Raznor's Rants

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Sunday, March 20, 2005


. . . Baseball . . . Phillips for Ishii . . . Cold-hearted Moneyball GMS . . . Is LA the next Boston?

Posted by Ross

So the Dodgers pulled the plug and got themselves a catcher they can insert right into the starting lineup, when they dealt erratic lefty Kaz Ishii to the Mets for Jason Phillips.

General Manager Paul DePodesta is basing this decision on a myriad of criteria, the first of which is that David Ross and Paul Bako, the righty-lefty combo he had hoped would pull its weight with the stick, have been as lackluster in the spring as they were last season.

Bako's poor offense surprises no one. From DePodesta's standpoint, he's an experienced veteran who knows how to field his position, and also a valuable asset late in games as a left-handed pinch-hitter.

It's really Ross who's the disappointment. At 28, when he's supposedly approaching his prime, he looks back on a season in which he's hit .170-5-15-.544 ops.

DePodesta was still hoping Ross would make the cut out of spring training, live up to the promise he showed in the second half of 2003, when he would start on Paul Lo Duca's off nights, or even push him to left field. That's because that summer Ross hit .258-10-18-.892 in 124 at-bats.

Now, after 15 at-bats this spring, in which Ross is hitless, he's essentially been supplanted by Phillips, and looking more and more the odd man out.

You'd think one reason the once-promising catcher has been hung out to dry has something to do with the fact that, in his good season, Ross walked only 13 times. Last season, in which he had 41 more at-bats, Ross walked only 15 times.

They must be feeling the aftershocks in Oakland for that ugly stat.

Without having immediate access to Phillips' minor league stats, it seems pretty clear, like he had Ross at the beginning of the Spring, DePodesta is banking on the promise Phillips showed in the 2003 season, as opposed to 2004.

That's because in '03, Phillips hit .298-11-58-.815 in 403 abs, and in '04 dropped to .218-7-34-.624 in 362 abs. Though even taking his '04 stats into consideration, I think it could be said Phillips walks at a rate closer to Lo Duca than Ross.

Phillips has been leading the Mets at .550 (11-for-20) this spring. And he's about $3 million cheaper than the frustrating Ishii, who, for some reason won 13 games last season despite striking out only one more soul than his 98 walks, and posting a 4.71 ERA.

As a Dodgers fan, I see a lot of pain, in particular from my cousin Barry who really misses Beltre, because of DePodesta's sometimes cold-hearted approach to such an emotional game. I guess I find the whole enterprise a little more exciting. DePodesta, like Boston's Theo Epstein before him, is a disciple of Billy Beane's Moneyball approach with the Oakland A's, where, in spite of a payroll of what, this season will be about a fifth of the Yankees', they put a playoff contender on the field year after year.

That's because Beane can't afford to waste money the way the big teams do, and, therefore, strives to get the most value out of his spending dollar.

Imagine someone like DePodesta using that philosophy on a team with the big-market payoll flexibility of the Dodgers. Oh, wait, I thought of someone: Theo Epstein. I think it's safe to say the Red Sox have so far done right by him.

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