Just a few random particles that have been bumping around in my head on this bizarre day in Dodger History...
In the aftermath of Steve Finley's monumental grand slam that clinched the National League West division title for the Dodgers on October 2, 2004, Dodger fans saw Jose Lima pitch metaphorically blistering shutout ball in game 3 of the NLDS on October 16,2004, the same game that saw Shawn Green jack two out of the yard. Final score, Dodgers 4, Cardinals 0.
Both Finley and Lima are now gone, and since then we have had nothing to do but watch and see what general manager Paul DePodesta would do in the off-season to keep the momentum going, to build on the growing strengths of this (relatively young) ball club, to position the Dodgers for another strong first-place showing in the NL West.
In the past seven days, I've had to digest the signing of an ex-Giant for whom I've never held much good feeling-- more grudging respect for his talent as a offensive presence than his fielding ability at second base-- and almost no respect at all based on his personality off the field (except, of course, for that rancorous relationship with Barry Bonds-- anyone who tells it like he sees it to that mutant, damn the public strangleholds and other discomforts, gets at least one check in the plus column from me). After a few hours and a good night's sleep, I came away pretty excited, truth be told, about how Kent might fit in with the club, and that DePodesta, in pulling off a big signing that no one saw coming, might likely have something else up his well-pressed sleeves that could be an even bigger surprise.
Sunday came, and A's pitcher Tim Hudson was, according to his own agent in a story published in the Orange County Register, as much as in the bag. Hudson would be a rental arm, but one that, if he panned out, could be resigned for 2006 partly on the money saved by not resigning Finley. Right?
The first three days of the week, and no word about Hudson. The thing with the guy from the place all the sudden didn't look like such a sure thing, and it seemed to the average fan that the twiddling of thumbs heard from DePodesta's suite at that Anaheim hotel where all the lords of baseball had gathered this week was louder than a John Bonham drum solo.
Thursday, December 16, 2004.
The rumors about Adrian Beltre being courted by the Seattle Mariners became fact around the same time that the e-mail featuring season's greetings from Frank and Jamie McCourt arrived at my desk. Okay, so Beltre's gone-- five years, $64 million from the Mariners, who just two days ago spent $50 million on Richie Sexson (a rumored Dodger acquisition from last season). DePodesta's rumored offer (I've not seen any numbers in print as yet) was for six years, and a option for a seventh, but for less (not substantially less, at least as you and I would see it) money. So as I see it, it's not so much that the Dodgers let Beltre slip away as it is that Beltre decided he no longer wanted to play for the only organization he's ever known, the one that cut him enormous lengths of slack as he matured in the major leagues from a 19-year-old with loads of potential to a 25-year-old stud who (in his contract year) led the majors in home runs and came in second in NL MVP votes. Beltre and Boras may have been asking DePodesta where the love was, but right now Dodger fans are asking Beltre the same question.
The Beltre thing had just stopped ringing in my ears when my friend and fellow Dodger fan Steve, who had also called and broke the Beltre news, rang up to inform me that the Atlanta Braves had a new pitcher as of about 3:00 pm-- one Tim Hudson.
Beltre-- dangle, dangle, slam! Hudson-- dangle, dangle, dangle, slam! I eagerly turned on the TV in hopes of catching something from the DePodesta news conference that was sure to come, but it never appeared on ESPN or FSW (1 or 2). Perhaps I just wasn't paying close enough attention-- too busy trying to earn a living at the same time, I guess-- damned distractions!
So here it is, 9:15 pm. The dealing was not done, and it may not be done yet.
As of about 8:00pm, several papers and radio stations were breaking that there was a blockbuster trade in the works. "Yes? Yes? Tell me more!" I said, leaning eagerly toward my radio speaker. The three-way deal would have Randy Johnson sent to his holy grail, his field of dreams, Yankee Stadium, and in return the Diamondbacks would get Javier Vasquez and a couple of prospects (including a highly touted catcher, Dioner Navarro), who they would then deal to LA for... Shawn Green, Brad Penny and Yhenzy Brazoban???!!!! What the--???!!!
There was Jim Tracy on sports talk radio, sounding extremely disappointed as he tried to put the best face on what sounded, on the surface, like a drunken proposition that wouldn't make it past an even more drunk fantasy baseball league commissioner. Lasorda, on another station, was trying to do the same thing, but in that specifically Tommy way that seems to prevent him from putting two coherent sentences together as he stumbles to assemble a rough cut of the company line in his head and then articulate it. The most heartening thing I got out of the Tracy comments was his admission that this trade would not immediately result in a team that he'd want to field in 2005, given expectations set by the 2004 division champs and their owners, and that something else was still and definitely yet brewing in the Dodger root cellar, away from prying eyes and drooling loudmouths like 1540 The Ticket's Dave Smith and AM 710's Joe McDonnell. If this deal goes down, and it looks right now like it will, Jamie McCourt's really gonna have something to scratch her head about concerning fan attendance in the coming season.
And this is all the gristle I had to chew on as I sat down to try to order my thoughts for this piece...
But lo and behold, it seems the story one thinks is written is never quite finished. A quick check on ESPN.com to suss out the name of that Yankee catching prospect. Can the Dodgers survive a potential battery of Dioner behind the plate and Duaner firing from the mound? I thought, once I arrived there. But when I took a closer look at the web site's top story, thoughts like those, designed to distract myself from the prospect of a very depressing summer at Chavez Ravine, were quickly tossed aside. According to the ESPN report, "sources say" the Johnson for Vasquez for Green, et al, deal may not go down:
"A proposed three-team mega-trade that reportedly was on the road to getting done Thursday night hit the skids.
A baseball source told ESPN that several obstacles stand in the way of a trade involving the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Dodgers, and that the deal rapidly exceeding the complexity of last year's failed Alex Rodriguez-to-Boston trade might never happen at all.
Earlier reports indicated that the teams were closing in on a trade that would send Johnson to the Yankees, Javier Vazquez and prospects Eric Duncan and Dioner Navarro to Los Angeles, and Shawn Green and pitchers Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban to Arizona.
The trade was proposed before Adrian Beltre agreed to a $64 million, five-year deal with the Mariners on Thursday. By failing to re-sign Beltre, the Dodgers may rethink their role in the trade, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported.
Other issues that threatened to derail the trade include the waiving of Green's no-trade clause. A source close to Green told ESPN.com that the Dodgers outfielder is happy living in Southern California, where he grew up, and has expressed no desire to leave Los Angeles.
How much money the Diamondbacks would receive from the Yankees is also a point of contention. Sources told Stark that moving Duncan and Navarro would preclude the Yankees from sending money to Arizona.
Another obstacle that reportedly would derail the trade is Vazquez's salary; he is due $34.5 million over the next three seasons and Los Angeles apparently wants help from the Yankees footing the bill.
There was no confirmation from any of the teams that a deal has been proposed. Johnson's agent, Barry Meister, declined comment when reached by ESPN.com.
'We're still in conversations with a lot of different clubs about a lot of different possibilities,' Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta said earlier Thursday. 'We have talked about some three-way deals and some four-way deals. I don't know if it's going to happen or not,' he said."
Oh, so the trade was proposed BEFORE the Beltre signing. And now that the purse strings seem to be unraveling, none of the three teams would comment on a story that, just hours before, they were commenting on like crazy, as if Green and Penny and Brazoban had already picked out the cactus pattern wallpaper lining for their lockers.
I hope this trade folds, and folds quick. A couple of hours ago, when it looked like an inevitability, I was busy trying to reassure myself that DePodesta couldn't possibly propose and/or accept such a lopsided gobsmack like this one unless he had, as Tracy intimated, something REALLY big in the wings just waiting to be unveiled and act as salve for the wounded hearts of Dodger fans the world over.
But after the blink-blink-he's gone theatrics of the Beltre and Boras show, and the Hudson Deal That Was But Never Really Was, I found myself beginning to lose faith in DePodesta's ability to pull the trigger on the really big deals that might bolster unqualified confidence in fans (forget trying to please professional cynics like Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers at the Los Angeles Times, whose appetite for salt to rub in the wounds of Dodger fans makes them seem even more like blind cattle gathering at the lick than they already would).
Now there seems to be a glimmer of hope that the total dismantling of 2004's Little Blue Engine That Could might not be as complete as we all thought a mere two hours ago, or at the very least that DePodesta does have a head on his shoulders and wouldn't accept these kinds of terms even if there was a Beltran or a Delgado coiled and waiting to spring out of the box.
I mean, I had come to terms with the loss of Penny-- a very good pitcher who, thanks to that little nerve problem, never got a chance to settle into my baseball solar system-- and even Green, another highly paid star entering a contract year whose performance over the past two years made him seem far more replaceable than Beltre.
But the thought of having to gut out being pitched to by the startlingly good, potentially great Yhency Brazoban in several series over the course of the season was just too much to bear. The cries of agony over the loss of Guillermo Mota had barely begun to still, for God's sake, and now they're gonna ship Brazoban to a division rival? Say it ain't so, DePo, say it ain't so. I'm going to bed now, and I sincerely hope that when the sun rises the darkening gray of this Thursday will have been replaced by a good Friday draped in a much more pleasant shade of blue.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Just a few random particles that have been bumping around in my head on this bizarre day in Dodger History...