Good News if You Can Believe It

Ken Gurnick, the MLB beat writer in LA, once known as "The Mouse" for his diminutive stature back when he covered the Dodgers for the LA Times, has a pre-GM Winter Meeting piece that says the Dodgers are sticking with their young guns and rebuilding that way rather than throwing pre-subprime mortgage money on guys who don't deserve it.

Gurnick perhaps has the best ear on what the Dodgers are thinking, because he's closest to the scene. If so,this could be be best news in years. It essentially means the owners have been around enough now to know what the GM and the paid experts used to say and do hasn't panned out as promised, that they can and apparently have become more personally involved in at least the big spending decisions.

Says here this ain't gonna hurt the situation any and could very well help it.

The Dodgers have to get better help for catcher Russ Martin than he has had the past two years, even if Martin stays behind the plate. There are three unrestricted free agents out there of note - Henry Blanco, Paul LoDuca and Johnny Estrada. Blanco is one fine defensive catcher and caller of games.

The breakout of  the Cubs rookie of the year catcher made Blanco expendable there, but he'd be a dandy number two in LA, especially with a retooled pitching staff looming. LoDuca is a different case. No big league player has fallen in value quicker  in the last year and a half than the ex-Dodgers catcher, both for on and off the field issues.

It was only today that a New York writer stated flatly that LoDuca wasn't any better than Mike Piazza behind the plate. To state that in print is to simply say Loduca is no longer a very good catching catcher at all, if he ever was.

Estrada had a break out year with the Braves, was made expendable when a better guy came along, and hasn't been able to find a new home yet. He does hit lefty. He might even find his hitting stroke again.

The Reds moved Felipe Lopez, once a fine infielder, to Washington who moved him to St. Louis. Lopez is an unrestricted free agent, plays multiple positions well, finished well in St. Louis, hits better than shortstop Hu, has more upside than Angel Berroa, and could be this year's Jorge Cantu, who made one heckuva' comeback with the Florida Marlins.

The Mets want to find a new home for reliever Aaron Heilmann, who wants to be a starter, and who'll come cheaper than a year ago. He might be a better option for the Dodgers than thinking about recycling the aging and hurting Pedro Martinez or the very aging Randy Johnson.

The Florida Marlins, who were surely going to dump players, have already done so, although getting Cody Ross back as a backup outfielder would be an interesting thought.

The Mets gave Fernando Tatis, out of baseball for almost two years, a chance and the kid made the most of it. The Dodgers have signed dozens of such players over the years and usually give up on them too soon. They are out there if you know where to look.

One of the multiple McCourts surely is thinking "Why did we let the Marlins beat us to the punch on Jorge Cantu last year?" and "Who is the 2009 Jorge Cantu?" (In case you didn't notice, Cantu had a whole lot better year in 2008 than the much better-known Casey Blake.)

We are hoping that the new Dodgers message, i.e., we are going with our core of young players, has been definitively passed along weeks if not months ago to the staff from the special advisor to the owner to the GM to the manager and on down, that the talent assessors have been working on  this premise for some time now and that Dodgers fans will begin seeing the results in short order.

2008 has been a blessing in the number of big salaries going away. This next year is even more promising when the Dodgers can jettison Schmidt, Jones and Pierre (if not sooner). Then the team can really have assets to reassign.

How well the Dodgers staff - including GM Ned Colletti - carry out the new marching orders will determine how long they will be employed.

The Dodgers do NOT have to sign Manny Ramirez to get better. Ditto C.C. Sabathia.

Or Mr. Peavy.

To sign one or more of these guys only delays the sound regimen the owners have firmly decided upon, a regimen that in the end offers more hope than continuing to do as they have in the past, i.e., hiring Clydesdales to run sprint races.

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