Daily Distractions: Who will be the next Hall of Fame inductee with a Dodgers logo on his cap?

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux pitched 23 games, regular and postseason, in separate stints with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008. (Getty Images)

Greg Maddux won’t have a logo on his Baseball Hall of Fame cap. It was never going to be a Dodgers logo, but that got me to thinking: Who will be the next Hall of Fame inductee with a Dodgers logo on his cap?

The Hall of Fame has a list of future candidates, listed by year of eligibility. (They haven’t gotten around to scratching Bobby Abreu‘s name off the 2018 list, assuming Abreu makes the Phillies’ roster.) Another future eligible is still on the Dodgers’ payroll (Andruw Jones). Jeff Weaver and Chan Ho Park become eligible in 2016.

Among the serious candidates, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield did some of their best work in Dodgers uniforms.

Manny is 14th on the career home run list, and ninth in career slugging percentage and OPS. But he spent eight seasons in Cleveland and eight in Boston before his brief tenure as a Dodger. He also failed a drug test. Given the current climate toward known PED users among Hall voters, that won’t bode well for Ramirez. It didn’t bode well for the candidacy of Rafael Palmeiro (12th on the career home run list, off the ballot next year).

Sheffield played for eight teams in 22 seasons. If that doesn’t scream “please don’t put a logo on my hat,” I don’t know what does. And despite his gaudy career numbers, they aren’t much gaudier than those of Jeff Bagwell (listed on 54.3 percent of ballots this year) or Larry Walker (10.2 percent). He also took a designer steroid by his own admission, albeit by accident, and that might be enough to earn a thumbs-down from three-quarters of Hall voters.

Looking at the current ballot, Mike Piazza will wear a Mets hat if he gets in. Jeff Kent (listed on 15.2 percent of recent ballots) isn’t getting in.

In reality, you might be looking at someone on the current roster — one of these four — but only if their skills, health and the voters cooperate. Don’t hold your breath.

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Daily Distractions: SportsNet LA officially launches on February 25.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully will call all the Dodgers games in California and Arizona on SportsNet LA. (Associated Press photo)

It’s official. SportsNetLA exists.

The network has a website but it doesn’t have an actual studio yet — that’s under construction in El Segundo as I type. The network doesn’t even have a live channel; the official launch date is Feb. 25, one day before the Dodgers’ first Cactus League game. By then, Time Warner and its 2-plus million subscribers in Southern California are guaranteed to not miss a game. AT&T, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Dish and Verizon FiOS customers don’t have that luxury yet.

The message splashed across the top of the website, in all caps — “DEMAND YOUR DODGERS NOW” — seems to anticipate a conflict. When the Lakers broke off their relationship with Fox in 2012 to launch their own channel (TWC SportsNet), non-TWC customers were unable to watch games well into the season. The millions of Laker fans who didn’t subscribe to Time Warner became a group of angry nomads, left to seek out homes, bars, restaurants and pirate internet feeds that carried the games until their provider agreed to pay for the new channel.

Dodger fans, this could be you soon. We don’t know.

Here’s what we do know:

1. Vin Scully will broadcast all the Dodgers’ games in California and Arizona for the third straight year. Charley Steiner (who moves over from the radio play-by-play chair) and analyst Orel Hershiser (who moves over from eight years with ESPN) will call the games that Scully does not.

2. Nomar Garciaparra and Rick Monday will be the new Dodgers’ radio team on 570-AM.

3. Garciaparra and Jerry Hairston Jr. will contribute to SportsNet LA’s pre- and post-game coverage, both live from the stadium and from the SportsNet LA studio.

4. Hershiser will also be a part of the pregame broadcasts from the SportsNet LA studio on occasion.

5. Alanna Rizzo, late of the MLB Network, will be the in-game reporter during games called by Steiner and Hershiser.

6. John Hartung will be the studio host for SportsNet LA, anchoring the network’s live shows. He joins the network from KABC-TV in Los Angeles, where he spent the past 11 years as a sports and news anchor.

7. Fox’s pre- and post-game studio was set up behind the center-field fence at Dodger Stadium. That’s gone. Expect something in the area of the home dugout.

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Daily Distractions: Cut fastball could fast-track Ross Stripling to Los Angeles.

