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I don't think we'll learn diddly peep about Torre during his tenure with the Dodgers.
He goes from a franchise with unlimited resources to merely the one with the most resources in the NL.
He goes from having the best closer in the game to... having the best closer in the game.
You want to talk about the young talent he inherited in 1996? How about Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Hu, Abreu, LaRoche, Broxton, Proctor (whom he knows), and Young? With Clayton Kershaw, Ivan DeJesus Jr., and Jon Meloan not far away?
How blind do you have to be to call Russell Martin's season not very good? It was only the best offensive season by a catcher in the NL. Oh, hey, it was also the best defensive season by a catcher in the NL. And how old is Martin again?
How likely is it that the Dodgers get less out of Wolf and Schmidt in 2008 than they did this year?
Sure, they've got some undesirable contracts in Loaiza, Furcal, Pierre, and Garciaparra. But didn't you mention in the article how the Yankees were able to overcome similar gaffes?
It seems to me that Torre will be in familiar territory, and the only excuse he has for not taking these Dodgers to the playoffs is that he could easily have the third best record in the NL and miss October the way next year's NL West is shaping up.
You have made several points. Guess we'll have to go point by point:
a) The Dodgers have the best closer in the game.
Hmm. Interesting. So, two seasons of a (soon to be) 38 year old Japanese closer is enough for us to award him closer of the year, eh? I'm not convinced. In fact, I am downright skeptical. Believe it when I see it.
b) Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Hu, Abreu, LaRoche, Broxton, Proctor (whom he knows), and Young? With Clayton Kershaw, Ivan DeJesus Jr., and Jon Meloan not far away?
Loney - an excellent hitter.
Kemp - a solid hitter, but strikes out at a phenomenal rate and doesn't get on base very well. Not impressed.
Ethier - Is this what passes for talent? Seems pretty mediocre to me. But I guess league average OPS is what impresses people these days.
Hu - a bona fide prospect
Abreu - Not sure I consider him talented yet. Looks like he has a pretty solid empty-average track record
Andy LaRoche - a bona fide prospect
Jonathan Broxton - obviously very good.
Proctor - really? He's 31.
The others - all solid prospects, how they are going to perform, who knows.
c) Russ Martin - Keith, apparently it makes you happy when your best full season offensive performance comes from a guy with an OPS that doesn't hit .850. Sorry, I would like my BEST HITTER to do a little better. So he's a catcher - yeah! He was still the best hitter on the team, and that is still bad news.
Next year, maybe Kemp and Loney will have full seasons, and they will perform at the level they did this year, and Martin won't be an issue. But if Russ Martin 2007 is your best offensive performance, you are not going to score lots of runs.
And here is a bonus fact for you, Keith - only two catchers in the National League had an OPS at or above league average - Martin, and Josh Bard. Saying that Martin was the best offensive catcher in the league is about as significant as saying Carlos Zambrano was the best offensive pitcher in the league.
d) "How likely is it that the Dodgers get less out of Wolf and Schmidt in 2008 than they did this year?"
Incredibly likely - Schmidt could actually end up pitching.
e) Sure, they've got some undesirable contracts in Loaiza, Furcal, Pierre, and Garciaparra. But didn't you mention in the article how the Yankees were able to overcome similar gaffes?
Keith, you must have just started paying attention to baseball yesterday. The whole point of the Yankees and their huge budget is that they can overcome disasterous contracts and still spend big money, and this is something unique to the Yankees. The Dodgers, while still a big market, don't have those sorts of resources. I feel as though I was clear on this point.
A huge reason I think Torre will have to face the fire is that the Dodgers can't take huge hits and keep spending like the Yankees can.
f) "It seems to me that Torre will be in familiar territory, and the only excuse he has for not taking these Dodgers to the playoffs is that he could easily have the third best record in the NL and miss October the way next year's NL West is shaping up."
Well, that would certainly be another point - he will be playing in a much more competitive division than he did for the last 11 years.
You are absolutely right that the Dodgers have prospects. But their CURRENT hitting is still in shambles, and there is no way they can absord the bad contracts the way the Yankees do, which means Torre will be stuck with who he has, and the acquisition of bad players may block the future acquisition of good players, which was not an issue with the Yankees.
Your comments on Russ Martin are the most surprising to me. Having the best hitter of a pitiful group of National League catchers does not make him a great catcher, and it certainly doesn't make him the guy you want in the three hole.
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In my opinion, the overall point (and I think maybe I should have been more clear about this) is that no team in baseball compares to the New York Yankees.
Torre may have good pitching and up-and-coming prospects (which, actually, sets the Dodgers apart from the Yankees of THIS decade), but he doesn't have the ability to acquire the best talent available every single season without regard for price, and he doesn't have the ability to absorb bad money contracts and continue to spend big.
This season, he will have to coach his players, live with his mistakes, and earn his victories.
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Clearly, we would learn a lot more about him if he took over the Royals and went to the World Series.
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If you prefer, Russell Martin was the third best offensive catcher in baseball last year, which is pretty exciting given that he is 24 years old. As for defense, he was arguably the best around, although that's only because Yadier Molina was injured.
For someone all excited about Alexis Rios, you sure have an unusual view of Ethier. I think when a player hits .295 while displaying some power and plate patience at ages 24-25 is kind of impressive. But I guess the Yankees have Melky Cabrera as the young upstart in their outfield, I mean, who can compete with that?
Salary-wise, the Yankees opened 2007 with a $189 M salary to Boston's $143 M. The Dodgers were at $108 with the Giants being the next best in the West at $90. In terms of teams that could actually compete with them this year, the Padres were next at $58 million.
I'll say again - the situation for Torre is unchanged. The Yankees do not have more of a leg up on the Red Sox than the Dodgers have on the Padres. And the Giants are the Orioles of the west, spending plenty, but no threat to approach .500.
I will say this: in analyzing the Dodgers, I was operating under the assumption that Dodger Stadium was still a pitcher's park. But for two seasons now, it had played neutral, or even slightly favoring hitters a little. I suppose their offense could be problematic.
How it is that you could compare a team that has topped out at $108 million salary and a team that spent $189 million last season with the capacity to go over $200 million somewhat astounds me.
I guess you missed my point about Russ Martin, so I'll rephrase it, but only once more - Russ Martin might be the best offensive catcher in the universe, but I still don't want my best offensive player to be Russ Martin.
Having you the best offensive catcher is impressive. But if your best offensive player is not one of the 100 best offensive players in the game (which Martin isn't) then it doesn't really matter.
As for Alex Rios - I like him a lot. I think he is probably the best or second best offensive player on the Blue Jays right now.
When was the last time you heard me compare the Blue Jays to the Yankees?
P.S. I will not spell out for you how much better Rios is than Ethier. I think you can figure that out for yourself.
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I can't even believe you compared Andre Ethier to Alex Rios, and then offered THAT as proof that the Dodgers are the same as the Yankees.
This is a classic case of, "Even if your fact was true, your point would be invalid":
a) Andre Ethier is no Alex Rios
b) Even if Andre Ethier WAS as good as Alex Rios, it certain doesn't put the Dodgers on par with the Yankees, since the Blue Jays are nowhere near on par with the Yankees.
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Keith, I have to say, I responded to your comments about half an hour ago, and yet they are still bothering me.
Your comments have really led me to question your analytical abilities.
Surely someone as smart as you can comprehend the difference between numberical rankings and magnitude.
The fact that the Dodgers rank third (or fourth) behind the Yankees in salary does nothing to lessen the fact that 189 million dollars is significantly greater than 108 million dollars. And yet you seem to think the two team financial situations are similar.
That would be like saying that Bob Meusel, who hit 24 homeruns and finished second in the AL in 1921, was similar to Babe Ruth, who hit 59 homeruns and finished first.
Just because something is second best doesn't mean it is almost the best.
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Asher: First things first, Joe Montana was the best quarterback I’ve ever seen. Period. For example I give you the 1981 Super Bowl Champions that won it with neither Jerry Rice or Roger Craig (who was highly over rated anyway). Dwight Clark was very good but very slow (he wouldn’t burn you deep but he ran precise routes) and Freddy Solomon was fast but he was certainly no Jerry Rice. Plus that team had NO running game worth speaking of unless you’re a big fan of Earl Cooper and/or Bill Ring. Let’s get this issue clear here and now.
Asher: Matt Kemp – 119 K in 477 PA isn’t what I’d call a phenomenal rate (rather pedestrian in fact for this era) and a .373 OBP – albeit based largely on his .342 BA – isn’t exactly chopped liver. Add the fact that he’s only 22 and has great speed and the ability to play center and you’ve got yourself a real good looking future ahead of you. Needs to grow up a bit but his talent is clear.
Asher: Andre Ethier – 308/.365/.477 in his rookie year with slight, yet predictable, slippage in his sophomore campaign (.284/.350/.452) isn’t anything to sneeze at. Add to that the fact that he’s only 25 and has 24 HR in two seasons of part-time play and you’ll find I’m a bit more impressed than you are apparently and quite honestly, I think a comparison with Alex Rios isn’t out of line, especially when you compare Ethier’s first two years to Rios’.
Asher and Keith: Russell Martin – I’m split here, agreeing with Asher that the Dodgers offense isn’t exactly a powerhouse and that I wouldn’t want Martin to be my best offensive player but I’m with Keith whereas you can’t help but be excited about a player like him with his offensive attributes to match his defensive ability and worth as a catcher. In fact, those three plus Loney give the Dodgers a lot to be excited about.
Asher and Keith: Chin-Lung Hu – He impressed me with what I saw of some real nifty glovework but I see more of a Cesar Izturis type at the plate. It’s possible that this year was really a breakout year but I wouldn’t crown him as the future at SS for LA just yet. At the very least I can’t see Asher how you can rate him a bona fide prospect without thinking the same of Kershaw.
Keith: Scott Proctor – Really? He’s 31.
Keith: Tony Abreu – When he came up Dodger fans were raving about this “on-base machine” I suppose because of 54 games at AAA with a .399 OBP. Personally I wouldn’t make plans to replace Kent with him just yet. Scrappy yes. Versatile yes. A future starting second baseman? I’m not so sure.
Asher: Takashi Saito – Compare him to any other closer in baseball the last two years and get back to me. If you find anyone you think has been better let me know but until then, I’m going with Keith on this one. Just because you have your unfounded skepticism doesn’t mean he hasn’t simply been the best in baseball the last two seasons. Where your skepticism is founded is whether or not he will remain the best at age 38. However given that he improved from year 1 to year 2, I’d say it’s likely he’ll remain a top tier closer next season.
Asher and Keith: The Dodgers Payroll - $108 M in ’07 and I just read the other day that they were the second most profitable team in baseball just as they were in 2006. Just because Frank McCort is cheap and refuses to spend as much as even the Red Sox despite possessing a larger stadium and a much (and I mean MUCH) larger market does not mean they could not overcome bad contracts. Indeed quite the opposite is true and they’ve been doing it for a while (for just one example, see Darren Driefort). I have very little sympathy for a team whose bottom line is more about making money than winning especially since the business of baseball makes owners very rich (need I remind anyone that no team has ever been sold for a loss?).
Keith: Jason Schmidt - As Asher pointed out, you can't help but feel he'll be better in '08 since he might actually make more than 6 starts but how effective he will be next year has got to be questionable at best. I can't help but feel that a similar comparison for Schmidt's final years will end up being as a right handed Terry Mulholland circa 1997-2006.
On the other hand, I doubt seriously that Torre will make the type of impact on the Dodgers that's being implied by the national media. After all, he doesn't swing the bats or pitch the ball and it's debateable how much impact he had on a series of stacked Yankee rosters.
Asher, my analysis had to do with ratios, not rankings.
The Yankees had a 2007 payroll 32% higher than the Red Sox, 103% higher than the Orioles, 130% higher than the Blue Jays, and 690% higher than the Devil Rays (Okay, wow).
The Dodgers had a 2007 payroll 20% higher than the Giants, 86% higher than the Padres, 100% higher than the Rockies, and 108% higher than the Diamondbacks.
So if Torre could win nine straight division titles with the Yankees over the Red Sox, it stands to reason that he should be able to do the same with the Dodgers over the Padres, if payroll is all we're looking at. Which it isn't, because again, look at the Giants.
I would say that Giambi's contract, more than anything, illustrates that as bad as some of the Dodgers' contracts are now, none are as bad as Giambi's. Maybe Cashman moving to the Dodgers would be more illustrative than Torre moving there?
Rios vs. Ethier is more of a side point. I firmly believe that Ethier was far more impressive at ages 24 and 25 than Rios was, and far, far more impressive than Rios was in their first two seasons. The fact that you would call Ethier a non-prospect and Rios the future of the Blue Jays astounded me and needed to be addressed. Because it seems to be a good example of your underrating the young talent in the Dodgers organization, which for the past few years has been a consensus top-3 in terms of minor league talent. That talent is surfacing, and it's going to be dangerous.
My Alex Rios/Andre Ethier comparison looks pretty funny right about now.
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