Fire Jim Tracy

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tim Brown, Come On Down!

TEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT HIS LATEST OPINION PIECE:

1) Almost nobody doesn't like the good old days.But here's the thing. Last year wasn't them. And neither was the decade before it.

Which means..."Pay no attention to that moron you read in this spot yesterday. I'm in charge here."

2) Those aren't good old days. That's a good old day.

Clever. I like it.

3) Have the Dodgers become so pathetic that one win after Oct. 1 is something to bronze? Rhetorical question.

I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I didn't say it better myself.

4) The pitching staff is better. That is indisputable, if for no other reason than there is enough depth to keep Kaz Ishii bound and gagged in the players' lounge for months.

And here's a hearty "Screw you" to the San Francisco Chronicle. (Ishii starts the season as fifth starter, but Brown is right. We gots some options if that doesn't work out.)

5) It cost Shawn Green, a wonderful, caring guy not worth $16 million, but whose contract brought Lowe.

At least he admitted he wasn't worth $16 million. I suppose that's progress.

6) One playoff win for a generation of fans, he said, was not worth protecting, and he was right.

There's clearly a trend here.

7) The last Dodger lineup that won a game — on Oct. 9 — hit 161 home runs in the regular season...The next Dodger lineup — coming April 5 — hit 147 home runs last season, assuming Choi at first base and David Ross at catcher. Or, in strict "Moneyball" terms, the new lineup drew 432 walks to the old one's 403. Stricter still, the average player's on-base plus slugging percentage in October's lineup was .774, against April player's .791.

These are somewhat meaningful numbers from 2004. I think that, in fact, this is analysis. Of a collective hypothetical lineup. A Breakthrough!

8) In their first full off-season together, his general manager had overhauled the 25-man roster, primped the farm system and bargained to the final nickel with the manager and his coaching staff. And McCourt had raised ticket prices for the best seats, started construction on better seats, and stood against the squall as first Beltre and then Green departed.

That's a fairly good description of the off-season.

9) In an industry that invites spending and allows its small markets to stock its larger ones, which in turn drives payrolls and ticket costs, the O'Malley and Fox solutions were to sell the franchise. This is McCourt's.

This sentence is an archetype of Plaschkean inscrutability. But it appears to be a subtle dig at O'Malley and Fox for bailing out on the Dodgers rather than taking the hard steps necessary to be successful. If I guessed at its meaning correctly. You might have your interpretation.

10) "I'm very concerned about what the fans think," he said. "But I can't make all the decisions I have to make if I make them on what's momentarily popular. What I know will be popular is [winning a championship.]"I think Paul and these fellas are doing a great job. I recognize that it's painful. I empathize with the fans. But what has to be done has to be done.... The fact of the matter is, the team had not performed over the years in a way that I thought the Dodgers should perform."

And finally, a long statement from McCourt regarding where he stands on the team. It tells us two things. One, he's supportive of DePodesta, and DePodesta is a part of all of this. (BUT) Two, he says "I can't make all the decisions I have to make if I make them on what's momentarily popular." McCourt has talked to newspapers before. He could have said "We....we...we...we..." He didn't. This does not sound like a guy who is going to pass the buck to DePodesta (or frankly, to Tracy) for any mistakes. Brown's writing a different article here, but those I's should be scrutinized.

EIGHT THINGS I HATE, HATE, HATED ABOUT HIS PIECE:

1) Weep over Adrian Beltre if you must. They screwed up and if they're lucky it won't grind at their souls for more than 12 years, maybe 13.

Or 2 years. Or 3 years. Talk to me in 2007. At least.

2) What we'll say for the defense is, well, the pitching staff is better. But by June 1, Jeff Kent will be your first baseman, Antonio Perez will be your second baseman and Hee-Seop Choi will be your 25th man. It's how the world works outside the Matrix.

Matrix. Cool pop culture reference. See...I'm hip with the teens.

But I digress (sort of). I'm telling you, nothing is less cool than doubles and walks. But dive into a pitch 15 times over the course of a season, and you're the toast of the town. (I'm talking to you, Cora.)

And who says Antonio Perez's defense is any better than Jeff Kent's?

And here's the real point, which hasn't been discussed a lot. Isn't this neat? We got ourselves some options! Choi doesn't work? Well, we know that Tracy knows how to show him to the bench. And he can play Kent at first. Or Saenz at first every once in a while and move Kent back to second. Anyway, lots of interchangable parts. This also means lots of ways for Tracy to screw up (mostly by over-platooning), which leads to...

I digress, but I hate the Paul Bako signing. Why did DePodesta do this? He is going to make no meaningful contribution. He's a veteran, but he has no knowledge of our pitching staff (who would?), and no stick. If, in fact, we are going to stick with Ross, why does he need to platoon with some stiff 40-year-old? Ross starts -- Bako caddies for Odalis Perez or some such set-up.

Now what if DePodesta is right? What if Green is lousy and his shoulder hurts and he's hitting .215 and we don't have Derek Lowe? Wilson Alvarez? Please. Tracy is dreaming. Note to Tracy: Wilson Alvarez is a one or two inning pitcher. Not an only to left-handers pitcher. Not a garbage innings four inning pitcher. Not a fight through a jam after he's loaded the bases on 25 pitches pitcher. 25-30 pitches. Tops. Ever. Elmer Dessens? Scott Stewart? Nope. We got options, baby. We are loaded with them. That is the entire point. We can turn on a dime. With Green gone, we are bereft of deadwood. We are a lean, mean fighting machine. Giving the kids some time in the minors, then bringing them up when Ishii goes into his annual June funk.

So you can drop the cool pop culture references, and just make your point. If this is, in fact, your point, and this isn't just another tired "We love Italian Catchers and hate Korean Infielders" rag. Because that puts us back with the moron you distanced yourself from in the first paragraph.

3) Curiously, J.D. Drew can walk after two years of a five-year contract. If it's without a limp, though, that's money well spent.

Irrelevant. Non-issue. It's not even "curious." Either criticize signing him or don't. The chances of him having two years that would justify giving up a guaranteed $33 million are so slim that the law of diminishing returns and simple law of averages would virtually demand shedding those last three years. In fact, it's almost the best news I've heard all week.

By the way, since both contracts are virtually certain to blow up in both teams' faces, comparing them is meaningless and irrelevant. Drew's contract is shorter, so Drew's contract is "better" for the team. If you want to talk about the margins. Otherwise, it's just which disaster comes first -- only the two-year clause can save us now.

4) The defense and pitching are a wash. One gets worse, the other slaps its head and takes the ball back and gets on with it, and if DePodesta has been living clean maybe Cesar Izturis saves them all.

Defense is overrated. How do I know this? Because it must be, as it leads people to silly arguments regarding Alex Cora's value. This is Alex Cora. How many times must we go through this? Enough with the Jeff Kent is no Alex Cora business. Jeff Kent could get all his limbs cut off, play second base like the Black Knight, and still be more valuable than Alex Cora in his sleep.

5) Forty-eight of them came from Beltre (they screwed up).

Yes, we heard you the first time. Nice way to protect yourself from the irate Plaschke-loving bobbleheads who can't think past what they are going to do for the MLK Holiday, much less 2007.

6) We have no idea what that means for April 5 against the San Francisco Giants, other than that none of it will replace Beltre, standing on one good ankle, carrying everybody on the barrel of his bat.

Oh no. Dodger math rears its ugly head again. This sentence is almost enough for me to take back all of my good will. Repeat after me -- "Home runs hit with two ankles count just as much as home runs hit with one ankle."

That said, Beltre had a truly spectacular year. Nothing taken away from that. It was what it was, and unlike the puffery surrounding Cora, LoDuca, Green and Mota, all of whom have been vastly, tremendously, horrendously, exasperatingly overrated (don't get me wrong -- the latter three are fine -- but the angst to payoff ratio is embarrassingly high) -- Beltre deserves all of his accolades for 2004 (and Green deserves them 2001 and 2002).

That doesn't mean committing to pay him $13 million in 2007 because of it is a good idea, not to mention 2010.

7) In some ninth inning in the near future, it will cost Jim Tracy his defensive replacement and, perhaps, Eric Gagne a save.

Is he talking about Cora? If Cora was going to play second, he couldn't be his own defensive replacement. This is a curious prophylactic "Protect Jim Tracy" line to use three months from Opening Day. Remember it later when Brown starts cheerleading the annual Times "Save Tracy" telethon.

As far as Gagne goes, part of the problem with this hysteria over the defense is that every time a ball gets hit into the hole, Cora (or Green) will have made that play. So this is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only will "a" blown save be Kent or Valentin's fault -- every blown save will be. I suppose this is the cost of (1) playing in Los Angeles in front of (2) loony Alex Cora lovers. It's probably too early to tell whether Brown himself will be fair on these defensive issues, which are the hardest in baseball to measure in any event. The early money leans toward future hysteria.

8) He called the Dodgers and the New York Yankees the "premier franchises in baseball." One of them has acted as such.

I'm actually not sure what he means by this, and I might agree with this statement after all. If he's talking about the Dodgers in the last year not acting like one of the "premier franchises in baseball" I guess you can debate that issue. But it would probably just waste everyone's time, just like all the salary-dump whiners wasted our time for all of December. Not enough time has passed to judge the Dodgers record against the Yankees. If he's talking about Fox over the previous decade, that's definitely true. No doubt. While they were the perfect owners for the Plaschke-world Dodgers (I don't remember. Did Plaschke write some sort of "Good riddance" article after Fox sold the team? Did he focus on McCourt only? I must look this up. Anything negative he could have said toward Fox would have been some of the most hypocritical blarney ever printed on a national stage.), FOX regularly showed Minaya-like ingenuity, simply throwing money at whoever came along while lapping up the applause of the six people standing closest to him.

Jon calls it "Just about pitch-perfect." Brown starts with a sensible theme, expands on the theme, does some objective reporting, and even mixes in some relevant statistical analysis. Of course, it is rudimentary, almost obvious analysis, which only stands out because of the ignorance that surrounds it. Rob called my fisking of Plaschke like a battle of wits with an unarmed man. As I said last week, it is hard to really judge any of the writing at the Times without comparing it to dreck that makes it look good. Brown will have to do better than 10 to 8 to overcome the Times handicap he's dealt.

Two final notes:

1) Let's not forget the issue here. Plaschke is wrong, and that helps us recognize his poor writing, but the issue is simply that Plaschke is a poor writer. He shouldn't be writing his grandmother's Nursing Home Monthly Newsletter, much less the Times. Disagreement should not be the standard. Poor quality of product is the standard.

2) I just noticed Tommy Naccarato's post that when he called to cancel the Times, they offered him a deal for $2.00 a week. Mickey Kaus was running a regular feature regarding obscenely low Times offers a few weeks back, this seems to be one more. This is a newspaper that is just begging to be put out of its misery. I can't believe out of all the billionaires in Los Angeles, not one has the guts to step up and gut it like a fish. The good news, not just in sports, but in every facet of L.A. life, there is alternative media out there. And it's growing. And people who make decisions, people like Frank McCourt (using the relevant example), are going to start recognizing that there is a whole group of people who aren't led around by the nose, who actually go searching for real information. Old Media is dying. In a few years, it's not even going to get the quotes. No more exclusives. They don't get it at the News Desk, the Metro Desk, or even at the Sports Desk. The battle's over. We're just clearing out the caves.

3 Comments:

  • "The good news, not just in sports, but in every facet of L.A. life, there is alternative media out there. And it's growing. And people who make decisions, people like Frank McCourt (using the relevant example), are going to start recognizing that there is a whole group of people who aren't led around by the nose, who actually go searching for real information. Old Media is dying. In a few years, it's not even going to get the quotes. No more exclusives. They don't get it at the News Desk, the Metro Desk, or even at the Sports Desk. The battle's over. We're just clearing out the caves."

    Amen.

    By Blogger Icaros, at 1/13/2005 01:24:00 PM  

  • "Old Media is dying. In a few years, it's not even going to get the quotes. No more exclusives. They don't get it at the News Desk, the Metro Desk, or even at the Sports Desk. The battle's over. We're just clearing out the caves."

    Well said.

    But does that mean Bill Plaschke will inevitably be chased into a faraway mountain hideaway and be forced to send in his column via some third world news agency?

    One can only hope.

    --- Screwgie

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