Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and you can smell the start of baseball season in the air. Or it may be that rendering plant next to my house. I can’t tell.
Stan Kasten says some strange things
The Dodgers had their annual FanFest over the weekend. FanFest is a really great event that gets fans pumped up for the new season and allows them to get close to and even meet their favorite players. In general, it’s an excellent source of goodwill between the team and the fans.
Some of those fans are the same ones who have been complaining to me and to other fans that they are frustrated the Dodgers have not gone over the luxury tax threshold to sign a player such as Bryce Harper. In their view, the hit the Dodgers will take in surpassing the threshold (According to MLB.com, a club exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time must pay a 20% tax on all overages) is worth the cost of adding a superstar to the team, especially following the loss of Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Yasmani Grandal from last season.
Some fans are fine with how things are, but there is a segment of the fan base that has that frustration. The frustration is that they believe team officials are not going all out to win and are more worried about payroll.
Team President Stan Kasten was at FanFest, and he apparently thinks those fans don’t exist.
When Times columnist Dylan Hernandez brought up that some fans believe the team needs to do more than has been done this offseason, Kasten said, “You keep making this stuff up.”
I’m going to quote directly from Dylan’s column now:
The Dodgers kept their payroll under the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million last year, which would prevent them from being taxed at a higher rate for repeat offenders if they spent more than the limit of $206 million this year. So, if they would be penalized as a first-time offender this year and have plenty of money coming off the books next year, why haven’t they spent more this offseason? Is this a warning of what is to come in future seasons?
“That’s also such a weird narrative,” Kasten said. “If we can do whatever we do and stay under [the luxury-tax threshold], there are a lot of advantages to being under — by the way, a lot more advantages than you all write about.”
“I’m not going to go into that because that’s real inside baseball economic stuff,” Kasten said.
OK, that ends the except from Dylan.
That is a weird narrative Kasten wants out there. When I read it, reacting as a Dodger fan, my first thought was “Kasten thinks Dodger fans are too dumb to understand what benefits the team gets.” Plus, he totally dismissed the fans out there that don’t understand why they don’t spend more by saying that it’s something the media have made up. I guess the people who email me are figments of my imagination.
There’s no getting around the fact that Kasten totally blew off a segment of the team’s fan base. When told that, he reacted by saying:
“You’re inventing a narrative that I don’t agree with because, like I said, I can almost tell you for sure, we’re going to lead the National League in attendance again. You’re inventing a different universe that is not borne out by reality, by facts.”
So, as long as you are spending the money, you can't possibly be frustrated or question anything, and you don’t need to know anything.
Here was a chance for the president of the team to really respond and let fans know what the Dodgers are thinking. A chance to say, “We know some fans are frustrated, but here’s why we want to stay under the tax.”
Maybe he was just frustrated with Dylan and got angry and he stopped thinking clearly. But it’s part of the team president’s job to think clearly and not let his emotions get the best of him. He could have said, “I don’t like this line of questioning. I don’t have time at FanFest to go into all the details of why this is beneficial for us. Call me tomorrow and we can go over all the reasons, so the fans know what is going on.”
Or, “I understand some fans are unhappy, but there are certain financial reasons I can’t go into at the moment.”
Or, “I understand some fans are unhappy, but we made the World Series the last two seasons, so we ask those fans to trust that we know what we are doing.”
Instead we get: “Those fans don’t exist. We can tell because we have such high attendance.” Kasten handled it in the worst manner possible.
I’m not sure what one has to do with the other. Because I can be frustrated with the team and still want to go to the games and support the team. I get mad at my daughters sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love and support them. And many people consider the Dodgers part of the family.
Unfortunately, a prominent Dodger doesn’t consider some of you to be part of their family.
So, here's the thing, the Dodgers have a public number on their website to reach their administrative offices. It is 866-DODGERS, Ext. 9. If you would like to be told how staying under the balance tax helps the team, go ahead and call. There's none of you out there, so I'm sure no one will call, right?
