Dodgers Beat Yankees to China by 26 Years

Steve Henson and Bruce Wallace, writing in the Los Angeles Times, reported that Major League Baseball has been crowing about the Yankees "groundbreaking venture" in China after Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman proclaimed at a news conference in Beijing, "You can call this the great push for our industry in China."

The Yankees plan to exchange coaches, scouts and trainers with the Chinese, as well as explore the possibility of opening a baseball academy in the country.

The Dodgers relationship with the China Baseball Assn. began in 1980, so long ago that the Yankees lineup at the time included outfielder Lou Piniella and the Dodgers' infield was Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey, The Times pointed out.

In 1984 they sent coaches for a two-week baseball clinic, and have periodically to this day. Even before the Dodgers built Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic -- in 1986 to be exact -- owner Peter O'Malley paid for construction of the first Chinese stadium devoted entirely to baseball. Located southeast of Beijing in the coastal city of Tianjin, it is named Dodger Stadium and is home to the Tianjin Lions of the six-team CBA.

"We were trying to spread baseball throughout the world," O'Malley told The Times. And he has remained active promoting baseball internationally since selling the Dodgers in 1998. "Developing the game in China was a natural progression from our efforts in Japan."

The Dodgers have working agreements with teams in the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese professional leagues, and this spring three players from Taiwan — pitchers Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-hui Tsao and shortstop Chin Lung Hu — and one from Japan, closer Takashi Saito, will be at major league camp.

Tom Lasorda has made dozens of trips to Asia on behalf of the team and owner Frank McCourt has pledged to "continue cultivating those relationships."

No wonder the Dodgers were privately dismayed when, as The Times notes, "All in all, though, it sounded less like Yankee ingenuity than a Dodger blueprint."

"We've been in China a long time, but I would welcome the Yankees too, because if baseball becomes more popular, it's only going to help the Dodgers," Acey Kohrogi, the Dodgers' director of Asian operations since 1994 said.

"It shouldn't be competition, it's everybody's game," Dodger owner McCourt said, taking the high road. "We'll do whatever we can to work with Major League Baseball to advance the game in China. The Dodgers have always had a privileged role in that."

And now for the Financial $ection of the Dugout:

Hearing$ $tart-- Dodger reliever Joe Beimel and Tampa Bay backup catcher Josh Paul became the first two players to go to salary arbitration hearings this year. Beimel asked for a raise from $425,000 to $1.25 million at Friday's hearing. The Dodgers countered at $912,500. The Dodgers won -- if that is the case when you sign a player after his first solid season of his career -- to a nearly one million dollar contract. A left-hander who turns 30 in April, Beimel was 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA and two saves in 62 appearances last season.

Lot$ of Money $pent-- Buster Olney of ESPN pointed out recently that considering all contract agreements of $3 million or more, the National League outspent the American League $971,000,000 with 47 big-money contracts, while the AL teams have spent $613,095,000 on 38 deals in this off-season. And the total money spent: (gulp!) $1,584 billion.

Olney also inadvertently demonstrated why the Dodgers have made a decision to switch from Vero Beach, Florida to San Bernardino, California for both spring training and their Class-A team. Think about the cost to move just the equipment needed -- not regarding personnel -- from Los Angeles to Florida for 45-days each spring.

He listed the Phillies as sending fourteen thousand four hundred baseballs; 850 bats; 400 batting helmets; 30 dozen red caps; 250 jackets; 2,500 undershirts; 500 pair red socks; 100 pair shower sandals; 300 pair gym trunks; 300 athletic supporters; 200 pair sliding shorts; 2,000 towels; 15,000 paper cups; 10 ice chests; 10 drink coolers; 60 cases of athletic tape; 12 dozen green caps for St Patrick's Day; 1,500 pair baseball pants (road and home); 350 practice uniform tops (red, blue); 18 sets of new catcher's gear; 40 cases of carbohydrate-loaded jelly beans; 24 cases of bubble gum; 24 cases of sunflower seeds; 10 cases (200 pounds) of powdered sport drink mix; 48 12-ounce bottles of pine tar; 50 gallons of pine tar remover; 100 pounds of grass stain soap; 300 pounds of laundry detergent.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Four more ex-Dodgers have found homes for the spring at least. RHP Heath Totten signed with the Phillies; RHP Chan-Ho Park signed with the Mets; LHP Kelly Wunsch singed with the Astros and 2B Jolbert Cabrera signed with the Cardinals. …44-year-old Jeff Fassero, cut by the San Francisco Giants in May, worked out for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 2. "I thought I threw really well. I guess they didn't think so," Fassero said Friday during a telephone interview. "They were the ones that showed the most interest."