Tot's Thoughts - September 19, 2008

The Dodgers and Giants have clashed since, well, before either of them fielded a professional team. Of course they did not go by those names, rather their Brooklyn ancestors were called Atlantic, Excelsor, Putnam and Eckford and the Atlantics were national champions in 1864 and 1866, and played a like number of New York clubs like the Mutuals, a NY team that played its games in Brooklyn.

The Atlantics were the first team to beat the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings who won 69 straight in 1869 and added 27 more before losing 8-7 in 10 innings to the great-great grandfather of the Dodgers.

They played, and have hated each other, since the 1880s and both joined the National League in 1890. They have delighted in beating the other at any time, of course, but particularly in the final days of the season when a win might mean a championship for the other.

In one of the more memorable of those meetings, the 1934 Dodgers, destined to finish yet again in 6th place, beat the Giants in the Polo Grounds to give St. Louis the National League pennant.

And rookie Mike Piazza smacked a pair of homers and the Dodgers kicked the Giants (who had 103 games) out of first place on the final day of the season, winning 12-1.

We're not going to go into the 1951 playoffs and Bobby Thomson, the 1962 playoffs and Joe Morgan in 1982 since there are small children who read this site and the language that needed to be used to describe those events might offend them. Shoot, it might offend anyone.

Anyway, you get the picture.

So fast forwarding some 139 years you find these old rivals meeting six times in the final nine games of the season, with San Francisco out of contention and panting to leave the Dodgers in the same condition.

Starting in Dodger Stadium tonight, the Giants will do their best to ruin the Dodgers' pennant march.

Pitchers for the series include:

Friday:Greg Maddux (7-12, 4.08) vs. Barry Zito (9-16, 5.48)
Saturday: Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.77) vs. Brad Hennessey (1-2, 8.04)
Sunday: Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.40) vs. Matt Cain (8-13, 3.91)

After three games with San Diego in Los Angeles, the Dodgers travel to San Franciso to finish the season with three more battles. Don't be surprised if San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum pitches the final game of the year on short rest -- just because that is what you do in this rivalry.

So the Dodgers would like to sew up the title during the final six games at home instead of waiting until the last three days in Frisco (San Franciscoans hate that name).

At the same time the Diamondbacks will be on the road, where they are 31-43, for three at Colorado and four at St. Louis.

Manager Joe Torre, accustomed to the New York-Boston rivalry, which has been touted as the "Greatest Rivalry in Baseball" by the Red Sox's personal publicity voice ESPN, knows by now that the Brooklyn-New York and then Los Angeles-San Francisco is not only as heated, it has a much longer history.

Torre said. "I don't think we're thinking we have to win it by this day or that day. Our mentality is that we have to go under the assumption that the Diamondbacks are going to win every game, so we have to win every game ourselves. It took us a long time to get in a position where we don't need any help, so we can't just squander that. We just want to win and have a good homestand."

Stay tuned, this (hopefully) should be fun.

Boston Still Burning
The Red Sox nation is still not in shock over the fact that Manny Ramirez would dare to want to play anywhere else.

Pitcher Curt Schilling took his turn at bashing Manny, complaining Ramirez's "level of disrespect to teammates" was "unfathomable" before he was traded to the Dodgers before the July 31 deadline.

Calling into a Boston sports-talk show, Schilling, who played on the Red Sox with Ramirez from 2004-07, claimed that "the fact of the matter was, you looked at a guy who, at the end of the day, never, ever cared about any of us."

Schilling said when the decision was made by the Red Sox not to negotiate a contract extension with Ramirez this spring was the turning point.

However, he did say, "One of the things you could never talk bad about Manny was his work ethic. Manny worked as hard as anybody I ever played with. And he put a lot of time and effort into it this winter to come into spring training in the best shape he could be.

Schilling then went on to admit that he has been away from the team most of this season because of a shoulder injury, added: "I was a teammate, a member of this family, and I saw it." But apparently not this year, when Manny and the club actually went through their breakup.

Ramirez, in Pittsburgh, said he was unaware of Schilling's comments. "I have moved on with my life already. I just want to play the game. We're trying to get to the playoffs," he simply said.

Welcome Back
The Albuquerque Isotopes, nee Dukes, have been the Triple-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins since 2003. Before that, the city was home to the Dodgers' Triple-A team from 1972-2000, and the Double-A Albuquerque Dodgers from 1963-71.

The Dodgers renewed their connection with Albuquerque with a two-year player development contract recently, leaving Las Vegas of the PCL where the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate was based from 2001-08.

"We are excited to welcome the Dodgers back to Albuquerque," Isotopes president Ken Young said. "While we feel that Albuquerque has really become an Isotopes town, we also know there are generations of fans who still love the Dodgers."

The Dodgers had great success there in the past, winning eight Pacific Coast League championships under managers Tommy Lasorda (1972), Del Crandall (1980-82), Terry Collins (1987), Kevin Kennedy (1990) and Rick Dempsey (1994).

The Albuquerque Dodgers won the Texas League under Roy Hartsfield (1965), Duke Snider (1967) and Del Crandall (1970).

Ron Cey, Pedro Guerrero, Orel Hershiser, Davey Lopes, Mike Marshall, Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza and Bill Russell all came through the New Mexico affiliate.

The Dodgers will also move their Double-A home to Chattanooga, Tennessee, after eight-years in Jacksonville. The Lookouts, who play at AT&T Field, had previously been a part of the Reds' organization.

The Dodgers' final move also brings another franchise closer to Los Angeles. They switched their entry in the Gulf Coast League to the Arizona Rookie League and will be called the Arizona League Dodgers. No more Coasties.

Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Class A Great Lakes will return for a third straight season and Rookie-level Ogden will remain a Dodgers affiliate for a seventh straight year. The Dodgers will also continue to field a Dominican Summer League team.

The Marlins moved right into the vacuum left in Jacksonville and announced that would be their new Double-A home beginning in 2009. They abandoned Albuquerque to the Dodgers and expect to move their AAA affiliate to New Orleans next year.

BA Top Pioneer League Players
Ben Badler of Baseball America, released the magazines' list of top players in the Pioneer League.

Badler wrote, "The Rookie-level Pioneer League is always a tricky league to evaluate, as it's somewhat of a tweener circuit. The Diamondbacks and Rockies don't have complex-based teams so their PL club serves as their lowest-level U.S. affiliate. By contrast, the other six organizations in the league don't have teams in the New-York Penn or Northwest leagues, so their PL clubs are their highest-level half-season affiliates."

The Dodgers he listed in the top 20:

(4)Devaris Gordon, ss
Gordon failed to qualify academically at Seminole (Fla.) Community College and couldn't play this spring, but the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round anyway. Once he stepped onto the field in the Pioneer League, it was apparent why.

The son of Phillies righthander Tom Gordon, Gordon has outstanding athleticism and 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's extremely skinny with wide shoulders, so he has plenty of room to add strength to his wiry frame. Despite his slender build, he swings the bat with surprising authority and drives balls to the gaps.

With excellent range and good first-step quickness, Gordon has the tools to stick at shortstop. Some of the rust from not getting live game action this spring showed, as he made 28 errors in 60 games, but the miscues should be correctable once he learns to play more under control.

(10) Kyle Russell, of
Russell led NCAA Division I with 28 homers as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2007, then turned down a reported $800,000 offer from the Cardinals as a fourth-rounder. He went one round higher this June, though he had to settle for $410,000.

Russell has long arms but still gets the bat head through the zone well and gets good leverage in his swing, which helps him generate tremendous power. However, his swing and pull-oriented approach lead scouts to question how much he'll hit with wood bats. With Ogden, he continued his track record of hitting homers (11) and striking out with great frequency (82 times in 219 at-bats).

A good athlete, he has a strong arm and fits best in right field.

(11)Pedro Baez, 3b
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 20 Signed: Dominican Republic '07 The Dodgers pushed Baez to low Class A to start the season, but after he hit .178/.244/.259, they sent him down to Ogden to regroup. While he continued to struggle with breaking balls and plate discipline, he was one of the more dangerous power hitters in the league.

"I've seen him hit some balls 500 feet," Diaz said. "He's got cartoon-shot power."

Baez has a strong, durable frame with a diverse set of above-average tools. He has plus power that could grade out even higher in the future, but his approach doesn't always allow his pop to translate in game situations. At times he lacks rhythm at the plate, which causes him to start chasing pitches.

At third base, Baez shows soft hands and a plus arm. His feet get tangled up at times, which leads to some erratic throws, but he generally moves well around the bag. He's a below-average runner.

(19)Tony Delmonico, 2b
"The son of former Tennessee head coach Rod Delmonico, Tony Delmonico showed an aggressive approach, swung the bat well and used the whole field in his pro debut. Though he hit 11 homers while playing his home games in the Pioneer League's coziest ballpark (Ogden's Lindquist Field), he doesn't project to have huge power.

"Defense has been a challenge for Delmonico, whose range and hands are both limited. A shortstop in college, he moved to second base with the Raptors but still looked rough there. He might end up moving to third base or an outfield corner, and his bat doesn't profile well at those positions.

"The buzz around the league was that Delmonico might move behind the plate, which wouldn't be something new for a Dodgers organization that has converted Russell Martin and Carlos Santana, among others, to catcher. It's a switch that others have considered in the past, considering Delmonico's arm strength and athleticism."

Five years ago, Baseball America's top ten Pioneer League class included (2) Chad Billingsley, (5) Xavier Paul and (8) Mike Megrew of the Dodgers.