Ross Stripling

Dodgers pitching prospect Ross Stripling didn’t throw a cut fastball in college at Texas A&M, but it led to plenty of success at Double-A Chattanooga. (Texas A&M photo)

If Ross Stripling appears in a major-league game with the Dodgers this season, the 25-year-old will inevitably draw comparisons to all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera.

But hey, the kid started it when he began describing how he embraced the cut fastball, the pitch that defined Rivera’s 19-year career.

“I throw from such a high arm slot, and these balls have such smaller laces than college balls, they’ll just move on their own,” Stripling said earlier this month at the Dodgers’ winter development camp.

“If I just switch the ball a little bit in my fingers” — he turned the ball 30 degrees from a two-seam fastball grip — “it would cut on its own. I struggled to not cut the ball. I wanted to throw the ball where I wanted. They were like, ‘Maybe you should go with it.’ Then you hear the story that Mariano Rivera learned his cutter that way — not that I’m trying to compare myself to Mariano Rivera — but similar fashion. It was natural, then I just tried to fine-tune.”

Stripling posted a 2.78 earned-run average following his promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. Even more impressive was Stripling’s 4.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 94 Double-A innings. Continuing the theme of unfair comparisons, not even Clayton Kershaw‘s K:BB ratio was that high at Double-A.

The 25-year-old’s talent is still raw. He still isn’t on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, though a roster spot is rarely given to second-year professionals in the off-season since there is no risk of losing them through the Rule 5 draft. Stripling never called his own pitches, and never watched video of his performance, before 2013. He’s also got a four-pitch repertoire that he’s still mastering; he added the cutter last year to a fastball, changeup and curveball that served him well in college.

Stripling was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dodgers out of Texas A&M in 2012. In college, Stripling was teammates with Michael Wacha, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who was named MVP of the National League Championship Series after beating the Dodgers twice in the Cardinals’ six-game series victory.

Like Stripling, Wacha had all his pitches called for him from the dugout in college. That didn’t stop him from reaching the majors after only 26 minor-league appearances.

“His fastball is so strong, so demanding, that he can just throw that when he wants,” Stripling said of Wacha. “His changeup is kind of the same way,” Stripling said.

Much of the inertia pushing the Dodgers toward signing Masahiro Tanaka is money. That is to say: They have the money, so why not make a run? A lesser factor, not to be discounted, is the fact that Stephen Fife and Matt Magill were starting games by the end of April.

If the Dodgers don’t land Tanaka, it means that Stripling — along with Fife, Magill, Zach Lee and maybe swingman Seth Rosin — all move up the organizational depth chart. And we might get to see that cutter sooner rather than later.

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Daily Distractions: Masahiro Tanaka rumors are rife; Dodgers and Yankees are interested in Japanese pitcher.

Masahiro Tanaka

The Dodgers and Yankees have reportedly made the largest offers for free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. (Getty Images)

Watching the courtship of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka must be like making progress toward a major scientific discovery. The closer you get to the breakthrough, the more clear the discovery becomes. You know you’re on the brink. It’s exciting.

There were two really good scouting reports published today, each a practical take on what kind of pitcher Tanaka might be in the United States. Dan Szymborski, writing for ESPN.com, concludes that “the biggest test for Tanaka will be the command on his fastball. … Tanaka doesn’t have (Yu) Darvish’s raw stuff, so he’ll need to go after hitters like Iwakuma has done. This may result in more home runs than he allowed in Japan — just six in 2013 — especially if he’s pitching in Yankee Stadium, but that’s the tradeoff that worked for so well for Iwakuma in 2013.”

That sentence should come with a caveat: Darvish’s raw stuff would probably rank among the top 10 in the world. Maybe top 5. Tanaka’s offspeed pitches are pretty good, too. According to BaseballAmerica.com, his splitter and slider would both fetch at least a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

So what’s all that worth on the open market?

According to Nikkan Sports, at least $100 million over six years, plus a $20 million posting fee to be paid to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Nikkan also reported that the Dodgers and Yankees have made the largest offer so far. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti made the strongest statement by any interested GM on Friday: “We’ll play it for as long as we can play it until we know that we’re out.”

Remember, Tanaka doesn’t have to choose the team that offers the most money. There are other factors at play.

