01 November 2011



31 October 2011

Resuscitating Higher Education

Here's my term paper for my Theory of Teaching Writing and Literature class from my second-to-last semester at LMU. It won me $100 at the University Writing Awards and an edited version got published in a school literary journal. This isn't my final, amazing, perfectly polished draft, and spacing/italicization may have been hurt by my copy/paste, but it should all still certainly be fairly readable. Enjoy.

Robert Montenegro
13 December 2010
Dr. Aimee Ross
English 565: Theory of Teaching Writing and Literature

Resuscitating Higher Education

“Universities are not intended to teach the knowledge required to fit men for some special mode of graining their livelihood… Their object is not to make skillful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings.”
-John Stuart Mill
(Murray 75)

“We Americans distrust smart people.”
-Terrance MacMullan
(MacMullan 58)

American society has outgrown stuck-up tweed coat intellectuals and needs a new breed of academic leaders to galvanize a Higher Learning community that has fallen into disrepair. The bar with which we as a society measure academic aptitude has been placed so low that students with no avid interest in learning are able to waltz out of college with a degree they would likely not have earned (or at least not have earned as easily). While some may laud the fact that college has become more accessible to the masses, the truth is that the establishments that should stand as safe havens for America’s intellectual curiosity have regressed to farcical levels. As they are now, American universities are more like four-year summer camps than institutes of Higher Learning. Charles Murray, author of the The Bell Curve and Real Education, puts it perfectly when he writes, “the educational system is living a lie” (Murray 11). In this essay I intend to further diagnose the national affliction caused by that lie, explain why it should be a huge priority to rescue higher education, and identify the types of people who will do just that.

The Diagnosis

There are three main reasons why the University has become a sad shell of its former self (please note - from this point forward I will use “University” to refer to the entire nationwide collegiate psyche and “university” as the literal definition synonymous to “college”). The first reason for this degradation is the estrangement of intellectualism from public society, a movement succinctly illustrated in Terrance MacMullan’s words at the beginning of this essay. MacMullan, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Honors at Eastern Washington University, explains that we “Americans don’t like smart people because we suspect they might trick us like we trick our dogs” (MacMullan 58). Intelligence and honesty have somehow managed to become mutually exclusive in the eyes of the American public. MacMullan cites the “radicalization of American universities in the 1960s,” which he says “led many intellectuals to write off non-intellectuals as dupes, and many non-intellectuals to dismiss academia as a hotbed of leftist propaganda” (61). This led to the public’s distrust of academia and academia’s refusal to address the public; the two stubborn sectors choosing to have nothing to do with each other. Fast-forward forty years and you can see how we got to where we are today, a place when the common man is revered over the learned man, and where the intellectuals seclude themselves from society in order to feed their own narcissism. Furthermore, because the extremes are so adamantly opposed to mixing, we end up with a lack of effective intelligent dialogue between the two. Society loathes the conceited nature of the intellectuals. Intellectuals fear that the “dupes” down below might put up a fight or prove them wrong. It is only logical to assume that this divorce negatively affects Higher Education, the supposed middleman of society and academia.

The second source of this scourge is the good intentioned but ill-conceived ideology that everyone should go to college. This is the lie by which Murray says our educational system lives (and dies). “The lie is that every child can be anything he or she wants to be” (Murray 11), or rather, anything that their parents wish they could be. College therefore ends up as the summit of the developmental Mt. Everest and becomes the number one priority in the lives of many American children and teens. This would not be a problem if many of the myths about the benefits of college weren’t so completely untrue.

There’s the myth that everyone should experience college because as a whole it resembles “real life” and serves as a good transition space for young people to adapt to the “real world.” Murray points out that the University where students spend much of their time developing robust work habits, routinely engaging the professors as they would employers, and answering the calls of demanding intellectual pursuits does not exist anywhere in the United States. In fact, he says, the American college system does more to “prolong adolescence” than to foster maturity (101). I find it hard to disagree with him, especially after seven semesters at Loyola Marymount University, a school that attracts applicants for its beautiful campus and even more beautiful female population, as opposed to the promise of an enriching educational experience. The idea that a university student as scholar has been replaced with the image of the college slacker who thirsts for “facile knowledge, served up in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks” (101). Higher Education’s willingness to appease this want is both frighteningly real and completely devastating to the integrity of the University.
Then there’s the myth that you cannot be successful without a college degree. Because this fable has society by the throat, we are at the point where we send far too many people to college. Many of the superfluous extras resemble Murray’s example of the fifteen-year-old “who cannot make sense of algebra but has an almost mystical knack with machines, [but] is told to stick with the college prep track” (12). Since a college degree is supposedly the only way to adequately measure success in our society, our fifteen-year-old is dissuaded from pursuing a trade school in favor of a liberal arts education he doesn’t really want nor need. He is likely steered that way by a parent or high school counselor who has bought into the lie and, while meaning no harm, ultimately hurts the student’s chances at success. By forcing them into a situation where they would not succeed (that is, would not succeed if not for curriculum becoming laughably easy and grade inflation painting mediocre students to look like Stephen Hawking), the student’s talents, interests, and perhaps optimal opportunity to help society (not to mention himself) go down the drain. What could have been a budding mechanic is now another statistic of overindulgence in Higher Education.

The third big reason why the University system is broken is society’s illogical love affair with making the grade. Grades in and of themselves are highly overrated and have a negative influence on what is perceived as the goal of education. That goal has ceased to be the pursuit of knowledge for personal enrichment, giving way to the value of simply getting the best grade possible. In an ideal world, these two would go hand in hand. As we’ve already extensively explored, that ideal world doesn’t exist.

Instead we have plights like that of 2010 Coxsackie-Athens High School Valedictorian Erica Goldson who, in her graduation speech, discussed how our ridiculous fascination with grades has helped to poison American education. “I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning,” Goldson said in cap and gown, the owner of the highest grade point average in the graduating class. When she discovered that her success was emblematic of a system that trounces merit and effort in favor of a phony figure, Goldson was overcome with an emotion not many valedictorians feel when looking toward the future - “Quite frankly, now I'm scared.” Goldson was hit by the reality that an educational system that emphasizes SAT scores, grade point averages, and percentage points as much as ours only devastates individual creativity, breeding drones who focus more on the black-and-white destination than the Technicolor voyage.

Additionally, America’s marriage to grades has allowed those many who are intellectually lacking but particularly adroit at playing the system to succeed while those who are plagued by the vice-versa are left behind. Quite frankly, any moron can manage an A on a test with a good study guide and their roommate’s prescription Adderall. Any system where an earnest student gets a B+ simply because he is not a good memorizer, but the world’s best crammer can score an A on a test he won’t remember a week later, is seriously flawed. Out of this comes a mentality among students that the ability to regurgitate information is much more important than the information itself, resulting in students who base their educational approach on the most efficient way to get an A. Lost are the joy of learning, the critical reflection, and the perceived importance of class material.

These three elements – the loss of society’s faith in intellectualism, the influx of unnecessary students cluttering the University, and the emphasis of “success” over substance – are the three largest culprits in the tarnishing of the University. Unfortunately, identifying the problem in education is only half the battle. We have to fully understand why the diagnosis is so bad before we can explore possible cures. We must fully realize the peril we potentially face if we allow this terrible disease to spread further.

Analyzing the Threat

The two main consequences we face if we do not subdue the infection are the risk of the college degree losing its value and the wounding of America’s academically gifted students.

This semester, one of my classes held a discussion about our personal reasons for attending college. A considerable number of the students made it very clear that they enrolled primarily to ensure a better shot at landing a good job after graduation. Some even expressed surprise when introduced to the notion that there would be any other reason to attend the university. While there is nothing wrong with hoping to utilize one’s degree to reach professional success, there is something unnerving about apathetically gliding through college for a piece of paper that supposedly leads to buried treasure. “Young people think they are going to make a substantial income just by having a college degree” (Billitteri), says Penn State professor emeritus Edwin L. Herr, acknowledging the belief that the University is the gatekeeper for social ascension. But Syracuse finance professor Boyce Watkins unveils an unfortunate truth. Like many treasure maps, that expensive college degree has the potential to lead you nowhere:

“When you have students who are going to college for economic advancement and they choose majors that don't fit that particular objective and then take a lot of debt on in the process, then … you have to ask them, well, did you plan it all the way through when you ended up with an outcome that you didn't quite expect?” (Billitteri)

Watkins refers to the fact that, while on average people with degrees earn more than those without, not all degrees are created equal. A student pursuing Law or Medicine is much more likely to find success than the one who played eenie-meenie-miney-moe and landed on Communications. What you end up with is a huge demographic of people overcrowding the University who wouldn’t even be in college if they were not under the impression that it automatically leads to financial success. The University and society itself would save these folks quite a bit of money if the myths that college leads to fortune were to be dispelled.

Related to this is the fundamental flaw in the “everybody should go to college” ideology – Economics. Basic supply and demand applies to college degrees just as it does to pretty much any commodity. If more of something exists, the less valuable it becomes. This is especially true with degrees in an economy such as our current one, where growth has all but ceased. What you inevitably end up with are more “qualified” workers than positions available. Once you have a surplus, value plummets. What happens when a desperate student cannot find a job out of college? Many will take out more student loans and enroll in graduate school, assuming a Master’s degree will guarantee for them what a Bachelor’s failed to produce.

If we continue on this path where we allow college to be a cakewalk, it won’t be long until Master’s degrees go the way of Bachelor’s. You already see this happening with many Law School graduates who lug their degree and massive debt straight into the unemployment line (Koppel). Such is the case of 25-year-old Fabian Ronisky, who after being turned down by over 50 law firms had to face moving back in with his parents, $150,000 of debt in tow.

This unfortunate situation is as much a result of the ridiculously poor conditions of the economy as it is a side effect of our diseased education system. At the same time, I seriously doubt many of the 40,000 yearly Law School graduates are worth their weight in case documents. When Higher Education allows ill-equipped students to succeed, there is a huge risk that it is only setting them up for failure. Therein develops a question of Ethics – is it better to allow this to continue happening and see alumni chewed up and spit out by a field they should not have been entering in the first place, or should universities adopt some tough love and weed out the weak ones before they amass more debt than a small nation? The answer is the latter. There is a strong moral argument for cleaning up Higher Education.

Perhaps even worse is that as the University dumbs itself down to cater to the apathetic or unskilled, truly gifted students are presented with an educational experience that fails to adequately challenge them. This fundamental flaw exists everywhere from Communism to No Child Left Behind – you never improve the plight of the lowest demographic as much as you decimate the others. Murray argues that, because natural abilities intrinsically vary from student to student, there exists a small echelon of truly gifted individuals who are most likely to positively affect society (Murray 108-109). It makes sense then that our efforts in the University should be to provide this elite group with the best possible education to train them to be able to achieve their potential.

“By definition,” writes Murray, “the top 10 percent in academic ability included about 410,000 eighteen-year-olds in 2005, when about 1.5 million students enrolled as freshmen in four-year colleges” (111). While one might immediately suppose that most of those students fit in at the nation’s most prestigious schools, Murray says the top twenty national universities and liberal arts colleges brought in only 48,000 freshman, “and not all of them in the 10 percent” (111). This means that 90% of America’s most gifted students are spread out among the nation’s many other schools. While Murray focuses more on how he would overhaul the liberal arts education to better impart upon these elite the necessary wisdoms to lead the country (113), I am tentatively more worried about the effect of an apathetic atmosphere on one of these gifted minds.

As we’ve discussed earlier, the typical 18-year-old freshman could be the smartest person in the world and yet still be incredibly immature. There have to be negative effects when, instead of a University that truly cherishes academic endeavor and intellectual stimulation, he or she is dumped into an ecosystem driven by scholarly indifference, selfish objectives, and the unconscious endorsement of half-assed effort. Instead of honing skills that will augment their abilities, college actually hurts those who get swallowed up. This is a direct result of making college accessible to those who don’t need to be there. This is not a situation I expect applies to the majority of gifted students, but any university that does not act to eradicate the risk is performing a disservice for the gifted while, presumably yet erroneously, providing a service to those who are not.

The Cure

As we have explored, if we allow the infection in Higher Education to fester, we run the risk of devaluing the work of college graduates and sabotaging the mental development of those who are truly gifted. The current mentality leads us down a road that potentially brings us to the complete collapse of the University as a respectable establishment. The current output of graduates, many whom only achieve success by taking an easy road, is unsustainable and poses a societal risk. Ethically, pragmatically, and in the best interest of the United States, we need to revamp Higher Education at risk of watching the entire system implode around us.

With such a daunting task in front of us, it may seem that a strategy toward rehabilitation of the University addicted to mediocrity would be huge and complicated and nearly impossible to enact. The veritable truth is actually quite the contrary. There are two huge things that need to happen in order for us to turn this ship around before we star dancing with icebergs. First, we need to raise the standards by which we measure our University students, challenging them to prove themselves worthy of the privilege of Higher Education. Second, we need those haughty hermits, the intellectuals, to lay their egos at the side of the road and become the type of Public Intellectuals that Terrance MacMullan feels hold the key to revitalizing the nation.

First, quite simply, we need the University (and remember, by this I mean the entire nation of Higher Learning) to make a united conscientious decision to revert the itself back to a place of honor. We cannot continue to allow our willingness to admit and pamper mediocre students to continue and bring down the entire system, hurting those who truly deserve to reach the heights offered only at a University devoted to education of the gifted. We must not be afraid to incorporate tough love and turn away those who do not meet the expectation of excellence. This does not mean that we need to transform the University into a sort of dystopian institution where we build a small elite class to rule the country. All will be welcome to attend; our most basic want is for the students to simply try harder. We cannot allow the current academic tone of apathy to continue.

If we manage to raise the bar of what we deem academically excellent, universities will find that many of those students who previously showed educational apathy will pick up their game in order to stay afloat. This is to be desired, as is the departure of those who choose not to abide by our new stricter standards. Even though our main focus will be to nurture those with true smarts, we will not let our meritocracy disappear for those who rigorously labor to improve themselves. The University needs to be about hard work, and a strong work ethic needs to be restored to an America that has never been lazier. Not only will a tougher University challenge those who deserve to be there, it will build character through the struggle with adversity.

