Daily Distractions: Picking a new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Mike Piazza ads.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

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Shawn Green’s thoughts on the Hall of Fame, Sandy Koufax, and the Dodgers’ new owners.

Shawn Green

Former Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green was in camp and in uniform as a special instructor this weekend. We got his thoughts on a variety of topics Sunday, including Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame, the Dodgers’ new owners, and his playing ambitions.

Green still has playing ambitions — more WBC ambitions than MLB ambitions — but he isn’t pressing the issue. At age 40, he’s content to be a father to his 7- and 10-year-old daughters. I’m saving that story for tomorrow’s editions.

Here’s what else Green had to say:

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Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier gets the left-handed monkey off his back early.

Andre Ethier Don Mattingly

It was only one at-bat, and it was only spring training. But it was Andre Ethier’s first at-bat of spring training against a left-handed pitcher, so naturally it commanded a lot of attention.

Ethier stroked an opposite-field triple in the fourth inning Saturday against Chicago White Sox southpaw Leyson Septimo. He finished the exhibition opener 1-for-2, and after the game cautioned against making too much out of a small sample size.

“(If I) get five extra hits in the year, you guys aren’t going to talk to me about it,” Ethier said. “It’s that simple.”

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Some odds and ends from Dodgers spring training.

Some odds and ends from Thursday at Camelback Ranch, the final day before the Dodgers’ position players are expected to report to spring training.
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Mark McGwire reflects on Musial, Hall of Fame vote.

Mark McGwireHere’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.

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Hall of Fame vote fizzles: No one elected for the first time since 1996.

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).

The complete results, courtesy of the BBWAA:
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Poll: Who should be in the Hall?

Today, the 2013 ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be revealed. It should be an interesting ballot.

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, all fantastic players in their primes and suspected PED users, should be on for the first time. Former Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza is also newly eligible. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is on the ballot for the 13th time, hitting coach Mark McGwire for the seventh. Former MLBPA head Marvin Miller isn’t on the ballot, but quite a debate ensued over his Hall-worthiness when he died yesterday.

It’ll renew the great, uncomfortable, annual debate over whether known and suspected PED users belong in the Hall of Fame. (Jeff Bagwell … what was he on? Anything?)

There are about as many opinions as there are candidates. Here’s your chance to chime in before official results are announced on Jan. 9:

Dodgers officially name Mark McGwire hitting coach.

Former St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire has taken the same position with the Dodgers, the team announced Wednesday. The announcement had been anticipated for several days, since McGwire informed the Cardinals he intended to leave.

McGwire served as the Cards’ hitting coach for the past three seasons, when they led the National League in batting average (.269) and on-base percentage (.337), ranked second in runs (2,263), fourth in slugging percentage (.416) and third in OPS (.753). Mark McGwireDuring his time as hitting coach, the Cardinals batted a National League-best .274 with runners in scoring position.  McGwire’s tenure in St. Louis was highlighted by the Cardinals’ 2011 season, when St. Louis led the NL in batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.341), slugging percentage (.425, T-1st), OPS (.766) and runs scored (762), while striking out a National League-low 978 times en route to a World Series title.

In 2012 St. Louis led the league with a .338 on-base percentage and ranked among the NL leaders in runs (765, 2nd), hits (1526, T-1st), batting average (.271, 2nd), slugging percentage (.421, 4th) and OPS (.759, 3rd). St. Louis hitters tied for second in the NL with a .264 batting average with runners in scoring position. In the three seasons preceding McGwire’s hiring (2007-09), the Cardinals ranked eighth in the NL in runs scored.

Born in Pomona and raised in Claremont, McGwire now resides in Irvine with his wife, Stephanie, and their children, triplet girls Monet, Marlo and Monroe, and brothers Max and Mason. McGwire also has a 25-year-old son, Matt, from a previous marriage.

Poll: Mark McGwire, Dodgers’ hitting coach?

Mark McGwire is expected to be named the Dodgers’ hitting coach soon. As crazy as those words may have seemed, say, five years ago, the hire makes more sense now.

The former slugger was raised in Claremont, played baseball at Damien High School and USC, and now lives in Irvine with his wife and children. The Dodgers need a hitting coach, so why not bring in the man whose Cardinals teams have finished third, second and first in the National League in batting average the last three years?

Of course, McGwire is also the man who would not “talk about the past” in 2005, when he was summoned before Congress to talk about steroids in Major League Baseball. He’s since admitted to using steroids in his career, including when he broke the single-season home run record in 1998 — a time when PED testing was virtually non-existent in baseball. McGwire was far from alone during his era, and the Dodgers already have a former PED user on their coaching staff in Single-A pitching coach Matt Herges. Is the stigma still an issue?

We may find out soon. First, your opinion: