Glendale project moving forward

It now appears that the only thing that could still prevent the Dodgers from holding spring training in Glendale, Ariz., in 2009 is a natural disaster — and unlike hurricane-prone Florida, the Grand Canyon State isn’t exactly synonymous with natural disasters.

I’m out for the next two and a half weeks. Happy Holidays to all, and thanks to every one of you who helped make this blog a success in 2007. I’ll see you in January.

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Although it now appears the Dodgers won’t officially know until sometime next month whether their new spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz., will be ready by 2009 — and although there had been no communication between the team and the city by late Thursday afternoon — there doesn’t seem to be any cause for concern.
Julie Frisoni, communications director for the city of Glendale, said she was reassured once again by construction manager Tom Harrison of the M.A. Mortenson Company that the project remains on schedule.
“He said that based on where they are, there is no reason they can’t open in (the spring of) 2009,” Frisoni said. “Everything is on track to move forward at this pace. … The only thing that could throw it off at this point is weather, a natural disaster or something catastrophic of that nature.”
Although the Dodgers were under the impression there was a contractual deadline of this past Monday for the developer to provide a “guaranteed maximum price,” Frisoni said that deadline was actually for sometime during the week of Dec. 17, not that specific date.
“It wasn’t a hard-and-fast deadline, but the expectation was that the city would receive the GMP from (the developer) at that time,” Frisoni said. “We did receive a preliminary draft document late (Wednesday). We have really just gotten our hands on that and are now starting to go through it line by line and number by number.”
Frisoni said the next step for city officials will be to meet with representatives of the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, who will share the facility. Those meetings probably will take place shortly after the holidays. After all parties complete a line-item examination of the document and possibly add or eliminate certain elements, the developer, Rick Burton of RightPath Ltd., will come back with a final, binding GMP.
For now, neither the Dodgers nor the White Sox are on the hook for any construction costs. Two-thirds of the project — which is expected to ultimately cost between $80 million and $90 million — is being funded by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. Burton and RightPath are expected to fund the rest, partially from revenues generated by retail and restaurant development adjacent to the baseball complex.

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Jim Slaton new Vegas pitching coach

Jim Slaton, an Antelope Valley High School graduate who pitched for the Angels for 2 1/2 seasons (1984-86) at the tail end of a 16-year career in the majors, is the new pitching coach for the Dodgers’ Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate. He replaces Ken Howell, who was promoted last month to major-league bullpen coach. Slaton, 57, spent the past 11 seasons with Seattle, the past three as the Mariners’ big-league bullpen coach, but was let go with a handful of other coaches in October. He was a minor league pitching coach for 13 consecutive seasons with four different organizations from 1992-2004 before moving up to the major-league staff with Seattle in 2005. Slaton had a 151-158 record and a 4.03 ERA in the majors, primarily as a starter, and he spent the bulk of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. The rest of the Dodgers’ minor-league coaching staff for 2008 is expected to be announced later this week.

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The latest on Glendale vs. Vero

Glendale holding up the Dodgers, Dodgers holding up Vero, Vero holding up the Orioles. Sounds like it’s all going to eventually work out for all parties involved. For now, though, there seems to be a lot of nervousness — and a lot of insisting that no one should worry because EVERYTHING IS FINE!!!!

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
The Dodgers will have to wait at least two more days before learning whether their new spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz., will be completed in time for them to hold their first camp there in 2009.
A representative of the city of Glendale denied on Tuesday that any deadline had passed for providing the Dodgers with that information. It had been widely reported that the city was expected to tell the Dodgers by Monday, but club officials still haven’t received word.
“I think there was a misunderstanding, and the Dodgers thought the deadline was the 17th,” said Julie Frisoni, Glendale’s communications director. “I believe the deadline is Thursday. We haven’t been given those documents (by) the builder. I am pretty close to positive that we will know by Thursday.”
Meanwhile, city officials in the Dodgers’ current spring home of Vero Beach, Fla., remain in limbo in their discussions with a possible replacement team — believed to be the Baltimore Orioles — because they aren’t sure whether the Dodgers will vacate in 2009 or 2010.
Tom Harrison, the construction manager for the M.A. Mortenson Company, the firm contracted to build the complex in Glendale, didn’t return repeated calls to his office from the Daily News. But Frisoni said the project remains on schedule, along with any built-in safeguards against delays due to inclement weather.
“Arizona is like California in that we don’t often have weather issues in terms of (affecting) construction,” Frisoni said. “If it were to happen, Tom has spoken about working double shifts or weekends or whatever it took. I think he will also tell you that several other (spring-training) ballparks built recently in Arizona all have been built on this time frame, and it’s a pretty standard time frame for (a project of) this nature.”
The Dodgers will share the $80.7 million complex — two-thirds of which is being funded by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority — with the Chicago White Sox. But the White Sox aren’t expected to move into the new facility until 2010 because of issues surrounding their current lease in Tucson, Ariz.
For now, the lack of certainty on the Dodgers’ part is beginning to wear thin on officials in Vero Beach. Joe Baird, an Indian River County administrator who is spearheading negotiations with the Orioles, didn’t return repeated messages from the Daily News. But Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers reported on Sunday that Baird is contemplating a legal action against the Dodgers to force them to provide a definitive answer.
The paper also said negotiations with an unnamed replacement team could be jeopardized by the Dodgers’ uncertainty. The Orioles presently train in an outdated, substandard facility in Fort Lauderdale, at least an hour’s drive from any other Grapefruit League complex.

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This year’s Maytag repairman is … Gary Bennett

Dodgers just signed him to a one-year, $825,000 contract, which is $325,000 less than Mike Lieberthal made as last year’s backup catcher but still probably slightly above what Russell Martin will make as a third-year big leaguer — despite the fact Martin is an All-Star and probably will start at least 135 games. What a system. Anyway, just talked to Ned, and he said it was made clear to Bennett in the negotiating process that he won’t be playing much — although he’ll play more than Lieberthal did if the rest of the lineup is more productive. The fact it wasn’t productive last year is the reason Grady couldn’t sit Russ very often, because they had to have his bat in there.
I’m plagiarizing the following paragraph from myself, as I wrote it in the print edition one day last week. Cut-and-paste is a wonderful thing:

Bennett, a career backup who will turn 36 in April, batted .252 while catching 52 games for St. Louis this season, striking out just 16 times in 155 at-bats.

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Frank talk from Frank

McCourt addressed the Mitchell report at the Kuroda press conference today. Nothing too forceful, but he didn’t shy away from airing his opinions.

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt on Sunday offered his first public comment on baseball’s Mitchell Report — other than a carefully worded written statement issued through the team’s public relations department last Thursday, when the report was officially released.
Among other things, McCourt called for the players’ union to allow drug testing to be written into individual players’ contracts by their clubs, something that isn’t permitted under the game’s current labor agreement.
“In 1984, the Dodgers were one of two organizations who went to baseball and requested that we be allowed to put testing into players’ contracts,” said McCourt, who bought the club in 2004. “Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to put those provisions in. My plea to the union, as well as to my fellow owners, is, let’s get it right.”
Not surprisingly, McCourt trumpeted the fact that no current Dodgers player was named in the report as a user of steroids or HGH — even though three high-profile former Dodgers, pitchers Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne and catcher Paul Lo Duca, were.
“I don’t think we should look at the Mitchell Report as being the last word, that only those players (named) should be held accountable and that every one of those players is bad,” McCourt said. “That isn’t fair. We need to look at it more as a general statement.”

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