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Dodgers extreme makeover only latest twist in Ned Colletti’s saga

Ben Reiter

Every Sunday evening when he was a boy, Ned Colletti would walk down to Al and Joe's delicatessen, on a corner near Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and buy five slices of boiled ham, cut so thin as to be translucent. The ham would be Ned's father's lunch for the workweek to follow: a single slice, pressed between two pieces of bread, for each day.

Ned Sr.'s collar was of a blue far deeper than that worn by the Dodgers, the team with which the older of his two sons is now in his seventh season as general manager. He fixed things, first machines that made cardboard boxes for a company in Chicago, then as a maintenance man for the Motorola corporation, and he fixed them every day, on an hourly wage. Ned Sr. would get paid each Friday. Then he would take his sons, Ned Jr. and Doug, to the local bank to cash his check, and then to Al and Joe's to pay off their debt for the ham and the family's other meager groceries. "A couple dollars, two or three," Ned Jr. says. "It was still money."

* * *

Since Colletti became the Dodgers' GM in November of 2005, the team has won more games, 584, than all but two others in the National League, the Phillies and the Cardinals. Los Angeles has had one of the game's 12 highest payrolls each of those seasons, but in the last six weeks Colletti has gone on an unprecedented spending binge, overhauling his team with what looks like the reckless abandon of a member of the nouveau riche on a shopping bender.

Of course, the Dodgers are newly rich thanks to their new ownership, which includes financier Mark Walter, former Braves and Nationals president Stan Kasten and Lakers legend Magic Johnson -- a group which bought the team from the financially troubled and penny-pinching Frank McCourt in May for $2.15 billion. Since July 25, Colletti has traded for Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez, to whom the Dodgers will pay $37.5 million through 2014; Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, who will be paid $2 million for two months of service; and, most shockingly of all, three of the most disgruntled and exorbitantly compensated members of the underachieving Red Sox in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, starting pitcher Josh Beckett and injured leftfielder Carl Crawford. The remainder of that trio's contracts adds up to some $260 million.

Colletti insists that each acquisition -- as well as those of starting pitcher Joe Blanton and reliever Brandon League, a pair that added another $5 million to this season's payroll -- was a calculated one, intended not just to immediately boost an injury-ravaged club that was only one game back in the NL West at the July 31 deadline, but for years to come. It helps that the franchise is anticipating an upcoming cable TV deal that will likely be worth more than $4 billion. "Since [the new owners] came in, they've preached being bold, doing big things," says Colletti. "Finances are always going to be a part of the equation, but it's not a dominant part. For the last six weeks now, the decisions that have been made have been made on a baseball playing level."

"Ownership really wanted to reestablish credibility with the fan base, as fast as possible," Colletti continues. "It's easier to do when you're acquiring these guys than if you say, 'Well, we've got a couple players down in A ball that are going to be good in two or three years.' This isn't a two or three year type of city. If we could get it together, we were entrusted to go with it."

That Colletti suddenly had more money than he could ever imagine at his disposal did not mean he was about to squander it. "He's always been aggressive when he's needed to be, and apparently he's gotten an open pocketbook," says Giants GM Brian Sabean, who was Colletti's boss in San Francisco from 1994 to 2005. "But if I know Ned, I know that a lot of preparation and consideration had to go into this."

The staggering sums involved only serve to distract from what Colletti has accomplished. He turned three major leaguers who have never played in an All-Star game -- first baseman James Loney, starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and reliever Josh Lindblom -- and seven prospects, none of whom has ever been ranked higher than 90th on Baseball America's annual Top 100 prospects list, into a cache of proven stars, all 32 or younger. "It's not like we went and out and loaded up with players who have the sun starting to set on their careers," says Colletti. "They're in the midst of their primes."

Indeed, through some lenses even the Red Sox trade is not outlandish. The Angels, in December, gave first baseman Albert Pujols a $240 million contract that won't expire until he is 41. The Reds, in April, committed $225 million to first baseman Joey Votto, and they will pay him until he is at least 40. The Tigers, in January, signed free agent first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine year, $214 million deal that will last until he is 36.

For their $260 million, the Dodgers acquired not only Gonzalez -- whom Colletti has coveted since Gonzalez's days with the Padres -- but also Beckett and Crawford, players who are young enough to recapture their elite production of the not-too-distant past. Beckett, after all, is 32, and had a 2.89 ERA just last season. Crawford, though Tommy John surgery will prevent him from playing until 2013, is 31, and two years removed from an MVP-caliber season in which he hit .307, with 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs and 47 steals. Even if they disappoint, the Dodgers won't be paying them into their dotages, as each of their deals expires when they are 36 or younger.

