No headline this time, just read the post

I’m not a big believer in beating around the bush. I’ve always felt it was much better to just rip off the band-aid and be done with it. And so, I’m just going to tell you — in case you haven’t already figured it out based on the lack of recent posting — that I have decided to shut down this blog. Well, not shut it down completely. It will still exist, and I still will provide occasional content for it. But it won’t be Dodgers content or baseball content or anything of that nature. Unlike four years ago when I was laid off by the Los Angeles Daily News, and unlike a year and a half ago when I parted ways with ESPNLosAngeles.com, this time, I really mean it: I am absolutely, positively done covering baseball. It was a great ride, something I did for almost 20 years, but it’s finally time to move on and do something else.

I suppose I owe you an explanation. Well, there are a few reasons for my decision.

The first was that even though I never got around to installing the pay wall, it became clear from the traffic this site was getting that we never were going to get enough paid subscribers to keep this thing afloat. Oh, with the right nurturing and marketing and planning, it might have turned profitable four or five years down the road. But honestly, I don’t want to keep pouring money down a hole for that long, especially when there are no guarantees that it will EVER be a successful venture.

The second reason is that after all these years, I simply have had my fill of covering baseball. I used to think I wanted to do it until I dropped dead of old age. But it isn’t fun anymore, and to be honest with you (and with myself), it really hasn’t been for the past several years. To the outsider, this probably looks like a glamorous job, and you know, to some extent, it is. But it’s also an exhausting, all-encompassing job, one from which you can never quite break free, even in the offseason. With another birthday coming up in a few weeks, I have decided that I want to spend the rest of my life, well, having a life, and that is a luxury you don’t really enjoy on the baseball beat. Too many 6 a.m. flights after night games, too many late-night meals, too many airport meals, too many hotel meals, too many days when I dragged myself to the ballpark in a zombie-like state, too many pounds packed on seemingly every season because there usually isn’t enough time to go to the gym and even when there is time, there is almost NEVER enough energy. It catches up with you after a while, especially as you get older, and it can make you get older more quickly than you’re supposed to.

And finally, there is this: on the two previous occasions that I stopped covering baseball, I was OK with the possibility of never doing it again, but the problem was I had no idea what else I wanted to do. This time, I have a lot of things I want to do, and while I won’t bore you with too many details about them, let’s just say I’m excited about all of them. The reality of today’s economy is that the old idea of having that one job that you go to every day, that job that is the centerpiece of your life and around which the rest of your life is planned and arranged, is no longer viable for a lot of us. For an increasing segment of the population, the future will involve doing a little of this, a little of that and a few other things on the side, generating various income streams. It’s an idea I have only recently begun to consider, much less embrace, and as someone with a short attention span and a tendency to bore easily, I think it might be perfect for me. And so that is what I’m planning to do. For now, at least.

So that’s what I wanted to tell you. And now, I want to hand out some thank-yous.

First, to those of you who have followed this blog and who have followed me throughout the years. Some of you, I have had the privilege of getting to know personally. Some have even become friends, and I hope will remain so going forward. But just know that I truly appreciate every single one of you, the positive feedback and kind thoughts you have sent my way.

I want to thank some of the great colleagues whom I have had the pleasure of working alongside. I won’t name all of them here because there are just too many of them and I’m afraid I would leave somebody out, but they know who they are.

I want to thank Kristen Wair for designing this site, for being there to provide support both technical and emotional and for not charging me very much for any of it. Without her, this thing might never have gotten off the ground, because I ain’t no web designer.

And I want to thank Phil Stone, who took such an interest in this blog that he became an active participant and contributor even though he knew I couldn’t pay him. His daily pregame numbers posts during the season and the playoffs was a fantastic addition to dodgerscribe, especially given that I’m not much of a numbers guy — I’m much more comfortable weaving a narrative. And for those of you who enjoyed the podcasts that Phil and I recorded, well, you have him to thank for them, because I wouldn’t have the first clue how to edit and post one of those things. Those were Phil’s baby, and he did a fantastic job with them. I know he had some ambitious ideas for this blog, and there is a part of me that wishes we could have seen some of them through.

Even as I bring the curtain down on what this blog originally was supposed to be, I WILL maintain a presence on Twitter (@dodgerscribe), even though my tweeting habits probably will continue to drift farther away from baseball and more into the random (and sometimes-sarcastic) thoughts that often find their way into my brain. As for this blog, I’m probably going to change the name — to what, I don’t know yet, but as soon as I do, I will alert you on Twitter. One thing for which I haven’t lost my passion is writing, and this blog will continue to provide me with an outlet for that. However, it will become more of a personal-journal type of blog, with no real structure or schedule that says I have to write every day or X number of days a week. Again, there will be a lot of randomly selected topics, rants, thoughts, opinions, gripes, etc. And I can almost promise you there will be heavy doses of politics, a subject I have been passionate about since high school — and believe me, high school was a LONG time ago.

A lot of you won’t be interested in reading any of what I’ll be posting here, and I don’t blame you. But for those of you who are, feel free to visit anytime and, as always, to comment on anything that I write.

Thanks again for your friendship, your participation and your kindness. This is not the end, but merely a new beginning.

I’ll see you soon.

Tony

The key for Dan Haren

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Here’s the good news about the Dodgers’ signing of Dan Haren: they’re getting a pitcher who attacks the strike zone. His career 1.87 walks-per-nine-innings is the lowest career average among active starters in the major leagues, and only once since 2008 has Haren had a walks-per-nine greater than two. Additionally, with the retirement of Mariano Rivera, Haren’s career 4.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio leads all active pitchers, and he has led his league in that statistic three times in his career. The three-time All Star hasn’t struck out fewer than 7.1 per nine innings since 2005, and he has averaged eight strikeouts per nine since 2008. He has a low career WHIP of 1.19, and despite having a combined ERA the past two seasons of 4.50, he had a respectable combined WHIP of 1.27 in those seasons. He plays his position well, averaging a .974 fielding percentage for his career, and is a decent hitter with a .215 career batting average. He has averaged 33 starts and 216 innings per 162 games in his career and has made no fewer than 30 starts in a season since 2005.

How does a guy with such a low walks-and-hits ratio have such an elevated ERA, you might ask? He gives up the long ball. In his past two seasons, Haren has given up a combined 1.5 homers per nine innings. To put that into perspective, the highest such ratio by a Dodgers starter last season was Chris Capuano’s 0.9 homers per nine. Haren’s 28 homers allowed last season was the second-most in the N.L. behind the 32 served up by Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo. Haren’s 247 career homers allowed is 14th among active pitchers. In his nine seasons since becoming a regular in the big leagues, the former Pepperdine star has given up fewer than 23 home runs in a season just twice. In comparison, Clayton Kershaw has allowed a combined 27 home runs in the past TWO seasons.

So for this signing to be a successful one for the Dodgers and Haren, the key will be his ability to keep the ball in the yard. In the five seasons since 2005 in which Haren gave up 1.1 or fewer home runs per nine innings, he was a combined 75-49 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP while pitching three of those seasons in the A.L. Dodger Stadium isn’t the pitchers park it used to be before seat expansion infringed upon a large percentage of foul territory, and Haren certainly could have picked a less home-run friendly ballpark in the state of California in which to pitch. But Ned Colletti is certainly hoping Chavez Ravine, a solid offensive lineup and the lowered expectations that come with trying to rebound from two subpar seasons while pitching in the back of a rotation that features two Cy Young Award winners will benefit Haren in the end.

Phil Stone

Dodgers announce the Haren signing

Here’s the official press release. Also Dylan Hernandez reported on Twitter that the club option for 2015 is for $10 million (same as the first year) and that there are incentives both years. Hoping to have some quotes from Haren in a subsequent post shortly.

Here ya go:

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year contract. The announcement was made by Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti.

“Dan brings experience as a winner to our club and rotation,” said Colletti. “He has made 30 or more starts for nine straight seasons and has won 10 or more games for nine straight as well. Last year, his second half was among the best in the National League.”

As a member of the Nationals’ staff, Haren was one of the game’s top pitchers from July 27 through the conclusion of the season, sporting a 6-3 record with a 3.14 ERA (25 ER/71.2 IP) and holding opponents to a .224 batting average, which ranked as the sixth-best mark in the NL during that span (min. 70. IP). In that stretch, the right-hander made seven starts of 6.0 or more innings while allowing zero or one run. On the season, Haren went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA in 31 games (30 GS) for Washington.

Haren, 33, enters his 12th Major League season in 2014 after pitching for the Cardinals (2003-04), Athletics (2005-07), Diamondbacks (2008-10), Angels (2010-12) and Nationals (2013) in his career. Haren was selected to three consecutive All-Star teams with Oakland in 2007 and Arizona in 2008 and 2009, earning the start for the American League in the 2007 Midsummer Classic.

In the course of his career, Haren is 129-111 with a 3.74 ERA in 327 career games (316 starts) and has posted double-digit win totals in his last nine seasons, ranking among the Major League leaders in quality starts (194, 1st), innings (1927.2, 2nd), wins (123, 4th) and strikeouts (1661, 4th) since 2005. Haren is among the game’s best when it comes to limiting walks, as the 6-5, 215-pounder ranks first among active pitchers with 1.87 walks-per-nine innings and his 4.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks third all-time in the live-ball era (min. 1500 IP). The 11-year veteran also ranks among active pitchers in opponents’ on-base percentage (.295, 4th) and baserunners per nine innings (10.92, 7th).

From 2005-11, Haren surpassed 30 or more starts and 210.0 innings in each season, posting career bests in ERA (3.07, 2007), a Major League-best 35 starts in 2010, complete games (4, 2011), shutouts (3, 2011), innings pitched (238.1, 2011), strikeouts (223, 2009) and an NL-best 1.00 WHIP and 5.87 strikeouts-to-walk ratio in 2009.

Haren has also appeared in the postseason twice, in 2004 as a member of the Cardinals and 2006 with the Athletics, posting a 2-0 record with a 3.26 ERA (7 ER/19.1 IP) in seven career postseason contests (2 GS).

Haren, who was born in Monterey Park, graduated from Bishop Amat High School in La Puente and played collegiately at Pepperdine University, where he won West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors as a junior in 2001. Haren was originally selected by St. Louis in the second round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

Dodgers (apparently) have signed Dan Haren

The Dodgers haven’t announced it yet, and they never do before the player has passed a physical — in fact, their habit in recent years has been that they won’t even confirm it on the sly until the player has passed a physical — but Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who is never, ever wrong about these things, has reported on Twitter that the club has signed free-agent right-hander and three-time All-Star Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million contract, with a club option for 2015 vests if he hits 180 innings, something Haren hasn’t done since 2011 when he threw a staggering (by today’s standards) 238 1/3. That base salary actually represents a $3 million pay cut for Haren, who pitched last year for Washington on a one-year, $13 million deal. In fact, it’ll be his lowest salary since 2010, the year he split between the Diamondbacks and Angels, when he made $8.25 million.

OK, those are the apparent facts of the matter. Now for what it all means.

First of all, Haren is a local guy, of course, having graduated from Bishop Amat High School and later pitched at Pepperdine. So if his role is to replace Ricky Nolasco in the starting rotation, he at least fills the designated-hometown-guy part of Nolasco’s shoes. On the other hand, Haren isn’t exactly a mindblowing sign by the Dodgers at this point because, while he is a three-time All-Star, the last of those three was in 2009. In the four years since, he is a middling 50-49 with a 3.94 ERA. And according to this blog post by our friend Chad Moriyama, Haren’s velocity has dropped slightly from two years ago (should we start comparing him to Jason Schmidt? Nahhh, not yet).

Consider this, though, as we contemplate Haren in Nolasco’s rotation spot: remember how horribly Nolasco faded down the stretch? Well, Haren did the opposite. Yes, he is coming off arguably his worst season since his rookie half-season with the Cardinals in 2003 — he went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA for the disappointing Nationals, and he gave up the second-most home runs (28) in the National League, although there were a whole bunch of American League guys who gave up more than that. But Haren’s first-half/second-half splits were remarkable. Before the All-Star break, he was 4-10 with a 5.61, and hitters batted a ghastly .299 against him — but he also did a DL stint just before the break with shoulder inflammation, something that could have explained away his bad performance. Thereafter, it was 6-4 with a 3.52. And, he doesn’t walk many batters, just 1.6 per nine innings.

Actually, instead of the All-Star break, let’s adjust the sample-size split just a few days backward and go with Haren’s pre-DL numbers and his post-DL numbers, and the difference is even more striking: a 6.15 ERA, a 1.439 WHIP and 19 of the 28 homers BEFORE he went on the DL; a 3.29 ERA, a 1.049 WHIP and nine HRs after he came off it.

As for his overall health, the good news is Haren has been on the DL just twice in 11 major league seasons. The bad news is those DL stints came in the past two seasons.

All that notwithstanding, this is a good sign for the Dodgers. Haren, even at 33 and with his best years apparently behind him, still is a solid guy to stick into the fourth spot behind three really, really good guys in the first, second and third spots in reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. And if Josh Beckett is back by the start of the season and is even close to what he once was, that’s a pretty enviable starting rotation.

Kirk Gibson speaks first, gathers facts later (if at all)

Say this for the Diamondbacks: they simply don’t give up in their blatant attempts to stoke the fires of their so-called “rivalry” with the Dodgers — a rivalry that if it does actually exist benefits them far more at the box office than it does the Dodgers because, let’s face it, the Diamondbacks need all the help they can get at the box office.

The latest poke at the Dodgers came from Diamondbacks manager and long-ago Dodgers World Series hero Kirk Gibson, who in an interview with azcentral.com (that’s the web site for the Arizona Republic) earlier this week referred to the Dodgers as “the other team” in an apparent refusal to even say their name and ripped them for not sending anyone on this week’s goodwill trip to Sydney.

Only one small problem with that: the Dodgers DID send someone to Sydney. Catcher A.J. Ellis was there as part of what was essentially an advance publicity tour to promote the season-opening, two-game series between the two clubs next March, and Ellis could be seen in several promotional photos with Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin, along with a small group of team executives — apparently, the so-called Dodgers-Diamondbacks rivalry doesn’t extend to Ellis and Corbin, who appeared in the photos to be getting along swimmingly. So Gibson either doesn’t know what he is talking about or doesn’t care.

Gibson says in the same quote that the Diamondbacks are “committed to doing the right thing,” and asks rhetorically of the team that shall not be named, “Are they too (expletive) good (for the goodwill trip to Sydney)? Honestly?”

Look, we get it. The Diamondbacks need something, ANYTHING, to get their fan base fired up. As a Phoenix resident, I have always gotten a strong sense that they are the third-most popular Major League Baseball team in their own city, behind the Cubs and the Dodgers. They have trouble getting people to come to their home games. And so they look for things to drum up. The Diamondbacks need a straw man, and right now, the Dodgers are the most convenient one. If the Diamondbacks need to give their fans something to hate in order to gain their love, fine.

But Gibson — who from his playing days to now has never been shy about letting reporters know when he isn’t happy with something they ask or something they write — needs to learn to get his facts straight before he makes inflammatory statements like this. When this week’s goodwill trip to Sydney was going on, you didn’t have to look very hard to see publicity photos of Ellis and Corbin. They were all over both teams’ Twitter timelines.

Apparently, Gibson just didn’t look hard enough.

Because a little diversification never hurt anybody …

For several years now, I have kept an idea tucked away on a back shelf of my brain that I would one day start my own editing/proofreading business — not so much as a primary source of income, but just as a side thing. So I have decided that since I already have a company in place that I set up when I started this blog, and because being the owner/operator of this blog gives me access to free advertising, I would like to officially offer this service to anyone who might be interested.

By now, most of you know my qualificiations: more than two decades as a professional journalist, which necessarily means excellent spelling-and-grammar knowledge and a deeply ingrained, second-nature knowledge of the AP Stylebook; I’m a pretty good writer, or so I have been told; and I am a superb, detail-oriented editor who takes note of EVERY word or phrase and pays close attention to content and consistency. This is a service I have often provided free of charge to friends, acquaintances, etc., over the years — when people know you write for a living, they generally aren’t shy about asking you to proofread their work.

Well, I don’t want you to be shy about it, either. So if you are (or you know) a college student with a term-paper deadline coming up, if you have an article you want to submit for publication either in print or on the web or even if you have a book you’re trying to self-publish — any type of writing project you want professionally edited — I would love to be your go-to guy. I have reasonable (and possibly even negotiable) rates, and I’m in the process of getting PayPal set up. Oh, and for the procrastinators out there, I can also do rush jobs for a nominal up-charge.

So if you’re in need of this service, the first step is for you to shoot me an email at tony.jackson@dodgerscribe.com, tell me your name, what type of project you need edited and how I can get in touch with you, and we’ll go from there. And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can offer this service to you no matter where you are.

Dodgers add three pitchers to 40-man roster before Rule 5 draft

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This is one of those things teams do every year to protect certain players from the Rule 5 draft. All three of the guys the Dodgers added today — right-hander Yimi Garcia (shown here), right-hander Pedro Baez and left-hander Jarret Martin — participated in at least part of this year’s Arizona Fall League season. Can’t swear to this, but I believe a player becomes eligible for the Rule 5 if he hasn’t been added to the 40-man after his FOURTH professional season if he was signed out of high school or internationally and after his THIRD professional season if he was signed out of college.

Once again, the Rule 5, for the uninitiated: if a team selects an unprotected player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which is the absolute final event at baseball’s annual winter meetings, the team acquiring the player pays $50,000 to the team losing the player. The team acquiring the player then must keep that player on its 25-man roster — yes, its ACTIVE MAJOR LEAGUE ROSTER — for ALL of the following season or offer that player back to his original club for $25,000. Only if that player’s original club declines that offer and the player clears waivers can that player be sent to the minor leagues by the team that drafted him in the Rule 5.

Anyway, of this group, Garcia probably is the closest to the majors, although all three finished the season at Double-A Chattanooga. Oh, and all three are relievers. Baez is interesting because it was only a year ago that he converted to pitching after spending his first six professional seasons as an infielder who didn’t appear to be much of a prospect.

These moves leave the Dodgers with six open spots on their 40-man roster, so they have plenty of room to maneuver this winter as they address a host of needs, including third base, the bullpen and utility spots.

Also, the Dodgers announced that they had signed a quartet of free agents to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training. It’s a real list of yawners, though, so don’t get too excited: catcher J.C. Boscan, infielders Brendan Harris and Clint Robinson and lefty reliever Daniel Moskos. Of that group, Harris is the one with the most major league experience, but after logging parts of seven seasons in the majors from 2004-10 (including ALL of 2007-09), he didn’t return until this year, when he batted .206 in 44 games for the Angels and had more strikeouts than hits. That didn’t work out, either, and he spent the rest of the season in Triple-A for the Yankees and then the Rangers. Oh, and he’s 33.

As for the other three, Boscan has logged a little big league time in each of the past four years, and by a little, I mean no more than 10 plate appearances in any of them. Moskos was up with the Pirates in 2011, posting a 2.96 ERA in 31 appearances, and Robinson’s entire major league resume consists of four hitless plate appearances for the Royals in 2012.

Oh, and the Dodgers lost Shawn Tolleson today. The right-hander who made 40 relief appearances as a rookie in 2012 but just one in 2013 before going down for the season in April because of a herniated disc that required surgery was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers. Curious to me that the Dodgers waived Tolleson, especially given that they only added three players to the 40-man when they had nine spots open. For one reason or another, they just didn’t feel like he filled a need for them going forward.

And finally, USA Today’s the Big Lead reported today that Orel Hershiser, whose contract with ESPN is about to expire, is the Dodgers’ primary target to be “the face” of the team’s new TV Network. One would assume that means he will be the primary in-booth analyst for every game, or at least the ones that Vin Scully doesn’t do.

Those Who Don’t Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

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Congratulations to Clayton Kershaw for being the almost-unanimous winner of the 2013 National League Cy Young Award. Kershaw’s incredible performances over the past three seasons speak for themselves, but I’ll speak about them anyway, because that is what I do. He has made 33 starts in each of his past three campaigns, during which he has maintained a 2.22 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in almost 700 innings while striking out 9.2 per nine. Of course, this was his second Cy Young Award in those three years. He finished in second place behind R.A. Dickey in 2012. Kershaw’s 20.6 Wins Above Replacement is the highest of any N.L. pitcher from 2011-2013 and is second in the majors to Justin Verlander (20.8) over that stretch. Not only is he great, he is consistently great, and at age 25, Kershaw is poised to break many Dodgers pitching records and go down as the greatest pitcher in the Dodgers’ long history of great pitchers. You would almost need to pinch yourself at the prospect, right?

Not so fast, Kershaw Nation! Gear up for an arbitration case because the Dodgers have already fired a familiar-looking shot across the bow which, if played out the same way it did 15 years ago, will lead to Kershaw setting all kinds of records for another team.

Earlier this year, the Dodgers and their star pitcher exchanged ideas for term and compensation in an effort to avoid arbitration (always a messy process) and potentially agree on a long-term deal to essentially have Kershaw in a Dodgers uniform for the prime years of his career. After exchanging those ideas, something happened that is eerily similar to what happened in 1998. Somehow, it became public that the Dodgers and Kershaw were negotiating a long-term contract, FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reporting that the sides had discussed possible deals of 10 years, $250 million and 12 years, $300 million. Upon this information going public, Kershaw voiced his immediate displeasure, telling Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register on June 18, “I think the reason we’ve been able to continue discussions this long is that it hasn’t been talked about (publicly). Now that it’s being talked about, it’s a distraction because I’m being asked about it.” Asked if he was upset that some details of those discussions had gone public, Kershaw said. “Yeah. … I don’t love the fact that I have to talk about it.”

It isn’t at all clear why details like these would be leaked out. It isn’t even entirely clear that the leak came from the Dodgers, but it wouldn’t be unheard of, or even unprecedented, for that to be the case. One reason a club might leak something like that would be to begin painting a public picture of a player as something other than a team guy. This can only affect negotiations in a bad way. As recently as two nights ago, while doing media for his well-deserved Cy Young Award, Kershaw was dodging questions about the stalled negotiations with the Dodgers — although he eventually did admit during a media conference call that, “no talks have happened yet this offseason.”

I can’t help harkening back 15 years, to when the Dodgers had a catcher named Mike Piazza putting up unbelievable offensive numbers as he entered his walk year. Piazza and the Dodgers weren’t far apart on either term or dollars per season, but as the Dodgers dragged their feet during the offseason, Piazza set a self-imposed deadline of Feb. 18 to sign a deal with the Fox-owned team. The date came and went, and Piazza, who simply didn’t want to negotiate while he prepared for the season, broke off contract talks. Not only could the sides not compromise, but it got personal. The man running the Dodgers for Fox at the time, Chase Carey, embarked on a media blitz during spring training that by the home opener had mass numbers of Dodgers fans booing Piazza for acting “entitled” and for being “greedy.” Carey publicized Piazza’s contract demands, which in fact were just one year and $1 million per year more than the Dodgers’ offer, but in wanting a total of $98 million, he was cast as the selfish player fans can’t get behind despite a career average of .331, on-base percentage of .394 and OPS of .966; the 1993 N.L. Rookie of the Year; five All-Star appearances, including being named MVP of the 1996 game; five Silver Slugger awards; and two runner-up finishes in N.L. MVP balloting in seven seasons with the Blue Crew. The Dodgers traded Piazza a little more than a month into the ’98 season. He ended up making seven more All-Star appearances and winning five more Silver Slugger awards. Piazza hit more home runs than any catcher in MLB history (396) and is one of 10 players in history to hit 400 home runs while batting .300 lifetime and never striking out more than 100 times in a season, and most of it went down for other teams.

With Kershaw, I recognize we’re not talking about chump change. and there is certainly a high risk involved with signing any pitcher to a deal for more than five years. But if the Dodgers go down this road again with another homegrown product with established credentials for greatness, if they choose to negotiate in a very public way, they will again be acting penny-wise and pound-foolish. They could set the franchise, whose success is anchored to its pitching staff, back many, many years.

Piazza could have been a Dodger for life if not for Chase Carey’s antics. He could have had a Hall-of-Fame career in Los Angeles. But it didn’t happen, all because of what amounted to pennies on the dollar where Fox was concerned. Despite his relationship with Tom Lasorda, Piazza makes it clear in his recently released book Long Shot that he hates every other aspect of this organization (including Vin Scully apparently) and certainly the boo-happy fans who also took things way too personally.

The Dodgers would do well to negotiate in private with Kershaw, because in the end, no one’s reputation is aided when things become personal. Kershaw is going to get his money, and there is an owner with deep pockets just down the street whose team is desperate for pitching and who likely would jump at the chance to steal this kind of talent from the Dodgers. Guggenheim has done a lot in a short period of time to pull Dodgers fans out of the McCourt doldrums, but the new ownership group can ill-afford to mess this up.

Phil Stone

ScribeWire Q & A Podcast #3

On this week’s podcast we discuss The GM Meetings, Don Mattingly‘s extension and future with the club, We play “What If” with Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw‘s second Cy Young Award. Keep sending your podcast questions to phil.stone@dodgerscribe.com.

Some insight into BBWAA postseason awards voting

Twice in the past three days, a large number of Dodgers fans have gotten various stages of angry — the range was from mildly annoyed to utterly apoplectic — at a BBWAA postseason award voter whose ballot didn’t make any difference whatsoever in the outcome but which didn’t give what those fans felt was the proper recognition to, first, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig for National League Rookie of the Year, and then, yesterday, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw for the N.L. Cy Young Award. Puig didn’t win the ROY, nor would he have if John Maffei of U-T San Diego (that is what used to be called the San Diego Union-Tribune) hadn’t left him off his ballot entirely. Kershaw DID win the Cy Young going away. He got 29 of 30 first-place votes. So in real terms, it didn’t matter that Mark Schmetzer of the Cincinnati chapter of the BBWAA, who is officially listed in the balloting as a reporter for Reds Report (which he is) but whose primary job there is as an Associated Press correspondent, had Kershaw SECOND on his ballot, behind St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright.

So why were Dodgers fans so upset about this? Does it really matter whether Kershaw was a unanimous winner or not? He either won the Cy Young or he didn’t, and he did.

Anyway, some insight:

Each year, for each of these awards, the BBWAA selects two members from each city to vote. With the two leagues now split evenly at 15 teams apiece, that means there are 30 voters for each award — two from each of the 15 A.L. cities for A.L. MVP, two from each of the 15 N.L. cities for the N.L. Cy Young, and so on and so forth. … Because there are four of these awards (Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player), that means the BBWAA needs to find a total of eight voters associated with each MLB team (although there is occasionally some doubling up — I remember voting for both Manager of the Year and Cy Young in 2003).

Back in the good old days, these ballots were limited to traveling beat reporters — people who saw the teams they covered play on an almost-everyday basis throughout the season — and, as a backup pool for when they ran out of beat reporters, columnists who saw the team often. But with the decline of the newspaper industry in general — some papers that used to travel with the teams they covered no longer have the resources to do so, and some papers have simply gone belly-up — the pool of available voters has begun to dry up somewhat. Add to that the fact that some papers — the Los Angeles Times, for example — no longer allow their reporters to take part in award voting due to concerns on the part of upper management that it raises some kind of ethical issue — and then throw in the BBWAA’s own ridiculous refusal to allow reporters from MLB.com, most of whom DO travel with the teams they cover on a semi-regular basis, to be active members eligible to vote on these awards, and that pool of available voters is almost a dry creek bed.

Now, consider the case of Schmetzer, who is a friend of mine dating to my Cincinnati days. I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, and among the responses I got back were that Schmetz, as we affectionately call him, is ignorant, a joke, an idiot and “King Dipshit.” All from people who know absolutely nothing about him, of course, except that he didn’t have Kershaw at the top of his Cy Young ballot, thus preventing Kershaw from being a unanimous winner. I can tell you two things with some certainty: Mark Schmetzer is none of those things — he is a great guy who works hard and almost never misses a Reds home game; and even if Kershaw had gotten all 30 first-place votes, they don’t give out any extra awards for that.

Notice, though, that I said Schmetzer almost never misses a Reds HOME game. Schmetzer doesn’t follow the team on the road, and as I peruse the list of N.L. Cy voters, I see that less than ONE-THIRD of them are traveling beat reporters who cover a team on a daily basis. I saw at least one guy voting from the Atlanta chapter who lives in New York. And one voter writes for Bleacher Report, of all things.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about what has happened to the voter pool. Because Schmetzer doesn’t work for an outlet that sends him on the road with the Reds, he didn’t see as much of Kershaw, whose team comes through Cincinnati once a year, as he saw of Wainwright, whose team comes through three times. Now granted, Kershaw’s one start in Cincinnati this year was pretty good (seven innings, two earned runs, four hits). And granted also, Wainwright made only two starts at Great American Ball Park this year, and one of those was bad (six innings, six runs). So the simple rationale that this voter SAW more of Wainwright than he did of Kershaw doesn’t really hold up, I don’t think.

Consider this, though: the Reds were involved all summer in a three-way race in the N.L. Central with the Cardinals and Pirates, so Wainwright’s exploits would have been much more in the forefront of what this particular voter was following on a daily basis — and that has a way of seeping into a voter’s subconscious. Had Schmetzer been a traveling beat reporter, he also would have seen Kershaw dominate the Reds on July 26 at Dodger Stadium (eight innings, one run). And, he would have seen the Reds absolutely SMOKE Wainwright for nine runs over two innings on Aug. 28 at Busch Stadium. Perhaps then, Schmetzer’s ballot would have been different and Kershaw would have been a unanimous winner.

The voting for these awards is the same now that it always has been. The only thing that has changed is the available pool of voters. And I’m not being critical of the people who are in that pool. It isn’t their fault their outlets don’t have the money to send them on the road. But there was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago — it was still going on when I began covering ball in 1995 — when there were about eight papers that traveled with the Dodgers. That’s eight postseason award voters right there, without having to even dip into the columnist pool. Today, not counting this blog, there are TWO media outlets (the Times and the Orange County Register) that go on EVERY trip, and the Times guys aren’t allowed to vote. There is a third, MLB.com, that goes on MOST of the trips, and none of their people are allowed to vote because the BBWAA, for whatever reason, won’t let them. And unless it’s the playoffs or the heat of a September pennant chase, there are NO other traveling media outlets covering the Dodgers. So do the math. It’s just hard to come up with eight guys from that, and this is one of the largest media markets in the N.L. So just imagine how difficult it is to find eight qualified voters in St. Louis, Milwaukee and, yes, Cincinnati.

In light of all that, we shouldn’t be surprised if someone gets it wrong once in a while. Check that. No one ever gets it WRONG. These things are always in the eye of the beholder, which is why they try to get such a wide swath of voters in the first place. So there is no right or wrong. There are only ballots with which you may agree or disagree. And to cast a ballot with which you disagree does not make someone a joke, an idiot or King Dipshit. It merely means they saw things differently from the way you saw things.

At the end of the day yesterday, Kershaw was the N.L. Cy Young winner for the second time in the past three years. That one ballot kept him from winning it unanimously was irrelevant, insignificant and immaterial. And by the time Kershaw is actually handed that award at the New York BBWAA chapter’s annual awards dinner next month, it probably won’t even be remembered.