MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Left Field

Ah, left field: where hope goes to die. No, really; over the last ten seasons (2002-2011), the Dodgers have had 47 different players make an appearance in left field, and it’s not like they were all token appearances – 34 of the 47 were out there at least ten times. Who can forget the 48 games and .661 OPS from Jason Grabowski in 2004-05? The continuing stream of busted veterans like Luis Gonzalez, Ricky Ledee, and Jose Cruz conspiring to keep superior young players out of the lineup in 2006-07? And dear lord, Garret Anderson and Scott Podsednik on the same roster (though, thankfully, not at the same time) last year? With the obvious exception of Manny Ramirez‘ monster performance in 2008 and parts of 2009, the only Dodger left fielder with any meaningful playing time to put up an OPS of even .800 (which isn’t exactly a top mark from a power position) over the last decade was Andre Ethier, who just barely topped the minimum at .803 while playing there for much of the first three years of his career.

With Manny finally gone after 2010, left field was an obvious problem spot all winter, one that never quite got filled. Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn arrived early, later joined by Marcus Thames to form the immortal “JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr.” trio that was absolutely never going to work – and, you know, didn’t – but much of the winter was marked by the Dodgers trying and failing to bring in others. Bill Hall was considered, but he went to Houston to play second base. (Fortunately for the Dodgers, as it turned out). Matt Diaz was sought, though he went to Pittsburgh. Brothers Scott Hairston and Jerry Hairston both appeared in rumors; neither arrived. With no upgrades available, the club eventually resigned themselves to wishing for the best from the Gwybbons Jr. trio, as we entertained ourselves by wondering if the team would break the record for most left fielders in a season while waiting for the day Trayvon Robinson would come save us. This, of course, would not do, as Dodger left fielders finished 23rd in MLB in OPS at .680, and Robinson, as you might have heard, was dealt to Seattle.

But remember, it could have been worse: in November, Ned Colletti actually picked up the team half of Podsednik’s mutual option, an offer that Podsednik foolishly (and disastrously) turned down in hopes of a bigger payday elsewhere. Podsednik ended up being injured for much of the year in AAA for Toronto and Philadelphia, and didn’t play a single MLB game. He was nearly the starting left fielder for the Dodgers. Good lord. Let’s get on with this hot mess.

(If you’re looking for Juan Rivera, he’ll appear in right field, even though he started more games as a left fielder, just to keep the left field pit of hell a little more manageable.)

Tony Gwynn (C)
.256/.308/.353 .660 2hr 22sb 1.1 WAR

Tony Gwynn might just be the blandest player to think about on the Dodgers. When Junior signed, we expected great fielding, some contribution on the basepaths, and just about nothing at the plate. And… well, that’s exactly what happened. Feel the excitement!

I wasn’t really sold on his signing – I wasn’t sure he was even better than Xavier Paul, though mostly I really had wanted a righty outfield bat – but after a solid spring, we were doing our best to talk ourselves into him:

It says a lot about the construction of this team that I just wrote about 900 words on why Tony Gwynn may be the best choice they’ve got, but it just might be true. The way things are currently configured, nothing could work out better for this team than for Gwynn to keep up his hot spring and grab the job.

He didn’t quite take over in the early going, sharing time with Marcus Thames and others, and hit a Gwynn-esque .264/.291/.377 through April, though he did pitch in with a game-saving catch. Then April turned into May, and… oh, that’s gonna leave a mark.

Split G GS PA H RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
May 26 4 32 2 1 1 2 7 .067 .125 .100 .225

Gwynn’s May was so bad that by the end of of the month, when we were wondering who might get DFA’d to make room for a returning Thames, the only reason it seemed worthwhile to keep Gwynn around was the lack of another option to help Matt Kemp out in center field. Gwynn survived the purge, and managed to pick up two hits in his first game of June despite not entering the game until the 8th inning. That was the start of a resurgence, because over June and July Gwynn picked up 40 hits, for a combined line of .305/.377/.389. That still shows absolutely no power whatsoever, but it doesn’t matter, because a player who can get on base at that rate along with good baserunning and excellent defense is quite valuable.

Of course, Gwynn followed up his nice stretch with a .245/.278/.367 run over August and September, which sounds about right from him. Overall, his .308 OBP is basically the same as his .304 mark with the Padres in 2010, but very troubling is the fact that his walk rate dropped from 10.6% and 12.1% the previous two years to just 6.8% with the Dodgers.

