Tagged: Los Angeles Dodgers

2010 National League West Outlook

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The best ball in America will be played both by and West of the Rockies this year, as the NL & AL West feature strong teams top-to-bottom.  The AL West will be previewed later this week, so today YKI will delve into the youngest, most exciting and most talented division in the Major Leagues. Without further adieu:


http://sportsalex.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/fantasy_i_tulowitzki_300.jpgColorado Rockies: A great team. Assuming Jim Tracy doesn’t lose the clubhouse (as he’s been accused of doing in previous stops in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles), this squad will win close to 100 ballgames. No longer the lovable underdogs of Matt Holiday and thin air, they’re now the big bullies of Troy Tulowitzki and the humidor. Their rock-solid pitching will keep the ball in the ballpark (mostly by striking out hordes of opposing hitters), as Jorge de la Rosa and Ubaldo Jiminez are both ready for the next step in their career path. Despite losing Jason Marquis, Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis will provide the veteran leadership to get the ball over to Manny Corpas, Rafael Betancourt and Franklin Morales, one of whom will take over for Jeff Shaw clone (‘closer by default’ due to being labeled ‘closer’ early in his career) Huston Street as soon as he gets injured (again). Offensively, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez showed signs of breaking out, and the underrated Brad Hawpe will hit his ho-hum 30 bombs batting behind do-everything shortstop Tulowitzki. Todd Helton is still around and still will hit .300, and the Rockies will be playing far into October. Prediction: 95 wins, 67 losses.

https://i0.wp.com/baseballevolution.com/images/kershaw.jpgLos Angeles Dodgers: As the world turns. . .in an increasingly distracting offseason laden with McCourt drama, rumors, innuendo, modeling shoots (Matt Kemp), visa/immigration problems (Ronald Belisario), managerial politicking (is Mattingly next in line? Will Tim Wallach be overlooked and become this generation’s Mike Scioscia, leading another organization to greatness?), Manny-bashing, ticket price increases, health scares (Vin Scully) the season can’t begin soon enough at Chavez Ravine. While Joe Torre gave the McCourt Regime the virtual middle finger by giving Vicente Padilla the opening day start, the pitching is not in as dire shape as some columnists (cough, Bill Plaschke, cough) would have you believe. Make no mistake about it; this team will win, but it is clearly built for the regular season. Clayton Kershaw is a bonafied ace, but at 22 years old should not be viewed as a savior. We know Chad Billingsley does not possess the mental acumen necessary to pitch up to his talent, though he will fit nicely as a number two starter. Hiroki Kuroda continues his stay in the U.S. as a strong third starter, and even Charlie Haeger’s knuckleball will prove to be as reliable as can be expected from a fifth starter. With a litany of power arms in the bullpen, Rick Honeycutt & Torre can keep the short leash and march out any number of strong relievers to bridge the gap for Jonathan Broxton (who still may or may not be a true ‘closer,’ eg blown saves in the Playoffs back-to-back years). That said, with the Wade injury, Belisario’s late return to the organization and Hong-Chih Kuo’s perpetual injuries leave the ‘pen a bit lighter than in previous years, and with once-prospect James McDonald falling further off the team’s radar, any injuries may leave an exposed hole in the team’s chances. Offensively, some say they have the best lineup in the division, but until James Loney starts hitting for power and Russell Martin starts hitting in the second half, I’m not sure that Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier can match last year’s output – somebody named Manny will need to step up and provide the real muscle for the team. Above all else, Rafael Furcal is the fuel in the offensive engine. With Raffy healthy and running, the Dodgers will be fine – if his back acts up, the Dodgers could be in for a year of frustration and unrealized potential, and staring at a messy divorce leaving the franchise bereft of integrity, talent and payroll. Prediction: 89 wins, 73 losses.


https://i1.wp.com/www.sportingnews.com/images/143692/article.jpegSan Francisco Giants: This is a difficult team to project because their pitching is just so darned solid. When Barry Zito is a team’s fourth best pitcher (behind Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez), that is some depth in the rotation. A solid bullpen – anchored by Brian Wilson – will help close the door on the copius 3-2 and 2-1 victories this team is certain to rack up. Eerily similar to the 2004 Dodgers, who actually won the NL West with a lineup featuring Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis and Jason Grabowski. I remember as a fan that year thinking this team really can’t hit – how are they winning games? Giants fans may be thinking the same as the competent-yet-much-less-than-stellar lineup will be scratching & clawing for every score. Aaron Rowand, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria, Bengie Molina & Mark DeRosa are all great role players. . .and a bit past their respective primes. It might not be long before wunderkind catcher Buster Posey is called up to add at least a marginal homerun threat to this otherwise unintimadating lineup. Prediction: 84 wins, 78 losses.

