Apr 06

Obituaries

Death waits for us all, and in an age of pandemic it’s nearer than ever. This weekend we’ve seen it take Tom Dempsey, NFL placekicker, Bobby Mitchell, NFL halfback and wide receiver, and Al Kaline, rightfielder extraordinaire for 22 years with the Detroit Tigers.

Dempsey set the record for longest field goal in NFL history at 63 yards in 1970 when he hit it in the closing seconds of a game against the Lions to give the Saints the win. It held up until Jason Elam of the U of Hawai’i and the Denver Broncos matched it in 1998. It has since been extended to 64 yards by the Broncos’ Matt Prater in 2013. He died from COVID-19.

Dempsey had been battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He was a resident at the Lambeth House senior living center in New Orleans, which has been hit hard by the virus. More than 50 residents have been affected, according to NOLA.com.

Bobby Mitchell, along with Leroy Jackson and John Nisby, were the first black players for the Washington Redskins when they started the 1962 season with the team. George Marshall, the team’s owner, had made it clear he didn’t want black players on his team, but then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the Kennedy Administration made it known that he should integrate.

During his first six seasons with the Redskins, he never caught fewer than 58 passes. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection — once as a running back and three times as a wide receiver.

Mitchell, a seventh-round draft pick in 1958, retired in 1969, finishing his 11-year NFL career with 14,078 total yards. He had 91 career touchdowns, including 65 receiving and 18 rushing. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

Kaline joined the Tigers directly from high school in 1953. In 1955 he won an AL batting title and finished second to Yogi Berra in the MVP voting. He won the Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team in 1973.

Kaline made his lone appearance in a World Series in 1968, on the Tigers team led by pitchers Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich. Kaline had been sidelined for part of the season with a broken arm, and when he returned he was used mostly as a pinch hitter or first baseman because the outfield trio of Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup was playing well.

When the Tigers clinched the pennant, Kaline went to manager Mayo Smith and told him that he didn’t deserve to start in the World Series. Smith ignored him and played Kaline, who batted .379, hit two home runs and drove in eight as the Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

Kaline was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.

Feb 09

Betts deal finally done

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan:

Catching prospect Connor Wong is headed to the Boston Red Sox alongside outfielder Alex Verdugo and shortstop Jeter Downs in the trade that will send outfielder Mookie Betts, starter David Price and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers, sources tell ESPN. Players have been notified.

Notice the Twins were left out of that deal. However, Passan also says

The trade that will send right-hander Kenta Maeda and cash to the Minnesota Twins for right-hander Brusdar Graterol and the 67th pick in the draft — which has around a $1 million slot value — has been agreed upon, source confirms to ESPN. @Ken_Rosenthal was first with the deal.

Here’s an interesting perspective:

The Dodgers turned Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig into Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs

Jeter Downs just got them Mookie Betts, they kept Josiah Gray and they also brought back Alex Wood

Jan 09

Biding their time

The Dodgers, for all of the hand-wringing and complaints about their offseason inaction, are actually sitting quite pretty when it comes to leverage. They can use it now. They can use it in July. They can be opportunistic. They do not have to feed the hot stove beast simply because it has hunger pangs.

So says ESPN’s Jeff Passan, and he’s a lot smarter than Bill Plaschke, who wrote a somewhat whiny column last week taking the Dodgers and their owners to task for not doing something, anything that would give the fans (and columnists) Dodger news to talk about.

Dec 10

Wintry mix

ESPN has links and gossip here.

The Phillies signed ex-Yankee Didi Gregorius to play shortstop.

The Giants acquired veteran infielder Zack Cozart and 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson (another infielder) from the Angels for a player to be named later or cash.

The Yankees, as expected, have made an offer to Gerrit Cole which is even richer than the one Stephen Strasburg got from the Nationals earlier this week.

Then there’s this:

Andrew Friedman said the Dodgers have zeroed in on roughly 12 players they’re targeting at the moment. Almost all of them, perhaps with the exception of relievers, are elite. “I’d say it’s a much more narrow group than it has been in some other years in my career,” Friedman said.

Nov 16

Broadway comes to Chavez Ravine

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, “What do you do with a problem like Maeda?”

The Athletic tells us today that Maeda doesn’t want to relieve, partly because his contract is built around him being a starter but (probably) more because he’s been a starter his entire life and doesn’t think of himself as anything else. The Dodgers don’t bluntly say “pitch better, then” but you get the sense that’s what they feel. As we’ve seen the last couple of years, he starts most of the year and then is moved to the bullpen in September and October.

The strategy has proved effective for the Dodgers. But the approach vexes Maeda. It damages his pride and trims his paycheck. He has vocalized his frustration to Dodgers officials. After an unsuccessful attempt last winter to renegotiate his incentive-laden contract, which lasts another four years, Maeda remains steadfast in his desire to start. His agent, Joel Wolfe, reiterated that during a meeting with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman this week.

“Kenta wants to make 30 starts, 32 starts during the season,” Wolfe said. “He would prefer not to be constantly shuttled to the bullpen and back. He doesn’t like it.”

[snip]

[Friedman] suggested if Maeda could improve against left-handed hitters he could solidify his place in the rotation.

“We think there’s actually more room for him to be even better, which we’re going to work with him on trying to tap into,” Friedman said. “And if he’s able to take that next step, not only do I see him in the rotation, I can see him potentially starting playoff games, if we’re fortunate enough to make it into October. He has been really good. And we think there’s another gear in there.”

I don’t blame the guy for wanting his role defined and set in stone; in my experience most people prefer that. And while Maeda has gotten some of the pay from the incentives in his contract, he’s certainly not maxing them out.

Maeda received a $25 million guarantee across eight years, with $10 million per season available in incentives.

The problem for Maeda is that those incentives were related to milestones achieved by starters, like starts made and innings pitched, and the Dodgers have chosen to use him as a reliever in September for the past three years. In 2016, when Maeda was a full-time starter, he earned $7.25 million in incentives, according to Spotrac. That number fell to $4.25 million in 2017 and then $3 million in 2018, before rebounding to $5.4 million this year.

Maeda was lights-out against right-handers in 2019; only Max Scherzer was better among ERA qualifiers in weighted on-base average. Against lefties, however, he was 36th of 88 pitchers in that ranking.

The problem doesn’t seem intractable, but it’s not a small one either. It will be interesting to see how the two sides resolve it.

Nov 03

Facts and rumors, Part 1

The Dodgers declined Jedd Gyorko’s $13M option. They have to pay him $1M for the privilege. I’d say “small price to pay,” but it isn’t. Nonetheless, he’s now a free agent.

They may be in the hunt for the Indians’ shortstop Francisco Lindor, although Corey Seager hasn’t even reached typical prime players’ age yet.

The Cubs hired old friend David Ross (LA: 2002-2004) as their next manager. The Mets hired Carlos Beltran to manage; he played for seven teams in his 20-year career but somehow missed the Dodgers in those two decades.

If you hear of other news, post it here. Meanwhile, admire my birthday shirt.

Oct 16

Player and Managerial moves, 2019

The Angels have hired Joe Maddon, late of the Cubs and Rays, to manage the team for the next three years. He spent 31 years in the Angels organization before leaving to manage in Tampa in 2006, so he’s familiar with the stadium, the owner, and the traffic patterns in Orange County.

Maddon, who was considered the favorite as soon as the Angels dismissed Brad Ausmus a day after the regular season, won the job over candidates Buck Showalter, John Farrell and Johnny Washington. The four candidates were all interviewed last week.