Author: Craig Calcaterra

Dave Roberts

Is Dave Roberts the frontrunner for the Dodgers’ managerial job?


When the Dodgers got rid of Don Mattingly it was initially assumed that it was Gabe Kapler’s job to lose. It may still be, but if the Dodgers do move Kapler from the front office to the dugout, it won’t be before a fairly lengthy interview process. Kapler, Darin Erstad, Dave Roberts, Tim Wallach, Dave Martinez, and Ron Roenicke have all been mentioned as candidates under consideration in Los Angeles, and several of them have already interviewed.

This morning Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke says that Dave Roberts is actually the frontrunner. Plaschke says Roberts “aced the interview, and he’s now apparently the favorite.” Plaschke doesn’t have a specific source for that (he makes allusions to ownership sentiment later) but there is no basis for doubting him. The Kapler stuff has only been discussed in media circles, the Dodgers haven’t publicly tipped their hand at all, Roberts is qualified for the job, has a history in Dodger Blue and has been through the interviewing gauntlet before. It’s not hard to picture him as a finalist for this job and, perhaps, the favorite at the moment.

But what is dubious in Plaschke’s column is the false construct he has created in order to compare Roberts — who Plaschke clearly favors — and Kapler, of whom he appears to not be the biggest fan. Specifically, he casts Roberts as a straightforward baseball man — he even calls him “gritty” — and Kapler as a “clone” of Baseball Operations President Andrew Friedman. He says “This also doesn’t mean Kapler wouldn’t be a palatable hire if they surrounded him with strong baseball folks, although he seems better suited for the front office.”

Kapler, of course, played twelve seasons in the majors and fifteen years total in professional baseball. He has even managed before, serving as the skipper for the Red Sox low-A affiliate. While that’s not the longest and richest resumé in the history of the world, it certainly doesn’t justify being cast as some sort of non-baseball side of a dichotomy with Dave Roberts, whose tenure as a professional player is almost identical to that of Kapler’s and who has not managed (Roberts has coached for five seasons, of course).

I have no idea if Kapler would be a good hire. Indeed, the Dodgers may very well decide not to hire him believing, as Plaschke says, that he’s best suited for a front office role. But I do not understand how one can cast him as some sort of baseball outsider who would need baseball man training wheels in order to handle the job. My sense is that, as has happened so often in the past, Plaschke is trying to cast himself in opposition to an analytically-based executive in Friedman by casting anyone aligned with him as some tool of the spreadsheet set who is somehow not qualified to wear a uniform. It’s his schtick and it pays his bills, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise.

It just seems to me that, in Kapler, he picked an odd target for his usual ammunition:

Baseball was, indirectly, on several ballots last night

Large Flag

Off-year elections are more than just a chance for you to get into a voting booth, realize you don’t know anything about the candidates for your local school board, city council and municipal court and to vote based on whose name sounds the coolest. I mean, yes, I voted for a guy named “Justman” yesterday because that’s a pretty great public service name, but that’s not the entire point of election day. It’s merely an ancillary benefit.

No, the real good stuff in off-year elections are the ballot initiatives. Here in Ohio we had one that would have legalized marijuana. Well, sorta. It was complicated as it was more aimed at giving a small handful of select, politically-connected businesses a monopoly on weed production and distribution, but as is the case with baseball, I suppose the best way to ensure the success of capitalism is to establish state-granted monopolies which allow for no competition whatsoever.

Speaking of baseball, there were a handful of items on ballots across the country which impacted the National Pastime yesterday. Over at Baseballot Nathaniel Rakich breaks down the initiatives and the results.

Short version: the Rays owners got some potential allies on the St. Pete City Council, the Giants were given an OK to go into the real estate business, Texas said OK to some gambling at the ballpark and Lance Berkman’s wife and daughters are now, thankfully, safe from a threat that, while 100% imaginary, has now been neutralized via turning a class of people into second-class citizens.

God Bless America.

St. Louis newspaper asks if the Royals are better than the Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals fans

There was a big victory parade in Kansas City today for the Word Champion Kansas City Royals. The Cardinals season ended three weeks ago with a loss to the Cubs in the NLDS. One would think that that would be enough to make the question of “who is better, the Royals of the Cardinals?” pretty irrelevant.

One would be wrong to think that, however, because this ran at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s website today:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 4.13.20 PM

It’s not some snarky, wound-licking sour-grapes-inspired “well, it’s still cooler to be a Cards fan” thing. That may have been kinda funny actually. No, this is an actual position-by-position breakdown, the sort of which you might see just before a World Series matchup as opposed to the day after the season ended.

For the record, the writer believes that the Royals are better and does not simply rely on “scoreboard!” reasoning. So, whatever one thinks of the exercise — I choose to think of it as constituent service by some savvy Post-Dispatch editors who know that there’s a segment of Cards fans who need to reassure themselves that the Cardinals are still THE BEST — one cannot claim it was less-than-straight up in its execution.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be searching the archives for the article the PD ran in 2006 asking what teams were better than the 83-win Cardinals squad which won the World Series. I’ll let you know when I find something.