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Daily Distractions: The verdict is in, and Clayton Kershaw’s contract makes sense.

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will re-sign for $215 million over seven years, a contract that is expected to become official today or tomorrow. (Associated Press photo)

Serious question, folks: When’s the last time an athlete signed for mind-boggling money, and there was almost unanimous consensus that the money was worth it?

FanGraphs.com called Clayton Kershaw’s contract a “ridiculous bargain,” at least if he opts out of the final two years. TheScore.com called it “a risk, but not a significant one for team or player.” That’s because they broke the flow chart, writes Grant Brisbee of SBNation.com.

SportsOnEarth.com had a well-informed analysis of the economic situation in baseball that neither trashed nor praised Kershaw’s contract, but concluded this: “knowing the money is there to help if needed, it’s easier to take those shots now than it ever was.” Similarly, ESPN.com said that a contract of $300 million over 10 years — essentially the same average annual value that Kershaw got, only over a longer term — would be “a smart move for a team with the ability to be able to absorb the downside risk.”

FanGraphs.com called seven years and $230 million a “decent price.” NBCsports.com took a stab at what Kershaw might give the Dodgers before the contract runs out. We know what Kershaw gives off the field.

Everyone’s a winner, writes colleague Jill Painter, except there are losers in the deal. They work for teams in San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and San Diego. Writes ESPN’s Buster Olney: “The Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs in two decades, and the Orioles have made it once in the past 16 years. And this is what the existence of the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks promises to be, in light of the Dodgers’ massive payroll advantage.”

Olney goes on to suggest that the Kershaw contract could be a thorn in the side of labor peace, if enough small-market owners needed this as ammunition to complain about a lack of parity in baseball.

If the Dodgers win the next three World Series before the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2016, will fans complain about a strike or lockout?

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Daily Distractions: Is this the week the Dodgers go for broke?

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers have had active contract negotiations this off-season, with big numbers being bandied about. (Associated Press photo)

Is this the week Clayton Kershaw decides how rich he wants to be?

Kershaw filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday, a procedural formality. He and the Dodgers must exchange their one-year salary proposals Friday; if the two sides can’t reach agreement over the next two weeks, they will bring a case before an arbitration panel in February.

If you work a night shift Friday, set your alarm for 10 a.m. That’s MLB’s deadline for “pre-exchange contracts.” Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported today that the Dodgers want to sign Kershaw to a long-term contract extension by then. The Dodgers have been looking to lock up Kershaw for months. This is the closest thing to a hard deadline the Dodgers have faced since contract talks began last year.

The real hard deadline, of course, is after the final game of the 2014 World Series. At that point, the Dodgers won’t just be bidding against themselves — they will be bidding against 29 other teams, as Kershaw is due to become a free agent.

In anticipation, there have been multiple reports of a contract offer in the $300 million range.

A contract of that magnitude wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the Dodgers from the Masahiro Tanaka derby, but they are reportedly competing against the deep-pocketed and pitching-poor Yankees. The deadline to sign Tanaka is Jan. 24 at 5 p.m.

The takeaway: This could be a big week of spending in Chavez Ravine.

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Daily Distractions: How Dodger Stadium will turn into a hockey venue.

Dodger Stadium hockey game

Dodger Stadium’s transformation into a hockey venue began Monday. (Instagram)

Dodger Stadium opened its outfield gate Monday, and the transformation began.

A crew of about 200 local workers spent their day trudging on and off the field, carrying the components of a giant stage deck that was laid over the infield. Then came the plywood, then the 30-foot long aluminum pans holding enough refrigerant to cool a 2-inch thick sheet of ice to 22 degrees Farenheit.

Over the next 12 days, the transformation from baseball field to hockey venue will be complete. The Kings and Ducks are scheduled to play the first outdoor hockey game in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. as part of the NHL’s “Stadium Series,” a slate of five outdoor games this winter.

The stories of the meticulous transformation, the man behind it, and the preposterousness of playing an outdoor hockey game in Southern California, will wait for another day. NHL ice-maker Dan Craig, Kings president Luc Robitaille, and Dodgers president Stan Kasten filled in some of the smaller blanks yesterday:

• Robitaille said that 50,000 tickets have been sold, and the venue will accommodate up to 54,000 for the game. That’s 2,000 less than Dodger Stadium’s baseball capacity. So where can’t you sit? Kasten said he wasn’t aware of any sections that will be blocked off. It could be that another 2,000 seats will be added if there’s enough demand.

