Daily Distractions: Revisiting Greg Maddux, on the eve of his Hall of Fame announcement.

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux pitched 23 games, regular season and playoffs combined, during stints with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008. (Getty Images)

For your consideration, in the category of important dates in Dodgers history: June 6 and July 31, 2006.

On June 6, the Dodgers drafted Clayton Kershaw out of high school.

On July 31, they traded for Greg Maddux.

Not a bad couple months.

Maddux won’t be a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, but he’ll probably come close. The Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be announced Wednesday and, barring a stunning comeback by Mike Piazza (currently polling at 67.7 percent), Maddux will be the only former Dodger going into Cooperstown this year.

I talked to Dodgers president Stan Kasten about Maddux and his legacy. Kasten was president of the Atlanta Braves during Maddux’s prime, which included a run of four straight Cy Young Awards, three straight ERA titles, and no less than 15 wins every season from 1988 to 2004. Take a moment to soak all that in.

Here are a couple tidbits about Maddux’s career that won’t make my story for Thursday’s editions:

“We weren’t sure we were going to get him,” Kasten said of pursuing Maddux in free agency in 1992. “The Yankees did outbid us substantially, but he decided he didn’t really want to play in that environment. He had a really good friend on our team, Damon Berryhill, who used to catch to him in Chicago. Damon told him how great the organization and environment was in Atlanta.”

Only one thing gave Kasten any pause about signing the pitcher to a five-year, $28 million deal.

“He wasn’t the cleanest medically,” Kasten said, “but we had good doctors, doctors with opinions we trusted. They signed off on him.”

Maddux only went on the disabled list once in 23 seasons. Maybe he played through more pain than anyone realized.

Some bullet points for a St. Distaff’s Day:

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Daily Distractions: Why the Dodgers are the team everyone in baseball loves to love.

Guggenheim Baseball Management

The Dodgers’ ownership team of Guggenheim Baseball Management, including Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter and Magic Johnson (left to right) helped raised the bar for television contracts across baseball.

On Friday, it was reported that the Philadelphia Phillies had struck a $2.5 billion television-rights deal with Comcast, and suddenly that four-year, $26 million contract for Carlos Ruiz didn’t seem so crippling.

In December, the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano for $240 million — eight months after the team invested in its own cable broadcast partner, Root Sports Northwest.

Now flash back to 2012. The Dodgers reportedly had an offer from Fox in the range of $6 to $7 billion total to remain on Prime Ticket, then spurned their longtime regional-rights partner to form a joint venture with Time Warner. Estimates on the amount the Dodgers will receive from the partnership range into the stratosphere of $8 billion.

History may judge this transaction as a tipping point for Regional Sports Network contracts, especially since not everyone is happy about the possible repercussions for their cable bills. (That case is still active, by the way.) But baseball industry folks haven’t complained one bit since the Dodgers inked their massive TV contract, from the small market of Tampa Bay to just down the freeway in Los Angeles of Anaheim. The Dodgers’ deal raised the value of 29 teams’ regional TV rights, offering the hope of upward payroll mobility everywhere.

Remember this the next time your friends in the Bay Area claim the Dodgers are the team everyone loves to hate.

Forbes’ Maury Brown just did a tremendous Q&A on the topic of RSNs.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Devising the Dodgers’ resolutions for 2014.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. (Associated Press photo)

While others lose weight and read more books and call their parents, we tried to go beyond the obvious here — i.e., “Win a World Series” — to come up with a checklist of some New Year’s resolutions more specific to the Dodgers.

In no particular order, here we go:

1. Don’t let Clayton Kershaw reach free agency. Jan. 17 is when teams and players exchange salary arbitration figures, and Kershaw is in his final year of arbitration eligibility. There’s an element of curiosity here: How much could the game’s best pitcher make in arbitration? The Dodgers, and their fans, would rather not know. The other important date to circle here is sometime in late October, the date when eligible free agents hit the market once the World Series ends. If Kershaw doesn’t have a contract by then, what will it take for the Dodgers to re-sign him? Would a championship and the largest contract in baseball history — the Dodgers might be able to offer both — be enough? The longer the left-hander goes without a multiyear extension, the more tempting it is to speculate why he’s determined to test the market. Until he re-signs, that speculation will linger.