The facilitators of this more honorable University will be the intellectuals who must descend from their Ivory Towers and become like MacMullan’s ideal Public Intellectual, who, interestingly enough, resembles Jon Stewart (not Mill). The quirky host of The Daily Show, behind the goofiness, bears “an unalloyed faith in the power of the American political project to improve people’s lives” (MacMullan 66). Likewise, our ideal Public Intellectual educator would live by the distinctly American philosophy of pragmatism, an ideology that “urges philosophers to be less academic and more publicly engaged” (60). While it may seem paradoxical for us to ask our intellectuals to be less academic while our University speeds in the other direction, the context varies. As our new University system will certainly favor the gifted over those who are not, we must make sure that our Public Intellectuals manage to be as relatable for the masses as Jon Stewart, whose “voice encourages debate and fosters democracy [while still being] cherished by many philosophers who think that philosophy should matter to all people” (60).

MacMullan describes the Public Intellectuals or the past – Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. Du Bois, for example – and how their essential talent, one that has been lost by contemporary scholars who worship convoluted Derrida language, was how they could connect with diverse audiences while still preserving the magnitude of their message. These were thinkers who strived to be relevant to their public because of an inherent obligation to serve society. Like our favorite fake news show host, our new Public Intellectuals must similarly strive to employ their smarts for the greater good instead of locking themselves away in a cloister of brains (or, God forbid, delving into the ooze of Glenn Beck punditry).

What this will invariably do, as Stewart and his brilliant stooge Stephen Colbert have already begun to set off, is a societal return to respecting intellect. Basically, if we can manage to invoke the power and mission of our Public Intellectuals of old, we can make being smart cool again. This will lead to an increase in knowledge, wisdom, and ability as societal values, which will eventually lead to a more efficient and intelligent public, even without a million Bachelor’s degrees floating around.

There are inherent risks in this plan, not the least of which being the vital decision of our intellectuals to turn away from the dark side and focus on being thinkers for society instead of simply for themselves and their own conceited communities. Still, I believe the enacting of this process will only improve America, as the road we are currently traveling brings upon us an unsustainable structure of academic chaos that must be avoided at all costs. It is clear that our current system of Higher Education is afflicted with a bitter infection that must be cured for the sake of protecting our gifted youngsters, maintaining the integrity of the University, and increasing the efficiency of our academic structure. The long-term effects of simply raising the bar when it comes to University students could bring the United States into a new golden age of intellectual curiosity and academic enterprise. We as Americans owe it to ourselves to perform surgery on Higher Education and remove the causes of all our aches and pains, insuring that an America built on intelligent discourse and social awareness remains in good health for years to come.

Works Cited

Billitteri, Thomas J. "The Value of a College Education." CQ Researcher 20 Nov. 2009: 981-1004. Web. 15 Dec. 2010.
Goldson, Erica. "Here I Stand." Speech. Coxsackie-Athens High School Graduation Spring 2010. Coxsackie-Athens High School, Coxsackie, NY. 25 June 2010. America Via Erica. Blogger, 7 July 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. . [YouTube] -
Koppel, Nathan. "Wall Street Journal." The Wall Street Journal. 5 May 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. .
MacMullan, Terrance. "Jon Stewart and the New Public Intellectual." The Daily Show and Philosophy: Moments of Zen in the Art of Fake News. Ed. Jason Holt. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. 57-68. Print.
Murray, Charles A. Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality. New York: Crown Forum, 2008. Print.

29 September 2011

Back from the Dead

The 2011 season is over (and boy was it an amazing ending)... I'd say it's about time for a new post.

I've been largely absent because I moved to Washington and started graduate school. To be honest I should probably be doing my reading right now, but I find posting is an apt substitute for the moment.

As for Wild Card Wednesday yesterday, I feel this is really all I need to post to express how much I enjoyed last night:


As for my picks for the big awards, here are my ballots:


1. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Unlike boneheads who actually get paid for their opinion, I consider "most valuable" to be synonymous with "best player." Think of it this way... MVP should go to the guy who, based on his performance in 2011, would be your first pick if you were drafting all the players in the league. Kemp barely missed on a 40/40 season and the Triple Crown, put up huge numbers across the board, and he played a serviceable CF. Bar none, Kemp was the best player in the National League in 2011 and deserves this award. Although I don't necessarily agree that pitchers should be excluded from MVP discussion, all my picks are hitters just for the sake of this exercise.

2. Ryan Braun, Brewers
3. Joey Votto, Reds
4. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
5. Justin Upton, D'Backs
6. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
7. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
8. Jose Reyes, Mets
9. Prince Fielder, Brewers
10. Albert Pujols, Cardinals


1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Just like with Kemp in the NL, Bautista was the best player in the AL, though Ellsbury was a very close second. What puts Bautista over the top for me is a fantastic OBP just under .450 (with a BABIP of only .309!) and his versatility moving from 3b to RF to fit his team's needs. Bautista proved his amazing 2010 was no fluke and was the best player in the AL in 2011.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
5. Evan Longoria, Rays
6. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
7. Curtis Granderson, Yankees
8. Alex Gordon, Royals
9. Alex Avila, Tigers
10. Ian Kinsler, Rangers

NL Cy Young

1. Roy Halladay, Phillies
Yeah, this one was tough. I came in here thinking I was going to write about how Kershaw was the best choice. I actually did start writing that until I decided I couldn't honestly put my word by it. Kershaw was certainly the most dominant pitcher in the league, leading in strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA, but Halladay was simply the better pitcher. Kershaw benefited from pitching in good pitchers parks against the likes of the Giants and Padres. Halladay pitched half his games in Citizen's Bank Park. Doc Halladay gave up 5 fewer home runs, walked a ton fewer than Kershaw, and got one less start than the Dodger southpaw. As much as the Dodger fan in me wants to pick Kershaw here (and I actually think he WILL win the award), Halladay led in WAR, ERA+, and FIP, all with a much higher BABP, and it's my belief that he was 2011's best NL pitcher.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
3. Cliff Lee, Phillies
4. Ian Kennedy, D'Backs
5. Madison Bumgarner, Giants
6. Cole Hamels, Phillies
7. Tim Lincecum, Giants
8. Zack Greinke, Brewers
9. Matt Cain, Giants
10. Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers

AL Cy Youg

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
Although it's a lot closer than most would like to admit, 2011 was the year of Verlander. He led the league in almost all major pitching stats (though he did have the benefit of a very fortunate BABIP) and threw a no-hitter.

2. C.C. Sabathia, Yankees
3. Jered Weaver, Angels
4. Dan Haren, Angels
5. C.J. Wilson, Rangers
6. James Shields, Rays
7. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
8. Josh Beckett, Red Sox
9. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
10. Justin Masterson, Indians

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
As much as I hate giving a major award to a guy coming out of the bullpen, it's hard to argue any rookie was better than Kimbrel.

2. Freddie Freeman, Braves
3. Wilson Ramos, Nationals

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Dustin Ackley, Mariners
An all-around solid year for the former #2 pick, he played a good second base and looks poised to make the leap toward stardom in 2012.

2. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
3. Alexi Ogando, Rangers

Managers of the Year

Kirk Gibson, D'Backs and Joe Maddon, Rays
Since this award usually goes to the team that did better than we supposed they'd do (why the honor goes to the guy who fills out the lineup card, I don't know), these are the easiest awards to give out. Gibson's D'backs really turned things around and took advantage of lackadaisical performances by the other four teams in the division. Maddon's Rays pulled off the greatest September upset in the history of game. As for the runners-up, I think Yost deserves praise for how well the Royals' young players have progressed under his watch. The same can be said for Don Mattingly, as Kemp and Kershaw may not have taken their big steps if they had been still playing for Joe Torre.

2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers and Ned Yost, Royals
3. Don Mattingly, Dodgers and Manny Acta, Indians

As for how the playoffs will go, my predictions follow as so:

Tigers over the Yankees in 5
Rays over the Rangers in 4

Rays over the Tigers in 6

Phillies over the Cardinals in 3
Brewers over the D'Backs in 5

Brewers over the Phillies in 7

Brewers over Rays in 6

That's right. I'm taking the all-in Brewers to go all the way.

As for the Dodgers' offseason plans, my three bold predictions are:
1. Andre Ethier will be traded to Boston
2. Hiroki Kuroda will retire
3. Colletti will not sign Fielder or Pujols

Happy Playoffs!

09 July 2011

Who Cares?

The Dodgers have won their last three games by shutouts, including today's doozy where they didn't have a hit until their potential 27th out (Juan Uribe) doubled to left. Naturally, Dioner Navarro, perhaps the only guy on the team worse than Uribe, singled him in and the Dodgers went from being no-hit to being winners in a matter of minutes.

But the big story today was the boycott and demonstration outside the stadium. While the amount of people waving signs on Elysian Park wasn't nearly as high as the planners had hoped, the camera shots of the stands during the FOX telecast were staggering enough. There were no more than 9,000 people in attendance. It looked like a Marlins home game.

I still watch the team (though I don't know why), but this whole process of Frankruptcy is just so taxing that I won't belabor the whole "Frank sucks" thing any more than I need.

I'm moving to DC on Aug 4, kicking off a cross-country road trip that will settle me into a new life in a new city. I won't stop being a Dodgers fan but I will be looking forward to visiting Nationals Park every once in a while to watch a team that has what my beloved Dodgers seem to be completely devoid of...

...a future.

20 June 2011

Suck it, Frank

@dylanohernandez: Bud Selig has rejected the #Dodgers' proposed TV deal with Fox.

Sure, things are only going to get uglier... but we're just one step closer to no more McCourt. June 30, here we come.

08 June 2011

Matt Kemp Pleads Fans to Return to Chavez Ravine

I know the whole McCourt backlash from the fans affects the players because there's less energy in the stadium, but I think it's only right for us to follow the advice of Dave Stewart, Kemp's agent...

VinScullyisMyHomeboy: Hey Dave, when is Matt Kemp signing that big contract?

Stewart: Soon as you get real owners.

Matt Kemp: Hey Dodger fans, when will you come back to the stadium?

Dodger Fans: Soon as you get real owners.

Plus, watching on TV has been nice lately. I still have no hope for the playoffs this season, but Kemp has been a monster at the plate.

30 May 2011

Why we're not going to get better

I was the first person to comment on Joe Block's new blog on MLBlogs. He basically argued that if the Dodgers lineups could match the production of teams like Pittsburgh and Houston the rest of the way, we could potentially compete in this division. His main point was that the Dodgers lineup is better than those teams. I commented and said something to the effect of "fat chance." He asked me to elaborate, so I did:

It all comes down to depth, and this is an organization that has failed to maintain a farm system that had always supplied the big team with a steady stream of good young ballplayers. Since the graduation of the team's current core to the bigs in 2006-07 (a group you were very familiar with in Jacksonville [Block was a commentator for the then AA-affiliate Jacksonville Suns while guys like Chad Bilingsley, Andy LaRoche, and James Loney were there), there hasn't been a single impact player to come out of the farm system. Now, while most of the players that we've brought up haven't met expectations or weren't all that great to begin with (Andrew Lambo, James McDonald, Blake DeWitt for instance), our general manager has failed to take advantage of their value (as young ballplayers with potential upside always have good value). Throwing away prospects for guys like Octavio Dotel and Scott Podsednik has killed us because we've thrown away our limited resources on scrubs rather than pooling them together and waiting for the big fish to become available.

Also, not offering salary arbitration to two guys we knew were not coming back (Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson) after the '09 season kept us from collecting two additional draft picks last year. This has been a facet of the club that has been grossly mismanaged.

When you don't have a strong farm system to lean on, you end up with a team forced to form their roster with guys like:

Aaron Miles
(career .319 OBP)
Jay Gibbons (career .314 OBP)
Dioner Navarro (career .309 OBP)
Tony Gwynn Jr (career .316 OBP)
Juan Castro (career .268 OBP)

This is your depth, with the exception of the great Jamey Carroll and the budding Jerry Sands, who needs to be playing every day.

Our regulars:

James Loney (atrocious, has hit worse with each year, not going to suddenly start producing, .284 OBP this season)

Casey Blake (37 yrs old, breaking down as he gets older, has produced in limited playing time this year, but you're always one muscle pull away from full playing time for Aaron Miles, also likely to regress this year as he's one year older than he was when he put up .248/.320/.407 line).

Juan Uribe (what a waste, .300 OBP, we're better off with him on the bench or DL, Carroll is also outslugging him this year .351 to .333)

Rod Barajas (career .283 OBP, so he's simply matching his career numbers with his senseless hacking at the plate this season)

Rafael Furcal (similar to Blake, brittle but can produce when healthy, which is something you just can't count on)

Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are the only reasons this team isn't competing with San Diego for last place. We don't have a LF but we should be playing Sands every day because it's only a matter of time until his hard hit balls fall in as his .270 BABIP this year is unsustainably low. His walk rate (something this team is missing badly) helps the entire club, and it looks like he's about at that point where the adjustments he's making against the league are working in his favor. A Sands/Kemp/Ethier outfield should be in the lineup card every day.

So, where we stand now, this team is actually batting in line with what was expected of them this year. Most of the players are either in line with their career numbers (Navarro, Barajas, Uribe, Gwynn, Miles, Ethier, Carroll, etc.), on the up as was predicted (Kemp), or on the down as was predicted (Loney).

This team's woes with the bases loaded and runners in scoring position are not that much worse than we should have expected, what with this team's glaring lack of OBP. They make way too many outs. You can't score if most of the guys on the team have a 70% chance of allowing the other team to get one step closer to getting out of the jam.

This team was only going to go as far as its depth allowed it. So far, I've been impressed with three of the team's reserves... Sands, Carroll, and AJ Ellis, who is at the very least the 2nd best catcher in the organization but is wasting away in ABQ while Navarro makes outs up in the bigs.

Whenever I listen to DodgerTalk, you (Joe) and Josh Suchon always ask callers who demand that the Dodgers spend more or make trades for marquee players "who would you get?" Most of the time they have no answer because, quite frankly, there is no answer. But the woes of this team don't necessarily come from not getting that perfect Free Agent or making that smart trade. The Dodgers' woes stem from spending the least amount of money in the draft in recent years (up until the shocking signing of Zach Lee), failing to produce major leaguers through the farm system, and spending less money on scouting and player development. Low income teams like the Rays have competed because of the strength of their farm systems. The thing that has allowed high payroll teams like the Yanks, BoSox, and Phils to keep competing while other high payroll teams like the Cubs, Mets, and Mariners have floundered is, (surprise!) the strength of their farm systems, allowing them to plug up holes and injuries with good ballplayers, while also dealing youngsters (while utilizing their value as youngsters) to fill needs on the major league level.

