Saturday, July 07, 2007

I Had To Do It

Yeah, it's me. And, yeah, this blog still exists. And. most importantly, I had to do it.

I was listening to the post-game show on the radio after tonight's Ranger game and a caller set me off. It was all about money to him. "This team won't spend money. We need to spend money to get players in here. Tom Hicks is a tightwad." (Ok, that isn't a direct quote from the uneducated caller, but it is pretty close to the gist of his argument.)

So I phoned in. When the producer picked up, I told him, "I would love to get in on this conversation." After about five minutes on hold, I was on air. I didn't even have shake voice this time. What I said basically amounted to this:
I am TIRED of the money argument. The Rangers have thrown money at all sorts of free agents only to either get burned or end up with a hired gun who is unhappy... because he took the most money. I pointed out that this team tried to get Barry Zito, with a more-than-plenty offer, this off season only to get rebuked. And why was it rebuked?

Because he didn't want to be here. It really is that simple.

You can toss around dollars and coins and gold bullions and no-trade clauses, but the bottom line is that it is a two way street. There is no law that says the best or longest or most expensive contract offer wins. Hell, you could offer me ten times my salary, but I still would not move to Santa Fe. Baseball players are no different.

Or ARE they?

Remember A-Rod? He accepted Texas' outrageous offer and was miserable the entire time he was here. Yes, he performed. But what did his attitude do to the rest of the team? I'll tell you: It taught Mark Texeira how to be a prima donna. (Maybe their shared agent, Scott Boras, had/has something to do with that, too.)

Yes, Boston is doing great with their inflated payroll. But how about those Yankees?
And, just a question... How much is the cheapest ticket at either of those parks? Can you get in for five bucks?

So I guess the dude that called in and bitched about payroll would much rather field a mediocre team, with no farm system, and pay fifteen bucks or more for the cheapest seat in the yard because it is all anout money to him. High payroll does not always mean first place or a wild card.

My advice to him? Keep doing your curls before you hit the bars in Addison and make sure you have your Blackberry turned on loud to the most obnoxious ring tone the rest of us can imagine. That way, everyone can know how important you are when it comes to spending someone else's money.

Effing tool.

By the way, absolutely no bandwagoning when this team starts winning. Give your season tickets away from your Vett (Chevette) and get back to your $30,000/year millionaire life.


P.S. That chick who is ten years younger than you will drop you like Matt Kata when she realizes you are not all you said you were. And I'll be here, laughing, while also being thankful that my team did not commit to seven years of Zito.

Monday, October 02, 2006

In Which Rose Meets You At The Finish Line

I wanted to post about the Dodgers' season earlier, but things kept changing. Some teams assemble just-respectably-over-.500 records a game at a time. The Dodgers did it by alternating winning and losing streaks. This is L.A., after all; we live for the drama.

I'm finally writing this after the last regular-season game of the year. By tying the Padres for the division lead, the Dodgers have earned a spot in the playoffs. Since the teams finished with identical records, the top playoff spot goes to the team who won the head-to-head series, and in this case that's the Padres.

That's fine. We'll take the wild card slot.

In true buried-lead fashion, there's already much being made in the national press about how this is the Dodgers' second playoff berth in three years. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find mention of last year's abysmal season. That's not the true story, however. The true story is that Frank McCourt's gone from Worst Owner Ever to Not The Best Owner Ever, But Better Than Fox. After firing Paul DiPodesta, who fired Jim Tracy, who'd gone from Not The Best Manager Ever, But Better Than Davey Johnson to Worst Manager In The History Of Any Sport, Ever, McCourt handed the reins over to Ned Colletti.

The reins came attached to a farm system that was finally back on its feet. With not much time left, Ned Colletti huddled with his new staff of deputy GMs and started going after veterans. Few of them had put up stellar numbers in the past couple of years, but they were all still solid -- if expensive -- players. Some fans grumbled about it, but there wasn't really anywhere to go but up.

Now that Kenny Lofton and Rafael Furcal have both finished the season batting .300 with 30-plus stolen bases -- and Nomar Garciaparra has popped off key hit after key hit when he's healthy -- and Brett Tomko is turning himself into a solid middle reliever -- and Aaron Sele has proven to be the kind of guy who's equally comfortable starting and relieving -- and midseason acquisition Greg Maddux is back in form -- I'm sure the aforementioned grumblers think Ned Colletti's a genius.