https://i0.wp.com/sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009_images/fantasy/justin-upton.jpgArizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks collapsed under the weight of tremendous expectations last year. The young nucleus of Chris Young, Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson and Chris Snyder was supposed to rival the Dodgers in terms of homegrown talent, setting the stage for a Wild West battle for years to come. That said, the pitching fell flat, their previous year’s success was both undermined and exploited (their playoff run in 2008 occurred despite being outscored by opposition), and the Dbacks ended the 2009 season in unfulfilled fashion. Hoping to get Brandon Webb back healthy, Arizona is counting on the re-assertion of the young guns. . .but alas, Webb is still not cleared to pitch and Dan Haren is assuming the mantle of Ace. Haren is solid, and number two starter Edwin Jackson is a nice pitcher, but the staff falls off quite a bit after that, forcing the Diamondbacks to turn to USC product Ian Kennedy and Billy Bucker. The bullpen is even more devoid of talent, as Chad Qualls will inherit the closer role, I’m assuming by either default or drawing straws. Offensively, there’s no question the talent is there, but how will the kids rebound? Inconsistently. Prediction: 82 wins, 80 losses

http://livefromcalifornia.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/adriangonzalez01.jpgSan Diego Padres: Unquestionably the weakest team in the division, the Padres will be playing out the season from about June 15th on. Valley native Jon Garland is a nice pitcher, but when he’s the ‘Ace’ of a staff, that team is in trouble. Kevin Correia and Chris Young are serviceable starters, but they’ll be hard-pressed to match up with the 2’s and 3’s in this division. Offensively, it’s Adrian Gonzalez and seven Triple-A players, led by (son of) Tony Gwynn. If David Eckstein batting 2nd for your team in 2010, you’re in trouble. Honestly – Kyle Blanks, Everth Cabrera, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley and Will Veneble are all starting for this team. Ouch. Prediction: 64 wins, 98 losses.

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Merlin & Three Dog

Noting the recent passings of Merlin Olsen and Willie Davis, YKI initially had little interest outside of the prerequisite sadness for a local celebrity death. That said, the legends of these two Los Angeles icons is still resonating locally, as the L.A. Times & Daily News (as well as local/national blogs) are still printing letters extolling the virtues and memories of both greats.

When it really hit home, however, was whenThe Count made a personally concerted effort to express what these two athletes meant from his perspective. An L.A. native, my father grew up in a sports-centric household during the most tumultuous times in American history, and lived it all firsthand. Through the free love, the rock n’ roll and the political upheaval, sports provided a great backdrop for the consummate post-WWII ‘baby boomer’ suburbia, and the Rams and the Dodgers were the two teams that captivated the Southland.

The Rams, led by the Fearsome Foursome on defense, rode Merlin Olsen’s coattails (literally, see pic:)
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in making DEFENSE the name of the game. My father expressed that the Rams were one of the first teams that excited fans from the defensive side of the ball. There have been many eulogies and posthumous odes to The Gentle Giant, but my Father’s memory perhaps sums it up best: Rams-Cowboys at the Coliseum. Roger Staubach, Heisman Trophy winner from Navy, is on a roll. 1:30 left in the game and the Cowboys trailing 21-17. First and 10 at the Rams 30 yard line. Staubach rolls out, out of nowhere, Merlin Olsen, 14-time pro bowl defensive lineman, hits him from behind causing Staubach to fumble. Merlin pounces on the loose ball. Rams win!!! Walking off the field Olsen says in an interview, “Roger can run, but, he can’t hide!”

The funny part about this quasi-fictional account is that my father is an ardent Ram-hater in his current life, but still waxes poetically when discussing the Rams. Why? “Because of Olsen – a great person, a great player, and lived life & played the game the right way. And most of all, because of what he meant to Los Angeles. The Rams were the first team to come West, and led by Olsen & the Fearsome Foursame, they, along with the Dodgers, gave Los Angeles national credibility and respect.

As for Willie Davis, the Roosevelt High School (Los Angeles) alum set city records in the 100-yard dash with a scorching 9.5 second time and the long jump with a gravity-defying 25’5” leap. Needless to say, he was the fastest ballplayer in the game, and according to The Count, to this day.
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Here’s the Count’s account of Three Dog:
Bottom of the ninth, one out, down by one run, Maury Wills on first and Willie Davis at bat. Maury takes off on the pitch, Willie lays down a perfect bunt. Safe all around! Tommy Davis, next up. Davis hits a line drive to the left center gap, Maury scores easily from second, the fielder cuts off the ball, and fires it to the cut off man who sends it home. Too late! Willie scores standing up. The only thing Vinny can say is “Oh My. I have never seen a faster player!” The first person to congratulate Willie from the dugout is Sandy Koufax, who pitched a complete game, winning 2-1.
The Count says that ThreeDog was underappreciated in his day, hence the Dodgers not retiring his jersey despite owning the offensive record book for Los Angeles Dodgers history (hits, hitting streak, steals, triples). Perhaps racially-tinged (this was the 60’s, after all), Davis was labeled ‘nonchalant’ and considered a bit lackadaisical at times. For those very reasons, he represented Los Angeles perhaps better than any player – a bit Hollywood, but exciting and flashy and a good performer, despite flaws. Again, as The Dodgers came West, players such as Davis were necessary to draw fans and engender local excitement – and he surely did the job.

Both L.A. legends will be missed, and their contributions to the Los Angeles socio-cultural landscape will be appreciated for generations to come.

DodgerBlast: Spring Training Roster Analysis

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After opening the Spring camp with an 8-3 win, it’s time to jump into the YKI Analysis of each of the players either on or contending for a spot on the 25-man roster that will break Camp

The rest of Spring augurs well for the Dodgers, who despite the lack of a big-name addition, still have one of the stronger core groups in MLB. With the exception of the battle for the fourth (and fifth?) outfield slot, as well as the heated competition for the role of fifth starter, the young nucleus + Manny still should enable the Dodgers to remain a top contender for the NL Pennant.

More on that from YKI down the road, but for now, YKI dissects the Roster:
STARTING PITCHERS
https://i2.wp.com/www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/ryanl/uploaded_images/ClayKersh-789874.jpgClayton KershawWill finally turn 22 this year, and already a dominant force. Kept on a very short leash thus far in his major league career by Torre/Honeycutt, Kershaw will be given more leniency this year as the de facto Ace. The lefty has been compared to Sandy Koufax, and his brief-yet-excellent tenure thus far portends positively. That mantle may be a bit too much for a third-year pitcher to carry, though Kershaw’s mature outlook and quiet confidenc belies his youth, and he should end the year amongst the elite arms in the league.
https://i0.wp.com/www1.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+4BFJsgVcBrpl.jpgChad Billingsley – A very frustrating pitcher from the perspective of the fan (and organization). There is no question about his ability or his ‘stuff’ – the lingering concern is about his mentality/approach, and based on his late-season (and playoff) shortcomings the past few years, little hope is offered for his ability to really embrace the role of Ace. Billingsley is slated to be the ersatz Ace this season, as Kershaw is only 22, and may be one of the more dominant two starters down the road. He is only 25, however, and many great pitchers haven’t reached their prime years until their late 20’s. Could potentially be Cain to Kershaw’s Lincecum.
https://i0.wp.com/laist.com/attachments/la_jimmy/080707.jpgHiroki Kuroda – Though only a .500 pitcher in his two years as a Dodger, Kuroda is a very consistent and effective pitcher. Not much of a strikeout threat, he does one thing well – get outs. His WHIP has been in the NL Top Ten both of his years, and with the exception of the line drive he took off the face last year, he is a stalwart pitcher, and one of the best third starters in the League.
https://i0.wp.com/www.latimes.com/media/photo/2010-01/51780908.jpgVicente Padilla – The maligned and misunderstood Padilla showed last year why he was a feared & underrated pitcher in the American League. Accusations of ‘being a jerk,’ were bandied about, as he was disliked and eschewed by teammates, forcing him out of the Rangers organization and thusly providing a coup for Ned Colletti, who acquired the Nicarauguan for a can of beans last season. The point is, Padilla – as sweaty as they come – is a gamer, and battles incessantly. He gives the Dodgers a great chance to win, and as a former All-Star, is capable of being a number two starter for many teams. For the Dodgers to have him in the Fourth slot is an overlooked advantage, especially come time for the pennant race.
https://i2.wp.com/www.nycbeerweek.com/img/logos/tbd.jpgEric Stults/Charlie Haeger/James McDonald/Ramon Ortiz/Scott Elbert/Russ Ortiz/The Ghost of Kevin GrossStults is the long-term favorite, having been up-and-down in the organization for a few years; Elbert is the former prospect that may have peaked in the minors, destined for a AAAA status career; McDonald has the most talent and was on the post-season roster and is YKI’s selection, but has been marred by control issues which always will doom a starting pitcher; the Ortiz boys have both had success in the bigs, and though Russ played for the Panorama City American Legion team half a decade prior to YKI, does not appear to have much left at the big league level; Haeger is YKI’s favorite, but a knuckleballer does not stand a chance if Torre & Honeycutt have their druthers – he may be the last man standing, and will be productive if so, but will most likely have to catch on elsewhere.

BULLPEN
https://i2.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/_Sl0yAVP2acc/SgZ_GJBvLuI/AAAAAAAAAIU/-ZWXpAYLrTw/s400/jeffweaver.jpgJeff WeaverWeaver was a former Ace, and aside from the tragic time in New York, has shown flashes of brilliance everywhere. That said, his Xbox-attention span and shoulder-slumping behavior derailed his career at each locale. Relegated to minor league camp and bouncing between organziations, Weaver rededicated himself to the game last offseason and paid season-long dividends to Torre & the Dodgers, filling every role possible from long-reliver to spot starter. Perhaps the most valuable member of the pitching staff, the Simi Valley native needs to be productive again for the Dodgers to win the division.

https://i0.wp.com/www.exposay.com/celebrity-photos/ronald-belisario-54-2009-mlb-oakland-19I4cR.jpgRonald BelisarioThe rookie was leaned on heavily by Torre last year, and understandably so. Proving to be reliable – and at times, dominant – he was a key member of the bullpen, and should be again in 2010, provided his visa issues clear up and allow him to return to the United States.

https://i0.wp.com/umpbump.com/press/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/gagne-727840.jpgEric GagneGame Over returns, though minus the performance-enhancing substances. Not a lock to make the club, YKI would thoroughly enjoy a renaissance from Gagne, if for no other reason than he is so darn fun to watch.

https://i2.wp.com/farm3.static.flickr.com/2274/2481328713_fb166b6b88.jpgCory WadeOverworked by Torre during his solid rookie season, Wade spent much of 2009 injured, but should bounce back as an effective 7th inning reliever.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/Ram%C3%B3n_Troncoso.jpg/280px-Ram%C3%B3n_Troncoso.jpgRamon TroncosoNot exactly a game-changer, Troncoso nonetheless received the ball three times per week from Torre. Solid at times, Troncoso is not necessarily a favorite of YKI.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2009/writers/tom_verducci/10/08/five.cuts/hong-chih-kuo.jpgHong-Chih KuoThe ultimate rebounder, Kuo has returned from four (!?!?) arm surgeries, and is still electric, perhaps now more than ever. When healthy, Kuo is darn near unhittable. . .but that’s a big ‘when’ and if, because Kuo is a threat to have his career end with each pitch.

https://i1.wp.com/sportstsar.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/sherrill.JPGGeorge SherrillDoppleganger to Jeff Kent personality-wise, is at least effective as a left-handed set-up man. YKI is still not sold on his potential to dominate (Orioles closer? Really?), but was effective last year. Keep an eye on him, though – YKI senses a bit of Brian Fuentes/Eddie Guardado in the reliever.

https://i0.wp.com/losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/images/2006/07/29/tn5fweYm.jpgJonathan BroxtonAptly nicknamed “Cannibal,” Brox quite literally eats opposing hitters with his fastball. Perhaps the hardest thrower in baseball, the only concern about the Dodgers closer is his mentality – does he have the fortitude to close for an entire (post)season? Hopefully the Cannibal’s appetite is hearty this year, as he should get around 50+ opportunities.
CATCHERS
https://i1.wp.com/janeheller.mlblogs.com/russell.martin.jpgRussell MartinBeefed up for 2010, Martin had somewhat of a disappointing year both offensively & defensively in 2009. Worried about his declining power numbers, he added 25 pounds of muscle in one (?!?) season, and looks to return to All-Star form. The Dodgers absolutely need a good season out of ‘The Muscle’ if they are to contend for the pennant.

https://i2.wp.com/www.jewishjournal.com/images/articles/com_ausmus_052909-350.jpgBrad AusmusThe Ivy Leaguer decided to strap it on for one more season, and the Dodgers coaching staff & youngsters are quite pleased. A savvy veteran that will only appear in 40+ games, he’s a player that accepts his role and utilizes his knowledge to gain his competitive advantage. Great roster guy and future big league manager.

https://i0.wp.com/lh4.ggpht.com/_KtBux87oyOI/SibCAOt1eAI/AAAAAAAAMN4/mSF2HNnbzXY/s288/IMG_0309.jpgAJ EllisWorking man’s backup with talent caught in a logjam (read: deadend) behind the young stud and veteran leader, will only appear if injuries occur. If that should happen, he’ll gain valuable experience to become starter and potential star elsewhere.

INFIELD
http://hawkfantasysports.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/james-loney.jpgJames LoneyNot quite a star yet, YKI forsees a breakout year for the lanky first baseman. A pure hitter and natural gloveman, Loney is now turning 26 years old, meaning he’s about to enter his prime. That sweet swing will produce more longballs than in previous years, and he’ll hit above .300. Should be a year away from All-Stardom.
https://i0.wp.com/26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kwvj03dduI1qzxulzo1_500.jpgRonnie BelliardAlmost good enough last year to supplant Orlando Hudson in the minds of Dodgers fans (in addition to the lineup of Torre), Belliard provides great pop from the second base position, and is solid enough in the field to contribute positively. Loves the game, and has great chemistry with Furcal.
https://i1.wp.com/www.topnews.in/files/images/BlakeDeWitt1_0.jpgBlake DeWittOn the verge of becoming the infield version of Jason Repko, DeWitt is a fan favorite for his out-of-nowhere rise to competence as starting third baseman from opening day a couple years ago. Since then, he’s foundered in the organization, bouncing between Las Vegas and Los Angeles in search for meaningful at-bats.
https://i0.wp.com/i.cdn.turner.com/si/2008/baseball/mlb/10/06/sheehan.nlds/rafael-furcal-getty2.jpgRafael FurcalFurcal is back, and healthy. This is a very good thing for the Dodgers, as Furcal is the engine of the offense, and the captain of the defense. When 100%, Furcal is amongst the best shortstops in the game, bringing speed, a natural hitting stroke and most importantly for the Dodgers, a passion for the game.
https://i1.wp.com/photos.upi.com/topics-Los-Angeles-Dodgers-vs-St-Louis-Cardinals/1cf0ff6eef8aaf3c5a93182f4f28cd88/C_1.jpgCasey Blake“The Beard” is no more, but Blake is still going to bring his lunchpail and hardhat every day. Count on Casey for .267+, 20 bombs and 75+ RBIs as well as a steady bat and a workmanlike mentality.
https://i2.wp.com/media.courierpress.com/media/img/photos/2008/03/28/20080328-004357-pic-287947228_t160.jpgJamey CarrollYKI isn’t quite sure why the Dodgers acquired this journeyman aside from the bargain basement price tag. Never one to hit for power – or average, for that matter – at 36 years old, he does not possess much upside either.
https://i1.wp.com/www.utsws.com/UtilityLogo_05_RGB.jpgChin-Lung Hu/Alfred Amezaga/Nick Green/Ivan DeJesusCompeting for the role of Jose Vizcaino, Hu is the typical 4A player, though still young; Amezaga is versatile and will play a role prior to the season’s end; Green had a breakout year for the Red Sox last year but won’t get much of a look; DeJesus is young and bursting with potential but won’t see much playing time.

