Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to talk with Dodgers beat writer for the Los Angeles Daily News Tony Jackson. Jackson has been in the business for awhile, covering the Rockies and Reds before starting to cover the Dodgers four years ago. I was curious to know what he thought of the Dodgers chances this season and beyond, because many have been saying different things. I want to thank Mr. Jackson for donating his time to the site, I really appreciate it.
ELI: When did you first get into journalism?
TONY: I first started writing for my high school newspaper. I had an idea of what I wanted to do and I went from there.
ELI: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
TONY: Well, I grew up in Arkansas, but I was a Dodgers fan. There were a lot of good teams, the Giants, the Yankees, but the Dodgers topped them all, they were like the Cadillac of all teams. They have class.
ELI: What did you do before your job now?
TONY: I was with the Rockies, on a two man beat. I traveled a little with the team, but that was not my only job. I covered preps, college sports, women's sports. I covered two Super Bowls there too for the Broncos as well.
ELI: How much contact would you say you have with the players?
TONY: Quite a bit. The clubhouse opens three and half hours before game time, so we are around them a lot. We travel with them too, so you catch them in lobby or in the elevator. I try not to stay at the same hotel as the team, but every once and while I wind up with them. These days, there is a big age gap between reporters and the players, especially with a big market club. When I was in Cincinnati, it was a better fit because the players were easier to talk with.
ELI: What is the clubhouse like this year?
TONY: It is different. Comfortable, but different. There are young guys, but they have all come up together, so they are pretty comfortable. I guess there is a cockiness that surrounds them because of it.
ELI: Aside from Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt, who are the prospects that the average fan does not know about that should be with the Dodgers soon?
TONY: Ivan DeJesus Jr. is a solid prospect, but he will likely be traded unless a spot opens up. He is really talented, but how well will he hit is the question. Another guy is Preston Mattingly, down in Low-A. People are really high on him.
ELI: Several organizations stack their minor league teams differently. Some have their top prospects in Triple-A, while some have them in Double-A. How do the Dodgers do it?
TONY: The prospects definitely lie in Double-A, especially this year. You will typically find that Triple-A clubhouses are very bitter. They are filled with struggling MLB players that think they should be in the MLB-
ELI: "AAAA" guys, right?
TONY: Exactly. As far as I know, the Dodgers have no intention of ever sending Clayton Kershaw to Triple-A.
ELI: Chad Billingsly has really turned it around over the past couple years, what have you seen directly from him?
TONY: He has learned to throw strikes, and stop walking batters. Early on, he was trying to paint the corners too much, sending him deep into counts. He also learned to finally trust his stuff.
ELI: Where do you see the Dodgers lining up this year in the division?
TONY: They have been considered the favorite by some, but it seems they find a way to play bad. They have too many bad stretches that come back to hurt them. I am cautiously optimistic about them this year.
ELI: How has Juan Pierre been doing after being pushed to a reduced role?
TONY: You know, he hasn't had much to say. He has stayed quiet, to his credit. He's probably not happy.
ELI: Who are the more talkative guys in the clubhouse?
TONY: As for guys who play, probably Russell Martin. He has emerged as the spokesman for the rookies, so he is a guy that is you can usually get a decent quote from. Mark Sweeney is a good guy, but he doesn't play too much. James Loney usually gives a nice long quote, but it usually doesn't have much substance to it.
ELI: Who is the X-factor for the Dodgers this season?
TONY: Rafael Furcal, he's the guy. He is now healthy, he is going to get on base, run, and allow other guys to drive him in.