• There will be no seats on the field.

• In order to level the playing field (literally), Craig’s team used a laser from the bottom deck of Dodger Stadium to measure the incline of the field. The pitcher’s mound has been leveled; that’s where the penalty boxes will go. The Kings’ and Ducks’ benches will be in the shallow outfield.

• Kasten got assurance from the NHL that the rink construction won’t interfere with the ongoing renovation projects outside the bullpen areas. “We’ll just have to direct people around some of the fenced-off areas,” he said.

• Craig’s crew will not work during the day. A tarp will be covering the rink area to shield the sunshine.

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Daily Distractions: Zach Lee, not the next Drew Henson, has no regrets about choosing baseball over football.

Zach Lee

The Dodgers and scouting director Logan White (right) lured Zach Lee (left) from LSU with a $5.25 million signing bonus in 2010. (Associated Press photo)

MLB.com had an interesting article today about some lesser known baseball-football connections, from Frank Thomas to Jake Locker to Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson.

Maybe the most interesting line in that piece was about Drew Henson. You might recall that Henson was a star quarterback at Michigan, succeeding Tom Brady in 1998, then tried his hand at baseball and even got in a few games with the Yankees after climbing the minor-league ladder. Then he retired, tried his hand at football again, and was relegated to being a backup most of his career. Writes Jim Callis:

I still think Drew Henson could have been a star in baseball had that been his focus — one evaluator I highly respect compared Henson’s skills to those of Mike Schmidt — but doubling as a quarterback ultimately meant he didn’t realize his potential in any sport.

Maybe the Dodgers should count their lucky stars that Zach Lee has no intention of becoming the next Drew Henson.

Lee, the 2013 organizational pitcher of the year, was once a highly recruited quarterback out of McKinney (Texas) High School. He chose to attend Louisiana State University, and did for a time, and was anointed as a savior of the LSU football program in at least one headline. (Actually, read those whole first two paragraphs again in italics: The heavens part and there, riding on the clouds comes a gift from the gods, or perhaps planet Krypton. Yes, he is the one we’ve been waiting for. Zach Lee. If only this picture came replete with angelic purple wings and a shiny golden halo to signify his immaculate arrival. Well, we hope so anyways.)

As recently as last April, the New Orleans media opined about what might have been with Lee. Does Lee ever wonder “what if?”

“I don’t have any regrets about what I did, the decision I made,” Lee said Wednesday. “It’s really kind of more now going back and reflecting on memories, reflecting on the great times I had with some of my teammates. Not necessarily the on-field stuff, but more the experiences you get out of it.”

Lee said he didn’t feel any “twinges” while watching the bowl games, including Monday’s BCS championship game, when Florida State beat Auburn.

“I’m kind of an analytical person,” he said. “So I analyze football as well as having a background in it. I was a little disappointed the SEC couldn’t pull it off, but it was a great game.”

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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers are starting the 2014 regular season before everyone else — again.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw might have three starts under his belt by the time some teams have played only five games. (Associated Press photo)


ESPN has selected the Dodgers’ first regular-season game in the United States for its first Sunday Night Baseball game of the season.

That sounds simple, but it contains some interesting implications.

The Dodgers were originally going to begin the non-Australia portion of their regular season on Monday, March 31, like every other team. That game — in San Diego — will now be played the night before, on March 30 at 8 p.m. There are no other MLB games scheduled for that day.

Dan Shulman, John Kruk, Curt Schilling and Buster Olney will broadcast the game.

But who will pitch?

If Don Mattingly hasn’t abandoned his start-Clayton-Kershaw-as-often-as-possible mantra since signing his fat new contract, expect Clayton Kershaw to start the game. The Dodgers have nine days between their second game in Australia (scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific Time on March 22) and their first game in San Diego.

And because the game will be played a day earlier, Kershaw will have four full days of rest before the Dodgers’ home opener on April 4 against the San Francisco Giants. So Dodger fans might be the big winners in all of this.

The losers? Anyone who has a gripe about ESPN playing favorites with certain terms. The Dodgers will be, by far, the most exposed baseball team in March:

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