Fire Jim Tracy

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Outside the Cocoon

The Los Angeles Times, which has built a more effective cocoon around its Dodger coverage than it built around its Recall coverage, continues to get killed in the real world outside of it. The latest example is this article in USA Today. (Hat tip to Jeff). It's not perfect. Shawn Green was far from the Dodgers' most popular player (that designation would clearly go to Mr. Gagne, and before him the Catcher That Shall Not Be Named, although Green might have been our favorite player in 2001), Jose Valentin does seem to fit the Moneyball model in SLG, if not in OBP (which is why he is making $3.5 million, not $16 million), and Saraceno repeats the canard about "letting" Adrian Beltre go, thereby ignoring the word "free" in the concept of "free agency," and implicitly endorsing Minaya-ism, which has so far been analyzed only so far as how it fits with the Mets' television plans, and not how the Mets might actually win games with that pitching staff.

But these are quibbles that shouldn't eclipse an excellent and informative piece. Particularly because DePodesta is incredibly forthcoming with a writer whom he obviously recognizes lacks an agenda. So we get these quotes, which you will NEVER, EVER see in the Los Angeles Times.

"There were some writers who told me last July that the best thing for this organization would be for us to go on a losing streak so I could have an excuse to trade everybody."

He might as well be naming names. There aren't very many "writers" in Los Angeles, Sports Fans. That's why we're in this mess in the first place -- monopoly power, like in cable service, has led to the inevitable result.

"But as soon as we did something bold (trading catcher Paul Lo Duca), I knew I was putting myself on the firing line; I could've had a hall pass for doing nothing."

Not quite true. With the rotation falling apart in September, and showing signs of strain by July, DePodesta would have been roasted over open coals had he not dealt for a pitcher. Penny's injury erased the payoff. Suffice it to say that had LoDuca hit .200 and Mota had a 6.00 ERA in September for the Dodgers, Plaschke would not have done a hit piece on them.

"The only part that is over the line is when it becomes personal. All we've done so far is to be successful — and more successful than they've been in years. This is a place where they hadn't won a playoff game in 16 years."

Yeah, instead of debating whether we wanted to be the A's or the Yankees, we were deciding whether we wanted to be the Brewers or the Mets.

"I know we have a lot more information than anybody else does in the media — much more information. Ultimately, a lot of it can't be (shared). There are also things that we know about players that we're never going to come out and say publicly."

Are you kidding me? Inquiring minds want to know. We already know that LoDuca can't hit in September, Mota can drink and drive, Finley is old, Lima has an STD, Green's shoulder is injured everywhere but at the Times, and Cora is destined to be a backup for the Cleveland Indians. What could there be on top of all of that?

Given that interview, and those tidbits, how can the Times be anything but extraordinarily embarrassed? Ultimately, this piece probably says more about Brown and Henson than it does about Plaschke and Simers. There was some question about whether B & H were decent writers surrounded by hacks, or hacks surrounded by the kind of slobbering zombie morons that give hacks a good name. The jury's still out, but the early money is on the latter.

UPDATE: It's hard to even compare the USA Today piece to drivel like this:

"Whether DePodesta's Dodgers are any better that last year's division winners remains to be seen, but at least in his overhaul he did not fail to recognize the home-grown quality of a dominant player like Gagne, as he had with Beltre."

Let's critically parse those three clauses:

1) Whether DePodesta's Dodgers are any better that last year's division winners remains to be seen

No. No. We've already decided. They're going to be terrible. Never mind that Alex Cora had 400 at-bats last season. They're horrible.

2) but at least in his overhaul he did not fail to recognize the home-grown quality of a dominant player like Gagne

HELLO! I suppose Gagne could retire, but the rules of baseball give the Dodgers sole bargaining rights with him for two more years. Not only that, but this contract is eminently tradable, particularly in 2006, when a playoff-contending team will be willing to overpay for a closer who has about $4 million left on his contract.

And what is this "home-grown quality" nonsense? Meaningless. This sounds like "Dodger math," which is almost the single dumbest thing I have ever heard.

3) as he had with Beltre."

Yes, DePodesta just happened to miss that 49 home run season. Bill Plaschke thinks that Shawn Green plays two positions, but the entire Los Angeles sportswriter club wants to cling to the fantasy that somehow, if DePodesta just would have seen what they saw, Beltre would still be a Dodger.

Memo to Los Angeles Sportswriter Cocoon Club: The only way to re-sign Beltre was to enter into a bidding war of epic proportions. I will not restate the tons of reasons why this is clearly so (although I will note a few of them: overpaying for Boras clients Lowe and Drew, Boras and Beltre's inability to make their stories match, DePodesta's final offer, which was clearly designed to avoid such a scenario, etc.). But if you want to cling to the insane fantasy that you know something that DePodesta doesn't, feel free to embarrass yourselves in the paper day after day, performing Freudian psychoanalysis on Shawn Green's ability to hit under pressure or criticising DePodesta for not signing "home-grown" talent to big contracts the day before he gives big money to Izturis and Gagne.

OR take the author's uncritical eye on this statement:

"There were discussions of different time frames, but at the end of the day, two years was something I know they felt pretty strongly about," DePodesta said. "We were probably most concerned about just doing something more than one. I think they certainly felt most comfortable with two."

A contract that ends when Gagne becomes a free agent? Why would Boras want a contract like that? So that Gagne can become a "free agent" and they can bid his services and he can be "free" to go to any team he wants to go to? Like Beltre?

The rest is rehashed throat gargle about how these aren't the Dodgers we know and love, and pearls of wisdom like "How comfortable people become with these Dodgers might ultimately depend simply on how much they win." Gee, you think, Steve? It's obviously this kind of hard-hitting commentary that has made the Daily News such a serious threat to the Times' area hegemony. Keep your foot on their throats there, buddy.


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