Dodger Inside Pitch - December 31

In the weeks that followed the release of the Mitchell Report, players thrust into the jaded spotlight have come up with an array of excuses, admissions and denials. Some of baseball's team owners took a different approach and focused more on the recommendations that were put forth in the report.

"I don't think we should look at the Mitchell Report as having been the last word," Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. "That only these players should be held accountable and that all those players are bad people, I don't think that was the intention."

Rather than labeling all players in the report as cheaters, McCourt would prefer to handle each "tainted" player on a case-by-case basis. He took that approach when OK'ing the signing of catcher Gary Bennett to a one-year deal. Bennett, who will be Russell Martin's backup, was implicated in the Mitchell Report and later admitted to using human growth hormones because of a knee injury several years ago.

"I'd be more inclined to sign a player that may have been in the report but has explained his conduct or has acknowledged it, that we're convinced that he's not doing anything right now as far as taking any banned materials," McCourt said.

The Dodgers were one of two teams (along with the Giants) who sought permission to include a drug-testing clause in the contracts of their new players. This was in 1984, before McCourt owned the team. The request, however, was turned down. Talks for a new collective bargaining agreement were ongoing at the time. The Players' Association halted those talks until the Dodgers and Giants withdrew their request.

"Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to put that provision in our contracts because there is a standard contract that was collectively bargained by the union and we couldn't put that provision in," McCourt said. "The individual clubs can't adopt the (Mitchell) recommendations. These things are bargained for at the bargaining table with the union. My plea to the union and to my fellow owners is: Let's get it right. It's what the fans want and it's what they deserve. I embrace the report and I'm hopeful that the union does as well."

And if it doesn't? How far are McCourt and baseball's other owners willing to push for the testing of all drugs when it's time to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement? Would the owners be willing to call for a lockout if the Players' Association doesn't agree to across-the-board drug testing?

McCourt is serious about doing his part to clean up the game but isn't ready to commit to such a drastic move.

"I have no comment on that," said McCourt. "That's a hypothetical and I'm not going to talk about that.

   "We need to do, as owners and as a sport, everything in our power to rid the game of performance-enhancing substances. I don't know whether we'll be successful, but we should do everything in our power to try to be successful. We can't control individuals' behavior, but we can certainly set the standard."

Notes and Quotes
--RHP Francisco Desgue signed a minor league contract and will report to spring training in hopes of earning a spot in the Dodgers' bullpen. Though he will be 27 when he reports to Vero Beach, early results in the Dominican Winter League have been promising. Desgue jumped out to a 2-0 record, with two saves and a 1.69 ERA.

--OF Juan Pierre took a lot of criticism from fans about the lack of strength in his throwing arm, but his offensive skills will continue to make him an asset offensively. Pierre finished the 2007 season with a .331 on-base percentage, his highest mark since 2004. He also stole 64 bases, coming one short of his career best, and led the NL with 20 sacrifice hits. Pierre was one of five NL players to appear in 162 games.

--OF Delwyn Young, who batted .194 in the World Cup last fall, has dropped on the Dodgers' outfield depth chart. He was slated to go into spring training as the Dodgers' fourth outfielder, but the addition of Andruw Jones will make Young the Dodgers' fifth outfielder. Young has been rated as the Dodgers' best hitter for average by Baseball America.

--3B Andy LaRoche could begin the 2008 season as the Dodgers' starting third baseman, but he'll need to put up strong numbers during spring training to dethrone high-priced Nomar Garciaparra. Though anything less could land LaRoche at Class AAA Las Vegas in April, he can expect to see his share of playing time in the majors, filling in for the often injured Garciaparra.

   --RHP Zach Hammes, the Dodgers' second-round draft pick in 2002 who was added to their 40-man roster in 2006, was outrighted after going 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.

By The Numb3rs
: 14th -- Where the Dodgers ranked among NL teams in team defense last season.   

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We want to win, but we want to win the right way." -- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report.

Watch For In Rose Parade
Dodger legends that will be riding on the Dodgers' first-ever float for the 119th Rose Parade New Year's Day will be:

• Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame manager

• Vin Scully, Hall of Fame Broadcaster

• Jaime Jarrín, Hall of Fame Broadcaster

• Fernando Valenzuela, legendary Dodger pitcher

• Carl Erskine, former Brooklyn and Los Angeles pitcher

• Don Newcombe, Dodger legend and winner of baseball's inaugural Cy Young Award

• Steve Garvey, 10-time All-Star Dodger first baseman

• Wes Parker, former Dodger first baseman and six-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner

• Nomar Garciaparra, Whittier native and Dodger third baseman • James Loney, Dodger first baseman

• Takashi Saito, Dodger closer

• Nancy Bea Hefley, Dodger organist since 1988

• Roger Owens, 50-year employee and legendary "Peanut Guy"

• Billy DeLury, 58-year Dodger employee and former traveling secretary

• Kathy Robinson Young, Pasadena resident and niece of Jackie Robinson

• Ann Meyers Drysdale, widow of Hall of Fame Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale

• 15 Dodger employees with a combined 225 years of dedicated service to the Dodgers

• Ricardo Parra, the Dodger Rose Parade sweepstakes winner and Pico Rivera resident

                    

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