2. Stay healthy. OK, this one applies to every team, and the Dodgers have enviable depth in their outfield, starting rotation, and bullpen to withstand the inevitable DL trips of 2014. That said, it’s not a stretch to say that the October injuries to Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and (to an extent) Andre Ethier are what separated the Dodgers from the 2013 World Series. Dodger players spent more days on the disabled list in 2013 than all but six MLB teams. Luck always plays a significant role in injury statistics, but Stan Conte will try to create some better luck in 2014. He’ll absorb the duties of head athletic trainer Sue Falsone, who left to pursue other opportunities.

3. Re-sign Ramirez. Ramirez is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, too. Thanks to a lot of bad injury luck, he played only 86 games in 2013, but he was the Dodgers’ most productive offensive player when healthy. A full season of a 191 wRC+ is probably unsustainable. Anything close to that will result in a lucrative payday.

4. Manage the farm intelligently. A concern for any team in any year, but consider recent history. Relatively speaking, there wasn’t much to manage in the Dodgers’ system until mid-2012. Because of that, they aren’t in great position to package any prospects in an off-season trade — say, for David Price — or sign a free agent who would cost a first-round draft pick. Now, the Dodgers at least have some intriguing prospects at Double-A (Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, Zach Lee), High-A (Corey Seager) and Low-A (Chris Anderson, Julio Urias). If they aren’t traded, they need to produce. If they are traded, the return needs to be huge.

5. Make a decision on Don Mattingly. At the end of the season, this is what I wrote: “If [Mattingly's] contract isn’t extended by the time the 2014 season begins, questions about his standing within the organization remain legitimate. The challenge of commanding a clubhouse as a ‘lame duck’ manager will linger. If Mattingly does get his extension between now and spring training, then we’re all left to wonder what took so long.” These questions haven’t been answered yet.

Some bullet points for a Berchtold’s Day:
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Daily Distractions: On Masahiro Tanaka, the new posting system and the Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka

In spite of the new posting system, Masahiro Tanaka might not leave Japan until next year. (Associated Press photo)

A posting system was finally, formally agreed to yesterday by MLB and NPB. Observers have long believed the only Japanese player who would create demand among major league teams, if posted this year, is Masahiro Tanaka. And Tanaka’s team doesn’t want to let him go.

First, the stipulations of the new posting system:

  • If an NPB Club wishes to make one of its players available to Major League Clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner of the NPB player’s potential availability and the “release fee” that a Major League Club must pay to the NPB Club in order to secure the NPB player’s release.  The NPB Club may not set the release fee at an amount higher than $20 million and the fee cannot be changed once it has been set by the NPB Club.
  • The Office of the Commissioner shall then “post” the NPB player’s availability by notifying all Major League Clubs of the NPB player’s availability and the release fee sought by the NPB Club.
  • All “postings” of NPB players must be made between November 1st and February 1st.
  • Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League Club willing to pay the release fee set by the NPB Club may then negotiate with the player in an attempt to reach an agreement on a contract.
  • If a Major League Club is able to reach an agreement on a contract with the posted NPB player, the Major League Club must pay the NPB Club the designated release fee, which will occur in installments, the timing of which depends on the size of the release fee.
  • If the posted NPB player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League Club, the release fee is not owed, the NPB player remains under reserve to his NPB Club, and the player may not be posted again until the following November 1st.
  • The term of the new posting agreement is three years, continuing from year-to-year thereafter until either the Office of the Commissioner or the NPB gives notice of its intent to terminate the agreement one hundred and eighty days prior to the anniversary of the commencement of the agreement.

On that last point, neither side can formally declare its intent to opt out of the agreement until June 2016. One reason to opt out sooner: There’s a loophole.

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Daily Distractions: Circling back to David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly.

Dan Haren

Dan Haren is the Dodgers’ biggest off-season signing so far. (Associated Press photo)

Six weeks ago, when the postseason became the off-season, the clamor among Dodgers fans was for David Price, Masahiro Tanaka and a Clayton Kershaw contract extension.

The headline-makers so far: Dan Haren, Ronald Belisario (for being non-tendered) and Lorenzo Bundy.