So what next? His plate performance is lousy, though his defense is rated excellent by most metrics and that absolutely passes the sniff test. Considering his utility on the bases, he’s a useful enough piece, and he wants to return. If I was running the team, I’d probably look to upgrade, but assuming he doesn’t get much more than ~$1m or so if he makes it to arbitration, that seems fair enough.

Jerry Sands (B-)
.253/.338/.389 .727 4hr 0.0 WAR

When camp started, we were all intrigued by the 2010 performance of Jerry Sands in the minors, and we hoped that if all went well, we might be lucky enough to see him in the bigs by September. By March 7, Sands was so impressive that I was creating polls to see how long people thought the Dodgers could really keep him down, especially considering the lack of production at his two primary positions, first base and left field. Even then, the majority of people figured “July or later”, so it was no surprise when he was sent back to minor league camp on St. Patrick’s Day.

Sands started off his AAA season by homering in each of his first four games, and as the Dodger offense struggled with injury and ineffectiveness, they shocked us all by recalled him on April 17, far sooner than anyone expected. The initial returns were promising, with fans giving standing ovations for his debut, and he repaid them with doubles in each of his first two games and in five of his first nine, as the Dodgers – to their credit – committed to the experiment, playing him nearly every day.

But despite the doubles, the excitement, and the promised plate discipline, something was missing. Sands wasn’t quite the savior we’d been looking for. There were some nice moments, of course, including his first homer on May 21 and a grand slam on May 24 in Rubby De La Rosa‘s debut, but they were few and far between. By the end of May, I was open to the idea that it should be Sands who went back down when Marcus Thames returned. Sands survived, with Jay Gibbons surprisingly getting the axe on the day that Dee Gordon arrived, but just over a week later it was Sands’ turn:

Numbers aren’t everything, of course. When Sands arrived, we heard a great deal about his maturity, ability to make adjustments, and command of the strike zone. From this vantage point, all of what we’ve heard has been true and then some. Before his recent slump, he’d shown an increased ability to pull the ball, rather than always going the other way, and even when the power wasn’t there he was seeing a lot of pitches and getting on base.

By sending him back down now, you hope that he goes down knowing he can play on this level, with a few adjustments. This is where the maturity comes into play; some rookies can’t handle a demotion well, but Sands sounds like the type who can. Ideally, he goes back down to ABQ, mashes Triple-A pitching for a while to get his confidence back up (also important, as you don’t want a string of oh-fers in the bigs to get him down), and then we’ll see back up later in the summer. I’d say “when rosters expand on Sept. 1″, but I think we all know that injuries will necessitate a recall sooner.

Sands is a big part of this team’s future, and it’s in his best interest to go back down and get his confidence back up. He’s not helping the team right now, and he’s not helping himself. He’ll be back, and he’ll be better for the experience.

That’s exactly what happened, because much like Gordon, the Sands we saw the second time around was far different from our initial look. When Sands was sent down, he was hitting .200/.294/.328 in 144 plate appearances; after his return on September 8 (with the arrival of Rivera and the resurgence of James Loney, he stayed down longer than I would have guessed), he hit .342/.415/.493, playing mostly right field with Andre Ethier injured, including a 14-game hitting streak and hits in 16 of 18 games. He ended up finishing fifth on the club in doubles, despite having just 227 plate appearances; the hot streak all but guaranteed himself a spot on next year’s club, though it remains to be seen what position he’ll play.

If there is one big red flag about Sands, it’s that his home/road splits with the Isotopes were beyond atrocious. Courtesy of Andrew Grant’s Minor League Central, we can see that he hit .347/.406/.709 with 18 homers at home, and just .186/.258/.401 with 9 homers on the road. I’m always driving the “ABQ stats mean little without checking the splits” train, so I can’t in good conscience tell you to completely ignore that here. However, when we talk about ABQ-inflated stats, we’re usually talking about a player who is either a semi-prospect with little to point to before reaching ABQ (think Justin Sellers), or an older Quad-A fringe type who could never stick in the bigs but who was lucky enough to land in the perfect place to pad his stats (like Trent Oeltjen recently, or Dee Brown or Hector Luna in previous years.) As a young player who comes with quality scouting reports, a solid track record in the minors before landing in New Mexico, and an excellent finish to his season in the bigs, Sands has a lot more going for him than the other names mentioned, so his splits aren’t cause to write him off – just something to note.

Marcus Thames (F)
.197/.243/.333 .576 2hr -0.7 WAR

Despite the fact that it didn’t even come close to working out, giving Marcus Thames a shot as a LF/1B bench bat wasn’t the worst idea in the world at the time:

So if you’ve come here looking to see if I hate the idea of Thames, then no, I don’t. I hate that this is the best the Dodgers are going to be able to do; I hate that with every passing day the idea that much is riding on Tony Gwynn hitting enough to win the CF job. I think there’s good arguments to be made for preferring Hairston or Milledge, yet I can’t complain too much about getting a guy who has an .820 OPS and 94 homers over the last five years (assuming the money is small).

Really, this is going to be determined by Thames’ usage. If he’s a lefty-killing specialist who is 80% off the bench and 20% in left field, that’s useful enough. If he’s penciled in to a strict platoon role where he gets a goodly amount of playing time in the field, that’s an enormous problem. Thames is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball, and as tenuous as the idea of a Jay Gibbons / Matt Kemp / Andre Ethier outfield might be, putting Thames in LF alongside Kemp and Ethier would be atrocious, to the point that it might be the worst fielding trio in the game. This is going to be another test for Don Mattingly, and we’ll have to see how he handles that.

We never found out. Thames was as poor as advertised in the field, but he was also surprisingly bad at the plate, albeit in just 70 plate appearances. I think some of that might be chalked up to his usage, because after starting five of his first eight games in left field, he was essentially reduced to pinch-hitting until he was injured in early May. For a player used to getting three and four at-bats per game as a designated hitter in the American League, the transition to pinch-hitting was a difficult one.

Thames landed on the disabled list on May 3 after injuring his left thigh and missed slightly more than a month. When he returned, Mattingly attempted to get him back in the mix by giving him eight starts in left field in June, but it didn’t work; Thames failed to hit and missed several more games with a calf strain. He pinch-hit twice in July and was finally DFA’d in favor of Juan Rivera over the All-Star break, eventually returning to the Yankees on a minor-league deal.

Like so many other Dodgers in 2011, Thames couldn’t stay healthy and didn’t do much to justify his existence when he was. Not exactly a memorable tenure from a short-term Dodger.

Jay Gibbons (D-)
.255/.323/.345 .668 1hr -0.5 WAR

Gibbons, as you probably remember, was a nice story at the end of 2010. As much as that made for some fun puff piece stories in the press, I was a bit concerned about what to really expect from him going into 2011:

You all know his story by now, as he went from “reasonably successful Oriole” in the early and middle part of the decade, to “blackballed Mitchell Report name who was largely out of baseball” in 2008-09, to “heartwarming success story for his hometown team” in 2010. Though he was certainly a nice boost for the team last year, I’ve always felt that his performance got a little more hype than it probably deserved. Coming on the heels of the Garret Anderson debacle, the bar was set pretty low, and Gibbons made a great first impression – he homered in his first start and put up a 1.102 OPS over his first 47 PA back in the bigs. That’s all well and good, except beyond his own defensive issues, 47 PA is hardly a large sample size, he ended the season in a 6-32 slide, and we’ve learned several times that people put far too much stock into first impressions. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve been saying the exact same thing about Rod Barajas for months.

This isn’t to bash Gibbons, who made for a nice story in the dog days of a lost season. It’s just to point out that despite all the accolades, he’s still a 34-year-old who put up a .313 OBP in 80 PA, and can’t possibly be expected to sustain a .507 SLG. While all the stories read that he hadn’t played in MLB since 2007, it actually goes beyond that; due to injuries, he didn’t even get into 100 games in either 2006 or 2007.

I think I nailed the trepidation there pretty well, and Gibbons did little to change that in 62 plate appearances in May and early June. That said, while i don’t think he was ever likely to produce, you do have to feel bad for him in how it went down. Gibbons returned early from winter ball complaining of vision problems, and started the season on the disabled list with the same issue. When he returned in May, he made it to early June before getting a somewhat surprising DFA which landed him back in Albuquerque, where he underwent another eye surgery in hopes of restoring his vision.

On the season for the Isotopes, he hit an Albuquerque-fueled .305/.407/.463, which is nice, and if we’ve learned anything about Gibbons it’s that you can’t count him out. But he’ll be 35 next spring, didn’t get a September call-up, is a poor defender, and in 2012 it’ll have been nearly six years since he was last an effective big leaguer for more than a few weeks. If he wants a job in AAA I’m sure he can have one somewhere, but I wouldn’t expect to see him back with the Dodgers again, especially since he elected to become a free agent in early October.

Xaver Paul (inc.)
.273/.273/.273 .545 0hr -0.1 WAR

I don’t use this photo in Paul’s card to make fun of him, but mostly because it was one of the few photos of him playing for the Dodgers this year I could actually find.

That’ll happen when you get just 11 plate appearances before being shipped off to the place where all mediocre Dodgers go to die: Pittsburgh. (Here’s looking at you, Delwyn Young & Andy LaRoche.)

Paul had long been one of my favorites, but he never really seemed to get the chance he deserved based on his minor-league track record and strong throwing arm. It’s not that he ever looked like a future star or even more than a fourth outfielder – I can’t even say he did much in Pittsburgh in his first crack at semi-regular playing time – but the simple fact that he kept getting swept aside for over-the-hill veterans like Garret Anderson really burned me.

So long, Xavier. We’ll always have you as the answer to the trivia question, “who was DFA’d to get Jerry Sands on the roster?”

Jamie Hoffmann (inc.)
.000/.000/.000 .000 0hr -0.2 WAR

Hoffmann had four plate appearances over two April games, so obviously there’s not a lot of his MLB season to analyze. The greater question here is, who did he piss off? Hoffmann hit .297/.356/.497 in AAA this year, while backing up his reputation as an excellent defensive outfielder by breaking a 53-year-old PCL record for consecutive errorless games. While the standard ABQ disclaimers apply (dig that 200+ split in home/road OPS), you don’t hit 22 homers completely by accident, yet on a team that carried both Eugenio Velez and Trent Oeltjen for months, Hoffman didn’t warrant even a token September recall. That can’t bode well for his future with the team, though I still don’t see why he couldn’t be a useful backup.

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Next! It’s center field! You may know the guy who plays there! I hear he’s sorta good!

So Here’s Your Closer By Committee (Update: Kinda Not Really)

Hard to say this was entirely unexpected. Molly Knight, hit me:

Ned Colletti says Broxton is being removed as Dodgers primary closer until he gets his confidence back. Team will use Padilla/Brox/Kuo.

This sounds momentous. This sounds like Jonathan Broxton has lost his job. But don’t think you’re rid of him yet. Hong-Chih Kuo‘s on the disabled list through Friday at least, and must always be used tenderly. Vicente Padilla hasn’t gone on consecutive nights since 2001, and didn’t look any better than Broxton did last night. (This raises the fun question of who tonight’s closer is, assuming Broxton won’t go three days in a row and if Padilla’s not ready for back-to-back nights so soon off arm surgery. Mike MacDougal, anyone? Ugh.) So the big man is still going to get his chances, like it or not.

As for the idea of whether Broxton should be removed… well, you know how I feel by now. He’s not doing that well, he hasn’t for a while, he probably doesn’t deserve the job right now, and if there’s a better option, then by all means go for it. I’m just not sure that there is a better option, and I mainly find the timing of this odd. Half of my point after last night’s mess was that it shouldn’t have been seen as any sort of turning point. Broxton’s been several shades of mediocre all season, and he wasn’t really any better or worse than usual last night; if anything, you could argue that he was slightly better, because he didn’t give up a homer, merely a terrible walk and then a single to a great hitter. The only difference is that the luck that sustained him through the first five not-entirely-deserved saves failed him last night, thanks to Jamey Carroll and Jerry Sands. So to make an announcement, especially on a night where Broxton was almost certain to not pitch anyway, seems needlessly premature. I’m sure it’ll satiate the masses’ lust for blood, however.

Update: So…

Broxton was told by Mattingly that he is still the #Dodgers’ closer.

Broxton heard TV analysts say #Dodgers would go to closer by committee. Mattingly called him into his office to clarify that wasn’t case.

That’s two tweets from Dylan Hernandez just now, claiming that everything you know is wrong. As I’d said above, the move didn’t really seem to make sense coming when it did. And… it didn’t come at all, apparently.

That said, I think we’ll still be having this conversation in a week or two.

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As expected, Xavier Paul didn’t make it through waivers and is now a Pirate, following in the footsteps of Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young. The Pirates generally pick near the top of the waiver list so this sounds like Paul didn’t get that far down the list. Sad to see him be lost for nothing, though I’ll admit that neither Young nor LaRoche really worked out there. Best of luck, Xavier. ESPN’s Keith Law actually put some praise on him, noting that he’s better than an organizational guy, and could be a bench bat. That’s high praise from Law.

The Jerry Sands Era Starts Now

Per the entire internet, the Dodgers have DFA’d Xavier Paul and recalled Jerry Sands, who will be starting in LF and batting 7th tonight.

I have to say, I’m floored. I never thought they’d bring him up this soon – May 1, at the earliest.

Questions to keep in mind:

- Will Sands see more time in LF or 1B? He’s in LF tonight, but I can’t imagine James Loney gets a whole hell of a lot more rope.

- Will they play him every day? The absolute worst scenario is that he goes 0-for-his-first-5 and then gets nailed to the bench, to play twice a week (i.e., the Ivan DeJesus plan). If he’s going to be here, he needs to play.

- Will Paul be claimed on waivers? I’d be surprised if he gets through, but it’s not a given, either.

- Is Sands ready? I pray he is, but I admit I have my doubts.

So Here’s Your 25-Man Roster (Updated)

This is largely comprised of news from the last several days that you’ve seen elsewhere, but since I was in Florida I’m playing a little catch-up here. Now it’s true that the 25-man roster hasn’t been officially announced, yet enough moves have been made that we can put the pieces together. With Ramon Troncoso shipped out, Dioner Navarro on the DL, Ron Mahay no longer with the club, Juan Castro told he wasn’t making the team, and Lance Cormier having been asked to accept a minor league assignment (though he reportedly has neither accepted nor exercised his out clause yet), this is what we’re looking at for Opening Day:

Hitters (14)
C Rod Barajas R/R
C Hector Gimenez S/R
1B James Loney L/L
2B Ivan DeJesus, Jr. R/R
SS Rafael Furcal S/R
3B Juan Uribe R/R
IF Jamey Carroll R/R
IF Aaron Miles S/R
LF/OF Tony Gwynn, Jr L/R
LF/1B Jay Gibbons L/L
LF/PH Marcus Thames R/R
LF/OF Xavier Paul L/L
CF Matt Kemp R/R
RF Andre Ethier L/L

Pitchers (11)
SP Clayton Kershaw L
SP Chad Billingsley R
SP Ted Lilly L
SP Hiroki Kuroda R
CL Jonathan Broxton R
RP Hong-Chih Kuo L
RP Kenley Jansen R
RP Matt Guerrier R
RP Blake Hawksworth R
RP Mike MacDougal R
RP Scott Elbert L
RP Lance Cormier R (now added)

Disabled List (4)
SP Jon Garland R
RP Vicente Padilla R
C Dioner Navarro S/R
3B Casey Blake R/R

There’s still a small possibility A.J. Ellis is kept over Gimenez, or that Cormier’s refusal to report to the minors convinces the team to keep him over Elbert (Update: this looks to have happened, see below), but otherwise this is the team you’ll see on Thursday. Not exactly what we thought we’d see six weeks ago, right?

Remember, however, that even though much is made of the Opening Day roster, this is not the same group you’ll see in a few months or even in a few weeks. Garland, Padilla, and Blake all look to return in April, and that doesn’t even account for the possibility that Tim Redding or John Ely is needed for the first 5th starter spot should Garland not be ready.

So here’s what to look out for on the roster front over the first part of the season:

1) Pray, pray, pray for Ivan DeJesus to get off to a good start. The best possible scenario is that he shows solid defense and good on-base skills (I don’t even care about power at this point), and claims the job for his own. That’d not only solve the #2 hitter problem, it’d keep Uribe at 3B, where his strong arm plays better, and push Blake to the bench to be the lefty-mashing corner IF bat he really ought to have been in the first place. When Blake returns, it’ll also be interesting to see if DeJesus has made enough of an impression to avoid being farmed out, and if that means Aaron Miles is instead cut. 

2) That goes double for Xavier Paul. There’s no way you can keep six outfielders on the roster for long, and as I said recently, I prefer Paul to Gibbons. That said, small sample sizes be damned: if Paul gets off to a 1-for-10 start, there’s no way he’s going to survive the inevitable outfielder DFA that’s going to have to happen when the injured begin to return.

3) Hector Gimenez isn’t really going to make it, right? Every year there’s an out-of-nowhere camp darling, and this year it was Gimenez. That’s a nice story, but I’m just not sure I see it working out. The Dodgers have been clear that they don’t think much of him as a catcher, since he barely put on the gear before Navarro got hurt, and since Don Mattingly’s talking about playing Barajas every day in April. If he’s not a catcher, he’s here for his bat, but aside from 94 games in 2010, he’s never been much of a hitter, either (career MiLB numbers: .262/.318/.403). I love the story, and I love the idea, but I predict he’s DFA’d the second Navarro is ready – if not sooner, for A.J. Ellis, who’s probably the best fit of the three.

