jones is getting overmatched down there, what possible hope does he have in the bigs? No me gusta!

So this is what it’s come down to, then. He has to be elsewhere, anywhere, by Opening Day. No matter what, it’s going to cost the Dodgers an enormous amount of money and embarassment, but we can at least minimize the onfield damage, since there’s just no way he’s going to contribute. Below this hilariously bad yet completely accurate Photoshop joke, we’ll take a look at the options.

 
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Keep him.
Hah! Just kidding. Besides for the very obvious fact that he’s probably a worse hitter than Hong-Chih Kuo right now, he’ll be very unhappy sitting on the bench, and that will just cause more problems. I would much rather have Jason Repko happily playing all three positions, pinch-running, plus being a more dangerous bat, than I would seeing Jones mope around all season.

Cut him. Tempting. Very, very tempting, and it would be the quickest end to this saga. But it’s ultimately pointless, because then you’re still on the hook for every penny of the $22.1m still due him, while setting him free for some other team to sign him for the minimum and give him a chance to turn things around. If we could save even a few dollars by doing this, I’d be all for it, but there’s just not much upside here – at least to start the season.

Trade him. Clearly, this would be the most desirable outcome, but unfortunately it’s also the least likely. We all did somersaults when we read the rumors about talks with the Mets yesterday, even though we knew from the start it wasn’t going to go anywhere. There’s only three ways a deal gets done: 1) if Colletti eats almost 100% of the salary, which sort of defeats the purpose, 2) if the Dodgers throw in good prospects to reduce the money they have to eat, which already worked out disastrously to save $2m in the Casey Blake deal, or 3) if the Dodgers take back a bad contract in return. In the case of the Mets, that means 2B Luis Castillo, who was foolishly signed to a 4-year deal before 2008, only to spend most of the season injured or ineffective (below average both offensively and defensively according to FanGraphs). Castillo makes $6m over each of the next three seasons and at 33, is unlikely to bounce back. Even better, the Dodgers have no use for him, since he’s not a utility player (he only plays 2B), and the Dodgers have Blake DeWitt and Mark Loretta at the position with Chin-Lung Hu and Ivan DeJesus in reserve. But the one thing Castillo does have is that his bad deal is spread out over three more seasons, allowing for some more flexibilty this year. Would I trade Jones and his $22.1m remaining for Castillo and his $18m remaining, plus throw in $5-6m to make up the difference? Possibly, if only for the payroll manuevering. But I think we all know there’s no way this deal is happening.

Shoot him. They put down horses, don’t they?

Demote him. I know, I know - the team can’t do this without Jones’ consent, as he has more than five years service time in the bigs. He would have every right to decline this move and force the club to either release him or keep him on the active roster. But you know what? I don’t know that he’d be against this, at least initially. He gets his money no matter what, so that’s not an issue. I think if the Dodgers said to him, “look, you’re not going to be a big part of this team right now. You’re going to sit on the bench, maybe get some pinch-hit at-bats at best, and that’s no way to get your career turned around. You need to play every day and we can’t offer that to you right now” he might consider it. After all, he was pretty successful in his short stint in AAA last year (.323/.361/.710 with 4 HR in 31 AB), so it seems that the opportunity to go down there to get his confidence back while beating up on minor leaguers is what’s best for both him and the Dodgers. If he proves he can still hit, maybe he can be useful in LA – or maybe it would facilitate a deal. Either way, this is better than releasing him because you still hold on to the 0.5% chance he turns it around without hurting the Dodgers every day.

Well, At Least They Lost in a Different Way Today

Hey, great game today, right? The Dodgers finally bust out of their offensive slump with 7 runs and 13 hits. Andre Ethier even takes one out of spacious Comerica Park and drives in 4, James Loney goes 3-5, and current favorite Dodger of MSTI Delwyn Young gets three hits of his own. Good times all around, right? What? Oh.

Well, that happened. After a mini-resurgence (2 ER over 6 IP and 3 ER over 6 IP his last two starts, and just the fact that mediocre outings like that count as a positive should tell you how lousy he’s been) Brad Penny is now rocking a 5.88 ERA. And I have to say… it’s time to worry. Yeah, I argued a few weeks ago that he’d had one good month and one bad month in 2008. But after getting off to such a hot start in 2007, he was only mediocre to end the year. Throw in how bad he’s been this year, and over the last 365 days Brad Penny is 13-11 with a 4.41 ERA. Hardly the stuff “aces” are made of. I stand by my earlier stance that you can’t trade him (because his value is so low) and you have to exercise his option (because it’s such a reasonable price for one year)… but if he keeps this up, I reserve the right to completely rethink my position on that option.

The question, of course, is: what now? What can you do with him, short of coming up with some clever way of getting him onto the DL? Other than finding out he really is hiding an injury (unlikely, since his velocity is still there), it seems that the only way he’s going to get himself right is by pitching through it. But can the Dodgers afford to let him do that, with the season already on the brink of slipping away? Remains to be seen, I suppose.

And, look, I hate to say “I told you so,” but: I told you so. Angel Berroa is all the way up to .167, and committed a costly throwing error today. Chin-Lung Hu could have hit .167, except he’d have contributed excellent defense. Clearly, Angel Berroa is not the reason this team is playing like it is; but he’s really not helping much either, is he?  

Update: Well, that was quick. 40 minutes after I put this up, I see this, from Diamond Leung:

Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny has inflammation and pain in his throwing shoulder and probably shouldn’t have gone out to pitch today and give up seven runs to the Tiger. Penny said he felt the discomfort while warming up in the bullpen before the game, but didn’t report any issues until after he was removed from the game.

“He didn’t mention it to me,” Manager Joe Torre said. “When he came out of the game, I found out.”

“I probably shouldn’t have gone out there, but that would have put the team in a horrible spot,” Penny said. “I wasn’t feeling OK at all. You just feel it on every pitch. It makes it tough. It affects everything.”

The first sign of Penny’s shoulder acting up came officially last month when in Anaheim it was announced his start would be pushed back a day. But the numbers show that Penny hasn’t been himself, and he said he had been taking a fast-acting anti-inflammatory medication before starts so he could pitch.

Trainer Stan Conte said the discomfort was surprising given Penny had gone through his bullpen sessions and workouts without incident, and said Penny told him that after his previous two outings, he felt “perfect.”

Penny now is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to find out the cause of his shoulder troubles. He was removed in the fourth inning, and by the fifth, plans for the MRI had been made.

I would never hope for someone to be hurt, and especially not a guy like Penny who’s served this team well over the last few years. But isn’t there just a small part of you that hopes they find something, if only to explain his struggles with something more satisfying than just, “he’s lost it”?

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

We’re Coming to Get You, Angel!

I can’t help but pass along this bit of snark from Baseball Prospectus:

The Dodgers are just 13-21 since Rafael Furcal went on the DL, and in the face of his latest setback and a dearth of other options–unless you count Chin-Lung Hu, Luis Maza, and about 10,000 other professional ballplayers–the Ned Colletti regime reaches a new low by trading precious organic matter for the undead Angel Berroa. Since winning 2003 AL Rookie of the Year honors, Berroa has hit just .255/.292/.364 while fielding at a clip 55 runs below average, showing so much promise that the Royals chose to have him spend his age-29 season in Triple-A so that they could avoid another 100-loss season. Stupid Flanders may not be done wreaking havoc, as there’s word via the grapevine that he’s considering trading Matt Kemp again.

“Undead Berroa”? Oh, hell – one doesn’t pass up an opportunity like this. Besides, it’s so hard to talk about this team right now, let’s break out the medicore Photoshopping.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg