Here’s the long transcript of my chat with hitting coach Mark McGwire at the Dodgers’ FanFest on Saturday. I was interested in his reaction to two events in a 10-day span earlier this month – the Hall of Fame election on Jan. 9 and the death of Stan Musial on Jan. 19.
The Washington Nationals granted Flores free agency in November and the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training on Tuesday.
Flores figures to compete with Tim Federowicz for the backup job. Considering Federowicz’s lack of experience (10 major-league games), it could make for an interesting competition.
Flores’ career batting numbers aren’t much to look at, though he did hit eight home runs and drive in 59 in only 90 games in 2008. The Venezuela native batted .301 in 2009, when surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right shoulder limited his season to 29 games. Flores hasn’t been the same since.
He didn’t play at all in 2010 and worried whether his career was over. He came back to play 30 games in 2011 and 83 last season, all in a backup role for the Nationals. His slash line since the surgery: .212/.249/.325. Even Flores’ defense seems to have suffered; since the surgery he’s thrown out only 13 of 67 attempted base stealers – 19.4 percent.
Flores is currently playing for Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League.
Some afternoon links:
Baseball America is expected to bestow the St. Louis Cardinals with the mantle of Best System in Baseball, eight years after BA had St. Louis ranked dead-last, 30th among the 30 teams. (BA doesn’t typically announce its rankings until late March/early April, but that article explains what to expect and why.)
Folks who spend more time thinking about prospects than major-league players — you know who you are – tend to forget that organizational rankings are nothing more than opinion polls. Titles such as “top organizational prospect” are opinions, not facts.
But I think there’s some significance to the Cardinals’ turnaround to the Dodgers, who ranked sixth, 23rd, 21st, 11th and 24th the last five years (in order) in BA’s annual list. Last March, BA wrote: “If OF Alfredo Silverio hadn’t had a breakout season in 2011, it would be hard to pinpoint a Los Angeles position prospect with much upside—and he could miss the first two months of the season after an offseason auto accident. [Frank] McCourt hasn’t spent on the draft or the international market, severely weakening the system.”
Guggenheim Baseball Management has spent liberally on the major-league product, but team president Stan Kasten has gone out of his way to state the importance of rebuilding the Dodgers’ farm system. That can’t be done overnight, but how long will it take? Eight years might be reasonable in an age of international signing restrictions and draft restrictions that favor lower-revenue teams.
That’s a topic for a longer story on a different day, but definitely good food for thought.
Some links to start your work week:
Yesterday, a Dodgers spokesperson emailed to pass along three new names of players signed to minor-league contracts with invitations to major-league camp: Right-handed pitcher Matt Palmer, catcher Elizier Alfonzo and infielder Brian Barden.
The Dodgers have also invited RHP Juan Abreu, LHP Kelvin De La Cruz, RHP Greg Infante, C Wilkin Castillo, C Ramon Castro, INF Alfredo Amezaga, INF Brian Barden, INF Omar Luna, INF Ozzie Martinez, INF Dallas McPherson, INF/OF Nick Evans and OF Jeremy Moore.
Teams can invite as many non-roster players as they want to spring training but must trim their major-league roster to 25 by opening day, April 1.
Some more distractions …
Usually I dish out distractions in the morning. Unfortunately before noon today I was way too distracted by the guy (or gal) who gave a Hall of Fame vote to Aaron Sele.
The Dodgers Dream Foundation, in partnership with the LA84 Foundation and the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, announced that they will dedicate a new Dodgers Dreamfield in Reseda Park Saturday. The field is located at 18411 Victory Blvd, Los Angeles and the dedication will begin at 10 a.m. Dodgers prospects Joc Pederson, Onelki Garcia and Matt Magill will be there, along with team president Stan Kasten, broadcaster Charley Steiner and alumni Al “The Bull” Ferrara, Lee Lacy, Ramon Martinez, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Yeager.
This will be the 24th “Dreamfield” the team has dedicated since 1998.
On to the links …
The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July will feature an empty podium.
No players listed on this year’s ballot got the necessary 75 percent of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Craig Biggio led the way with 68.2 percent, followed by Jack Morris at 67.7 percent and Jeff Bagwell at 59.6. It’s the first year no players will be enshrined since 1996.
Former Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza was fourth, listed on 57.8 percent of all 569 ballots. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly received 13.2 percent of votes, down from the 17.8 percent he received last year. Support for hitting coach Mark McGwire also dropped, from 19.5 percent in 2012 to 16.9 percent this year.
Two former Dodgers, Kenny Lofton (3.2 percent) and Shawn Green (0.4), did not receive the necessary 5 percent of votes to remain on the ballot. Both were listed on the ballot for the first time.
Some other notable names who fell short: Barry Bonds (36.2 percent), Roger Clemens (37.6), Sammy Sosa (12.5), Fred McGriff (20.7).
Some kids want to be astronauts, firemen, architects, or all of the above.
I wanted to vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That’s embarrassing to admit, because I should have known better. Architects make good money. They are also able to work with numbers that don’t lie. If Edgar Kaufmann’s house in rural Pennsylvania (better known as Fallingwater) didn’t have enough weight resting in the rest of its structure, its cantilevered deck would collapse into the waterfall below. There’s no ambiguity about those numbers.
I’m not a Hall of Fame voter; I don’t have the required 10 years’ tenure in BBWAA. But I know that my voting colleagues can’t place the same confidence in their numbers. Not when those numbers are statistics compiled by steroid users in a country that considers steroid possession illegal, in a game that didn’t enforce the same rules as its government.
A small but historic signing today. According to BaseballAmerica.com, the Dodgers have signed 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Ariel Sandoval for $150,000. Writes Ben Badler:
Sandoval is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and impressed the Dodgers with his potential to hit for both average and power from the right side of the plate. He’s an above-average runner who should begin his career in center field, though he has the arm strength to play right field if he outgrows the position.
Sandoval, who became eligible to sign on July 2, trained in Haina with Jaime Ozuna. Sandoval is the first six-figure international amateur signing for the Dodgers since vice president of international scouting Bob Engle and Latin American coordinator Patrick Guerrero arrived from Seattle after the 2012 season.
Lots of Hall of Fame debate today with the final voting coming tomorrow. As I often say, there’s nothing like parsing through the moral crises of a bunch of cranky sports writers to start your morning off right …
The Dodgers are finally ready to tell the world what Dodger Stadium will look like next season.
Right now, it’s a construction site. Various photos have been published around the interwebs (peep some good collections here and here). Tomorrow, team President Stan Kasten and Senior Vice President of Planning and Development Janet Marie Smith will discuss the more intimate details of the renovation plan with the media.
We already have a general idea of what to expect – new clubhouses, new workout facilities, a new scoreboard, increased wireless capabilities, some new seating arrangements – and there aren’t likely to be any earth-shattering announcements tomorrow. However, it’s the first time that Smith has spoken to the media since she was hired by the Dodgers in August.
Smith, you may recall, oversaw the design and construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, before embarking on renovation projects in Atlanta, Boston and Baltimore again. She is regarded as one of the best at what she does, and she probably has an interesting take on the stadium’s past, present and future.
Some more reading material to delay the start of your work week: