Joe Got Some ‘Splainin to Do

When you look back on a season, there’s always a few games that really stand out in your mind. The game that really got the season on a roll; the game that really got the momentum going. A game that kicks off a road trip where you come back from a 4-0 deficit to tie with 4 runs in the 9th definitely falls into that category, and even moreso if you consider that one of the runs came on a pinch-hit homer from the corpse of Andruw Jones. If you can pull out a game like that, the momentum boost you’ve already received from adding Manny Ramirez is accentuated that much more, and in immediate short term gains, you keep pace with Arizona, who’d already won earlier in the night.

This is one of those games. And this is going to be one that might haunt the Dodgers for the rest of the season for not being able to take advantage of it.

In the vacuum of tonight’s game, there’s a few fingers to be pointed. You’ve got James Loney grounding into 2 double plays and leaving 5 men on base; you’ve got Russell Martin striking out (and looking bad doing it) with men on the corners in the top of the 10th. But that’s baseball, and these things happen. As much as you want to and as hard as you try, you’re simply not going to get that hit every single time out. Often, these things are out of your control. Which is why it’s so goddamn frustrating when the things that are in your control are executed poorly and come back to bite you in the ass. You should know by now what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, well, you must be Joe Torre. I don’t know how to put it any simpler than:

If you’ve got good pitchers available, don’t use the crummy ones.

Maybe they SHOULD administer sobriety tests in the dugout?

Makes sense, right? So please, someone, anyone, explain to me how both Brian Falkenborg and Jason Johnson got into a one-run and tied extra inning game, respectively, while neither Jonathan Broxton or Hong-Chih Kuo made an appearance. It’s not as though either Broxton or Kuo were unavailable; Kuo hadn’t pitched either of the previous two nights, and Broxton has had three nights off. (In fact, Broxton’s only thrown nine pitches since July 29th – I know he’s warmed up in the bullpen a lot of those days too, but what’s up with that?)

It couldn’t be simpler. When your entire bullpen is rested, as it should be after an off-day, you use your five effective relievers (Beimel, Park, Kuo, Broxton, and Wade) – if you even need that many, which most days you won’t – and if the game goes into extra innings and you just need some arms, only then do you get the hammer and smash the “break only in case of emergency” glass to retrieve Falkenborg, Johnson, and Troncoso. Yeah, I know – the season’s a long grind, and you’ve got to use your entire pen, not just the best guys, so you don’t overwork them. But again, there was a day off prior, and two of your best (Kuo and Broxton) hadn’t even pitched in the game (or two) before that. They’re rested. You don’t let them sit while lesser men blow the game.

Let’s start with the first one, Brian Falkenborg coming in down 1-0 to start the 6th after Chad Billingsley is pulled from the game after just 74 pitches due to a second rain delay. You’ve got plenty of options with a fully rested pen. Since you’re being forced to dip into your bullpen so early, you probably want a guy who can go more than one inning. Someone like, say, Hong-Chih Kuo, who’s been simply dominating all year (1.85 ERA, 76K in 64 IP), or Chan Ho Park, leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year with his 2.65 ERA, or even Cory Wade, who’s gone multiple innings several times and has been impressive with a 2.54 ERA.

What you don’t do is bring in veteran retread Brian Falkenborg ahead of all of these guys. Can we finally give up on the ”Falkenborg is a good pitcher” train that some people seem to be on? We’ve been pretty unhappy with him since day one (see here and here) and we’ve actually gotten some grief over it, and I just can’t understand why. Is it his 4.91 ERA coming into the game (that’s now 5.56 after it, by the way)? Is it his history of being unable to stick at the major league level? Even if you can justify him being on the team ahead of some guys we have in the minors (that’s a tough sell for me), I don’t see how anyone can say he’s any better than the last man out of the pen. Look, if we get to the 14th inning and it’s him or letting Russell Martin take the mound, that’s fine – if he gets hammered, what else could you have done? But there’s just no reason you let him pitch before every single other one of your rested and effective pitchers.

To no one’s surprise but Joe Torre’s, Falkenborg let the team down by allowing three of the four men he faced to reach base. Yeah, Joe Beimel hit Rick Ankiel to force the run in, and that was a pretty terrible job by Beimel (although he did rebound to get the next two outs with no further damage). But it’s a situation that never should have happened in the first place.