Three minor leaguers suspended for drugs


The season is over but the discipline of evil doers never ends. MLB just announced the suspension of three minor leaguers. One of them has a touch of major league experience. If you guess correctly, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a year’s supply of Stanozolol*

First up on our walk of shame is Atlanta Braves pitcher Steve Borkowski has received a 68-game suspension for testing positive for a metabolite of Stanozolol. He is currently on the roster of the rookie-level Danville Braves of the Appalachian League.

Next up is Chicago Cubs outfielder Adron Chambers has received a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. He is currently on the roster of the Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League.

And, finally, San Francisco Giants pitcher Alvaro Diaz has received a 25-game suspension following “a violation of the Program.”  He is on the roster of the rookie-level Arizona League Giants.

*Note: this offer is void to all persons


Beware of “be more like the Royals” talk


In the wake of the Royals winning the World Series there will be no shortage of people who analyze their success and attempt to discern some sort of baseball philosophy they employed. A philosophy, it will be argued, which other teams should emulate. They will argue about how teams should “be more like the Royals.” They’ll talk about “high contact, low-strikeout” approaches, defense and shutdown bullpens or what have you. No matter what the specifics are, you can bet your bippy that the Royals formula, however defined, will inform a lot of hot stove chatter and prescriptions for non-Royals teams to follow.

This isn’t surprising, as we have long seen this sort of thing. And not just in sports. We see it in business and politics and pop culture too. Patterns and pattern recognition are pretty important to human beings and their development and the idea of trying to identify some sort of successful template and emulate it is pretty basic to how people operate. When it comes to baseball, though, some serious caution should be taken before playing this philosophical game. Mostly because there are so many ways to play and win actual baseball games.

Here are some various philosophies, such as they were defined at some point by outsiders, of 2015 playoff teams:

  • Mets: power pitching;
  • Cubs: power hitting, Moneyball 2.0 rebuild;
  • Cardinals: The Cardinal Way, whatever the hell that is;
  • Pirates: Some scouting/analytics synthesis;
  • Dodgers: Spend a billion dollars and let GOD sort it out;
  • Blue Jays: Power hitting, going big at the deadline;
  • Yankees: Reanimation of the dead, I guess;
  • Royals: Contact hitters, speed, defense, a shutdown bullpen;
  • Astros: Tearing things down to the studs, losing for a long time, drafting well and promoting players aggressively;
  • Rangers: Um, I dunno. I’m still not entirely sure how they won the division.

And none of these philosophies are wrong! All of these teams had great seasons! Any one of them could’ve won the World Series had some balls bounced just right, had certain players of their own gotten hot or certain players on the opposition gone cold or had some combination of all of this occurred. And, if that did happen, we’d be having a very different sort of offseason conversation. We’d be pointing to that team’s rather than the Royals’ success and talking about their philosophy instead.

If the Astros had one better inning in the ALDS, we’re probably talking about Moneyball a lot. If the Blue Jays had, we’d be talking about power. If the Dodgers did we’d be talking about how high payroll teams have an unfair advantage. If Cespedes, Wright, Duda and Murphy had each made one defensive play instead of muffing it, we’d be talking about how the recipe for success is power pitching and, perhaps, the Royals lack of a True Star Player Who Can Step Up When Needed. Because the Royals did win, we’re going to be talking a lot about how hitting to contract, running aggressively and playing good defense is the formula for success in this era of baseball.

But, really, in what era of baseball would ANY of those things be bad? In what era would making contact, running well and playing good defense not be good things to do on a baseball field? The Royals may have a unique philosophy, but they didn’t win because of the philosophy. They won because they had pretty good players carrying out that philosophy and those players executed that philosophy when it mattered.

That’s the real thing here: good players and execution. That’s always been the real thing. Ten to fifteen years ago there were a lot of teams who attempted to emulate some of the early “Moneyball” strategies encouraging walks, take-and-rake baseball and considering defense to be something worth skimping on if the offense came through. It worked for teams who got players who had skills suited to that and could execute and worked poorly for teams that didn’t. Likewise, the Royals themselves have long talked about defense and speed and stuff like that and, until last year, it didn’t amount to anything because they, largely, had crappy players trying to execute the philosophy. Indeed, as we look at successful teams’ philosophies, we should be well aware that all crappy teams have philosophies too.

As your team enters the hot stove season and “being like the Royals” becomes a topic of conversation, think about how successful they can do that without players like Lorenzo Cain or Wade Davis. Or how a team can be like the Red Sox or A’s of the mid-2000s without patient hitters. Or a team built around pitching except doing it with pitchers who aren’t very good. Or, more realistically, think about a team with a cogent philosophy AND good players who are well-suited to that philosophy but which simply fails to execute good baseball plays when it matters the most.

All of which is to say that, no matter who wins the World Series and no matter how hard experts try to take away some overarching lessons from their success, there is still only one philosophy worth a damn in baseball: sign good baseball players, hope they execute and hope for some good luck. That’s it. Everything else is just blather.

UPDATE: I had missed this before, but Theo Epstein knows what time it is.