Jansen on the mend
As most of you know, Kenley Jansen had an ablation procedure earlier this offseason to address his atrial fibrillation issues. The procedure was declared a success. What is ablation, you may ask? Well, according to the Mayo Clinic website, “Cardiac ablation works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart that triggers or sustains an abnormal heart rhythm. In some cases, cardiac ablation prevents abnormal electrical signals from entering your heart and, thus, stops the arrhythmia.
“Cardiac ablation usually uses long, flexible tubes (catheters) inserted through a vein or artery in your groin and threaded to your heart to deliver energy in the form of heat or extreme cold to modify the tissues in your heart that cause an arrhythmia.”
Gee, doesn’t that sound pleasant?
But the ablation is not the only step Jansen has taken this offseason to keep his heart healthy. He has also eliminated as much sugar and carbs from his diet as possible, and as a result has lost 25 pounds.
Jansen says his doctor told him his heart will never be 100% — 95% is the ceiling.
“You see how your body feels and all [that] good stuff that when you put it in your body, it’s not good for my heart,” he said. “So let’s worry about health first. I want to take care of my heart. I don’t want to do another surgery, man, on that heart. So I got to take care of myself.”
Jansen was also unhappy with the season he had last year and plans to throw earlier and more often in spring training this season.
You have to wonder if his weight loss will impact his delivery or velocity, but it is far more important that he lives a long and healthy life. If he gets off to a slow start in spring training, cut him some slack and give him time to adjust to what will probably be an entire new feel for him when he is out on the mound. As long as his cutter moves like it used to, he will remain the great closer he has been.
A.J. Pollock is officially signed. But first, let’s get to something Andrew Friedman said at Pollock’s introductory news conference. He said that inconsistency was why the Dodgers underachieved during the regular season.
“The consistency is something we’re going to harp on a lot,” Friedman said. “And being able to have our talent come out on a nightly basis way more often, I think is something that is important. So, balancing out a little more the versus-right, versus-left was important for that.”
Which seems to indicate the Dodgers will have a more set lineup against righties and a more set lineup against lefties, which seems like a good thing. Pollock is going to play center every day, barring unforeseen circumstances, which will help because he is an upgrade defensively over anyone who played center for the Dodgers last season.
But why did Pollock choose L.A.?
“Me and [his wife] Kate absolutely love it out here. It’s a beautiful place. The weather’s amazing. … We feel really grateful and blessed to be here. That’s kind of where our heads at. I didn’t think too much more beyond us, and what’s best for us and the fit.”
If Pollock remains healthy, he will be a good pickup for the Dodgers, though it is odd to hear Dave Roberts say that the Dodgers needed to acquire right-handed hitting after the team traded away right-handed hitters. But don’t ask Kasten about it, because fans who question things don’t exist, remember?
40-man roster poll
The poll for the right-handed starters who you will pick to join the Dodgers’ all-time 40-man roster will be delayed a week because there are about 25 of them to choose from, and I need more time to write the short bios. My apologies to all of you for that. In the meantime, here are the results for the five best left-handed starters after receiving 15,946 ballots:
1. Sandy Koufax (named on 100% of ballots)
2. Clayton Kershaw (99.9%)
3. Fernando Valenzuela (96%)
4. Johnny Podres (59.6%)
5. Tommy John (41.3%)
6. Claude Osteen (36.1%)
7. Preacher Roe (30.2%)
8. Jerry Reuss (15.3%)
9. Nap Rucker (9.9%)
10. Doug Rau (1.5%)
11. Watty Clark (0.8%)
The 40-man roster so far:
Pee Wee Reese
Feb. 5: Right-handed starters
Feb. 12: Relief pitchers
Feb. 19: Who do you cut?
Feb. 26: Managers
You can watch all of Game 6 of the 1952 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees if you click here.