Ned Colletti's the first to tell you that he's been winging it much of the time, because things didn't go quite as planned.

The out-for-the-season DL includes Eric Gagne and Yhency Brazoban, the presumed closers, and Bill Mueller, who was supposed to be the third baseman and team leader. Key player after key player got hurt, and some reactivated players never regained their pre-injury form.

But, you know? It all worked out in the end. Newly-promoted rookies and non-roster invitees stepped into the vacuum. Somewhere along the line, Takashi Saito turned himself into a closer, and Brett Tomko decided he'd try middle relief. The team started the season with Dioner Navarro behind the plate. When he got injured, they called up my fake baby boyfriend Russell Martin, and he's been there ever since. It wasn't much of a surprise when Nomar started the season on the DL; what was a surprise was that they were able to stick in James Loney, a kid who'd been happy to make it to AAA, and that he did a pretty darn good job at first base while Nomar was recovering. When he got back, Nomar took to his new position immediately.

I could go on. Perhaps another time, I will.


I can't remember another year when so little was decided going into the last week of the season. We had the Dodgers, Padres and Phillies vying for two slots, and for a minute there it looked like Houston would knock off St. Louis at the last minute. The AL Central was tame by comparison; still, it was kind of interesting to watch the Twins slip by the Tigers for the top slot.

That kind of drama gets people's attention, even here.

Despite the fact that Dodger Stadium set yet another attendance record this year, much of L.A. seems only dimly aware that we have a baseball team, much less one that's been winning. It's only in the past couple of weeks that it's become hard to ignore it.


I'd like to be able to say that I saw the home run derby comeback of September 18 -- and I suppose I could, but I'd be lying. I checked in on the game as I was driving to the establishment at which I spend perhaps too many Monday nights, and the Dodgers were down by a bunch in the eighth. The game felt like it was going to determine the course of the season, and I just wasn't up to having my heart trampled on some more.

Of course, you know what happened: Four consecutive homers in the ninth, Nomar's game-winner in extra innings, and the Dodgers suddenly looking alive.

They promptly dropped the next two games. With other sports, you can depend on a day or a week off after any given performance. Spend too much energy during or after one game, and it's going to affect you the next day. Baseball's schedule is merciless, which is why there was a Nationals-Phillies game that didn't get started until 11:30pm local time on Thursday. No time to make anything up.

(Earlier that day, James Loney knocked in nine runs in a 19-11 victory over Colorado, proof that Denver is already in football mode.)

I did see the game the following Sunday, when Nomar once again won the game with a home run -- this one a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. Overkill? Sure. But it worked. And as he rounded the bases, I realized that the last time I saw a guy playing in so much pain hit such a crucial home run, it was Kirk Gibson in the first game of the 1988 World Series.


If you can't clinch a playoff berth at home, then you want to clinch it where it's going to hurt the most. So it's fitting that the Dodgers won it in San Francisco.

The gang was all there. Frank McCourt, Ned Colletti and Tommy Lasorda were in the stands. Vin Scully was in the press box; he doesn't usually call games that aren't on local TV, but he almost always gets in on a late-season radio game against the Giants.

Eric Gagne and Bill Mueller were in the clubhouse, eyeing the champagne. When the rest of the team streamed in, Gagne poured champagne on everyone within arm's reach. Mueller manned the distribution table.

Everyone contributes in the end. It just doesn't always work out quite as you'd expect.


So now we head into the postseason, and the speculation. Will Brad Penny's back loosen up enough to pitch -- and does it really matter, when Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux are throwing so well and when rookie Hong-Chih Kuo is right up there with them? Will Nomar be well enough to play? Will the veterans' collective playoff experience help? Will national broadcasters stop talking about next season long enough to notice that the Dodgers' season isn't over yet?

Conventional wisdom is that the Dodgers will go down in flames against the Mets. Why should the team start paying attention to conventional wisdom now? This is the team that went 1-14 -- and immediately followed that by going 17-1.

I've been saying it all year: Numbers are good indicators, but intangibles matter, too. There's no way to predict what's going to happen in the playoffs. All you can do is watch.