OUTFIELD
https://i0.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2009/baseball/mlb/02/27/manny.dodgers/manny-ramirez-heyman.jpgManny RamirezDrugs or not, Manny is a fan favorite, and will prove that last year’s second half debacle was a fluke. YKI is not expecting a return to 35+ HR, but a reasonable .285, 29hr and 99 RBI should be expected, and enough to warrant a happy farewell tour around the City of Dodgers.
https://i1.wp.com/nimg.sulekha.com/Sports/Original700/matt-kemp-2009-11-11-16-13-5.jpgMatt KempKemp is being portrayed as The Next Big Thing (GQ Magazine?!?!), but isn’t quite ready to attain the 40/40 season some are predicting for him. His rapid ascent to All-Stardom last year surprised even Joe Torre, and he may have one more ‘very good’ year before catapulting to true superstardom.
http://d0inw0rk.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/andre-ethier-dodgers.jpgAndre EthierThe surly and irritable Ethier was the Dodgers offensive MVP last year, and is bent on still being an A-hole. That’s not a concern of YKI, though, as he hit his way into a guaranteed job coming out of Spring for the first time in his career, and also won more games than any player in the big leagues. At 28 years old, Ethier will be a stalwart in the middle of the Dodgers lineup for years to come.
http://bravesandstuff.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/andersongarrett1.jpgGarret Anderson – YKI’s sentimental favorite, the Valley native is a non-roster invitee, and will hopefully win the Jim Thome role of lefty of the bench. Anderson has 2,501 career hits and could chase 3,000 as a DH in the AL, but wanted to come back home and have a chance to win the World Series again. Here’s hoping he does.
https://i2.wp.com/i.a.cnn.net/si/2006/writers/alex_belth/01/18/five.moves/t1_giles.jpgBrian GilesFormerly a good player. Now, too old.
https://i1.wp.com/losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/images/2007/08/13/lfxBKgir.jpgJason RepkoAfter numerous incarnations as 25th man on the Dodgers roster, now is his time to prove he can stick around. If not, can go be a Cody Ross for a second tier team.
https://i2.wp.com/chi-ball.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/rjohnson.jpgReed JohnsonThough YKI was initially sour on this signing, it seems Johnson’s game is suitable for the role of fourth outfielder as he can hit a little bit, run a little bit and field a little bit.

Good for Juan Pierre

White Sox acquire OF Pierre from L.A.

The Chicago White Sox acquired outfielder Juan Pierre from the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor leaguers and cash.  Maybe now he’ll once again get a chance to get the playing time he deserves.  I can’t say I feel bad for him, per se, as he was paid handsomely to be a fourth OF for the Dodgers, but the fact is Juan Peezy had a borderline Hall-of-Fame chance (guy is a 200-hit machine, had 1,500 hits by age 29) until Joe Torre took the bat out of his hands.
Through all of the tumult in L.A., Pierre worked hard and handled himself with class.  He will be missed by true Dodger fans.

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Of the $18.5 million left on Pierre’s contract, the White Sox will pay $3 million in 2010 and $5 million in 2011, sources said. The Dodgers will select two pitching prospects from a list furnished by the White Sox.

Colletti tells Dylan Hernandez: We’ll Spend as Much as Last Year

General Manager Ned Colletti says Dodgers’ payroll unlikely to decrease, according to Dylan Hernandez

Reporting from Indianapolis – In response to widespread speculation that financial troubles could significantly compromise the quality of the Dodgers’ on-field product next season, General Manager Ned Colletti said on the opening day of baseball’s winter meetings that the club intends to spend at least as much on players as it did last season.

Asked whether the Dodgers’ payroll could decrease, Colletti said, “Not at the moment.”

Colletti didn’t rule out that the payroll could increase, and downplayed concerns that have been raised about owner Frank McCourt’s divorce proceedings and the club’s decision not to offer any of its free agents salary arbitration. The club began last season with a payroll of around $100 million.

“A lot of it depends on how the winter unfolds with revenue and different things along those lines,” Colletti said. “If we see good signs, it goes up. If we don’t see good signs, it probably doesn’t go up.”

Colletti said there was no basis to a FoxSports.com report that the Dodgers were encouraging teams inquiring about their relievers to submit trade proposals for setup man George Sherrill, in part because the left-hander is eligible for arbitration and could earn as much as $4 million in 2010.

“I think George Sherrill pitched great for us,” he said. “I think he gives us the same component he gave us last year — that’s somebody who can close, he can pitch late in the game, he’s left-handed, a compliment to our right-hander, [closer Jonathan] Broxton.”

The Dodgers issued a news release Monday to announce that team President Dennis Mannion, who has been in charge of business operations for two years, would also start overseeing baseball operations. Colletti will report to Mannion instead of McCourt but the GM said that shouldn’t result in any noticeable changes. Mannion started sitting in on baseball-operations meetings last winter and has handled the club’s day-to-day operations.

“He’s going to leave baseball to us,” Colletti said.

So what exactly will be different?

“It’s different because of where he’s at, his title and the formality of it,” Colletti said.

With all this said, Colletti acknowledged the Dodgers are unlikely to sign any players this week. Of the Dodgers’ free agents, Colletti said he has been in contact most frequently with catcher Brad Ausmus, whom he would like to re-sign to back up Russell Martin.

Colletti said the Dodgers continue to shop fourth outfielder Juan Pierre, who is owed $18.5 million over the next two seasons. Multiple teams have expressed interest in Pierre and the Dodgers expect to have a better idea by the end of the winter meetings whether they will be able to move him this off-season, sources said.

If the Dodgers trade Pierre, Colletti said, they would want pitching in return.

Colletti said he remains in talks with Manager Joe Torre about a contract extension.

Torre, who has one year remaining on his current deal, wants to manage in 2011 and move into a front-office role in 2012, according to Colletti.

Asked what he envisioned Torre doing for the Dodgers in his post-managerial days, Colletti replied, “Depends on how much time he wants to spend on it. Obviously, he’s a great evaluator and a great motivator and he could probably help us in a lot of different ways.”

Dodgers Again Refusing to Spend

Los Angeles Dodgers getting rid of ace reliever George Sherrill?

Originally By Mark J. Miller

“GeorgeBringing reliever George Sherrill(notes) from the Baltimore Orioles via trade last season was one of the things that really helped the Los Angeles Dodgers get over the hump and back into the National League Championship Series against the eventual National League champions, the Philadelphia Phillies. Now the word from FOXSports is that the Dodgers have Sherrill up on the trading block.

MSNBC claims that this is a sign that the Dodgers don’t have any money since the team is skittish about giving Sherrill a lot of dough through arbitration. He’s probably going to get a salary worth more than $4 million next year. The Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays are likely very interested in snagging a guy who is under team control through 2011 and has saved 52 games over the past two seasons with a 3.02 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 122.1 innings. The Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers might get into the talks as well.

FOXSports is saying that plenty of teams have come to the Dodgers to ask about relievers Ronald Belisario(notes), Hong Chih-Kuo, and Ramon Troncoso(notes) but the team always turns the talk to Sherrill. L.A. apparently would like a starting pitcher in return for Sherrill.

Ethier 6th, Kemp 10th in NL MVP Voting

Dodgers Outfielder Andre Ethier was a surprising – yet deserving – 6th in NL MVP voting.
Teammate Matt Kemp finished 10th.
This is on the heels of their Silver Slugger awards, and Kemp’s Gold Glove.
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Here is the complete 2009 National League MVP Vote:

2009 National League MVP voting
Player 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Albert Pujols, STL 32 448
Hanley Ramirez, FLA 15 5 3 3 2 3 1 233
Ryan Howard, PHI 6 8 7 5 1 3 1 217
Prince Fielder, MIL 5 9 7 3 1 3 1 3 203
Troy Tulowitzki, COL 3 6 5 5 5 1 1 172
Andre Ethier, LAD 2 3 2 5 4 5 3 113
Pablo Sandoval, SF 1 2 5 5 6 1 4 89
Chase Utley, PHI 2 2 1 5 4 3 1 84
Derrek Lee, CHC 1 3 3 2 2 5 66
Matt Kemp, LAD 2 1 2 3 1 1 2 49
Ryan Braun, MIL 3 1 2 4 6 43
Adrian Gonzalez, SD 1 1 3 2 5 30
Todd Helton, COL 1 1 1 1 2 28
Chris Carpenter, STL 1 2 1 2 1 25
Adam Wainwright, STL 1 2 1 2 16
Matt Holliday, STL 1 1 2 15
Jayson Werth, PHI 1 1 10
Shane Victorino, PHI 2 8
Tim Lincecum, SF 1 1 2 8
Yunel Escobar, ATL 1 6
Mark Reynolds, ARI 1 1 1 6
Joey Votto, CIN 1 4
Yadier Molina, STL 1 3
Miguel Tejada, HOU 1 3
Huston Street, COL 1 2
Justin Upton, ARI 1 2
Ryan Zimmerman, WAS 2 2
Jeremy Affeldt, SF 1 1
Chris Coghlan, FLA 1 1
Brad Hawpe, COL 1 1