Debating the of Other Deals Made

Greg Maddux

Long before most of us were born, the Dodgers had a manager in Brooklyn by the name of Wilbert Robinson. He was fat a jovial, some called him a clown but he was never that, and after games "Uncle Robby" would pause outside of Ebbets Field to debate the fans on trades or game situations. That gene has been passed down through generations of Brooklyn/Los Angeles fans -- right up until today.

And the fact you are reading this essay is proof that you are a carrier of that ancient Dodger gene, for which there doesn't seem to be any cure.

You'll get a complete cornucopia of opinions today, ranging from the thoughtful "I Beg to Differ" column by our Minor League Editor Bill Shelley on the front page of LADugout.com, through insightful statistics from some new-age statisticians and on to thoughts from an interested observer from California, George Hewitt, as well as myself.

Touching briefly on the Guzman give-away, the situation reminds me of Paul Konerko when he was in the Dodger organization. They could never decide where he would play.

He was a catcher ...no, a third baseman, ... no a first baseman, much to the confusion of a young and talented player. He was finally traded, along with the comment by a member of the Dodger front office who said, "If he is a ballplayer, I'm a monkey's uncle", or something of the like.

Of course, we have seen the postcards from Chicago mailed to the above listed uncle by Konerko in the form of statistics: home runs and runs batted in -- over 200 home runs (40+ the last two years) and over 700 runs batted in (217 over the same two years).

When a thin, young relief pitcher (Pedro Martinez) was traded to Montreal for an All-Star second baseman (Delino DeShields) there was virtually no criticism in the Los Angeles press. But now, on his way to an eventual Hall of Fame induction, stories of this sort are always punctuated by "the worst trade the Dodgers ever made" quotes, pinning the entire thing on then-General Manager Fred Claire. There was much more to it than that, but it's another story for another time.

But I predict that one day in the future, that quote will be attributed to the one we just witnessed, sending Guzman to Tampa Bay, where he won't stay for long you can bet.

Now, concerning the Greg Maddux arrival in Los Angeles. Half of the media are lauding the move and half complaining that he is not only over the hill, he is nearly down the other side.

Second prediction: Maddux will pitch well for the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium, a pitcher's park, and if I'm right, it will spark a overall surge that could move the club back into the playoffs. If we can win there is, again, another story.

Supporting the Maddux move are these statistics by Lee Sinis that show how remarkable a pitcher he has been. He tops the all-time chart of players whose runs created are above the average pitcher, topping players by the name of Alexander, Mathewson, Seaver, Hubbell and Gibson. That list:
  Career RSAA (since 1900)--
1    Greg Maddux         562  
2    Grover C Alexander  524  
3    Christy Mathewson   405  
4    Tom Seaver          362  
5    Carl Hubbell        355  
6    Bob Gibson          350  
7    Phil Niekro         337  
8    Warren Spahn        319  
9    Tom Glavine         318  
10   Randy Johnson       315  
Statistics to support those who opposed picking up Maddux show that he has had the lowest winning percentage among starting pitchers (minimum 12 starts) since May 1 of this year.

Notice that four of the five will be pitching or have pitched for the Dodgers.
  Pitcher            w-l   era   pct
Mark Hendrickson    3-11  4.68  .214
Jae Seo              2-7  5.87  .222
Greg Maddux         4-11  5.77  .267
Sean Marshall        3-8  5.18  .273
Jeff Weaver          3-8  5.90  .273
As far as losing Izturis is concerned, I like the youngster, too, but despite a Gold Glove, he just can't [a] hit or [b] reach base often enough. If you have a powerful offensive team, you can afford this sort of shortstop. And right now, we aren't a powerful offensive team.

I offer this chart to support the comment he can't create runs. It lists the 10 Dodger players with the worst career runs created above average figures.
1    Bill Bergen     -221  
2    Bill Russell    -169  
3    Ivy Olson       -138  
4    Otto Miller     -130  
5    Cesar Izturis   -103  
6    Steve Yeager     -93  
7    Billy Cox        -87  
8    Alfredo Griffin  -86  
9    Don Zimmer       -82  
T10  Wally Gilbert    -77  
T10  Jimmy Jordan     -77   
It was worth the price of admission to watch Izturis and Alex Cora perform their baseball ballet around second base but Cora had the same shortcomings -- ya' gotta be able to get on base somehow.

