Perhaps the Dodgers were sending some sort of message by deciding to hold their annual “Blogger Night” on Friday, the 13th. Although that date is associated with ominous events, the evening’s festivities created nothing but terrific memories.
This marked the fifth year in a row the Dodgers sent out invites to all of us in the “blog-o-sphere” who attempt to rant and rave about the team. They roll out the blue carpet and treat about 30 of us to a stadium suite filled with plenty of food, a wonderful view of the game, and a group of special guests from the highest echelons of the organization. It is a chance for all of us to act like a TMZ reporter and ask some straight questions and, hopefully, get some answers straight from mouths of those running a $2 billion franchise. Last year at this time owner Frank McCourt’s shenanigans soured the mood a bit. This year, the mood was the complete opposite.
The first speakers were team General Manager Ned Colletti and a new executive who comes from the world of Sabermetrics, popularized in the book and film “Moneyball.” Colletti appeared to get a kick out of my comment that alluded to the film. I told him if the new guy was Jonah Hill, then Ned must be Brad Pitt.
As expected, with the trading deadline quickly approaching, the majority of questions were about the trades Colletti was attempting to pull off. And, as expected, he couldn’t be too candid with his answers. Then again, Colletti is a guy who can answer a question by not answering you.
So who is the team looking at?: “We want to get some offense. Sure, we have a wish list but it isn’t that simple. This isn’t rotisserie baseball where we have thirty third basemen on the table. We want to improve the offense without hurting the defense. If an opportunity comes along, we’ll take a shot. “
How is the new wild card affecting trades? : “Instead of one or two teams looking for the final playoff spot, you have three to five. Even the Phillies look to be out of it but their injured players are coming back. If they get hot, they may suddenly crop up as a team ready to make a move. The new wild card is good for fans but not so good when you are trying to acquire players. “
Colletti was vague yet also clear when asked if any of the more touted prospects, such as former number one pick, minor-league pitcher Zach Lee, could be part of a deal. His “we’ll see” response seemed to indicate no one in the farm system is untouchable.
Speaking of prospects, blogger “Angry Albert” asked Colletti if it is simply the money that determines if a high school player will sign with the Dodgers rather than accepting a college scholarship. “There are a lot of reasons that enter into the decision but ultimately it comes down to the player. If he wants to be a ballplayer, he’s going to sign. If he wants to be a dentist, he’ll be a dentist.”
Asked if the Dodgers are looking to rid themselves of free agent bust Juan Uribe and move underachieving starting pitcher Chad Billingsley to the bullpen, once again his “we’ll see” came across as a solid yes.
Next up was new team co-owner and president, Stan Kasten. Kasten’s Q&A focused more on the plans beyond this season. He comes across as a man who will make a sincere effort to improve the entire Dodger Stadium experience for the casual fan and listen to anything anyone has to say. He joked “if you call me, be careful because I’ll probably call you back.”
Overall, he was very spirited in answering questions from what his plans are for signing free agents (yes, he will spend money) to off-the-wall questions like if he can improve internet access inside the stadium (he reminded us the stadium was designed before the word “internet” was even a word).
And Kasten’s compliment about the Dodgers polo shirt I was wearing gave him yet another chance to prove he will do anything to win over fans. When I mentioned I bought the shirt at an outside retailer, he sounded like a late night car salesman by telling us “check out the prices at the stadium, I guarantee you we have some great deals.”
As the “big boys” left and the game versus the Padres kicked in, former Dodger third baseman Ron Cey entered the suite. Cey is one of the friendliest yet also candid players you could ever speak to. If you ask for his opinion, he’ll give it to you. For example, he seems a bit disappointed in the current crop of third basemen out there today. “I like David Wright (Mets) but outside of him, no one else really has that combination of a complete offensive and defensive game. “
We talked about the the expansive, turf stadiums he played in versus the newer ballparks. “Today it’s all about the offense,” Cey said. “The fences are moved in because of home runs. I think of places like Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego) and the Astrodome. Those were tough places to hit home runs. I might hit a ball 395 feet someplace and end up with a double. Today, that might be a home run. Back when we had four Dodgers hit at least 30 home runs in a season, it was front page news. Today it is no big deal.”
Cey threw out some trivia when I asked him where he liked playing the most. “For some reason, I did well at Candlestick. Turns out I had, up to the point I left the game anyway, the second most career home runs as a visiting player (behind Willie Stargell) and ranked number one in RBI.”
When another blogger complimented the fantasy camps where average Joes can go through a spring training experience with Dodger greats, Cey seemed worried the team’s lack of solid success the last 20 years or so might impact the whole concept of the camps. “You know, in a way these fantasy camps might lose something. The group of us from the 60′s through the early 80’s (the Dodgers went to four World Series while Cey was there – 1971 to 1982) are getting a bit too old to play in the games. Unfortunately, the players who came after us can’t offer the same excitement and tradition. Sure, maybe you can bring in a Raul Mondesi or a Mike Piazza but the history isn’t there.”
Finally, I want to thank our hosts Yvonne Carrasco and Jon Chapper from the Dodgers PR department for putting on another first class event. And I want to give a shout out to some other bloggers including ThinkBlueLA, Thedailysportsherald.com, dodgersblueheaven.com, Dodgersnation, and vinscullyismyhomeboy.com.