* * *

Ned Colletti's unlikely journey to the stewardship of history's most expensive sports team began in a garage in Chicago. His parents -- his mother was named Dolores -- were married in 1951, and by the time Ned was born three years later his father had turned the two-car structure at the back of his brother's property into a 400 square foot home. In 1960, the family moved to a larger residence out in Franklin Park, the one near Al and Joe's deli. This was a proper house. It had 800 square feet of space, and cost $8,500, and was so close to O'Hare runway that Ned and Doug could make out the faces of passengers in the windows of planes as they took off.

Ned loved sports. He played soccer when nobody played soccer, as his father's parents had emigrated from Sicily. He played hockey, which explains why his two front teeth are now artificial. And he played baseball, and watched it as much as he could. When he was a teenager, he would take a train and two buses dozens of times a year to Wrigley Field. He would arrive when they opened the gates, at 10:15 in the morning, and position himself in the first row of the leftfield bleachers, as far toward center as possible. "You could see the pitching, see the defenses, see the changeups, see the sliders," he says.

His physical gifts did not keep pace with his passion, so as his time at Franklin Park's East Leyden High neared its end he decided that he would go to college to learn to write about sports. No Colletti had ever before gone to college. Ned managed to get himself into Triton Junior College, in the Chicago suburb of River Grove, and then transferred to Northern Illinois. After he graduated he was hired to cover high school sports for the Chicago Daily News. After it folded, he went down to write for a paper in Danville, Ill., where he covered college sports from 1978 to 1980: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Larry Bird and Bird's great rival from Michigan State, Magic Johnson -- Colletti's future boss. Then he left to cover the Flyers for the Philadelphia Journal, and just a week after he had arrived, his mother called.

"I had stopped by the house in Franklin Park on my way to Philly," he says. "My dad came out to the car, as I was pulling away, and he says, 'I'm really proud of you.' That's the first time I'd ever heard it. The look in his eye kind of scared me. I said to myself, my goodness, I hope he's OK. He wasn't OK. He thought he had pneumonia. He had a lung tumor." His father was 49.

By then Colletti had a young family and a new duplex in Philadelphia with an interest rate of 17.5 percent, and was trying to carry both on a salary of $18,000 a year -- at least until his paper went belly up in December of 1981, leaving him with just the family and the duplex. It was then that Bob Ibach called. Ibach had been Colletti's predecessor on the Flyers beat and had been hired by new Cubs GM Dallas Green to run the team's public relations department. Ibach offered Ned the chance to come home to be his assistant. The salary was $13,000. "I called my dad," Colletti says. "He said, 'You can't work for $13,000, you're an adult, you've got a family, you can't be doing that.'" Colletti turned the job down. A week later his father called back. "I think you should take it," Ned Sr. said. "I'm not going to make it."

Colletti started with the Cubs as an assistant in PR and publications on January 3, 1982, at a salary of $14,000. Ned Sr. passed away that April, still the owner of that small house near the airport. Baseball had brought Colletti back to his hometown, and he had only begun to apply his father's values to his burgeoning new career.

For a decade now, a prevailing trend in baseball has been to hire young men precociously gifted in mathematics or finance and versed in advanced statistics to serve as general managers: Theo Epstein, Jon Daniels, Andrew Friedman, Jon Daniels, Josh Byrnes, Jed Hoyer, Alex Anthopoulos, Ben Cherington. When Colletti was hired to run the Dodgers -- as the successor, and in some regards the antidote, to Paul DePodesta, who was a 32-year-old Harvard graduate who had been fired just a year and a half into the job -- he was anything but a wunderkind. He was 51 years old, and he had been working in baseball for more than 22 years.

Colletti had spent those years learning as much as he could, and working as hard as he could. "Some people talk about how hard they work, try to get you to tell them how good they are," he says. "I've always just hoped people would notice."

He volunteered for every road trip during his first seasons with the Cubs -- to save on meals, but also to learn the game, from lifers like Lee Elia, John Vukovich, Ruben Amaro, Sr., and Billy Connors. He watched every inning of every game for three straight years, and dissected what he'd seen with them afterwards. After a while, Green noticed that Colletti was almost always the first to arrive at Wrigley and the last to leave, and invited him to help him out with the club's arbitration cases.

So began a two-decade front office apprenticeship, with the Cubs until 1993, and then with the Giants starting in 1994. Colletti's tenure with San Francisco, most of which he spent as assistant GM, included a stretch of eight consecutive winning seasons. By the time Frank McCourt hired him to run the Dodgers, Colletti had a firm theory about what worked in assembling a winning baseball team. Talent was important, but there were hundreds of people across the game who could spot talent. Numbers were important, and Colletti has gradually enriched his statistics department over the years. It is now run by a man named Alex Tamin, a lawyer by training.

But equally crucial to Colletti is the character of the people on his teams. While some general managers view players as chess pieces, Colletti tries his best to get to know them as well as he can. "You always see him down here interacting with the players, talking with them and seeing how they're doing," says centerfielder Matt Kemp. "I've never been a part of any other organization, so it's hard to compare. But I've heard of different situations in other places." (Kemp, who two seasons ago publicly clashed with Colletti over a perceived lack of effort -- perhaps the cardinal sin, in Colletti's book -- now has many reasons to praise him, including the eight year, $160 million extension he signed last November.)

"People are the key component," Colletti says. "What makes them think, how they tick."

Colletti's manager, Don Mattingly, concurs. "I believe in the numbers. They tell you a story, and there are certain things that you really should be paying attention to," Mattingly says. "But there's also another side of it, guys getting along, guys being good teammates, playing hard every day. There's a power of a group of people working in a direction, and I think Ned really gets that."

To that end, Colletti has stocked his front office with people who are like him, and his father: people who are grinders, people who are loyal, people like his assistant GM's De Jon Watson and Logan White, and his director of player personnel, Vance Lovelace, and his pro scouting director, Rick Ragazzo, and his special assistant, Bill Mueller, all of whom have been with him for years. He has consistently sought them out for his clubhouse, too: Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, Aaron Miles, Jamey Carroll, and current players like Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy.

Players like those, Colletti believes, foster a baseline ethos that allows superstars like Clayton Kershaw and Kemp to maximize their talent, and his club to persevere through hard times. Recall how last season's Dodgers were 14 games under .500 as of July 6, yet went 45-28 the rest of the way to finish above .500. Recall how this season's Dodgers, even with Kemp on the disabled list for two months, were 53-45 on the night before they began their acquisition spree by trading for Ramirez.

Colletti also believes that his team's character will benefit Ramirez and the other players who have recently joined it. "When Josh Beckett first got here, and I said hello to him," he says, "it looked like he had a lot of weight lifted off his shoulders."

* * *

Despite their reinvigorated roster, the Dodgers are 73-65, 4½ games behind Sabean's Giants in the NL West, and 1½ behind the Cardinals for the National League's second wild-card spot. "The proof will be in the pudding," says Sabean of his friend's efforts to make the postseason. "I don't think anyone in baseball is cowering because of all these moves."

The Dodgers might reach the playoffs, and they might not. Not all of Colletti's gambits as the club's GM have worked -- see, most notably, the two-year, $36.2 million deal he gave to Andruw Jones in 2007 (OPS+ as a Dodger: 35) and the three year, $21 million deal he gave to Juan Uribe in 2011 (OPS+ as a Dodger: 53) -- and this season's might not, either. "I can control one thing: my effort," he says. "I have no control over anybody else's effort, anybody else's thought processes, anybody else's priorities. I've never worried about my effort. Never. Whatever will happen, will happen. But my effort will be beyond reproach."

It is how Colletti has lifted himself from that cold garage in Chicago all the way to a suite in Dodger Stadium, which is in many ways a journey that was begun by his father, Ned Sr., who is never far from his mind. When Colletti turned 51 and a half, he sent an email to his younger brother, Doug. "It said, 'I'm as old as Dad was when he died," Doug recalls. "When he gets up every day, it matters. The day matters to him. There's no doubt that both of us, when we go to work in the morning, we know the name that's on the back of our jersey, so to speak. Going to work means a lot to us. Dad's been gone for 30 years, but with your work ethic, you can still emulate him and make him proud."

"For me, where I come from, I never forget it," says Colletti. "Every day, I drive up Sunset, I go up Elysium Park, I come up that hill, and I work at Dodger Stadium. What an amazing thing. And some of the people that I call my friends? Sandy Koufax comes to see me in spring training -- to see how I'm doing. Willie Mays hasn't seen me for two months, and says, 'Ned, I miss seeing you.' Willie Mays misses seeing me? How could that be? I've been blessed beyond measure, the chances and the opportunities I've had, the people I've met and the life I've had."

If it sounds as if Colletti feels that he has reached the culmination of something, he doesn't. There are, for him, always more thingto learn, more things to fix. There is always more work to be done.


Dodgers looking to negotiate long-term extension with Ned Colletti

The Dodgers open contract discussions with GM Colletti, a holdover from Frank McCourt's ownership of the team.

By Bill Shaikin

September 6, 2012, 6:46 p.m.

The Dodgers have opened discussions with Ned Colletti on a long-term contract extension, which could put him in position to become the team's longest-serving general manager since Al Campanis.

Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter said he did not know the details of the discussions but confirmed a new deal is on the table.

"That's my understanding," Walter said.

Colletti declined to comment. Dodgers President Stan Kasten also wouldn't comment, citing his policy of not discussing contractual issues involving team executives.

"People should regard our management as stable and permanent," Kasten said.

The guaranteed portion of Colletti's current contract expires at the end of this season, although the deal includes mutual options. Colletti signed that deal with Frank McCourt, who sold the Dodgers to Guggenheim Baseball Management in May.

After a team is sold, the new management often installs its own general manager. However, when Kasten became president of the Washington Nationals in 2006, he retained General Manager Jim Bowden.

The Dodgers open a three-game series in San Francisco on Friday, trailing the Giants by 41/2 games in the National League West.

The Dodgers also trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 11/2 games for the second and final NL wild-card spot. The Cardinals visit Dodger Stadium for a four-game series next week.

Walter said he was impressed by Colletti's diligence in building — and rebuilding — the recent nine-player trade with the Boston Red Sox. He said far more went into the deal than Guggenheim's ability to absorb a quarter-billion dollars in the salaries of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford.

The Dodgers believed they had a deal for Gonzalez in July, but the Red Sox decided not to proceed. Colletti helped keep the trade alive through August, negotiating over the prospects the Red Sox wanted while navigating the major leaguers through the waiver process.

"That trade was not easy," Walter said. "We talked about a lot of stuff. He worked his tail off."

Colletti, 58, was hired as the Dodgers' general manager after the 2005 season, becoming the seventh man to fill that position in eight years. If he were to remain general manager through the 2017 season, he would have served in the position longer than anyone since Al Campanis, who held the title from 1968 to 1987.

The Dodgers advanced to the playoffs in three of Colletti's first four seasons, including consecutive appearances in the NL Championship Series for the first time in 31 years. McCourt then slashed payroll and later took the team into bankruptcy in an effort to retain control of the Dodgers amid a protracted divorce.

Amid those constraints, Colletti patched together a 2012 roster that had the best record in the league when McCourt left, with contributions from such bargain signings as pitchers Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, infielder Mark Ellis and utility man Jerry Hairston Jr.

During Colletti's tenure, several significant free-agent signings have failed to deliver, including pitcher Jason Schmidt (three victories, three years for $47 million, despite knowledge of a torn rotator cuff), outfielder Andruw Jones (three home runs, two years, $36.2 million) and infielder Juan Uribe (six home runs, three years and $21 million, with one year left).

Colletti and Kasten have emphasized the need to rebuild the Dodgers' player development system, including an international scouting operation all but dismantled under McCourt budget cuts.
Dodgers' Chad Billingsley could be out all of next season

Right-hander has a torn elbow ligament and will try a rehabilitation program in an effort to avoid surgery. He was put on the 60-day disabled list.

By Bill Shaikin

September 5, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

Chad Billingsley could sit out all of the 2013 season if he has to undergo surgery for a torn ligament in his right elbow.

Billingsley will not pitch again this season, no matter how far the Dodgers might advance should they qualify for the postseason. The Dodgers put him on the 60-day disabled list Wednesday.

The Dodgers first will try a rehabilitation program, allowing the right-hander four to six weeks of rest and treatment before he resumes throwing. Billingsley said he has a slightly torn ulnar collateral ligament, which often requires Tommy John surgery.

"It makes you cringe a little bit," Billingsley said, "but they say I have a chance to heal from it before I have to worry about getting cut."

Sue Falsone, the Dodgers' athletic trainer, said the team wants to try rehabilitation first because 10% to 20% of pitchers do not regain their effectiveness after Tommy John surgery. She acknowledged that most pitchers with a partial ligament tear proceed directly to the surgery because of its success rate.

However, since this is the end of the season, she said the Dodgers could afford to allow Billingsley several months to try to recover without surgery. If Billingsley were to have surgery, the rehabilitation period would be about one year, so he would sit out all of next season whether the operation were next week or next spring.

Billingsley has received two injections of platelet-rich plasma and could receive a third, Falsone said. She said that treatment is too new to have reliable statistics on its effectiveness in resolving a partially torn elbow ligament.

The Dodgers already have five other starting pitchers under contract next season: Clayton Kershaw ($11 million), Josh Beckett ($15.75 million), Ted Lilly ($12 million), Aaron Harang ($7 million) and Chris Capuano ($6 million).

Billingsley, 27, is signed for $11 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. He was 10-9 with a 3.55 earned-run average, and he had won six consecutive starts at the time of his injury.

First to break through

The Dodgers called up left-handed reliever Steven Rodriguez, making him the first player from this year's draft to reach the major leagues. Rodriguez, selected in the second round from the University of Florida, had an 0.92 ERA in 192/3 innings, split between Class-A Great Lakes and double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.).

Three months after taking finals in college, Rodriguez was sharing a clubhouse with Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez.

"You see them all the time on TV," Rodriguez said. "It's great I could be a part of this and try to help out as much as I can.

"Yesterday, I couldn't even speak. I don't know how to put this into words right now. I've got to get over it eventually."

Call me, maybe

Lilly pitched a simulated game, a step toward possible activation as a situational left-handed reliever. Lilly, who has not started since May 23 because of shoulder and back injuries, has not appeared as a reliever since Aug. 5, 2003.

Dodgers looking at Ned Colletti long term, and that's not a bad thing
By Steve Dilbeck

September 6, 2012, 7:41 p.m.

On the eve of the Dodgers' biggest series of the year, in San Francisco, word comes that the team is closing in on a multiyear contract extension with General Manager Ned Colletti.

Talk about a setup.

Colletti seems a divisive figure among some team followers, many of whom cannot forgive him of his Giants roots or the bad contracts he gave ex-Giants Jason Schmidt and Juan Uribe. Or when he battled tears of joy when the Giants won the World Series in 2010.

And, sure, some of his signings (Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, Juan Uribe) proved less than stellar, and some of his trades even he would no doubt like to have back (Carlos Santana for two months of Casey Blake; Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez).

But no GM gets them all right, no matter how beloved. And certainly Colletti has had his share of successes (Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley; Manny Ramirez for nothing; Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and two unheralded prospects).

He's operated under two completely opposite business plans in the past year alone. The bankrupt team owned by Frank McCourt and the money-is-seemingly-no-object approach under the current group.

You could even argue he's succeeded under three different sets of operation, initially having a reasonable budget to work with when McCourt first brought him over from the Giants at the end of the 2005 season. Those teams twice advanced to the National League Championship Series.

This past off-season, with the team in bankruptcy court and McCourt reducing payroll, he still pieced together a rotation with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, added valuable pieces Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr., showed patience with Ronald Belisario, signed Jamey Wright and had the Dodgers with the best record in baseball when the team was finally sold in May.

Then comes the Guggenheim group, and every guideline he was operating under before vanishes. Suddenly there are enormous amounts of financial resources available. It's almost a joke -- like he died and went to GM heaven.

Yet he adjusts quickly. He grabs Hanley Ramirez and pulls an absolutely stunning deal to acquire first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, immediately answering the team's biggest need -- lack of power at the corners.

So right now, though the offense is not clicking as hoped, the pieces are still in place, the additions still strong.

The assumption by most was that when the team was sold, Colletti's days were numbered. New ownership would want its own management team, would want full credit for any future successes.

But Colletti is more adaptable than a chameleon, to go from working under McCourt to impressing Mark Walter and Stan Kasten.

He's four months on the job under the new regime, and looks deserving of an extended stay. His detractors had better get over it. Maybe there are better GMs, but there are plenty of worse ones.

Now Colletti can go up to San Francisco with the team this week to discuss it.

Dodgers hope to stay in vogue during three-game series vs. Giants
By Steve Dilbeck

September 6, 2012, 3:06 p.m.

Never in their little lives have the Dodgers been bigger fans of trends.

There is not a fashion designer breathing, a hip teenager posing or fad-obsessed pop star strutting, currently more focused on popularizing a current trend than the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers are about to begin a three-game set in San Francisco on Friday, in what is only their biggest series of the season.

The first time the Dodgers went to AT&T Park this season, they were swept, shut out in all three games. When they next came back, they returned the favor, sweeping the Giants. And then finally, when the Giants were at Dodger Stadium for three games Aug. 20-22, the Dodgers were swept again.

Now the Dodgers return trailing the Giants by 4½ games in the National League West with 24 games left to their season, and very much needing a sweep.

“I like the trend if we win the first game,” said Manager Don Mattingly.

It’s difficult to overcome a large deficit with just over three weeks left to the season, but the Dodgers’ hopes are buoyed by knowing they play the Giants three this weekend and then finish the season with three more against them at home.

“Games almost count as two,” said catcher A.J. Ellis. “Not only do we win, but they lose. Obviously a big series. All the games are big the rest of the way, but it’s nice to be on the field with the team that you’re chasing.”

Only their first series, when the Dodgers took two of three at home in May from the Giants, has bucked the sweep trend.

The Dodgers had won eight of their last 11 games and led the division by a half-game when the Giants came to Dodger Stadium for that late August series and swept a three-game set to retake an NL West lead. The Giants have not relinquished it since.

Sweeps all around.

“The first time in there, we were playing absolutely horrible,” Mattingly said. “We were kind of down offensively. Andre [Ethier] gets hurt the first game in that series, and Matt [Kemp] was already out, we had others out. We weren’t really playing well. We got shut out three times.

“The next time I felt like we went in and kind of established ourselves. We had to fight back during that series. That happens and then we come back here and get swept. It’s hard to explain.”

If the Dodgers are swept, they can officially focus on the wild-card race. They really can’t even afford to win only one game. What they really need is a sweep. Need to step up now.

“We still have games after that,” said Shane Victorino. “There is definitely urgency, but it’s not going to be the end of the world if we don’t go up there and sweep them. But we have an opportunity to gain some ground and need to do that.”

Ellis hesitated when asked whether he thought in reality, the Dodgers had to sweep.

“We need to win Friday night, set the tone, and go from there,” he said. “We just need to focus on winning Friday.”

If they lose the opener and come back to win the last two, they would leave San Francisco 3½ games back with 21 to go.

“We need to win the series,” Mattingly said. “We just need to see what happens here. They’re still going to lose games, too. We have to take care of our own business.

“Really, we need to get on a little roll. We can’t win three, and lose two, and then win a couple and lose a couple. I mean, it’s just not going to make it. That’s not a playoff team and it’s not playoff baseball.”

In their last 16 games, the Dodgers are a disappointing 6-10. They’ll send out Josh Beckett on Friday against the Giants’ Tim Lincecum.

“We have to go out there and play every game like it’s our last game,” Kemp said.

And hope current trends continue.
Dodgers sign extensions with Rancho Cucamonga and Albuquerque
By Steve Dilbeck

September 6, 2012, 1:27 p.m.

The Dodgers’ two most popular stops for rehab assignments will be back on line for another two years.

The Dodgers announced two-year affiliate extensions with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday.

Rancho Cucamonga is the closest Class-A site available, just 46 miles from Dodger Stadium. The Quakes are owned by Hall of Famer George Brett and his brothers Bobby and John. Next year will be the Dodgers’ third season in Rancho Cucamonga, after a previous affiliation with San Bernardino.

Albuquerque is a long-time triple-A destination for the Dodgers. They previously were there as the Dukes from 1972 to 2000 (it was their double-A home from 1963 to 1971). Next year will mark their fifth since returning as the Isotopes.

Tom Lasorda, Kevin Kennedy and Rick Dempsey are among the former Dukes managers. Tim Wallach managed the Isotopes in 2009.
If dogs were people, some would leave in the 7th inning

Dogs and their owners have a field day at the Bark in the Park event at Dodger Stadium. Well, most do. Some dogs, like some Angelenos, don't have a clue about blue.

By Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times

September 6, 2012, 6:36 p.m.

The minute we walked into Bark in the Park, I could see we weren't going to fit in. Dutchess seemed to be the only canine at the Dodgers' bring-your-dog-to-the-game promotion wearing just the fur she was born with.

