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.”

Some bullet points for a Vodoun Day:
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Daily Distractions: Don Mattingly, Dodgers are reportedly close on a contract extension, and the timing makes sense.

Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti might have a more pleasant news conference in the near future than their last one. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)


If the Dodgers and Don Mattingly reach agreement on a contract extension this week, the timing actually makes sense.

According to multiple reports Monday morning, the two sides are finally close to a contract that would keep Mattingly on the bench beyond this year. (His contract is set to expire at the season’s end.) It just so happens that Mattingly is in town for the Dodgers’ annual prospect camp. When he isn’t in town, Mattingly is more likely to be found on a farm in Indiana, or a college basketball game.

He mentioned all the way back in November that the Dodgers had begun talks on an extension, and that there was “no rush” to complete the deal. Two months later, with Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti talking to the prospects, this seems like a logical time for the two to wrap up their own discussions.

As we mentioned last week, Mattingly’s status was going to be a burning question unless an extension was completed before spring training. That it’s taken this long to complete could simply be a reflection of Mattingly’s preference as he went about his usual off-season routine. It could also be a reflection of the complicated nature of manager’s contracts, which are not as uniform as player contracts.

Either way, this appears to be one storyline we can put to bed soon.

Lots of bullet points today:

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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: Why Zack Greinke probably won’t dive tonight.

Zack Greinke

Maybe the only way Zack Greinke hits the turf is if he’s pulled down. (Associated Press photo)

Zack Greinke can recall diving exactly once on a baseball field. All he remembered Tuesday was that it was on a bunt attempt by Gerald Laird, maybe in 2009, and it didn’t end well for him or the Kansas City Royals.

After some digging, we believe the play occurred in the second inning of a game between the Royals and Detroit Tigers on July 8, 2009. Josh Anderson was on second base, having hit a ground-rule double. Laird attempted to bunt Anderson to third base but popped the ball up toward the pitcher’s mound.

Greinke dove for the ball and missed. He tried throwing to first base to retire Laird, but Laird wound up with a single. Since there’s no video on YouTube or MLB.com, we’ll rely on this descriptive quote from Greinke, courtesy of that night’s Associated Press game story: “That was a stupid play, because it was a terrible bunt. If I catch that, it is a double play, and even then, I made a five-hop throw to first.”

On Tuesday, Greinke said that he could have caught the ball, and turned the double play, if he didn’t dive.

“I feel at least 90 percent of all dives are unneeded,” he added.

Why is all this relevant? Well, Greinke is under strict orders not to dive tonight when he returns from a fractured clavicle to start against the Washington Nationals. The pitcher assured Dodgers manager Don Mattingly that this wouldn’t be a problem, and the play from four years ago is a large reason why.

Also, it was satisfying to uncover the dive Greinke was referring to, like the guy who figured out what day Ice Cube was rapping about in the song “It Was a Good Day.”

Some Hump Day bullet points:
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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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Mike Piazza on Vin Scully: ‘He’s a good man and I love him.’

MikexPiazza book

On a back field, far from the Dodgers and Vin Scully (who was in Glendale to broadcast his first game of spring training), Mike Piazza and Team Italy were preparing for the World Baseball Classic at Camelback Ranch.

Piazza took a break from his duties as hitting coach to tell reporters that he had no regrets over what he wrote about Scully in his book “Longshot.” The former Dodgers catcher took plenty of heat for insinuating that Scully fueled the perception that, by setting a deadline to sign a contract extension in 1998, Piazza was being disloyal to the team.

On Monday, he responded:

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu throws, Justin Sellers speaks, Mike Piazza writes.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is throwing and the photographers writers are on the scene with their digital SLRs cell phones:

 

Some of the Dodgers’ position players are in camp one day early. That includes Justin Sellers, who this morning told reporters at Camelback Ranch that his recent arrest in West Sacramento was “a misunderstanding.” Sellers said he does not need to be present at his scheduled court date in March.

All the pitchers are in tow, including injured reliever Scott Elbert. The left-hander told reporters yesterday that he doesn’t expect to be back until May – not unexpected, since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow Jan. 23 and Sept. 19, 2012. One catcher still hasn’t reported – non-roster invitee Eliezer Alfonso has been delayed by a family issue.

Some links for a Thursday morning:

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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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Daily Distractions: Mike Piazza writes a book; PEDs, PEDs and more PEDs!

"<strongAre rumors of performance-enhancing drug use tarnishing your reputation? Write a book!

Worked for Lance Armstrong, right?

Mike Piazza is co-authoring a book with Lonnie Wheeler in which he denies using PEDs, according to Newsday. Earlier this week Piazza was denied election to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot, collecting 57.8 percent of votes, short of the mandatory 75 percent.

How much of that is due to PED suspicions is unclear, but it will be interesting to see if Hall voters are affected by Piazza’s tell-all.

Hope you’re in the mood for some performance-enhancing bullet points …

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