Epic Fail

Now we’re onto the eleventh inning. After Cory Wade came through yet again with two scoreless innings (plus drawing a walk!), Torre’s got three men left in the pen: Jonathan Broxton, his closer. Hong-Chih Kuo, who as discussed above, has been lights-out all year. And Jason Johnson, who after three surprisingly good outings to begin his Dodgers career, was pretty mediocre his last time out, giving up 3 runs and 5 hits in 4 1/3 innings vs. Arizona. How is there even a discussion here? You’ve got two excellent well-rested pitchers, and a mediocre veteran journeyman with less rest than either of them.

I can’t stress that last point enough. Two good rested pitchers, one demonstrably lousy pitcher on shorter rest. Even if you make the case that since it’s a road game, you want to save Broxton to close in case you get a lead, you still bring in Kuo over Johnson. And of course, what happens? Single, pop-out, walkoff dinger. While Broxton and Kuo look on helplessly, since Torre never saw fit to bring them in.

And now the Blue are 2.5 games back of Arizona and deflated from the loss, where they could have been 1.5 games back and on a roll. Is it possible that Kuo or Broxton give up that homer too? Sure, it’s absolutely possible. But as a manager, your #1 priority is putting your team in the best position to win, and I don’t think you can say Joe Torre did that tonight. You live and die by your best players, whenever they’re available. I hate to think that the Dodgers lose out on the playoffs by one game due to the failures of two players who ostensibly are somewhere around 15th and 16th on the organizational pitching chart.

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

MSTI’s First Half Review: Pitching

After dissecting the mess that is the offense, on to much happier subjects: the pitching. With some exceptions, the pitching has been excellent so far, carrying this team where the offense has let it down.

Remember, the grades reflect the performance of the player compared to what reasonably could have been expected of them at the beginning of the year. Less than 10 IP gets you an “incomplete”.

Starters
Chad Billingsley (9-8, 3.25) (A)
Ace. Not “going to be an ace”. Not “potential to be an ace.” Ace. I mean, he’s third in all of baseball in strikeouts behind only two other certified aces, C.C. Sabathia and Tim Lincecum, despite having 21 and 13 fewer IP, respectively. His 3.25 ERA is 11th in the NL, and that’s even though he had a 5.20 ERA in April due to his being jerked around in his first three appearances around rain delays and relief stints. (Relive that terror here.) He still needs to work on keeping the pitch count down and getting deeper into games, but just in case you forgot: he’s 23 years old and he’s already one of the best pitchers in baseball. Enjoy watching this kid for the next ten years.

Derek Lowe (7-8, 3.45) (B+)
Death, taxes, and Derek Lowe, right? Look at Lowe’s WHIPs in his 4 years in LA: 1.252, 1.266, 1.269, 1.226. Look at his ERAs: 3.61, 3.63, 3.88, 3.85. The man has become a model of consistency – although thanks to the Dodgers’ lousy offensive attack, he’s on pace for this third losing season out of four. This year, though, Lowe actually made it interesting, sandwiching excellent months of April (2.88) and June (2.81) around a brutal May (6.11). Yet he still ends up almost exactly where he’s always been. Say what you will about Paul DePodesta, but the deal he signed Lowe to ended up being an absolute steal.

Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.42) (A)
It’s appropriate that Kuroda comes after Lowe, because while Kuroda’s been surprisingly good, he’s also been amazingly inconsistent. I think we’re all thrilled with the 128 ERA+ from a unknown Japanese import, but who’d have imagined how he’d come by it? In just his last 6 outings, he’s had two complete game shutouts (first by a Dodger since Lowe in 2005) plus another 7 shutout inning effort – but also two 6-run games in which he couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning. On the plus side, both of those stinkers came before his short stint on the DL, and he’s been nails ever since.

This man needs a better nickname. I’ve seen “Rusty” and “Hero” floating around, but I’m not sure how I feel about either.

Brad Penny (5-9, 5.88) (F)
Ugh. The supposed “ace” coming into the season – he did start the All-Star Game last year – has been on the DL since June 17, and he was probably hurt for quite a while before that. On June 1, I put forth the idea that Penny had a very good April and a lousy May, so it wasn’t time to panic based on one bad month. Of course, it only got worse and then he went on the DL. Fortunately, the starting depth has been excellent, because there’s not too many teams who can weather the loss of their opening day starter and improve, but it does sort of muddy his future. He’s still got that team option for $8.75 next year which I still feel you simply have to pick up (as long as he can return and show any sort of effectiveness), but it’s hardly a given anymore.

Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 4.42) (B-)
A really hard grade to assign for the kid. In a vacuum, he was only a pretty average major league pitcher (99 ERA+). On the other hand, he’s just 20 years old, so to achieve even that was pretty impressive. Basically, Kershaw came out and did exactly what you’d expect he would have: obvious flashes of brilliance, a little wildness and inconsistency, and difficulty working deep into games due to high pitch counts. Still, I hope the experience did him well; he probably was able to learn a lot about what it takes to succeed in the bigs, and when he returns – as he almost certainly will later this season – hopefully he’ll have taken a step forward. That said, it was the right decision to send him down.

Eric Stults (2-2, 2.67) (A+)
2006: 1-0, 5.60 ERA in 6 games (2 starts)
2007: 1-4, 5.82 ERA in 12 games (5 starts)

MSTI on Stults, March 5, 2008:

Eric Stults, I guess? Actually, I haven’t heard word one about him being in the mix this spring at all, so I’m not even sure if he’s being considered. Even so, his career MLB record of 2 wins and a 5.75 ERA is hardly the stuff legends, or even league-average pitchers, are made of.

Well, let the legend begin. Seriously, if someone told you the “Dodgers will have 3 complete game shutouts at the break” and you guessed “Two by Kuroda and one by Stults” you’d be in a psychiatric hospital right now. And it’s not just been that one dominating game against the ChiSox; even in his last start, after giving up 3 runs in the first inning to the Marlins, he completely shut them down for the next 5 innings. I have no illusions that Stults has stumbled upon the secret grave of Cy Young, but he’s been more than effective and one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Keep it up, Stultsy.

Swingmen
Chan Ho Park (4-2, 2.63) (A+)
MSTI, March 5, 2008, discussing starting rotation depth:

Chan Ho Park, that’s right, the Chan Ho Park. How’d his 2007 go? Not bad, just a brutal 6-14, 5.99 ERA campaign. In the minor leagues. I’m not even brave enough to do the calculations to see what that would have equated to in the bigs.

Oh well. At least I can take comfort in the fact that there’s no one on the planet – come on, not even Mrs. Park – who saw this coming. Chan Ho Park hasn’t had an ERA under 4.81 or an ERA+ within sniffing distance of league average since… wait for it.. 2001, his last season in LA. In the intervening six seasons, he ranged from bad (3 seasons in Texas with ERA’s over 5) to hurt (just 7 games in 2003) to completely irrelevant (just one game in the bigs last year, for the Mets, in which he gave up 7 runs in 4 innings). Yet back in LA, where he was above league average in 5 of his 6 full seasons.. he’s been amazing. A 166 ERA+? A 2.16 ERA in 5 starts? This isn’t just a rebirth for Park. This might be the best season of his career. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Hong-Chih Kuo (3-1, 1.69) (A+)
Previously known for 4 elbow surgeries, a curious affinity for beating up on the Mets, and flipping his bat after hitting a homer against said Mets, Hong-Chih Kuo has become what no one expected he ever could be: a reliable, effective major league pitcher. Forget “effective”. He’s been dominating at times, with a 1.69 ERA, and he’s been absolute murder on lefthanded batters, who strike out against him nearly half of the time. But for some bizarre reason, Torre insists on bringing him in when the Dodgers are behind; a majority of his batters faced have been in “low leverage” situations. Because when you’ve got a guy who’s mowing people down, you definitely want him to come in for mop-up situations. Of course.

Esteban Loiaza (1-2, 5.63) (F)
Although I suppose, he really should have gotten a “DFA” as a grade. But hey, at least for the $8 million or so the Dodgers paid him, he gave them 2 wins in 8 starts over the last two seasons before being unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Did he really pitch 24 innings for the Dodgers this year? I mean, I know he did, but doesn’t that seem like it was about 40 years ago?

Bullpen
Takashi Saito (3-3, 2.18, 17 of 20 saves) (A-)
I write this review with a lot of trepidation, as the results of Saito’s right elbow MRI are still unknown. But when a 38-year-old pitcher says that his throwing arm hurts too much to brush his teeth with it, that’s not exactly what’s known around the industry as a “good sign”. I hate to say it, but there’s a part of me that’s afraid we’ve seen the last of him.

As for this year, there’s been some sentiment around the Internets that he’s lost it, and I for the life of me just can’t see why. He’s really had two lousy games all season, and his ERA+ is still a fantastic 201. Is it because he’s not as dominating as last year, when he had a better season than future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera has ever had? Sure, he hasn’t, but he’s still been a pretty damned effective closer, and if he’s DL’d or worse, there’s no question this team’s in trouble without him.

Jonathan Broxton (2-2, 3.40) (B-)
Amazing that Broxton’s still only 24, isn’t it? Seems like he’s been here forever, and this is his 4th season in the bigs. It’s been a weird season for the Bull; he’s still been effective, but not as good as he’s been over the last two years. He’s also had a few disaster games (6 runs in 1/3 IP to lose vs. Houston, and 3 runs in 1/3 IP to blow a game in New York).

I guess we’re going to find out a lot more about him pretty quickly, though; with Saito likely hitting the DL, we’re going to get our first look at Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers Closer.

Joe Beimel (3-0, 1.61) (A)
You know what they say about middle relievers; they’re so up-and-down from year to year that it’s a mistake to ever depend on them. Except for the third year in a row, Joe Beimel’s been incredibly reliable out of the Dodgers bullpen. His ERA is a little deceiving; while he’s clearly doing a good job of not letting guys score, his WHIP is from 1.29 to 1.42 this year. Still, 5 earned runs at the All-Star break is pretty impressive.

Besides, how many middle relievers get their own crazy dedicated fans?

Scott Proctor (1-0, 6.82) (F)
Booooooooooooooooooo. Booooooooooooooooo! He was terrible, I mean, truly awful, before going down with a bum arm, which sort of makes me think this post I made after Torre was hired (RIP Scott Proctor, 1977-2008) was pretty accurate. Maybe all those years of abuse from Torre in New York finally caught up to him?

Cory Wade (0-1, 2.56) (A+)
Along with Park, Kuo, and Stults, the Dodgers have been the lucky recipient of several massive pitching surprises this year, and Wade certainly fits the bill. I mean, really: Cory Wade? This is what is so simultaneously great and frustrating about baseball – you can never predict things like this. Wade got called up from AA Jacksonville to be the last man out of the pen and has been so good that he’s become a pretty important piece. A 171 ERA+ and a 1.009 WHIP will do that for you. But still. Cory Wade. Good for him.

Ramon Troncoso (0-1, 4.91) (C-)
Snooze. I have to say, I nearly forgot Troncoso was even on the roster. I mean really, what can you say about Ramon Troncoso? He’s only gotten into 13 games, and he’s been predictably mediocre. In fact, he’s only gotten into two games this month, so it seems like Joe Torre may have forgotten he existed too. Oddly enough, for a right-handed pitcher, he’s way more effective against lefties (.451 OPS) than righties (.917 OPS).

Brian Falkenborg (1-2, 6.43) (incomplete)
It’s amazing how much discussion we’ve had around here for a guy who’s only pitched seven innings. Of course, when you’re a career quad-A pitcher who racked up 2 losses in those 7 innings because Joe Torre insists on putting you into high-pressure situations, you’re going to get some things written about you, and they’re not going to be all that good. Look, for all the vitriol about him, I don’t really have a problem with Falkenborg’s existence so much as I do Joe Torre’s usage of him, and that’s really something that Falkenborg has no control over. So Joe, if you want to use him, that’s fine, but can’t you just give him the Hong-Chih Kuo Memorial “Pitcher Who Only Comes In When the Dodgers Are Losing” scholarship?

Yhency Brazoban (0-0, 6.00) (incomplete)
Remember when we actually called this guy “Ghame Over”? What a year for Yhency. Actually, what a career. This is somehow the fifth straight season in which he’s been on the Dodgers, except that he’s only made it into 11 games between 2006-08. After coming back from arm surgery, he showed up to camp, well, let’s just say, “hefty.” He was pretty good in the minors and made it back up to the bigs on May 9th, but in the 16 days he was up, he only got into two games, giving up two runs in three innings. Now back in the minors, he’s once again been hurt and is carrying a 12.37 ERA in 8 games at Vegas. I still can’t believe this guy was once our closer and the heir to the Gagne Throne.

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

How Not to Capture First Place

It’s the bottom of the 7th inning in San Francisco, and there are miracles in the air. Despite being two games under .500, the Dodgers are just a half game out of first place – and the Diamondbacks are on their way to defeat against San Diego. You can say that “first place” isn’t much of an accomplishment considering how lousy the NL West is, and there’s certainly merit to that, but it’ll still get you into the playoffs. After another outstanding effort by Chan Ho Park (just 1 run and 3 hits in 6 innings), the Dodgers lead the woeful Giants 2-1. Just hold on for nine more outs, and this team is improbably, amazingly, astoundingly in first place.

