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11/17/08 10:00 AM EST

Mailbag: To spend, or not to spend?

Beat reporter Ken Gurnick answers fans' questions

Manny this and Manny that. Let's be real. Manny Ramirez will never duplicate the numbers in a full season that he did in two months with the Dodgers. Nearly all players inflate their numbers in their free-agent year. National League pitchers and scouts will also find a way to pitch to him more effectively. I'd love to have him back, but the offer the Dodgers recently put out there was without question the smart thing to do. Spend all this money and who's gonna be pitching and fielding the ball? We have 13 other positions to fill. Pitching wins championships, not one superstar hitter. So kudos to general manager Ned Colletti restraining the offer to a two- or three-year contract.
-- Ryan V., Fresno, Calif.

Yours is a minority view, but a segment of e-mailers share your concern about devoting so much payroll to Ramirez when there remains so many other positions to fill. However, on your suggestion that Ramirez's stats are inflated because of free agency, he signed a massive contract eight years ago and has continued to produce like a Hall of Famer. Many players seem to coast after cashing in, but not this one.

Will Gil Hodges ever get into the Hall of Fame?
-- Jim H., Hollywood, Calif.

It's hard to understand why it hasn't happened. Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, an advocate for Hodges' candidacy, points out that when the slugger retired in 1963, he was third on the all-time home run list among right-handed hitters and was 11th overall. In Hodges' 15 years on the writers' ballot, he finished ahead of 21 other players that eventually were voted into the Hall, including former Dodgers teammates Don Drysdale, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese. Hodges is one of 10 players on this year's Veterans Committee ballot that also includes current Dodgers manager Joe Torre and former Dodgers Maury Wills, Dick Allen and Al Oliver. The 64 living Hall of Famers are the voters. Results will be announced on Dec. 8.

In a recent interview with a local radio show, Colletti was asked about Andruw Jones showing up to camp out of shape in 2008. Colletti stated the Dodgers have a personal trainer currently with Jones in his home in Atlanta and his 2008 shape was basically unacceptable. He also stated Jones signed his name to a contract that states he must be in top physical shape. In 2008, he obviously wasn't in peak shape. If he shows up in 2009 looking very similar, is there anything the team can do to penalize him, such as suing him or voiding the contract?
-- Steve S., Los Angeles

Have a question about the Dodgers?
Ken GurnickE-mail your query to MLB.com Dodgers beat reporter Ken Gurnick for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Paragraph 3.(a) of the uniform players contract states that the player must "keep himself in first-class physical condition." If the club attempted to void the contract for that reason, it would be fought tenaciously by the Players Association, which has proved over the years to be extremely successful defending the players. That doesn't mean it won't happen with so much money at stake. If your scenario plays out, the club could choose to release Jones, rather than go through a repeat of the 2008 disaster, and/or attempt to fight the player for the remaining $21.2 million on the contract.

What are the plans next year for Scott Elbert?
-- Kevin R., Charlotte, N.C.

For now, he's a reliever, likely to replace Joe Beimel as the second left-hander behind Hong-Chih Kuo. Elbert could probably help the Major League club soonest in that role. If he did not make the Major League club as a reliever, he would probably be returned to starting in the Minors. Because of shoulder surgery, he missed most of the 2007 season and his innings were limited in '08, so starting in the Minor Leagues would provide extra innings for him to develop. It would be a big leap to consider him for a Major League starting spot considering his limited professional experience.

In the latest talks about the Dodgers' "thin" rotation (with Greg Maddux possibly retiring, declining the option on Brad Penny, and the uncertainty of Jason Schmidt), there has been talk about Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald filling the void. Whatever happened to Eric Stults?
-- Chris L., Fife Lake, Mich.

Torre mentioned Stults as a candidate for next year's rotation when the season ended and Colletti mentioned Stults as a candidate last week. Stults had a 3.49 ERA in seven starts as a sporadically used starter in three callups. That's a lower ERA than Kershaw's. But Stults lacks an overpowering pitch and has been unable to win over the current management regime because of inconsistency. He threw a four-hit shutout in his second start this year, but he had only limited chances to show if he could repeat that kind of dominance.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.