Outside the stadium where 537 pets gathered for a pregame "Pup Rally," there were dogs in batting helmets, tutus, mirrored sunglasses and hot dog suits. Dogs with dyed blue mohawks and one with a blue and white rhinestone heart pasted on his shaved side.

A Chihuahua had a tiny mitt and ball attached to one paw and a blue pennant in the other. And if you're thinking they were all dressed by wacky cat ladies, banish the thought. Plenty of tough guys had Duke or Chuy tricked out in ears-to-tail Dodgers regalia.

I don't do dog costumes — well, maybe once or twice, on holidays. But I had begun to worry I was growing way too attached to my dog. I found myself reluctant to go out of town unless Dutchess came too. If she was in the back seat, I'd have to stop myself from steering into the carpool lane.

The moment of truth came when I burst into the house with my usual dog greeting, "Where's my beautiful daughter?" and my real daughter responded acidly, "She's right here."

But my daughter is off on a year abroad, and I could not resist the chance to bring my Akita mix to the ballpark last Sunday. Nobody would nominate Dutchess for Miss Congeniality. She's the President Obama of the dog world, cool on the outside and well .... cool on the outside. So I had some reservations.

But I seemed to be the only one. The handful of people I talked to were all sure their charges were having a riotously good time.

"Of course he loves Dodger blue. He's a blue-nose," Candice Beltran, a security dispatcher from Santa Fe Springs, said of her 10-month-old, 67-pound pit bull Molokai.

Roger Castle, a Venice fundraiser, strapped a miniature sports cam on top of his 45-pound pit's head so he could record the dog's-eye view of the event. "I think he knew we were coming today. When we got in the car, he was so happy," Castle said.

And certainly most of the dogs seemed content. I didn't spot a single dogfight, and there was scarcely any barking.

Dutchess, however, kept her head down and looked confused. After the costume contests were over, she showed some interest in climbing onto the stage but was pushed aside by someone trying to photograph a heavily adorned poodle.

Inside the gate, the maintenance staff was more appreciative of Dutchess' natural beauty. "Oh, she's so cute," several said, leaning against their brooms. Once the snacks appeared, Dutchess perked up. Two-and-a-half Dodger Dogs later, we took our seats. Or rather I took my seat. Although I had bought Dutchess her own ticket, the bleacher bench was too crowded for a 60-pound dog, so she was relegated to sitting under my feet.

Behind us, Dee Dee (as in Ramone) lay under the feet of owners Abe and Anne-Marie Kinney. Abe Kinney, a Web developer, said Dee Dee was having fun. But when it comes to their dog, they are often driven by guilt, he added. When they visited the Sequoias, Dee Dee waited in the car while they raced down to see the big trees, then ran back again.

"She gives you those eyes when you leave, like 'You know you can take me,'" Kinney said.

I knew exactly what he meant. I often slip out of the house in the morning to avoid Dutchess' reproachful glare.

But when did we start feeling so guilty about our pets? The idea of putting off a vacation, or, for that matter, a single cocktail for our dogs would have struck my parents as pure insanity.

Our family loved our pets. But they were just there, like the furniture. We petted them, fed them the food we saw on the TV commercials but seldom walked them or took them for a drive. They had a yard to romp in, but so do my dogs. Yet I feel positively Cruella De Vil-ish if I don't take Dutchess not just around the block but to Elysian or Griffith Park every day, and on weekends, to the beach or the mountains.

Concepts of humane pet treatment have evolved since my childhood, and hiking is fun and healthy for both of us. That's fine. But a line is crossed when we convince ourselves our dogs want to be part of purely human activities. Or when we circumscribe our lives because of some misguided notion the dog will feel left out.

By the bottom of the fourth inning, the dogs whose owners had the good sense to book seats along the center aisle were sprawled out on the ground like so many battlefield casualties awaiting the medics. Dutchess periodically stood and seemed to gaze adoringly at Dodger star Andre Ethier. Or was that me? But for the most part, she simply lay there.

When the final out was called — the Dodgers won! — she yanked me full-tilt down the metal steps. The next day, she spent an inordinate amount of time licking the muck from the bleacher floor off her fur.

Far be it from me to question the other dogs' enjoyment. But I am forced to conclude that Dutchess, good soldier that she is, merely endured the ballgame.

I'm taking a vacation without her this month. Let the dog be a dog.


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