OK, so the off-season has progressed relatively slowly for the Dodgers. They have a chance to change the narrative at the Winter Meetings beginning Monday. In the meantime, we suddenly have a chance to circle back to the Price, Tanaka and Kershaw storylines.

Price has a number of suitors, with the Seattle Mariners emerging as the most aggressive, according to multiple reports. A bidding war waged in prospects simply wouldn’t favor the Dodgers over the Mariners.

As for Tanaka, he could be liberated from his contract in Japan soon. MLB and NPB will reportedly have a conference call today with a formal offer for a new Posting System on the table. That’s the closest thing to a resolution to the Posting System stalemate in weeks. Whether or not the new system favors or works against the Dodgers lies in the yet-to-be reported details.

Given many chances, Kershaw has said a very little about his future with the Dodgers over the last few weeks. He is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

Kershaw told Yahoo! Sports’ Graham Bensinger that “I’m there next year no matter what, I’m going to be in L.A. … then after that I really don’t know what’s going to happen.” Bensinger asked Kershaw if he had a gut feeling about what might happen. “I don’t,” Kershaw said. “We’ll just see.”

Those sentiments are in line with his comments from three weeks ago, when Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award. At the time, Kershaw said he and the Dodgers haven’t talked about a contract extension since the season ended. If that’s changed, the talks haven’t nudged Kershaw toward a “gut feeling” either way. More likely, they haven’t talked. So this story might not be wrapped up anytime soon.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Ninja:
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers, others still waiting on first domino to fall in free-agent pitching market.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)

Tim Hudson is off the board.

So is Jason Vargas.

So when will the Dodgers jump into the free-agent fray and sign a starting pitcher?

A few days ago, I was doing an interview with a Japanese television station that was interested in gauging the level of interest and awareness about Masahiro Tanaka in the United States. Frequently, the question of how good Tanaka might perform in the U.S. was raised; as the presumed cream of the free-agent crop, I guessed that the bar is being set pretty high.

And because he is considered the cream of the crop, Tanaka has the potential to hold up the market until MLB and NPB can agree to a new posting system. In my interview I theorized that a new posting system might cause a domino effect on the entire free-agent pitching market, with Tanaka becoming the first domino to fall.

That appears to be the case now, at least for the Dodgers and several other teams that have been linked to Tanaka. The Giants and Royals must have decided internally that they weren’t going to enter the bidding war, so they moved on with Hudson and Vargas, respectively. Confirmation was buried in this story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press which mentions, among other things, that the Minnesota Twins have shown “initial interest” in signing Chris Capuano:

Bidding on Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has yet to open as Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball continue to haggle over a new posting system.

A Twins official recently called Tanaka “a key domino, from the financial to the ability.”

“For sure,” the official added, “he is a major linchpin in the pitching market.”

So while the Dodgers kick the tires on some of the second-tier free agent pitchers — Dan Haren has been reported, and there are certainly others — those pitchers might be nothing more than Plans B, C, D, E, and so on.

Some bullet points for a Lebanese Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: Farewell, Shawn Tolleson.

Shawn Tolleson

Shawn Tolleson, who was claimed off waivers Tuesday by the Texas Rangers, faced two batters in 2013 and walked both. (Getty Images)

At some point the Dodgers will add to their major-league roster this off-season.

For now at least, the Dodgers continue to clear room. Reliever Shawn Tolleson was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, leaving the 40-man roster at 31.

Tolleson’s 2013 season was sabotaged by injury. He appeared in one game in April, but couldn’t sleep following the game because of an intense pain his back. Later that month, he had season-ending back surgery.

The Dodgers had to replace his innings somehow, and right-handers Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez and, later, Carlos Marmol and Brian Wilson, all held down the fort. That was apparently enough for the Dodgers to feel comfortable about cutting ties with the 25-year-old, who not long ago was chosen as the organization’s minor-league pitcher of the year.

In 40 games in 2012, Tolleson went 3-1 with a 4.30 ERA, striking out 39 batters in 37 ⅔ innings.

Some bullet points for a Transgender Day of Remembrance:
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Daily Distractions: What the absence of a new Posting System means for Masahiro Tanaka, Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)


The Associated Press reported this morning that Major League Baseball is withdrawing its proposal for a new bidding system with Japan.

