Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the whatever you want to call them Angels of wherever open their season tomorrow. And LAist couldn't be more excited that after a long winter, baseball is here. The Dodgers just made their biggest move of the spring, and it came off the field. After LAist pleaded with Frank Court to hold Lon Rosen accountable for stupid decisions like firing Ross Porter, cutting down on Nancy Bea Heafley's organ time, hiring Steve Lyons, and in general denigrating the image of Dodger baseball, McCourt actually fired Rosen. The LA Times also had been embarrassing the Dodgers, reporting every flub in their impersonal and illogical relations with season ticket holders. The Dodgers responded by also firing VP of Communications Gary Miereanu.
But McCourt continues to create another problem even while solving another. He just named his 23-year old son Drew, a former college classmate of mine, as the team's new Director of Marketing. I'm not going to talk about Drew in college, except to say that it's an odd choice that reeks of nepotism. What does a 23-year old kid know about marketing? Especially one that was an astrophysics major.
If Frank McCourt really wanted to hire a 23-year old, I could give him a list of five names, who were also in Drew's class, who are really qualified. But in general, 23-year olds should be hurling t-shirts crowds at AHL games (which is what Paul DePodesta was doing at 23) to gain marketing experience, not suddenly running their daddy's marketing departments. Granted, Drew's gig is supposedly temporary until a new senior marketing VP is appointed. But for now, a 23-year old from Boston couldn't possibly understand what Dodger baseball has meant to the Los Angeles community for 47 years.
The other big story of the offseason, is the renovations to Dodger Stadium. As you can see in the above picture, Dodger Stadium has less foul ground than it's had in the past. While even Paul DePodesta thinks this change will have a marginal effect, we're not thrilled. LAist understands the necessity for a team to maximize their revenue in today's modern sports world. But when you have $400 million in loans to pay off, any "revenue enhancer" which might compromise the team comes across as desperate.
Dodger Stadium is one of the great pitcher's parks in all of baseball. It has been an enormous home field advantage, helping all Dodger pitchers. Potentially messing with that advantage because you owe Bank of America $150 million is not an acceptable reason. While we know that the real advantage comes from night air that doesn't let the ball carry well in the outfield, LAist is still concerned about the reduction in foul territory.
As for Paul DePodesta, we love him. He may be the object of fan criticism (when was the last time Dodger fans didn't criticize their GM?), but he has a reasoned and thorough plan which will become apparent to fans in the coming years. LAist just hopes that DePodesta doesn't get too worn down by obnoxious local sports talk radio hosts and Plaschke types.
"This job will beat you down and beat you down in a hurry," DePodesta said in an interesting profile in today's LA Times. "At some point, I'm going to want something else."
Umm, Paul. You just got here. Stay a while please. Let your plan come to fruition. We trust you.
As for the Dodgers on the field, we think the team is capable of winning the division again. The Giants are a below-average team without Barry Bonds. And anyone who says that 38-year olds Omar Vizquel and Moises Alou will save the day are smoking crack. As long as the Rockies are playing at Coors Field, they will be a non-factor. And the Diamondbacks still have a long ways to go before they're a contender again.
That leaves the Padres as the only real competition for the defending NL West Champs. They too play in a pitcher's park, and a rotation of Woody Williams, Jake Peavy, Adam Eaton, Brian Lawrence, and Tim Redding could work out. The question for the Padres is if Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin are still going to whine about their ballpark, if their young players will mature, and Dave Roberts is really the answer in center field.
The Dodgers rotation looks a bit iffy with Elmer Dessens right now, but they say Brad Penny isn't too far away from returning. If that's true, then Penny, Odalis Perez, Derek Lowe, Jeff Weaver, and Scott Erickson should make for a solid 1-5. Obviously the bullpen desperately needs Eric Gagne to return ASAP. But the rest of it is fine Yhencey Brazoban, Giovanni Carrara, Duaner Sanchez, and others.
LAist wishes we had a better solution to the left field platoon of Ricky Ledee and Jason Repko, but Jayson Werth's return shouldn't be too far off. Jeff Kent is a big upgrade at 2B. JD Drew is going to make us forget Shawn Green easily. We hope Milton Bradley's anger management classes will allow him to be the phenomenal player he is. LAist is slightly concerned about Hee Seop Choi's "Now I Like Swing" edict, and we think Jose Valentin is going to be an absolute dud who will get shown up by Antonio Perez quickly.
Cesar Izturis is the best defensive shortstop in the game, and he's learned to hit. And LAist thinks Jason Phillips will impress some people in 2005.
So how will the Dodgers do in 2005? We think they'll start off slow, heat up in the summer, and come away with a division title again.