4) How soon will the bottom of the bullpen churn? I’ve been on record this spring as saying neither Mike MacDougal or Scott Elbert needed to be in the big leagues right now, and it looks like both will be on the club. We all know that the last spots in the bullpen are constantly in motion, so will either or both be able to prove me wrong? Let’s see it, gentlemen. (Update: Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Cormier has indeed made the team. No word yet on who didn’t make it – I assume Elbert – but that doesn’t really change the point of this question at all. Cormier has the same questions to answer as MacDougal or Elbert.)

Good Luck, Kim Ng (Updated)

I woke up this morning to see that there’d been some major news overnight: assistant GM Kim Ng is leaving the team to become Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for MLB, where she’ll be reporting directly to Joe Torre.

This is, of course, a major blow to the Dodgers, as Ng had long been one of the most respected executives in the game and revered for her success both in the arbitration room and in keeping players out of it.

I’ve already seen people claiming that her departure is to be blamed on the McCourts, and this piece from Bill Madden in the New York Daily News doesn’t exactly say otherwise:

Although much was made of Torre’s hiring  by commissioner Bud Selig on Feb. 26 at a reported salary of $2 million, all the changes within operations were said to be in the works before he came aboard. Of the new people, only Ng had ever worked with Torre before and, like him, she was eager to flee what has become a Dodger cuckoo’s nest under battling owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, who are in the midst of increasingly messy divorce proceedings.

Now you know I’m happy to blame anything from a rainy day to bad traffic on the McCourts, and maybe that is indeed part of the reason she left, but that’s not completely the feeling I’m getting here. There’s been a lot of front office departures in recent years, but many of those were either terminations or people who left without a clear destination. Ng’s becoming the SVP of Baseball Ops for MLB, and that’s hardly a step down from assistant GM. The truth is, we don’t know yet. She’d been with the Dodgers for nearly ten years, so perhaps she was looking for a new challenge, and she’s originally from the NYC area, so perhaps the chance to return home was appealing. I’m not ready to pin this on the McCourts just yet, though I will say that Torre raiding his old club doesn’t actually improve my opinion of him any better.

Either way, it’s a big loss for the Dodgers, who will have a big hole to fill with Ng’s departure. I suppose it also avoids what was sure to be an entertaining discussion over whether Ng or Logan White should be GM, assuming both were still around when and if Ned Colletti’s tenure ends. Logan, you’re on the clock. And best of luck to Ng at MLB.

Update: Bill Shaikin has more on Ng’s decision to leave.

“It was something of interest to me,” she said. “I finally came to the conclusion it was just a fantastic opportunity I couldn’t let pass by.”

She denied that the Dodgers’ current ownership turmoil — and the possibility that the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt ultimately could result in new ownership — played a role in her decision to leave the club.

“I have a chance to help Joe and help the commissioner change policy and impact the game in a meaningful way,” Ng said. “That really wasn’t part of this. Frank has been very good to me. Ned (Colletti, the Dodgers’ general manager) has been very good to me.

“This was an extremely difficult decision for me. I’ve been with this organization for almost half my career. That was a big factor. I just walked in the door with Sandy Koufax. That is one of the things I will miss.”

Shaikin also notes that she’ll remain with the Dodgers for the rest of the month before heading to New York City to start the new gig.

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Results from the Jerry Sands poll yesterday: 39.4% think he’ll make his debut in July or later, followed by 27.7% in June. 10.2% actually think he’d be on the Opening Day roster, which I can’t see happening in any reality. I didn’t vote, but if I had, I’d probably have chosen June.

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Sands may not have any shot of making the Opening Day roster, but one longshot I’m still pulling for is Xavier Paul, who I’m still not convinced wouldn’t be more productive than Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn, or both. Paul got off to a slow start this spring, whiffing 8 times in 17 PA, before going deep late in yesterday’s game against Matt Belisle. Tony Jackson has more on Paul, who admitted he’d been pressing and does not want to leave the Dodgers. Right now, his only chance of sticking around looks to be if injuries pile up, and while that still doesn’t give him great odds, Gibbons, Marcus Thames, Jamey Carroll, and James Loney have all had minor concerns this spring, so it’s not completely out of the question.

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Howard at Baseball Savvy has been doing interviews with several Dodger bloggers, starting with Roberto at Vin Scully is My Home Boy and Eric at TrueBlueLA, and recently I answered some questions for him as well. It’s an interesting series, getting a little deeper into the writing process.