What does that hold for Masahiro Tanaka, Japan’s best pitcher? Without agreement on a new bidding system, Japanese players would not be able to sign with MLB until they had nine years of service time and could become free agents. Tanaka has seven years of service time in NPB, Japan’s top league. You do the math.

Imagine for a moment that the best available free-agent pitcher is now off the market. Every other pitcher at the top of the free agent crop — Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, etc. — now jumps up a spot on teams’ wish lists. And those teams still have all their money to spend.

That figures to help a pitcher like David Price, who is not a free agent, but whom many expect the Tampa Bay Rays to dangle as trade bait. Perhaps Price’s price just rose too.

The New York Post reported today that a complete elimination of the posting system is now possible, which might ground Tanaka in Japan for another two years. It’s not clear what will happen to the proposal MLB just withdrew, which the Post described as “a moderate tweak of the old system: The team with the highest bid on a posted player would still win exclusive negotiating rights with that player, but the amount of the bid would be an average of the top two bids. … Furthermore, a team would be fined if it failed to sign the player after securing the negotiating rights.”

FanGraphs.com speculated that if this system were ratified, “the player won’t gain any leverage in order to get a better contract for himself, or play in a different city. But! If the posting fees actually do go down, the player should get a bigger slice of the pie.” The team with the highest bid still won.

Now? Even is if no agreement is reached this winter, the Dodgers’ odds of signing Tanaka might decrease. Their team payroll is expected to exceed baseball’s luxury-tax threshhold again in 2014, which means the Dodgers will be taxed 30 percent on every dollar spent on player salaries above $189 million. The tax rises to 40 percent if the Dodgers exceed the threshhold in 2015, and 50 percent in 2016. Team president Stan Kasten has said repeatedly that he doesn’t intend to pay these luxury taxes indefinitely, and that 50 percent tax-rate could be where the Dodgers decide to draw the line.

According to Cots, the Dodgers are already on the hook for $122 million for SEVEN players in 2016, and that doesn’t include a possible extension for Clayton Kershaw.

So assuming Tanaka’s health and effectiveness hold steady for two more years, would the Dodgers be restricted in their willingness to spend on Tanaka in the winter of 2015-16? Under the old system — and, presumably, under Monday’s proposal — posting fees don’t count toward a team’s luxury tax. But at least one small-market club reported by the Post, the Pittsburgh Pirates, would like to see that changed.

There are some variables in this equation that definitely work against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Colombian Woman:
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Which players might the Dodgers pursue in free agency?

Masahiro Tanaka

Soon-to-be free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t lost a decision since Aug. 2012 and will pitch Game 6 of the Japan Series on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Yesterday, we analyzed the Dodgers’ 12 in-house free agents. Don’t be surprised if only a few players out of that group return — say, four or less. Signing 26-year-old infielder Alexander Guerrero was the first indication that the Dodgers are serious about getting younger. All of their in-house free agents are more than 30 years old. So are all of the players on this list, with one outstanding exception at the top.

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Daily Distractions: The National League’s best record is within the Dodgers’ reach.

Brian Wilson

The Dodgers are two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League’s best record. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

While I spent the weekend at a wedding in which two bridesmaids went chasing after a tossed bouquet like a a couple of defensive linemen going after a fumbled football (congrats Darryl and Amanda!), the Dodgers spent the weekend looking ahead to October.

How else to view the Michael Young trade, with the Phillies unloading their primary third baseman to a Dodgers team that might or might not use him extensively off the bench?

Looking ahead in a way the Dodgers won’t publicly, the best record in the National League is within their reach the next three days in Denver. If the Dodgers sweep the Colorado Rockies, and the New York Mets sweep the Braves in Atlanta (stranger things have happened; the Metropolitans are 4-3 in Atlanta this year), the best record in the National League belongs to the Dodgers. Atlanta is currently two games ahead of the Dodgers, 83-53 compared to 81-55.

The National League team with the best record on October 1 will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason until the World Series, thanks to the American League’s All-Star game victory. All those Dodger wins in July and August that had us reaching for the record books, searching for the best 40- and 50-game stretches in baseball history, might actually mean something after all.

So far as we can tell, the last time the Dodgers held the NL’s best record outright as late as Sept. 4 was in 1978.

And so the journey into scarcely charted territory continues.

More bullet points for Labor Day:
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