Ethier’s arbitration hearing set for Feb. 17

That should give the sides plenty of time to reach an agreement and avoid a hearing, but you never know. And from what I can gather so far, it doesn’t sound like the two sides are anywhere close to an agreement at this point. In case you missed it, Ethier is seeking $3.75 million, while the team filed at $2.65 million. He is the Dodgers’ only pending arbitration case.

Say hello to Russell J. Martin

My colleague Ken Gurnick appears to have broken that story on dodgers.com, which you can read at the link below. Russell has several middle names, one of which is his mother’s maiden name, Jeanson, and he has decided to put that initial on the back of his uniform this season as a tribute to her.

http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090129&content_id=3784288&vkey=news_la&fext=.jsp&c_id=la

Stop me if you’re tired of reading about this …

… but there is more fallout from Joe Torre’s book, The Yankee Years, which won’t even be released for another four days. Joe will appear tonight on Larry King Live — “author Joe Torre,” is what it said when I scrolled down the Cox Cable grid to CNN, scrolled over to Larry King’s time slot and hit the “info” button. And David Wells, who pitched for Torre for several seasons in New York and also pitched for the Dodgers for a brief time in 2007, had some scathing words for his former skipper during an interview with Michael Kay on New York’s ESPN radio affiliate. This is what the Boomer ir reported to have said, as I didn’t personally hear the interview:

“If you weren’t Joe’s boy, he could care less about you. He ran his tight ship the way he wanted to. Don’t get me wrong; he’s not a bad manager. I just thought he was a bad individual because of the fact he didn’t treat everybody the same. He had his boys, and certain guys could do certain things and he wouldn’t let other guys do other things.”

Also, the Dodgers have released information on this year’s Winter Caravan, which begins tomorrow. You can find at here:

http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20090130&content_id=3786146&vkey=pr_la&fext=.jsp&c_id=la

Winter of baseball’s discontent

What a strange (and at times fascinating) offseason this has been, thanks largely to the sagging economy. All the movement that traditionally takes place in the fall is only now beginning, less than three weeks before the start of spring training. There are reports out there, including one on SI.com, that the Dodgers are close to a deal with Randy Wolf. But the lefty himself told foxsports.com that he is unaware of any agreeement. Here are a couple of quotes:

“This has been the oddest offseason I’ve ever been a part of,” said Wolf, who was a free agent the past two winters as well. “I don’t know where I stand with any team.

“I’ve had multiple deals offered and taken off the table, offers made and then reduced. I will have no idea where I stand until there’s a pen and paper in front of me and I sign my name. Until then, I just feel a deal can be taken away or reduced at any time.”

The thing is, Wolf is hardly unique in this situation. Even Manny Ramirez, who was thought at the beginning of the winter to be THE big ticket of this year’s free-agent market, is still out there. By the way, I’m starting to read comments from Scott Boras on the web suggesting that the market for Manny is heating up and the he is now negotiating with other clubs, but he won’t say who those clubs are. I could be wrong on this, but the fact he won’t indentify them leads me to believe they don’t exist. Sounds like a ploy to wake up the Dodgers. But when it comes to this matter, I think they’re about as awake as they’re going to get. We’ll see who blinks first.

In case you missed it …

… a great column in today’s sports section by Ramona Shelburne, who spoke with Clayton Kershaw at the Dodgers’ winter development program and later caught up with his girlfriend, Ellen Melson. Sort of humanizes a kid whose arrival Dodgers fans anxiously awaited almost from the moment he was drafted in the first round in 2006, and reminds us that as mature-beyond-his-years as he appears to be when he is pitching, he is still a 20-year-old away from the field. Here’s the link:

http://www.dailynews.com/sportscolumnists/ci_11561060

Still more on Torre’s book

There is an excerpt now posted on SI.com, at the following link:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/baseball/mlb/01/26/torre.verducci/index.html

The two most interesting things from this excerpt are:

1) Torre considers 2007, his final season with the Yankees, as “the worst year of my professional life.”

2) Torre’s claim that Brian Cashman “betrayed” him, which was reported in the New York papers yesterday, apparently stems from this: shortly before Torre met in Tampa with Cashman and six other club officials, including owner George Steinbrenner — a meeting that ended Torre’s tenure as manager when he wouldn’t accept a one-year offer — Torre offered a creative proposal to Cashman of a two-year contract, with the stipulation that if Torre were fired DURING the first season, he would be paid in full for the second year, but that if he were fired AFTER the first season, he would receive only a smaller buyout of the second year. Well, Torre found out after the meeting in Tampa that Cashman had never passed on the proposal to the club officials. Hence, the “betrayal,” although that specific word doesn’t appear in this excerpt.

Also, Torre is lined up to appear on Larry King Live this Friday night.

Brad Ausmus signing finalized

He passed his physical, which is no small feat for a guy who is going to turn 40 in April(as a proud quadragenarian myself, I can attest to that). The deal, once again, is one year, $1 million, with up to $350k in incentives. Still not sure what they are, but given the number of games Russell Martin will catch, I’m going to guess it’s going to be tough for Ausmus to reach any of them. Here is the release from the team:

LOS ANGELES – The National League West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers today agreed to terms with catcher Brad Ausmus on a one-year contract. General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement.
Ausmus is a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, earning the honor for National League catchers while with Houston in 2001, 2002, and 2006. He ranks ninth in Major League history among catchers with 1,887 games and 1,720 starts. Among active catchers with at least 600 games played, the 39-year-old is tied for third with Bengie Molina with a .994 career fielding percentage behind Mike Redmond (.996) and A.J. Pierzynski (.995). Ausmus also ranks second in big league history with 12,486 putouts as a catcher, trailing only Ivan Rodriguez (13,124). He has thrown out 30.7 percent of potential base stealers (383 of 1,246) in 16 Major League seasons.
Ausmus has played 10 of his 16 big league seasons with the Astros, including the last eight in a row. He was Houston’s Opening Day catcher for nine of those seasons, including each of the last six campaigns. The Dartmouth University alum, who makes his off-season home in Del Mar, CA, is Houston’s all-time leader for catchers with 1,243 games and 1,119 starts. He had started at least 100 games at catcher for 11 straight seasons until starting 62 behind the plate in 2008.
Ausmus has played in five postseasons, including one World Series appearance in 2005 with Houston. He was an American League All-Star with Detroit in 1999, when he started 121 games, threw out 32 of 91 potential base stealers (35.2 percent), and established career highs with a .275 batting average, nine home runs, and 54 RBI.
In 1,914 games during his career, Ausmus is batting .251 with 79 homers and 596 RBI with San Diego (1993-96), Detroit (1996, 1999-2000), and Houston (1997-98, 2001-08). He batted .218 with three homers and 24 RBI in 81 games with the Astros in 2008.
Ausmus was the recipient of the 2006 Darryl Kile Award presented by the Houston chapter of the BBWAA, which is given annually to the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros player who best exemplifies Kile’s traits of “a good teammate, a great friend, a fine father and a humble man.”
The Connecticut-born Ausmus was selected by the Yankees in the 48th round of the 1987 First-Year Player Draft.

More on Torre’s book

I spoke today with a source close to Joe Torre, who said the book was an “honest” account of what transpired in New York. But the source basically echoed what Tom Verducci said in his SI.com interview, that it isn’t nearly as much of a hit job on the Yankees as it is being made out to be in the New York tabloids. I also heard from TWO sources today, both of them close to Torre, that almost everyone who appears in the book was contacted by either Torre or Verducci to give them a heads-up on what was written about them, and that none of those people took exception to any of it.

Torre’s yet-to-be-released book already a source of controversy

But it sounds like much ado about nothing. There were stories in this morning’s New York Daily News and New York Post indicating that the book, called The Yankee Years, which is due to be released on Feb. 3, is a tell-all book in which Joe Torre cuts loose on the Yankees organization, including general manager Brian Cashman and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. But the book was actually written by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated (based on several interviews with Torre). In an interview with SI.com, Verducci says the book is NOT a Torre rip job on the Yankees. To its credit, the N.Y. Post already has posted excerpts from that interview, including the following quote from Verducci that seems to exonerate Torre:

“Anybody who knows Joe, especially during his time in New York, knows he’s a very honest man and he is very honest in the pages of this book. People also know Joe Torre doesn’t go around ripping people and he doesn’t do that in the pages of this book. There is a lot of information in this book over a tremendous period of baseball history. It’s been reported out by me as well as informed by Torre’s own insights into that period.”

One thing you can be sure of: sales of the book certainly won’t be hurt by the stories that came out today — whether those stories are accurate or not.

Dodgers’ sights still set on Randy Wolf

All indications are that Jon Garland is still out of their price range. More importantly, all indications are that Randy Wolf is still WITHIN their price range. Thanks to Brooklyn Dodger for posting that foxsports.com link to my earlier post. Turns out Randy never turned down a three-year, $29.5 million offer from the Astros, but that the offer was actually pulled by the Astros for financial reasons, apparently just before the lefty was about to accept it. Sounds to me like this is the guy the Dodgers are going to end up with, and I’m guessing it’s going to heat up in the next few days.