Watch the players. Watch the game. Watch for miracles. This is baseball, after all. We like that sort of thing.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Suite at the Ballpark at Arlington

On Sunday, August 27, I was treated to a free ticket to a suite at the Ballpark at Arlington. I know two things. The Rangers shut out the A's and all the people at the suite were great. I felt like one of the gang. Thanks to Joni, I was invited since I got her to beg for a ticket for me. I am a bit ashamed since I didn't watch much of the game. Too much time socializing, drinking, and taking smoke breaks.

Unlike someone else on this collective blog I didn't take a camera to the game. But someone had a camera there and possibly someone else here can post some of the pictures. We'll see.

Once again thanks to everyone that was at the game for the hospitality. To Ali and Nathan for the free ticket. And especially Bullit for the buddy pass.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Call To Apathy

It is Thursday night. The last scoring update I saw showed the Rangers beating the Devil Rays by a tally of 4-2. And it was the ninth inning.


Why can I not get more interested?

At this time last season I was living in a place (that some know as "the phonebooth") that did not have "premium" TV (my choice) and I was forced to listen to the games on the radio - except for those two nights a week (roughly) on which the games were broadcast on a channel that I could pick up with my rabbit ears.

And last year's team sucked. This year's? Not so bad.

So what is my problem?

I should have been stoked after Texas took 3 of 4 on the road in Detroit. Maybe years of let downs have saddened my soul. Perhaps I have become jaded beyond repair. But I don't think so.

The Rangers were the most active of the AL West teams before the traditional July 31 trading deadline. And it wasn't even close. Added to the major league roster were the likes of Carlos Lee, Nelson Cruz, Kip Wells, and Matt Stairs. Other than Lee, none are barnbusters but, hey... who did the Angels add? What about the A's? Or even the Mariners?

But the thing about this team is that, no matter who is on the roster, they have been amazingly (even unworldly) average. They do just enough to stay in the race and they also fail just enough to lurk on the fringes of being considered dangerous. On any given night they can pound out 18 hits and 11 runs, opposing starter be damned. Then they can flail against a guy who has no business dominating a lineup populated by (now) five former All-Stars and a guy who is third in the AL in batting average.

What gives?

I, for one, do not buy into the theory that Buck Showalter rides the players too hard and they end up giving up on him after a few seasons. He is not to blame for this. Chemistry is not to blame for this. The Texas heat is not to blame for this. I don't even think the new air condiotioners in the home dugout are to blame for this.

Me? I place the blame squarely on one thing: Apathy.

Apathy is contagious, and it has been spreading in this area since 1999 (with the exception of 2004). In typical "chicken and egg" fashion, it is impossible to place the blame on any one aspect. Fans? Media? Players? Front office? Where did it start?

When you do not expect much, that is exactly what you get.

I'm just sorry that it has made me turn a deaf ear to the sounds of the great game and that it has kept me from posting on this site more frequently.

BUT - with all that said - I will be at the game this Sunday night with a large group of friends enjoying the benefits of a suite. And if, on that night, Texas completes a sweep of the hated A's? Allow me to redact all of the above.

After all, isn't that what being a fan is all about?

Monday, August 14, 2006

In Which Rose Takes A Camera To A Baseball Game

As I was getting ready to head to Dodger Stadium one day last week, it occured to me that I'd never taken a camera to a baseball game.

The situation has been remedied. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the photos and commentary, or click on the photo above (or here, if you don't feel like scrolling up) for a proper index page.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

In Which Rose Blinks In Disbelief

It's August.

The Dodgers have some new players.

Good new players.

The only guys missing are unproven, wouldn't be seeing regular playing time, or have... issues.

The players on whom the team's future supposedly rests are still there.

Could it be that the Dodgers finally have a front office team that wants to... you know... win?

Before the season started, Ned Colletti put together an impressive team on short notice. They looked good coming out of the gate. Then the injuries set in. The bullpen disintegrated. A team that started off a carefully balanced mix of veterans and up-and-comers was a taped-together mess of rookies -- great rookies, mind you, but still learning the big-league game -- and veterans playing out of position. Offensively, they were spiraling downward. Mostly-decent starting pitching isn't going to do you much good if the team can't score some runs to back it up.

Pretty typical July scenario in the City of Angels.

Except something happened, something that I don't remember seeing since the O'Malleys owned the team:

They made good trades.

The first trade of note was the Odalis Perez-for-Elmer Dessens deal. Odalis Perez, as you may recall, was put in the bullpen after blowing a few too many starts, and was downright disgruntled about it. He was a good candidate to be dealt away. The question was, what team would be desperate enough to want him?

Go on, take a guess.

Odalis Perez is now a Kansas City Royal. He was accompanied by some minor leaguers who may or may not work out.

Elmer Dessens seems very happy to be a Dodger again. Or maybe he's just thrilled about no longer being a Royal. Six of one...

That seems to be a theme among the new Dodger acquisitions: They're happy to be playing for a team that hasn't given up hope of making the playoffs.

"It's nice to have a reason to pitch besides doing it for myself," Greg Maddux told the LA Times. "That's what happens when your team falls out of the race. We are absolutely still in it."

Wait a minute. Greg Maddux?

The Dodgers collectively joined me in that disbelieving blink. Greg Maddux. Greg Maddux? Greg freakin' Maddux is a Dodger?

"I still can't believe we have him. It's like a miracle," coach Rich Donnelly marveled to the Times.

Catcher Russell Martin, who's just a little more than half Maddux' age: "He's so prepared. This guy knows exactly what he wants to do. I just hope he likes me."

(How cute is that? Russell Martin is so my new fake baby boyfriend.)

The people who called in to the postgame radio show were miffed, of course. Why else would you call a postgame show? They couldn't see why Ned Colletti would trade a young, proven shortstop for an aging pitcher who would probably only be there for the remainder of the season.

Does six innings of no-hit ball answer their question? What the naysayers are missing is that Maddux is built for the long haul. He's a very technical pitcher who can put the ball exactly where he wants it, without putting undue strain on his body. Heck, he might even stick around after this season. Who knows?

There's also the little matter of Cesar Izturis hitting barely above the Mendoza line. The best pitching in the world doesn't matter if it's not backed up by a little offense.

That's the other thing that has me blinking: The Dodgers have remembered how to hit a ball with a stick.

As I'm sure you noticed, dear reader, the Dodgers had a pretty dismal July. In the two weeks after the All-Star break, they won one and lost thirteen.

Things got so bad that manager Grady Little, GM Ned Colletti and owner Frank McCourt went on the radio to have a "what's wrong with the Dodgers?" roundtable. As you can imagine, the callers weren't happy. All the guys could do was say, in essence, "Look: You try things. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't. And right now, they aren't."

And now they are.

Maybe it's the new players. Maybe it was the day off after that awful two-week stretch. Maybe it was Tommy Lasorda's threat of a hunger strike. Whatever it is, the Dodgers are winning. Today made it eight wins in a row. Yeah, it was just the Nationals, Reds and Marlins, but still: A win's a win, and eight of them go a long way towards balancing out the losing streak.

I'm still getting emails which say, "What's up with the Dodgers?" The inflection is just different.

With 162 games in a season, baseball lends itself to streaks. If a team is a .500 ballclub, then statistically it doesn't matter whether they alternate wins and losses by the game or by the streak.

There's still a lot that can happen in two months. The pitching staff could gel or collapse. (I've a feeling I'll be making a few posts about the pitching either way.) The veterans could get better, or they could be out for the season -- or longer. Russell Martin and Andre Ethier could continue to be Rookie of the Year contenders, or they could burn out. An infield made up of position players-turned-utility guys could work out, as it's been doing, or start having trouble remembering where to throw the ball. When the roster expands, the minor league prospects might be ready, or not.

Two months to go. This is getting good.

By the by, I have an extra ticket for this Monday evening's game at Dodger Stadium versus the Rockies. My, as the kids say, "crew" will be sitting in the top deck behind home plate -- the best, and cheapest, seats in the house. If you or anyone you know wants to join us, you can email me for details at rose.auerbach at gmail dot com. (There's a handy-dandy link over at my other blog, for those of you who don't feel like re-typing the address with proper symbols.)

And, yes, I'll explain the infield fly rule, if you ask nicely. Devin can breathe a little more easily.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How Shrek Got His Groove Back, or: Carlos Comes To Town

I'd like to start with a point or two of clarification, so we don't get confused here:

* I have been nothing but a fan of Kevin Mench during his whole time in Texas.

* I don't believe in making trades simply to appease the fan base, or players in the clubhouse.

* I hate explaning the Infield Fly Rule. (Just note it for future reference.)

While I don't think the six-player deal the Rangers and Brewers executed was the greatest trade our Little Red Shoes have ever pulled off (that would be the 1998 trade deadline move of Darren Oliver and Fernando Tatis to the Cardinals for Todd Stottlemyre and Todd Zeile, which helped us cinch up the AL West that year), it was the best thing the Rangers could have done to goose an offense that has not been firing on all cylinders the last two seasons.

It may also be one of those trades that works out for everyone involved, from the players involved to the teams dealing.

Here are your components:

Kevin Mench was growing frustrated with his spotty role in the Rangers ranks. He was always mentioned in trade talks, and he never really knew himself whether he would be in the lineup from day to day. In the last offseason, he appeared on a Philadelphia Eagles pre-game show (his hometown team) and said bluntly, "I really don't expect to be with the Rangers much longer." For whatever reason, Mench has been in manager Buck Showalter's "dog house," and never appeared to be able (or willing) to climb out of it.

His production hasn’t helped much. This season, Mench was hitting .284 / .338 / .469 with 12 home runs (most coming in the week-long stretch after his shoe size was correctly used). Those aren’t numbers you normally want to see from a corner outfielder. Granted, that might have been different had he played every day in the outfield. (Sorry, it’s the Mench apologist in me coming out. Can’t be helped.)

In Milwaukee, he'll get more playing time, a fresh start on a team with a manager he doesn't have to tiptoe around, and a chance to let his personality win over the home crowd (which should take about six minutes). In his first seven games with the Brewers as their everyday right fielder, he's 4-for-17 with one homer and five RBI.

For whatever reason, Francisco Cordero has not been able to come close to the level of dominance he showed in the 2004 season. That year, he recorded 49 saves (a club record), with five blown saves, a record of 3-4 and an ERA of 2.14. In 2005, you've got 37 saves, eight blown opportunities, a record of 3-1 and an ERA of 3.39. This year, it all falls apart: seven saves recorded, nine blown, a record of 7-4 and an ERA of 4.59; loses the closing job to Akinori Otsuka; begins to show some signs of consistency, but never fully recovers.

The appearance against the Yankees on July 26 was the final straw, allowing four runs to score in the eighth inning on a homer, a double and a wild pitch It spoiled a great effort by John Rheinecker, paved the way for a Yankees sweep, and punched his ticket to Milwaukee.

With luck, Cordero will find his mojo again in the land of Cheeseheads, but there was no sign of it happening at the Temple.

Laynce Nix played his way out of a starting job in center field this year, and the outlook for him returning to the Rangers has never seemed good since. Like Mench and Cordero, Nix was a fan favorite in Arlington, but had difficulty staying healthy and offensively productive.

It's highly likely we'll look back on the trade of these players and -- like so many other times in Rangers history -- wonder what would have happened had we not let them go (see: Sosa, S; Nen, R; Hafner, T, ad nauseum). But the players we got in return for Mench, Cordero and Nix soothe the pain a bit. In his first three games as a Ranger, Carlos Lee showed why he’s a threat both offensively (7-for-12, 1 RBI) and defensively (solid, accurate throws from the left corner every time).

Add in the hottest prospect from the Brewers’ farm system (outfielder Nelson Cruz), and it looks like Rangers GM Jon Daniels pulled a fast one on Milwaukee’s GM, our old friend Doug Melvin. But don’t be too sure Melvin didn’t get exactly what he wanted out of the deal, either.

Lee has made it clear he would not re-sign with the Brewers when his contract expired, turning down a four-year extension worth $48 million earlier in the month. Melvin was tasked with trying to get the most value for Lee while he was still a tradable commodity. While the GM for the Rangers, Melvin engineered the trade of Juan Gonzales to the Detroit Tigers to acquire Cordero (along with six other players), so he knew what CoCo was capable of. He also watched as Mench and Nix developed through the Rangers minor league system.

He wanted players who were major-league ready, not minor league prospects who may or may not be ready for prime time. The other five teams who were talking to the Brewers about Lee probably had players ready for the big club, but Melvin knew the guys on the Rangers’ offer sheet could be plugged in and produce from day one.

Add all of it together, and it looks like everyone’s gotten what they wanted: Daniels gets to add offensive firepower without trading away any key components of his farm system or the major league roster; Mench, Cordero and Nix get a fresh start with a new team; Melvin gets maximum value back from a player he was going to lose in the off-season.