Joe Beimel enters the game sporting an excellent 1.05 ERA. He gives up a leadoff double to Jose Castillo, and then gets the first out on Omar Vizquel’s sacrifice bunt, which gets Castillo to third base. With the tying run 90 feet away, Bruce Bochy brings in Rich Aurilia to hit for Barry Zito. If you’re Joe Torre, you’ve got some options here.

You can leave in Beimel, who’s been one of the best relievers in all of baseball this year, and who hasn’t given up a run since May. Sure, it’s a righty/lefty matchup, but Beimel has been nearly equally tough on hitters from both sides of the plate, and either way, has gotten Aurilia out 7 of the 8 times they’d previously matched up.

You can bring in Jonathan Broxton, if you’re so set on exploiting the righty/righty matchup. Broxton may nominally be the 8th inning guy, but asking him to get five outs shouldn’t be that unrealistic of an expectation. Even so, if the idea that Broxton’s the second best guy in the pen behind Saito, then he should be used in the most high-pressure non-9th-inning situations, and if this isn’t that, tell me what is. Broxton has also had success against Aurilia, giving up just 1 hit in 6 at-bats and garnering 3 strikeouts.

Really, the thought process shouldn’t be going further than those two options, but if it must, you can bring in Cory Wade. He’s been a big surprise out of the pen this year, and although he’s never faced Aurilia, he’s been absolute murder on right-handed hitters, holding them to a .227/.275/.387 line thus far. He’s also fresh, having not pitched in either of the previous two games.

Here you have three acceptable options. Personally, I probably leave in Beimel – he’s been fantastic this year and Aurilia’s had no success against him. Even if Torre had decided to bring in Broxton and he gave up the run, or Wade and he couldn’t hold it, that’s fine. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you push all the right buttons, it’s just not going to work out. That’s life, and that’s baseball. These things happen.

But hey, you know what’s never going to be the right idea, ever? Bringing in the guy who’s somewhere around 16th on the organizational pitching depth chart into a high-pressure situation despite having so many better options around. Brian Falkenborg? Really? The guy who’s been a failure at every MLB stop in his career, with a 5.74 ERA in parts of 5 seasons for 4 teams entering this year? The guy who gave up a 3 run homer in his 5 pitches his last time out? The guy who I said never should have been called up in the first place?

To put it as simply as possible, Joe Torre thought Brian Falkenborg was a better option to prevent the tying run from scoring than Joe Beimel. Falkenborg’s ERA of 3.60 in triple A was three and a half times higher than Beimel’s been able to do in the big leagues – yet somehow, he’s the superior choice here. To the surprise of absolutely no one except for Joe Torre (hell, I bet even Mrs. Falkenborg was covering her eyes when Joe walked out to the mound and raised his right arm), Falkenborg self-immolated on the mound. Sure, he got Aurilia to strike out, but then he gave up a game-tying single to Fred Lewis, walked Ray Durham, and then – because just letting them tie wasn’t good enough – allowed Randy Winn to drive in the go-ahead run.

You can blame Falkenborg here for not getting the job done. But really, there’s no way he ought to have been placed in that situation anyway. He’s the last man on the staff. He ought to be pulling mop-up duty, at best. How he gets put into a high-pressure situation that ultimately decided the game is completely beyond me.

And now, for another night, first place continues to elude the Dodgers. It’d be nice if we could just point to the failures of the players on the field (and don’t get too comfortable, Andruw Jones, or think we haven’t noticed your fantastic comeback) without having to point at near-sabotage by our own staff too.

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

Somehow, This Post Has Ryan Dempster in it Twice

Here at MSTI, we tend to focus on a lot of the same issues and players. Recently it’s been the astounding performance of Blake DeWitt, what to do at 3B, our continued disappointment with Juan Pierre playing over Andre Ethier, and the amazing disaster that is Andruw Jones. But after watching today’s game, I think it’s time to take a moment and recognize some guys who get little to no positive fanfare around here.

First, Gary Bennett! Gary had two hits all season coming into this game. Two. For a robust line of .133/.188/.133. That’s actually somehow even worse than I thought it would be before I looked it up – no wonder Joe Torre refuses to rest Russell Martin (who, by the way, is still on pace to play 162 games.) So what does he do today? Only 2-4 with a homer off Ben Sheets and FOUR RBI. Check it out, he even got some recognition on ESPN’s MLB homepage and on FSN Wisconsin’s game coverage. (That’s right, I’m showing them both. I’m pulling out all the stops for this; who the hell knows if I’ll ever get to praise Gary Bennett again?!)

Next: Joe Beimel! No, he didn’t even get into today’s game. But this arrived on my doorstep today, so here it is. Look at his first answer from the Pop Culture Grid in this week’s Sports Illustrated – just showing that he’s aware of what all the ladies know:

Finally: Andruw Jones. We’ve been dumping on him a lot lately (see the latest cause in the upper right) and with good reason. In fact, when I couldn’t find a picture of him hitting his homer today, I realized I could barely even find a good picture of him in a Dodger uniform doing anything positive, so he goes without. But after getting 2 hits yesterday, he led off the 7th inning against Ben Sheets – who’d been dominating to that point – with a homer to put the first run on the board. Sure, he went 0-3 in his other at-bats. And yeah, the wheels clearly were coming off for Sheets in that inning, giving up homers to Bennett and Jeff Kent as well. But maybe, just maybe, he can take something good away from that going into Anaheim. I’ve come very close to giving up on him ever getting untracked at all, but if he can, this offense could actually be scary. Let’s hope today helps with that. Good shot, Andruw.

Now let’s just hope Blake DeWitt’s back is alright – and that we never have to see Luis Maza and his Pierre-like arm at shortstop ever, ever again.

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

Baseball Really Needs to Move Opening Day to Feb 1

To say things are slow right now couldn’t be more of an understatement. As we all know, the team is 97% set for the season, with the roster relatively settled except for the very end of the bench and the staff, which will sort themselves out during spring training. That said, let’s do a quick roundup of what has happened over the last week or so. (As an aside, I’m writing this fresh off of watching Cloverfield. The required suspension-of-disbelief over crazy monster movies aside, does anyone want to explain to me how the girl who gets a shard of rebar through the heart for three hours gets the rebar yanked out of her, and then is tip-top after that? I’m buying the monster destroying Midtown before I’m buying that.)

 - Possible good news on the “Juan Pierre is bad at baseball” front? Joe Torre’s giving me a bit of hope here:

Torre, the Dodgers’ new manager and the man with whom the ultimate decision will rest, seemed to suggest that Pierre’s place in the regular lineup isn’t necessarily a given.

“Andruw is obviously our center fielder,” Torre said. “He anchors everything. Ethier, Kemp and Juan Pierre are competing for two spots out there.

“We’ll just have to figure it out. I have had situations in the past where we had too many outfielders for three spots. The only thing (definite) is that we will start the season with our best option.”

- RHP Scott Proctor avoids arbitration by signing a one-year deal worth $1.115 million. Lets hope he’s got a good financial planner, because I’m still worried about Torre making his head explode like the guy from Scanners.

 - OF Jason Repko gets one year and $487,000. Here’s hoping he gets to spend a hot summer in Las Vegas not injuring the other players we actually care about this year.

 - Good run-down of all Dodgers offseason moves, both on-field and off, right here at DodgerThoughts.

 - Not that it hasn’t been known for a while, but the Dodgers are officially destroying spring training by going to play a few games in China in the middle of March. This means the team congregates in Vero Beach, FL in the middle of February and functions as normal until a group of as-yet-undetermined Dodgers jet off to China on March 11th. Then, Dodgers China go off on their own for a week, while Dodgers Vero stick around in FL until the 18th. The two teams then meet up on the 19th – in Arizona. This has the oh-so-happy consequence of: making some of the players travel about 10,000 miles to wear them out right before the season; making first-year manager Joe Torre spend a week of camp half a planet away from his new players; and most importantly, totally ruining my plan of heading down to Vero to see the last games at Dodgertown. Thanks, team!

- Finally, remember last week’s installment of “The Legend of Joe Beimel”? Tastefully-named commentator “Slayer” has brought it to my attention that there’s a part 2. Except, this isn’t by the same “Troy from WV” who did the first one, this is a video response. Which looks to actually have an appearance from Joe Beimel at the end? I can’t really tell. But man, do I hope so. Enjoy!

Update: it appears this is actually Joe Beimel in the video. Which, considering how similar this is to the original video, would really make it seem as though someone brought it to Beimel’s attention, and got a buddy to set up a similar basement setting and southern accent, for the sake of satire. We have an early candidate for “2008 Dodger of the Year”, right here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsahZaLHjSo&rel=1]

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