So there, those are my facts with a sprinkle of opinion. This team has been mismanaged in multiple ways in the past few years, but the holes in the farm system have forced us to latch on to players who have a proven track record of not being very good.

And you can't win if you don't have good players.

15 May 2011

The Curse of the Piazza, 13 years later

Well, it's May 15 again...

The ides of May is to Dodgers fans what the ides of March was to Julius Caesar. Both involve being stabbed in the back by those you once trusted. But while ol' Jules was benevolently granted death upon his betrayal, we Dodgers fans have had to put up with thirteen years of miserable life, post-Piazza.

Thirteen years ago today, the Curse of the Piazza began.

While it's true the Dodgers hadn't even sniffed the World Series for the ten years leading up to FOX's ill-advised trade of the greatest hitting catcher who ever lived, the thirteen years since have only brought forth exponentially more agnoy. I am convinced that all the awful things that have happened to us in the past baker's dozen years-- the McCourt ownership, Andruw Jones, and the disappearance of Cool-A-Coos -- can be attributed to the fact that we traded away Mike Piazza for Gary Sheffield and a bunch of bums.

Mike Piazza was Herculean to me. I was 9 when I came home from school on May 15, 1998 to hear that my hero had been dealt to the Florida Marlins. That moment, where the tears began to materialize in my eyes and my raspy, high-pitched voice begged for it all to be some sort of elaborate hoax or lie or practical joke (there was no such thing as being Punk'd back then but, dear God, I wished I was being Punk'd)... that was the point where I became a cynical, miserable Dodgers fan.

Ever since then I've put up with clowns like Carlos Perez, whiners like Odalis Perez, and the certifiably insane Milton Bradley.

I've put up with overpaid underperformers such as Darren Dreifort, Jason Schmidt, and Kevin Brown (who got the big contract we should have given to Piazza).

I've put up with seeing guys like Ricky Ledee, Jason Phillips, and Aaron Miles get legitimate starting time.

And I've put up with the continuing growing pains of Matt Kemp, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, and Jonathan Broxton.

And through all that I've seen the Dodgers (mostly Broxton) choke twice in the NLCS against Philadelphia, only to then collapse under the weight of the McCourts' misersly stewardship and settle into a status quo of mediocrity.

Though it may not have any semblance of logic behind it, I will continue to stick behind my theory that if the Dodgers had only made a long-term commitment to the greatest hitting catcher of all time, a guy who had the potential to leave guys like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Steve Garvey in the dust as he claimed the title of the Greatest LA Dodger ever, things would be much, much, much better and we wouldn't have a starting infield of Loney, Miles, Carroll, Castro.

But alas, Juan Castro is in today's lineup and Mike Piazza is on his way to being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a New York Met.

13 May 2011

I fancy cities with acronyms...

Well, I know when the first day of the rest of my life will be. It'll come in mid-August when my dad and I drive cross-country from L.A. to D.C., where I've been accepted to a 3-yr Playwriting MFA program and fellowship at Catholic University of America. It's full tuition, which makes my folks happy, and looks to be a great opportunity for me to work on my craft plus get involved in a thriving community of artists, which makes me happy.

It's a nice relief to have the stress of uncertainty off my back. And I think it'll be a unique and fun adventure for me. I'll get to explore the east coast in my down time, experience a presidential election in the nation's capitol, and have enough time to actually see everything at the Smithsonian (I'm guessing about 4 months). I'll also get to see some baseball in the east. When asked by my uncle whether I'd become a Nats or Orioles fan, I answered "Dodgers fan, stupid question."

Speaking of the boys in blue, they weren't content with being as bad as they were so they decided to get worse and brought up Juan Castro (one of the worst players in baseball in his fifth stint as a Dodger), optioning the never-played Ivan De Jesus Jr. to the minors. An infield of James Loney, Aaron Miles, Juan Castro, and Russ Mitchell would quite possibly be the single worst foursome since Ginger left the Spice Girls.

The team split their last roadtrip against the Mets and Pirates, teams a contender should beat. The Dodgers aren't contenders though, so they didn't beat them. Meanwhile, there is still word in the air that Frank McCourt won't be able to make his payroll at the end of the month. June 1 will be a fascinating day for Dodgers fans. The end of McCourt's reign of terror may be nigh.

We can only hope the next owner can give us better than Juan Castro.

--update-- If DodgerTalk host Joe Block is to be believed, Castro hurt himself before word of the call-up reached him in ABQ. We'll see how this plays out... You never want to root for an injury, but perhaps the baseball gods are trying to say something here.

03 May 2011

If I may be so frank, he's a moron

Frank McCourt will be on AM 710 today at 3pm (about 45 minutes from now), taking calls on the Mason and Ireland show. Lock and load, Los Angeles.

30 April 2011

Summer Reading List

Here's my list of things I've read this year. Included are two titles I split between 2010 and 2011.

The Boy of Summer by Roger Kahn
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
Play it as it Lies by Joan Didion
Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger Jr.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Female Marine by "Lucy Brewer" (Nathaniel Hill Wright)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Holy Land by D.J. Waldie
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboksy
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Heroic Slave by Frederick Douglass
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin
McTeague by Frank Norris
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My goal at the beginning of the year was to read 30 books. I've upped that to 56, a book a week.

Here's what I plan on reading this summer (and beyond). I include books I've already started:

The Natural by Bernard Malamud
Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella
A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright
The Oxygen Man by Steve Yarbrough
The Good Brother by Chris Offutt
Ned Kelly by Robert Drewe
Winter Journey by Isabel Colegate
The Visitor by Maeve Brennan
Germania by Brendan McNally
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (re-read)
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (re-read)
The Sun of Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Candide by Voltaire
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer
The Secret Life of Cyndy Garvey by Cynthia Garvey

29 April 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sorry for the lack of posts. I graduate college in 9 days and prepping for that has taken up most of my time. I've managed to catch enough Dodgers to hold me over. I can't tell you how excited I am now that Frank is out making a fool of himself and digging himself deeper into his own grave.

The two Kemp walk-offs last week were a lot of fun too. I was at the Sunday game where Bills pitched a gem only to have Broxton blow it and then Andre and the Bison bail him out.

Up until the series against the Cubs, the Dodgers had only played teams that had won 85 or more games in 2010. Considering the fact that no one expected this team to be anything special, the sparks we've seen against a very tough slew of opponents have been a pleasant surprise. If they can continue to compete against the Giants and Rockies, we may very well have ourselves a pennant race. The Dodgers haven't even played the D'Backs, the NL West punching bag. I'm a cynic and I like some of our chances.

Jerry Sands has had some tough breaks but his power and plate discipline will hopefully keep him on the club long enough for everything else to even out. I'm hoping he'll be playing first base against lefties while Lame James Loney collects splinters. Hopefully Uribe's groin is nice and rested (and he hasn't gained 50 pounds since the last time he played) and he can make an appearance this series.

The loss of Casey Blake is tough, especially since he was hot when he went down. This is an opportunity for Russ Mitchell to show what he can do. Let's hope its better than his September 2010 debutant ball. Any sort of kick would be nice. The offense came alive at Wrigley this week but I'm still not convinced that anyone not named Andre or Matt is dependable. Those two are on fire and even though Kemp has slowed down, they're the entire reason we're not in the National League cellar.

