Posted on: April 28, 2010 1:53 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2010 9:06 pm

The Dodger problems -- and a Kemp problem

NEW YORK -- The Dodgers have problems.

That's easy to see.

How much of their problem is a Matt Kemp problem? That's a lot harder to say.

The statistics say that the 25-year-old center fielder can't be held responsible for the Dodgers' less-than-impressive 8-13 start (including today's 7-3 loss to the Mets). As of this morning, he was tied for the National League lead with seven home runs, and also tied for the lead with 20 RBI.

And yet, as Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti rightly said today, "I know that I don't see the same player I saw at the end of last year."

In a radio interview Tuesday, and again in a session with reporters at Citi Field today, Colletti said similar things about the Dodgers' team as a whole. He said that he didn't mean to single out Kemp, and said he only talked about Kemp on Tuesday because he was asked directly about him.

But Colletti didn't mention any other players by name, either in the interview with the Dodgers' flagship station, KABC radio, or today. Also, in responding to a question about Kemp, Colletti himself raised the possibility that Kemp's lapses on the bases and in the field could be traced back to the two-year, $10.95 million contract Kemp signed over the winter.

Kemp, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time last winter, saw his salary rise from $467,000 last year to $4 million this season.

Colletti obviously did feel a need to mend fences with Kemp. He met with the outfielder in the Dodger clubhouse after today's game, and later told Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles that Kemp "has a chance to be the best Dodger in the history of the franchise. He has the ability to do that."

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times earlier today, Kemp said the contract was not an issue, and also referred to how early he gets to the ballpark and how much work he does.

That's fine, but a Dodger coach said Kemp does work hard -- at hitting. Left unsaid was that the Dodgers believe Kemp doesn't put enough effort into the other parts of his game.

And when manager Joe Torre was asked about Kemp today, he said, "He is here early. He gets a lot of work. That's the physical stuff. A big part of this game is mental."

Kemp was a Gold Glove outfielder in 2009, but one scout who watched him regularly said, "He won the Gold Glove because he hit .300."

His defense this year has been so bad that it has caught the attention of scouts who follow the Dodgers. His defense and baserunning lapses in the Dodgers' doubleheader loss to the Mets Tuesday were severe enough that Keith Hernandez took him to task on the Mets telecast.

In the radio interview, which aired before the doubleheader, Colletti said of Kemp, "The baserunning's below average. The defense is below average." He also said, "Some guys, I guess, think that they're better than they are. They think the opposition's just going to roll over and get beat by them."

So is the Dodgers' problem a Matt Kemp problem?

Not totally.

As Colletti pointed out today, the Dodgers were among the top three teams in the National League last year in runs, ERA and fielding percentage. Through 20 games this year, they were tied for second in runs scored, but 12th in ERA and dead-last in fielding percentage.

"And if they had a category for execution, we'd be at the bottom in that, too," Colletti said.

Another issue: In the first six games after putting Manny Ramirez on the disabled list, the Dodgers have scored just 13 runs (with Kemp going 5 for 26 (.192) with no RBI, and Andre Ethier going 4 for 20 (.200) with 1 RBI).

That continues a trend that has been evident ever since Ramirez joined the Dodgers. Over the last two years -- not even counting how good Ramirez was after the Dodgers acquired him in July 2008 -- the Dodgers are 64-46 with Ramirez in the lineup, averaging 5.3 runs a game. They're 39-34 in games he hasn't started, and they've averaged 4.2 runs a game.

As one scout said, "When Manny plays, it's a heck of a lineup."

The Dodgers had hoped that by playing the way they did when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games last year, their young players would realize they can do it without him. They hoped that all their young players would be maturing and improving, from Kemp and Ethier to catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Chad Billingsley.

It's not all Kemp.

"When you have the best statistics, you're going to get the most attention," Torre said. "Matty has been like a lot of young kids have been. They're still finding their way. I think he's still learning. I don't think this problem is terminal."

And yet, Matt Kemp is a problem -- just one of the Dodger problems.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 15, 2009 10:57 am
Edited on: December 15, 2009 2:39 pm

The leadoff man they wanted

The Phillies' pursuit of Roy Halladay lasted at least five months.

The White Sox and Dodgers have been talking about a Juan Pierre trade for even longer than that. The White Sox showed interest in Pierre all the way back in spring training, but after first showing interest in trading the outfielder, the Dodgers took him off the market. That proved to be a good decision, because the Dodgers needed Pierre during Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension.

They don't need him nearly as much now, and they especially didn't need Pierre's contract on their ultra-tight payroll. The White Sox, who kept searching for a true leadoff hitter, still need him now.

Pierre isn't a great player, but he's much better suited to the leadoff role than anyone the Sox had. According the sources, the initial plan is to play him in left field, with Carlos Quentin moving to his natural position in right field, and Alex Rios taking over in center field.

So what do the Dodgers get out of the deal? First, they get two players to be named later. Sources said both players are minor-league pitchers, neither of whom is expected to help the Dodgers much in 2010. But more than that, the Dodgers rid themselves of a little bit of the $18.5 million they owed Pierre over the next two seasons.

The plan has been to use that money to acquire a pitcher. In fact, the Dodgers had trade discussions at the winter meetings that would have brought them a starting pitcher in exchange for Pierre, but they were never able to complete any of those deals.

In any case, Pierre was expendable for the Dodgers, who already have Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in their starting outfield. He is much more important for the White Sox, and his arrival continues the remaking of a team that was once overly dependent on hitting home runs. In 2009, the White Sox hit so few doubles that they were actually last in the American League in extra-base hits, despite ranking sixth in home runs.

But since the middle of last season, the Sox have added Rios, Pierre and new third baseman Mark Teahen, while trading Jim Thome and allowing Jermaine Dye to leave as a free agent.

Add in the acquisition of Jake Peavy, and the White Sox now rank as the early favorites in the American League Central. Their rotation top four of Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks is the division's best. Whether their offense is good enough probably depends on whether Quentin and Alexei Ramirez can regain their 2008 form, and whether Rios can ever be the player he looked to be in his early years with the Blue Jays.

The Twins and Tigers, who needed a tiebreaker to decide the division title in 2009, are also strong contenders in 2010. Like the White Sox, the Tigers showed interest in Pierre. The Tigers now could turn to Scott Podsednik.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 7, 2009 10:26 pm

Why the Pirates would even consider Juan Pierre

INDIANAPOLIS -- It seemed shocking that the Pirates would even think about trading for Juan Pierre, but they have.

The reason, major-league sources said, is what the Pirates might be able to add in a Pierre trade. The team continues to focus on rebuilding and on accumulating prospects, and the thought is that in order to deal Pierre for a starting pitcher (likely Paul Maholm or Zach Duke), the Dodgers would also be willing to include several younger players of value.

Such a deal could serve both teams purposes, allowing the Dodgers to add starting pitching without adding salary, and allowing the Pirates to continue accumulating prospects. Pierre would come to them in the deal, but the other players they would get would be the key.
Category: MLB
Posted on: December 7, 2009 12:44 pm

Cubs talking to 4 teams about Bradley

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cubs remain confident that they'll be able to trade Milton Bradley by the end of the winter meetings, with four teams now interested in the troublesome outfielder.

Major-league sources said that two new teams have approached the Cubs about Bradley. The Rays and Rangers remain interested, although the Cubs have issues in dealing with either of those teams.

The talks with Tampa Bay have gone on for much of the offseason, and the basics haven't changed. The two holdups are how much of Bradley's salary the Cubs would pay, and what the Cubs would do with Pat Burrell, who would be part of the deal. The Cubs regard Burrell as an American League player.

The biggest issue with the Rangers is money, because until the team is sold, Rangers officials have almost no flexibility.

Trade talks continue to dominate the winter meetings. As CBSSports.com reported yesterday, the Dodgers are trying hard to find a taker for outfielder Juan Pierre, and the Pirates have emerged as a surprising possible partner. Sources said Texas is also interested in Pierre, but since neither the Dodgers nor the Rangers can add any money, a deal would require matching up salaries.

The Dodgers are hoping to either get a starting pitcher back for Pierre, who is due to make $10 million in 2010 and $8.5 million in 2011, or free up enough money to add a pitcher from elsewhere.

The Padres, sources said, are shopping both closer Heath Bell and infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff.

All the trade talks are complicated because so few teams say they can add payroll. The Mariners and Brewers are the two teams most talked about as possibly taking on payroll.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 2:00 am
Edited on: December 7, 2009 2:04 am

Dodgers hope to deal Pierre, Bucs interested?

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dodgers need pitching help, but in part because of owner Frank McCourt's divorce, they have no money to spend.

The solution? Trade outfielder Juan Pierre, due to make $10 million next year and $8.5 million in 2011.

Among the teams that may have interest, according to sources, are the usually-thrifty Pirates. It's not yet clear how a deal would be constructed, but the Dodgers would likely try to get either Paul Maholm and Zach Duke.

In any possible Pierre trade, the Dodgers could either acquire a starting pitcher in return, or could free up enough money to acquire a pitcher elsewhere. Depending on who they get in return, it's likely the Dodgers would need to agree to pay part of Pierre's contract to make a deal happen.

Pierre was one of many names floating through the lobby of the Marriott hotel as executives gathered for the winter meetings, which officially begin Monday. The Cubs continue in their attempts to trade outfielder Milton Bradley, and the Marlins have been talking to various teams about both reliever Matt Lindstrom and second baseman Dan Uggla.

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 2, 2009 6:52 pm

Concerned about sign-stealing? Don't use signs

PHILADELPHIA -- And so the postseason comes full circle.

When it began, we were just getting over the allegation that the Twins' Joe Mauer was stealing signs while on second base, and relaying them to the hitter. This afternoon, before Game 5 of the World Series, the Phillies' Shane Victorino was asked repeatedly whether sign-stealing by his team is causing so many mound visits by Yankee catchers.

It's all kind of silly, especially the latest one. Jorge Posada goes to the mound more than any other catcher in the big leagues, whether or not there's any chance of an opponent stealing signs.

The other thing is, every team in the big leagues tries to steal signs. The Phillies were so concerned about the Dodgers stealing their signs in the National League Championship Series that for one crucial at-bat, they gave no signs at all.

It was in the fifth inning of Game 5. The Phillies led 6-3, but Manny Ramirez came to the plate representing the tying run. Rafael Furcal, who the Phillies suspected of sign-stealing, was on second base.

When reliever Chad Durbin came into the game to face Ramirez, he and catcher Carlos Ruiz scripted the entire at-bat before it began. For the entire five-pitch at-bat, which ended with Ramirez bouncing back to the mound, Ruiz never gave one sign.

"It was weird to go without a sign and just go into the stretch," Durbin said later. "It's like throwing a ball without your glove on."
Posted on: October 22, 2009 3:09 am

Pedro vs. Yankees? 'Get your ticket'

PHILADELPHIA -- You think Pedro Martinez wants a chance at the Yankees?

“That’s my home, did you know that?” Pedro said in the middle of the Phillies NLCS celebration, when he was asked about the prospect of pitching in New York next week. “That’s where I live. I hope you understand that. What are you trying to say?”

Well, would you like to play the Yankees?

“The Yankees? You’ll find out. Get your ticket.”


With the Phillies making it to the World Series, you can take Raul Ibanez (1,518 career games) off the list of the most experienced active players never to play for a title. But you can leave Jim Thome (2,284 games) on the list of players without a World Series title.

Thome played in the 1995 and 1997 World Series with the Indians, but lost both times. He was a Phillie before they won, and he came to the White Sox after they won.

Only two active players have played more regular-season games without winning World Series: Omar Vizquel (2,746), Thome's Indians teammate; and Ken Griffey Jr. (2,638).

Asked about Thome on Wednesday, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said: "He's a lot like my son, that's how much time I spent with him. I pull for him, but he ain't going to beat us.
I'll put it to you like this: My son, I used to play basketball with him, and he played on the school team. And I used to take him out back, and we had a wooden fence, just kind of had like space in between it and had like three logs on it, kind of a parallel fence, and we had a rosebush on there.

"When he's go driving in for a lay-up, I'd drive him right into that rosebush."

In two plate appearances in the NLCS, Thome never scored a run or drove one in. He was on deck when the eighth inning of Game 5 ended with the bases loaded, but he never came to the plate.

In all, Thome had four hits and three RBIs -- all in the regular season -- after coming to the Dodgers in a trade from the White Sox.
Posted on: October 21, 2009 7:21 pm

Bruce, Ned and the Spectrum

PHILADELPHIA -- So far, it hasn't been a great trip to Philadelphia for the Dodgers.

But it sure was a great off-day for Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.

Colletti, Dodger manager Joe Torre and hitting coach Don Mattingly were at Bruce Springsteen's last-ever show at the Spectrum, an incredible show that featured Springsteen dancing on-stage with his mother during Dancing in the Dark , and his first live performance of The Price You Pay since 1981.

But this show meant even more to Colletti, who once worked at the Spectrum, covering the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers for the now-defunct Philadelphia Journal.

"The place smelled the same," Colletti said. "And I don't mean that in a bad way."

Torre and Springsteen are friendly, because Springsteen has performed at benefits for his Safe at Home Foundation. So the Dodger contingent went backstage to see Springsteen before the show.

"That brought back memories, because when we were waiting for him, we were in what used to be the coaches room," Colletti said. "And then when we went in to see him, I'm pretty sure he was in what was the old Flyers dressing room."

Seemingly half the crowd at the Spectrum showed up in Phillies gear, and when Torre, Mattingly and Colletti walked in, they were serenaded with "Beat L.A."

"They were yelling, 'Hey Joe, you suck -- can I get a picture with you?' " Colletti said.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com