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Andre Ethier

What the hell is wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers?

In my damn near interminable preview post series, 20 Days of Thinking Blue, I was equal parts optimistic that this Dodgers team would bring home the city’s first pennant in 25 years and concerned that they were headed horrific disaster. It’s still early in the year and neither has come to pass at this point. The Dodgers are merely…fine, bubbling around the .500 mark and playing uninspired baseball.

Why is this happening? At this point, what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers? And can it be fixed?

Inconsistent hitting

The Dodgers were constructed like the New York Yankees of old—imported veterans with power hitting alongside homegrown players that had grown into All-Stars.  The center of the line-up was supposed to feature the spectacular Yasiel Puig and a resurgent Matt Kemp, with Adrian Gonazalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford forming a devastating front five. Waiting in the wings would be Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero and top prospects Joc Pederson. The line-up was supposed to be a tough 8 outs…make it 9 when Silver Slugging pitcher Zack Greinke was throwing.

Instead, many of the questions that I asked before the season have already come to fruition.… Read more...

20 Days of Thinking Blue: Will Andre Ethier Stick Around?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
 
How long until Andre Ethier FINALLY becomes a member of the Red Sox and crushes the Dodgers in the World Series?
 
Anyone that’s been paying even a little attention to the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason knows the storyline: four outfielders, three spots.
 
Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford combine to make $57 million dollars next season, a unfathomable amount of money for three players who aren’t considered MVP-caliber guys for a multitude of reasons. Crawford and Ethier have three more years on these deals after this one and Kemp with five seasons after this. The monetary commitments to all of these players is tremendous, a fact which would greatly hinder their trade value on the market. The fourth outfielder is Rookie of the Year runner-up Yasiel Puig, a (allegedly) 23 year-old  Cuban wunderkind who is only making $2 million but is by far the least expendable of the bunch. He’s dynamic in almost every way, still learning the game of baseball and could somehow be only getting better.… Read more...

What lies ahead for the Dodgers this offseason?

To date, I still haven’t watched Game 6 of the NLCS. Clayton getting hammered along with the Satan’s Redbirds celebrating in front of their faces isn’t anything I’m tempted to see. Still, as a lifelong Dodgers fan, I still feel compelled to feel the deep, searing pain that my brethren felt that night, like a case of viral meningitis to my Dodger Blue spine.
 
But thus far, I’ve left that noose on my DVR for another day. I’ve been instead looking towards this offseason, hoping that the Guggenheim Group’s second offseason as owners of the Dodgers can put them one step closer to a title—hell, at this point, I’ll be happy with a mere pennant. After all, I haven’t seen the Dodgers win one since I was four years old.
 
LA went into the winter with remarkably few holes. As I noted in my hazy post-mortem piece days after Michael Wacha threw a curveball into my soul, the most frustrating part of the Dodgers’s playoff run was that aside from being luckier, there wasn’t much the team could do to improve upon last year’s team. Without an errant Joe Kelly fastball to Hanley’s ribs, a better bounce off the Busch Stadium outfield and one key pinch running substitution, the Dodgers could very well have gone to the World Series. My bleeding blue heart, it seems, was the victim of a luck.
 
That being said, there aren’t a lot of ways GM Ned Colletti could improve on this team. Many incumbents are staying put, and further salary commitments have finished nailing down most starting roles: first base, shortstop, catcher, all three outfield positions, closer and three starting pitching slots.… Read more...

Dodger Digs: A few thoughts on Yasiel Puig

I jumped around my room in my jammies, like a 9 year-old that had just seen a home run for the first time. My jaw had dropped and my hands were up in the air minutes after midnight, Eastern time. It was a Tuesday night. My girlfriend peered over at me and quietly said “oh, that’s not attractive”. It’s early June–what type of baseball could incite such a stupefying response from me in the face of a woman who I’ve against all odds convinced to stay with me?
 
A “22 year-old” Cuban outfielder inexplicably named Yasiel Puig.
 
The doors had seemed blocked for Puig for the 2013 season. The Dodgers had clogged themselves with over $265 million dollars worth of outfield money in the past 12 months, with extensions for incumbents Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and a trade for former Boston Red Sox bust Carl Crawford. Positional mobility wouldn’t help either–moving say, Ethier to first base wasn’t possible now that another $120 million dollar man in Adrian Gonzalez was manning the post. The forecast didn’t change after Crawford started the season en flambé, with Gonzo following suit. Unless Puig could learn to play third base or shortstop, it felt like $42 million dollar prospect wouldn’t see the light of Chavez Ravine until perhaps a late season call-up.
 
Then, well…you know what happened. Everything went wrong. Everything.
 
Just in regards to hitters, the line-up cratered. Kemp and Ethier couldn’t hit a lick, Hanley Ramirez was shelved before the season even started with a thumb injury and Luis Cruz established a new offensive statistic called “The Cruz Line”–a .100 average. Moreover, the team couldn’t get any stability going in their everyday hitting. To illustrate the point, here’s a list of every Dodger offensive player that’s been disabled: Kemp, Crawford, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Ramirez (twice) and A.J. Ellis. This of course doesn’t count Gonzalez, who’s missed time, but hasn’t been on the DL. Put all this together, and the Dodgers are in last place in the NL West, 7 games under .500 with a third of the season gone. Though only one of the eight Spring Training starting pitchers has gone through two months unscathed (only Clayton Kershaw hasn’t missed time with injury) and the bullpen has been shaky (to be generous), it’s the sputtering offense that’s been one of the primary culprits for such an awful start.
 
The other? A lack of fire, energy and passion; a shocking development considering their manager is Don Mattingly, one of the most competitive players of his era.
 
The solution? Yasiel Puig.
 
The alleged 20-something tore up Spring Training with the Dodgers, hitting an insane .517 with 10 of his 30 hits going for extra bases. He’s as much of a five-tool prospect as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or any young, athletic outfielder in the game. Quite simply, he’s an absolute freak of nature in the mold of Bo Jackson, LeBron James or Adrian Peterson. If that seems like a hyperbolic statement, you haven’t been watching the Dodgers for the past two nights.… Read more...

Dodger Digs: What needs to go right for Don Mattingly to keep his job

Let’s run down the facts:
 
Last place in the NL West, 11th place in the National League. A 19-26 record has the Dodgers with only 6 more wins than the Houston Astros, a squad on pace to be one of the worst in MLB history. Part of the reason is a pitiful offense: LA is 29th in runs scored, 28th in home runs, 28th in slugging percentage and are 23rd in average with runners in scoring position (at .229!). Despite everything, the Dodgers are just 6 games out of first place–but that’s in spite of the fact that they’re in the worst division in either league. Of course, none of this would be terribly bad news in late May, except LA has the biggest payroll in baseball and possibly the greatest expectations in franchise history.
 
Who do you put the blame on? The line-up for under performing, including a disgraceful offense bogged down by awful early season performances from outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier? The bullpen for blowing 8 leads in just 6 weeks when they were supposed to be a bulletproof relief corps? Injuries for absolutely rocking the team, with over a dozen disabled list trips already, including a broken collar bone, pulled hamstrings, torn thumb ligaments and strained calves?
 
Wherever the true culpability lies, there’s little doubt where the ax is going to fall in a rapidly decaying season.
 
In short: it doesn’t look great for Donnie Ballgame.… Read more...

Criticizing the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers is Easy…But Maybe Not Right

“Pitching and defense. Defense and pitching. Either way, with both going this well simultaneously, 3-0 is exactly where the Giants are supposed to be.”–Mike Bauman, MLB.com

“And, especially, one win from popularizing a way to win baseball games that most people thought had gone out of style in, like, 1992: Throw the ball. … Catch the ball. Pitching. … And defense.”–Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

“The best defense in all of baseball made all of these very good, very young pitchers look even better…Given everything they just accomplished, and the path they took to get there, we should rank the 2012 Giants right there among the four greatest playoff stories of the past 40 years.”–Jonah Keri, Grantland.com

The pundits couldn’t be any more correct. This past October, the San Francisco Giants won their second title in three years with the best pitching staff top to bottom in the Majors and a spectacular fielding defense. In a time when the Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and Red Sox spend $100 million on a hitting lineup alone, the Gigantes surrounded their all-world hitter and 2012 NL MVP in Buster Posey with understated trade bait and shrewd scrap-heap pick-ups. GM Brian Sabean built a team similar to the Dodgers squads dominated the 70s and 80s, with each of their athletic solar systems built around the gravitational pull of a titanic pitching staff and defense.

In October, the Dodgers watched helplessly as the Giants won their fourth pennant and second title in a span of time where neither of those accolades were accomplished in Chavez Ravine. To add insult to injury, San Francisco did all of this by playing Dodgers baseball
Is the Giants’ 2012 run the new paradigm of the greatest game? Build an unbelievable, indomitable staff and bullpen with an air-tight defense behind it? Then employ just one elite hitter and let the rest of the offense sort itself out down the line? The Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria and the best defense in baseball certainly would support that notion. So would the World Champion 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, who had a near-retirement Lance Berkman as a cheap, understated signing, 28 year-old would-be star in David Freese turned NLCS and WS MVP and youngsters Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso playing over 300 games combined.

This new era of team-building is in many ways a throwback to the “purity of baseball”: a more placid offense with an enhanced focus on throwing and catching. There’s perhaps the perception that because the Giants focus so much on pitching and defense rather than the flash of a crushing offense, that their payroll reflects such a modest set of demands. It’s as if the focus on such basic, spartan tenants of the game absolves San Francisco of spending exorbitant amounts of money like any other major market team. 

Quite the opposite: the Giants were seventh in payroll last year, with three players making over $16 million dollars. However, they all were pitchers (Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain) and eight of their ten highest-compensated players were hurlers. The Giants payroll weight shifted towards the very manner in which they won two titles, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. The core of these two teams were built around homegrown prospects, including Posey, Lincecum, Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo, further romanticizing a team without extravagantly expensive hitters. How is it that San Francisco didn’t have a chorus of skeptics denouncing their high-spenRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Andre Ethier Stays With the Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers get: Andre Ethier on a 5-year, $85 million dollar extension

Yesterday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers tied up their All-Star, Silver-Slugging, Gold-Gloving left fielder to a massive contract extension that will prevent him from slipping into free agency just five months from now.

According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, his extensions will break down as follows:  $13.5m in 2013, $15.5m in 2014, $18m in 2015, $18m in 2016, $17.5m in 2017, and a (supposedly easily attained) $17.5m vesting option or $2.5m buyout in 2018.

Ethier’s contract will now last until his age 36 season, if all goes to plan. This contract is the third-largest in Dodgers franchise history, only trailing Kevin Brown’s $105 million deal and of course, Matt Kemp’s newly inked $160 million pact signed just months ago. LA’s offensive core should be set almost until the next decade, presuming good health and the extended development of young shortstop Dee Gordon.

The early thought on this is pretty simple: that’s a lot of money and years for a guy who’s never had an OPS over .900, has been noticeably injured the past two years (though his 2010 season was skunked by a broken pinkie from a errant pitch) and is on the rough side of 30.

Comparably, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones just signed a $85.5 million, 6-year deal with even more mediocre stats: besides his breakout 2 months of 2012, he’s never broken an .800 OPS or played in a relevant regular season game in his career. Until this season, he’s been an average to slightly-better-than-average player, but nothing more than that. He’s made one All-Star team (mostly out of default – being an average to slightly-better-than-average player on the Baltimore Orioles will help) and won a Gold Glove based mostly on his sheer athleticism rather than his actual play in center field (he has one of the biggest “ranges” in the league, and yet has led the league in errors for a CF this and the previous two seasons). In short, Adam Jones has been a steady, decent player whose largely getting paid for 2 months of fulfilled potential. It could be a foolish signing, but then again, if you’re the Orioles, how do you not pay one of your three decent players? In baseball, money just isn’t money. It’s relative to the situation. And the O’s situation is awful.

The primary difference here between Jones and Ethier is that Baltimore’s guy is a 26 year-old whose power stroke that scouts have been waiting for just kicked into place. Andre is a 30 year-old whose effort and performance have varied throughout his five years with the Dodgers. That fact alone is enough for anyone to pause at this contract.

However, it’s hard not to call this a win for Los Angeles, for a few reasons:

This was somehow a discount

 Two years ago, the Washington Nationals wildly overpaid Jayson Werth with a seven-year, $126 million contract. Matt Holliday was similarly signed by the St. Louis Cardinals for seven years, $120 million, even though they had no apparent bidders within $20 million of them. Despite never hitting 20 homers in a season, Carl Crawford was given one of the largest deals for a position player ever, when the Boston Red Sox bestowed him with a seven year, $142 million dollar deal.

All three of these outfielders were around 30 years old….same as Ethier. Of the three, only Holliday has career accomplishments that eclipse those of Andre’s seven year career, with Crawford and Werth never fin… Read more...

2013 Free Agency for the newly-bought LA Dodgers

We can’t wipe the smiles off our faces over here at MAMBINO. The reign of Frank McCourt has come to it’s unofficial end, with the paperwork ready to be drawn up and stamped. We will all breathe easier knowing that the autocratic rule of one of the most disgraced owners in professional sports will soon be a but a bad memory. I’ve truly never wanted to move past anything more than this, ex-girlfriends included.

That last sentence obviously was untrue.

For weeks this winter, the chatter on the interweb was that the Dodgers were secretly in the running for first baseman Prince Fielder, a power-hitting whale (of a human), whose massive presence both on the field and in the line-up was the exact addition LA so desperately needed. The offer never turned into anything more than that, sadly, as Fielder and his agent Scott Boras signed a massive 9-year, $214 million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers, a deal that I don’t necessarily think makes the Tigers into a title contender. Nevertheless, Prince is now a Tiger, and my dreams of a make-good 1-year deal is off the table.

As we stated in our 2012 Dodgers Preview, the team just can’t be considered a contender this year. They face deficits in their starting rotation, every infield position and at least 1 corner outfield spot. Playoffs are simply out of the question for this October. Except for aiming at a .500 record retaining our dignity, the 2012 season will largely be the Dodgers’ front office holding a 162-game audition for the 2013 edition of the boys in blue. GM Ned Colleti and company will see which players would be able to impact a championship-caliber team going forward, and which men should be sold off for prospects and future considerations.

That all being said, let’s look towards winter 2012-2013, when the Dodgers will ride Guggenheim Partners checkbook in landing the big players on the free agent market. Mark Walter, Stan Kasten, and of course, Magic Johnson know they have to make a big national splash, one that says “THE DODGERS ARE BACK”, which will sadly be the next major LA marketing campaign (just envision that Billboard on the 10 Freeway – I’d put even odds on it happening).

Who will the free agents be? Who will be the next Los Angeles Dodger? Here is the list of 2013 free agents so far, courtesy of MAMBINO-approved superblog mlbtraderumors.com. From it, we’ve cherry-picked the very best free agents that the new and improved Los Angeles Dodgers will most likely be after:

1). Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
With a bullet. The fastest bullet that’s ever existed. Like, one of those talking bullets from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” One of those.

His deal: Cole Hamels is going to be, without a doubt, the most sought-after free agent on the market. He’s one of the 10 best pitchers in the league (CC-Verlander-Halladay-Felix-Clayton-Cliff Lee-Lincecum-Weaver-Wainwright-Hamels? Challenge!) and everyone is going to be after him. I’d say the likely suitors are the Phillies, Yankees (just because), Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Texas, Chicago Cubs and the Dodgers.

Why the Dodgers want him: Because he’s one of the 10 best pitchers in the league. LA has a rotation of guys that are chock full of 3, 4 and 5 starting pitchers, rather than a potential 1 or 2 type of guy. NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw has finally come into the ace we all thought he’d be one day, but behind him are guys like Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly. Cole Hamels would give the Dodgers a 1-2 … Read more...

State of Chavez Ravine: 2012 LA Dodgers Preview

Oh boy. Here it is. Strap in and put on your positive thinking caps Mambinites. I hate to do it, but we’re about to take a ride to Negativetown, the air conditioners are broken and we only have a Lou Diamond Phillips spoken word CD in the car. Sorry everybody.

Always the best part of Dodger baseball…but especially in 2012

Never before have I been so apathetic about a Dodger season. We’re on the precipice of a major change in the organization, but this transition time has paralyzed the team, and locked them into a holding pattern until a new owner is decided upon. The most exciting part of the season might be that we get another year of the ever-immaculate play-calling of the legendary Vin Scully.

And thus, the half-hearted Dodgers squad you see before you. This offseason, Ned Colletti filled the team with stopgap solutions full of retreads, scrap heap finds and cheap veterans. Quite frankly, there’s not a lot that inspires you outside of the reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp.  Let’s take a closer look at the team through its various components:… Read more...