Finally, I'm impressed with Mattingly. A few weeks ago when Kershaw was on the cusp of shutting down the Braves for a complete game, he went out and could have brought in Broxton. Instead, he stuck with the kid and, even though the gamble didn't work out, it was the right move and showed Donnie Baseball has manager balls. I was sold there.

20 April 2011

Just a quick note

I've spent hours celebrating today's news.

April 20, often associated with some shifty things throughout history, shall now be known primarily (to me, at least) as Dodger Fan Independence Day.


18 April 2011

Showtime for Sands

Big surprise that the Dodgers called up Jerry Sands today. He'll be batting 7th and playing left field.

He's already the third or fourth best hitter in our lineup.

Sands will wear #47 and hit 7 homers tonight.

11 April 2011

Our Offense is Offensive

I don't quite know how but the Dodgers have a winning record heading into San Francisco tonight for the first of three games against the defending chumps.

A few players are hitting the cover off the ball:
Matt Kemp: .438/.514/.656
Andre Ethier:.353/.436/.441
Tony Gwynn Jr. (!): .350/.381/.450
Jamey Carroll: .348/.423/.478
Xavier Paul and Casey Blake are also hitting above .350, albeit in very small sample sizes. But after that comes a HUGE drop off:
Juan Uribe: .111/.172/.148
Aaron Miles: .143/.200/.143
James Loney: .143/.184/.257
Rod Barajas: .222/.250/.333
That's pitiful.

Uribe, our big free agent signing, is the worst hitting position player on the team. Miles doesn't even belong on this team. Barajas' stats are ugly but are actually not very far from his career norms (scary). Not mentioned are Marcus Thames (.182) and Rafael Furcal (.208), also starting slow this season.

And Loney... well, don't get me started on Loney, whom, during what are supposed to be his peak years, has plummeted from being a below-average first-baseman to a straight up bad baseball player.

I knew the offense was going to be bad but this is just heinous. The sterling starts of Kemp, Ethier, and especially Gwynn have been a real pleasure and godsend for the Dodgers, but the rest of the bats are really bringing this team down. The Dodgers are 11th out of 16 in AVG and OBP, 13th in walks 14th in slugging, and tied for last in doubles and home runs.

The way they're hitting, there's no way Donnie Baseball's team can keep their heads above .500 for much longer.

31 March 2011

It's a beautiful day for a ballgame...

Today's Forecast:
85 Degrees F
100% chance of baseball

Happy (real) First Day of Spring!

Furcal 6,
Gwynn, Jr. 7,
Ethier 9,
Kemp 8,
Loney 3,
Uribe 5,
Barajas 2,
Carroll 4,
Kershaw 1.

That's an ugly lineup. I'd switch Carroll and Gwynn but that's not going to do much to cover up the ugly lack of talent.

28 March 2011

Say Hello to your 25-Man

Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness has the scoop:

Hitters (14)
C Rod Barajas R/R
C Hector Gimenez S/R
1B James Loney L/L
2B Ivan DeJesus, Jr. R/R
SS Rafael Furcal S/R
3B Juan Uribe R/R
IF Jamey Carroll R/R
IF Aaron Miles S/R
LF/OF Tony Gwynn, Jr L/R
LF/1B Jay Gibbons L/L
LF/PH Marcus Thames R/R
LF/OF Xavier Paul L/L
CF Matt Kemp R/R
RF Andre Ethier L/L

Pitchers (11)
SP Clayton Kershaw L
SP Chad Billingsley R
SP Ted Lilly L
SP Hiroki Kuroda R
CL Jonathan Broxton R
RP Hong-Chih Kuo L
RP Kenley Jansen R
RP Matt Guerrier R
RP Blake Hawksworth R
RP Mike MacDougal R
RP Lance Cormier R

Disabled List (4)
SP Jon Garland R
RP Vicente Padilla R
C Dioner Navarro S/R
3B Casey Blake R/R

My predictions never took account the fact that we would inevitably have disabled guys going into Opening Day, but I'm still rather proud of my Ivan DeJesus Jr. pick. Hopefully his glove and on-base skill keeps him on the roster.

There are also the big surprises we see every season. MacDougal, Cormier, Miles, and Gimenez weren't on anyone's radar 2 or 3 months ago. How long they'll last is anyone's guess.

Also, the team goes into the season not needing the 5th starter role (which looks like it might be Tim Redding's because the Dodgers are stupid), so they're carrying 6 OF's. It will only be a week or so before we see this roster churn a bit. Paul and Gimenez are out of options, which makes their presence on the 25-man essential for the Dodgers' hopes of keeping them around.

Gimenez' versatility seemingly vanishes if he is relegated to back-up catcher, usually the last guy out of the dugout. It will be interesting to see how Mattingly works the playing time between the two. It should be noted that the Gimenez/Ellis battle appears to be the only one really still alive, but Ellis (like lefty reliever Scott Elbert) has options and can be sent down. Keeping Cormier, Gimenez, and company is all about depth.

20 March 2011

New Link

Check out Blue Heaven for another cool blog. They've got an interview with the author of a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba. Very cool. Thanks to KidCuba for the tip.

16 March 2011

Donnie Baseball Acting Dumb

From The Times:

Batting matters

The Dodgers have the worst hitting team in the big leagues so far this spring, but Mattingly — formerly the team's batting coach — says he is not concerned.

"Not really. Not at all, actually," he said. "It just doesn't matter."

The Dodgers entered play Tuesday with a team batting average of .239, but once the regular season opens, "nobody remembers that this guy hit .450 in the spring or he hit .120," said Mattingly, who had 2,153 hits in his 14-year career with the New York Yankees.

"I saw [Gary] Sheffield go a whole camp without hardly getting a hit and he gets three hits the first day" of the regular season, Mattingly added. "Jesse Barfield, the same thing."

Mattingly also noted that until the Dodgers went flat in the latter half of 2010, "we were a pretty good offensive club" and one that still has "pretty much the same guys."

"I have no reason to think this isn't the same offense that we had two years ago or up until the [All-Star] break last year," he said.

Mattingly said the Dodgers' hitting woes wouldn't have come up much when he was playing (1982-95), but with advances in technology and real-time statistics always available, that has changed.

"Seriously, you did not ever see a stat sheet in spring training" in the past, Mattingly said. "Nobody ever really worried about it. It was just about getting ready."

Says the guy who never won a playoff Series. Mattingly ignores the fact that "advances in technology and real-time statistics" have actually helped teams improve their hitting. It's not just about "getting ready" anymore, especially when all the guys who are supposed to be getting ready are landing on the DL before the season even starts.

In addition, that whole entire thing about this team being very similar to the ones that went to the NLCS two straight years is silly because those teams had OBP and Manny. Spring stats may be bunk, but it's definitely much better to have something nice and bunk to look at than something awful and bunk.

So only weeks after praising Mattingly for being the anti-Torre, I'm quickly leaning toward "this guy is just as dumb."

09 March 2011

Well, so much for pitching depth (plus picture day)

Why does John Ely look so smug? Well, it's probably because he may have just slipped from 7th starter to the Opening Day roster.

Projected #5 starter Jon Garland strained his oblique today. Couple that with Vicente Padilla's injury and it looks like that glorious pitching depth we were all so happy about is getting shallower and shallower by the moment. I hate to admit it, but Ned Colletti did well to amass as many arms as he could this offseason.