The Aybar Trade
Jon Weisman, in his brilliant and thoughtful Dodger Thoughts website, made a case that the Aybar-Baez trade for Betemit may have been a mistake. Before the subsequent tread of Izturis to Tampa Bay, he wrote:

Okay, something's nagging at me a little bit about Friday's trade. And it's not the news that the Dodgers are paying the remainder of Danys Baez's contract, though I suppose that's kind of annoying.

In Willy Aybar, the Dodgers got rid of a player who displayed a nice grasp of the strike zone (he walked about once every six at-bats, with fewer strikeouts than walks) and an excellent doubles rate (20 doubles in his first 214 major-league at-bats, projecting to roughly 50 for a full season) for an older player (how much older, we're not exactly sure) whose principal advantage, at least for now, is home run power. There are mixed reports on both players' defense.

It's not that Wilson Betemit's nine home runs in 199 at-bats this season don't matter to me, but do they outweigh the points against him?

I'm splitting hairs a little bit. The trade succeeds in boosting the Dodgers' thin hopes for this year without sacrificing the future in any significant way - in fact, it may help the future as well. The worst possibility is that in a few years, we learn that Aybar is the superior talent.

But I woke up this morning feeling a little sad about how much the Dodgers focused on what Aybar lacked instead of what he offered.

So I think about how Aybar was benched so that Cesar Izturis could play. Izturis is without a doubt the more spectacular fielder. But in many games, Aybar would make all the plays at third base that Izturis would make. And yes, in a few games, Aybar would make more plays than Izturis, because Izturis isn't perfect.

In the end, Izturis comes out ahead. But when you have the reputation of being a better fielder, people tend to focus on the plays you make and forgive the plays you don't. For Aybar, it was the opposite. The differences get blown out of proportion.

Meanwhile, at his worst, Aybar hit home runs more often than Izturis, who celebrates them like birthdays. In fact, there isn't a single aspect of using the bat in which Aybar, at age 23, isn't already superior to the 26-year-old Izturis - and that factors in Aybar's summer slump. You don't know offensive slumps until you've seen Izturis.

Again, I get what Friday's trade was about. It was an attempt to balance prayers for 2006 with hopes for the future. I'm not complaining about that.

I don't have the raging dislike for Izturis that some others have. I love his glove, and I'm dispassionately bored by his bat. He is who he is. A great-fielding No. 8 hitter. Just like the great-fielding 22-year-old the Dodgers have at AA Jacksonville, Chin-Lung Hu.

I don't know if Atlanta would have taken Izturis instead of Aybar, though it does appear that their primary goal was Baez and so the second player in the trade could have been either infielder. I also don't know if Izturis will yield a bigger prize in a few days or months. All I can say is that as I write this, I'd rather Aybar were still in the Dodger organization, for all his flaws, even if he were at AAA, than Izturis.

If you haven't checked out Weisman and his site, don't wait a moment longer.

A Different Look-- We also offer an opinion from George Hewitt, a former Dodger Dugout correspondent, who has been a close observer of the club for decades. His take:

I think so many organizations are dealing with head cases be it bat tossing or attitude that Guzman's stock is as low as it will ever be, as no one is as willing to deal with such players.

It is interesting to read that Royster feels that Guzman is growing up, but no one else feels that way. I do not have as much faith in Guzman as you do, but I do understand your fear of trading him before his prime.

As to top prospects as you well know top prospects are what ever the PR department churns out, and I think it is a mark of the current GM that the press trusts him rather than they did their feelings for DePo (as you call him). That trust covers up a lot of sins.

It will be interesting to see if either Maddux or Lugo re-signs. Maddux will I think, and Lugo might if the Dodgers make the play offs.

More interesting to me is how Kent takes all of this.

The Dodgers have to:
1. let Kemp play by dropping Lofton
2. get rid of Drew even if it means paying someone to take him off their hands ala a certain left hander who is now a Royal. This would allow Repko to play full time.
3. Let Loney play.

I am not sure about Nomar. I think he has added a lot but boy is he brittle!

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