There's no guarantee that Ely will fill Garland's spot with Tim Redding getting lots of work in camp. Even though Joe Torre's gone, I can't imagine the team will suddenly stop making the moronic decision of putting washed up old guys on the team over talented youngsters. So far this spring, the two dueling arms -- Ely and Redding -- have both pitched well but there's still plenty of Spring Training left for all that to change. The hotter hand will likely get the call.

The other, more likely option is that the team will break camp with only four starters. The Dodgers won't need a 5th starter until April 10, meaning that they could carry another outfielder (like the out of options Xavier Paul) for a week and a half before bringing up Ely to make his start. I forget where I read it today (either TrueBlueLA or Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness - check the sidebar to the right for links), but the Dodgers traded the out of options Delwyn Young to the Pirates one day before Doug Mientkiewicz landed on the 60-day DL. You never know what'll happen.

So if I were a betting man, I'd say that Paul would enter the season with one last chance to stay with the team (his best bet would be an injury to a regular player so Tony Gwynn Jr. better watch his back). After ten days Ely would get the call.


In other news, check out how goofy some of the Dodgers Photo Day pics came out. Some of my personal faves:

Eugenio Velez looking like a cartoon character

A.J. Ellis scowling at Ned for signing Dioner Navarro to a major league deal.

Hector Gimenez looking like an enforcer for a drug cartel.

Marcus Thames can't shave symmetrically.

Russ Mitchell looking absolutely disgusting.

Dee Gordon looking like he belongs in a 3rd grade yearbook.

This guy, who's been erroneously (and hilariously) labeled "Vicente Padilla"
EDIT - turns out it's Dana Eveland, also known as the first cut of spring.

James Loney trying to look like a cool kid (a lot of the starters took photos with backward caps - none of them look good).

Ramon Troncoso looking like Raven Symmone

Juan Uribe looking more like a great-grandfather than a starting second baseman.

Don Mattingly sending Clayton Kershaw to his room without dinner

Davey Lopes has more wrinkles than an elephant's trunk

2011 Preview - The Bullpen

I've finally reached the end of the preview.

It's a good thing I waited two weeks to post this because it seems like our bullpen arms are disappearing faster than Middle Eastern dictators.

A few weeks ago I would have told you that Vicente Padilla, Ronald Belisario, and Scott Elbert were all slated to shore up what was to be a solid pen. Now Padilla is out at least a month after undergoing surgery to free up a constrained tendon, Belisario has used up all his second chances and will likely never pitch for the Dodgers again after failing to report to camp on time for a third straight year, and Elbert has pitched (if you can call it that) himself back to the minors with his inability to throw strikes (6 BBs in 1.1 innings).

That means previously questionable guys like Blake Hawksworth and Ramon Troncoso are all but guaranteed spots in the pen, while the legion of non-roster invitees have another to fight over before the end of March. While that may pose a problem considering the assortment of spring training stiffs the Dodgers have recently let on the team, the 2011 bullpen will without a doubt be more tolerable to watch for no other reason than the fact that George Sherrill is 2,500 miles away.

First, let's hit the bullpen staples.

Jonathan Broxton
Love him or hate him (after last season, it's likely the latter), Don Mattingly has pegged Big Jon as his closer, though you can be sure he'll be on one of these from the get-go. You don't need the numbers to know that Broxton had an ugly 2010 so I won't even bother throwing them here, but I will say that sitting in the stands with my uncle for 40 minutes watching Broxton cough up a 4-run lead to the Yankees last summer was the worst baseball experience I ever had to endure. That night was unforgivable, though I place most of the blame on this clown for falling asleep at the wheel (side note - has there ever been an uglier human being than Joe Torre?) Broxton was never the same in 2010 after that dismal night against the Yanks when he was left out to rot on the mound, making a total of 48 pitches even though it was evident after 8 that he had nothing. I don't really know what to expect from Broxton in 2011. He could either rebound like Chad Billingsley did last season or continue to struggle like most Dodgers seem to do. His loss of velocity late in the season is scary, but a long offseason full of rest likely did the big Tennessean some good. Either way, Broxton has the propensity to choke in big situations (in the Dodgers Dictionary it's called "Niedenfuering")and there's only so long the Dodgers faithful will allow him to get away with it. Dodgers fans simply don't trust Jonathan Broxton.

Hong-Chih Kuo
It's hard to believe that Kuo and Broxton are the longest tenured guys on the team. The only other guy on the active roster who played for the team in 2005 is Dioner Navarro, who found himself in Tampa Bay midway through 2006. Kuo is coming off one of the best seasons any Dodgers pitcher has ever had, striking out 73 in 60 innings and keeping left-handers hitless until after the All-Star Break. When Broxton lost the closer job late in the season, Kuo picked it up and ran with it, earning 12 saves on the year to go along with his 1.20 ERA. Perhaps the true ace in the bullpen, Kuo is the guy you can expect to see pitching those tough 8th innings and coming in to shut down guys like Aubrey Huff and Carlos Gonzalez (no more Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego). The only thing keeping Kuo from being the Superman of the staff is his injury history and the tender care taken by his coaches not to stress an electric arm that has already sustained 4 surgeries (including two Tommy Johns). This is why Torre refused to use him on back-to-back days, electing instead for 2-inning appearances when he really needed Kuo's help. I expect Mattingly to follow suit to make sure Kuofax doesn't end up like Koufax -- forced to hang 'em up before his time is up.

Matt Guerrier
The new guy on the staff is actually quite the mystery to me. I pride myself on being a huge nerd about baseball and a fountain of information on players and teams. So for me to respond to the news of Guerrier's signing with, "um, excuse me, who?" tells you a lot. Turns out the 32 year-old Guerrier has been Ol' Reliable out of the Twins bullpen the past several years. While he does have a solid track record (though not as many K's as one would like), the biggest red flag has to be the fact that Guerrier has pitched at least 73 games in each of the past four years. Considering that relievers this day and age have the same lifespan of fruit flies and are a dime a dozen, it is never, never, never, never, never advisable to make a long term commitment to a setup man. I was hugely pissed when I saw we had signed Guerrier for three years, shoring up our miniscule 6th-inning hole in the bullpen, while the gaping wound in left-field was left to hemorrhage. But Guerrier should be a solid bridge guy to get the ball to Kuo and Broxton assuming his arm doesn't fall off. But since we can only hope that Mattingly won't be the Angel of Death that Torre was to middle relievers' arms, it's not unreasonable to envision a situation in 2013 where Guerrier will be collecting a paycheck to sit on a hammock somewhere watching the Dodgers on TV like the rest of us.

Kenley Jansen
It's rather pleasant that in a bullpen stocked with the electric Kuo and enigmatic Broxton it's this young man from Curacao who could be the most exciting arm to watch in 2011. A couple years ago Jansen was a weak-hitting catcher who could fire the ball to second base. Less than a year after his conversion to the pitcher's mound, Jansen struck out 41 major leaguers during a 27 inning stint with the big club. He's already been pegged with the future closer tag and with this being a make-or-break year for Jonathan Broxton, Jansen has a huge opportunity to make big things happen in his rookie season. We'll likely find out before the end of April whether those 27 innings were indeed a legitimate foretelling of Jansen's lasting skill coming out of the bullpen or if major league hitters just needed a little bit of time to find his holes (much like what happened to John Ely last year). Only time will tell with Jansen, but his progress and development should be very interesting to follow in 2011. Expect to see Donnie Baseball challenge him with work in the 8th inning and beyond when needed.

Ramon Troncoso
It's easy to forget that Troncoso and Belisario were the big workhorses of that outstanding 2009 bullpen. Like other victims of Torre's bullpen obsessions, both pitchers' overuse led to struggles in 2010. Troncoso couldn't pitch consistently enough to keep his spot on the big league roster and saw a lot of time in Albuquerque. So far he has been nearly perfect this spring and looks to be a fix for the Opening Day roster thanks to the troubles of Padilla, Belisario, and Elbert. It would be a pleasant surprise to see Troncoso get back to his 2009 form, but any sort of decent consistency in the 6th-inning role would be welcomed. No longer seen as a marquee set-up man, Troncoso merely needs to put in good innings to prove his worth.

Blake Hawksworth
No longer the "oh wow, we managed to get something in return for dumping that piece of crap" guy in camp, the injury to Vicente Padilla affects Hawksworth more than any other Dodger because he is the only other guy on the staff who fits the bill of potential long reliever. Part of the allure of signing Padilla as the sixth starter was that Mattingly would have a nice power arm in the pen who could pitch for multiple innings at a time and make an emergency start here and there. Hawksworth was lights out in the pen for St. Louis two years ago and only really struggled after the Cardinals tried to make him a starter. Now he's Rick Honeycutt's project and almost assured a spot on the starting roster, ready to mop up after one of our starters gets chased in the early innings (too bad for him that Charlie Haeger isn't around anymore). What will determine what happens to Hawksworth when Padilla returns is how he pitches during the first month. If he struggles he'll likely find himself in an Isotopes jersey as soon as Vicente is ready to start his season. If he prospers, his usefulness will keep him around.

The final spot in the pen is up for grabs and a ton of hands are reaching for it. Ned Colletti handed out minor league contracts like they were going out of style this offseason. I'm usually the last guy to pay a compliment to the man who has bumbled and blundered his way through his first five seasons as general manager, but he made sure he was more than prepared for any problems this pitching staff could have encountered this spring.

Colletti also has a number of young arms in camp trying to get over the hill and stabilize themselves in the major leagues. If 2011 is anything like the past few seasons, the team will move into the season with the hottest hand even though Spring Training stats are almost completely worthless.

Here's the list of guys gunning to be #25 out of 25.

Travis Schlichting - Pitched well in his few stints last season, sporting an amazing mullet, been roughed up so far this spring. Probably going to start in AAA but I think 2011 will be the year he sticks in the pen for us.

Scott Elbert - As was mentioned earlier, the LOOGY role was his to lose and he's done his best to lose it. Dodgers don't need to give him a spot on the active roster until he can prove he deserves it. First step is to find the plate.

Roman Colón - While he gets bonus points for riling up that walrus on the Brewers, the ex-Royal seems to have an uphill battle. He still has a 0.00 ERA after 4 appearances this spring but he's allowed 7 base runners so far, including five walks.

Lance Cormier - Part of some of those great Rays bullpens of recent years, his walks have always been his undoing. He's yet to walk anyone this spring, but the same goes for his strikeouts (not his hits though - he's allowed 6 of those in only 3 innings).

Wilkin De La Rosa - The former Yankee farmhand is probably a longshot to make the staff. Like most of these candidates, he's walked too many, struck out too few, and has little in the form of reputation to get him by.

Jon Huber - The 29 year-old has been the victim of poor Spring Trainings in the past preventing him from securing spots in the bigs. Decent in 28 major league innings, doing well so far this spring.

Mike MacDougal - One of the posterboys for those who hate that every team gets an All-Star rep, MacDougal was an All-Star with the Royals eight years ago. Typical criticism is that he doesn't strike out enough guys. His closer experience is rather meaningless but it definitely affects the way people perceive him. Tony Jackson of ESPNLA thinks MacDougal is a favorite to make the team. He's pitched well in three innings this spring.

Ron Mahay - Another favorite, the lefty served alongside Guerrier in the Twins bullpen the past couple years. With Elbert out of the LOOGY race and Kuo (the only LHP slated for the pen) set to be the 8th inning guy, Mahay could have taken a big league in this little competition if not for the fact that he's already given up two homers to left-handed hitters this spring.

Juan Rincon - The long-time Twin hasn't had a full season in the majors with an ERA below 5.00 since 2005. I don't think he's a priority for the team. Pass.

Luis Vasquez - A 24-year old on the 40-man roster who has never pitched above A-ball, he's been shellacked so far this spring.

Jon Link - Link came over with Ely from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade. He's looked good in sporadic big league stints but, like most of the guys fighting for spots, has had a rough spring so far. He's heading to Albuquerque. It should be noted that he also has the ability to start.

Oscar Villareal - Not happening.

Tim Redding - A veteran journeyman starter who has been featured quite a bit so far this spring, he's another longshot and it seems like his only hope of making the team is if one of the starters goes down. It's not beyond reason that if he continues to pitch all right he might swipe the bullpen spot from the flailing others.

Where we stand now, the final bullpen spot is wide open. Depending on Padilla's ETA, it could be that the guy who eventually gets it will have his days numbered unless he pitches like Bob Gibson. For now, since this is really just a guessing game, I'll get behind Tony Jackson and pick MacDougal, though Huber, Mahay, or even Redding could potentially make it in. If I were to bank on which of these guys was going to have the biggest effect on the 2011 Dodgers as a whole though, I'd have to go with either Schlichting and Link.

Broxton - Closer
Kuo - 8th Inning
Guerrier - 6th and 7th
Jansen - 6th and 7th, 8th on Kuo's off days
Troncoso - 6th and 7th
Hawksworth - early-middle and long relief
MacDougal - mop up duty


C - Rod Barajas
1b - James Loney
2b - Juan Uribe
3b - Casey Blake
SS - Rafael Furcal
LF - Jay Gibbons
CF - Matt Kemp
RF - Andre Ethier

C - Dioner Navarro
OF - Tony Gwynn Jr.
OF - Marcus Thames
IF - Ivan De Jesus
UT - Jamey Carroll

SP - Clayton Kershaw
SP - Chad Billingsley
SP - Hiroki Kuroda
SP - Ted Lilly
SP - Jon Garland

RP - Jonathan Broxton
RP - Hong-Chih Kuo
RP - Matt Guerrier
RP - Kenley Jansen
RP - Ramon Troncoso
RP - Blake Hawksworth
RP - Mike MacDougal

So there's my predicted 25-man roster. Here on March 9, I still stand by all my guesses even though Aaron Miles, a late sign, looks to be building steam to take that final spot on the bench. I think the Dodgers were rooting for the versatile Russ Mitchell to earn a spot but he's only mustered two singles and a walk in sixteen plate appearances. Justin Sellers has been given a number of chances as well, but he hasn't impressed at the plate nor in the field. My sleeper prediction, Ivan DeJesus Jr., is hitting a cool .313 and playing solid defense. Juan Castro, gunning for a fourth Dodgers stint, has a homer and a double.

But like I said, spring stats mean nothing, though Jerry Sands hitting .462 has been nice to see.