And Now They Act Surprised

June 29, 2016 Comments off

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Well, here we are, the eve of July and the Dodgers are in a huge heap of trouble. With a thin rotation, now ace Clayton Kershaw’s back is bothering him. He’s flying back to LA to be examined but knowing Kershaw, he’ll be ok. But, what if he isn’t? Even if he’s fine, maybe a little less Kershaw-esque than he’s been throughout the year, it opens up a discussion I’ve brought up many times since last season, this past winter, this spring and all season long – Andrew Friedman and his Peter Lorre-like henchman, Farhan Zaidi, did a piss poor job of building a starting rotation and pitching staff, especially for a large market team desperately needing a win after 30 seasons, and most especially when payroll is over $230M.

The Dodgers under Friedman had holes last season but the reason they didn’t go deeper in October was the reluctance to add a viable third ace to the rotation. I understand not wanting to deal Corey Seager or perhaps even Julio Urias but to be so stingy with all of the kid pitchers when options like David Price and Cole Hamels were available, cost the Dodgers in 2015. As we knew then and now, Brett Anderson isn’t the answer in important October games. Kershaw did his job. Zack Greinke did his job. Another solid arm would have helped the Dodgers advance, but small market bean counters like Friedman and Zaidi were, well, thinking small. Hoarding young pitchers as if they were the crown jewels. Newsflash to those in decision making positions for big market baseball teams mired in a 30 year drought – you can trade prospects, especially pitchers. What’s the likelihood the kids held are ever going to be on the level of Price or Hamels? Almost none. Big market teams can always buy an arm in a pinch. This doesn’t mean I advocate gutting the farm all the time to win now, but if you can go further than you have been and already have two supreme pitchers (as the Dodgers did last year), you should be all in and do what it takes – save for moving Seager.

But even Seager could have been moved, if the price was right. If you could get Mike Trout, moron Bryce Harper or someone like that, anyone is in play. But let’s assume the Dodgers just needed something extra last July, as they did. If your acquisitions are of the bargain basement variety Friedman made, you end up shorthanded. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are small market, small minded guys who think they are still in those tiny towns. If they were consistent, I wouldn’t have as much to say. But while cheaping out on big league talent, taking flyers instead on reclamation projects and injury marred nobodies, they still manage to spend a fortune on god knows what. All winter long we saw signings of unknown Cubans for lots of money, none of which has helped the Dodgers. Will they someday? Perhaps. But I’d argue with recent releases of the Stan Kasten batch of Cubans, and the failures of Yasiel Puig to put it together, it’s easy to debate that Cuban talent is overrated, especially at the price tags the players sign for. Let’s be frank – would you prefer unknown Cubans with “tools” and “potential” or proven big leaguers? Or strong performers from the Japanese league? (even ones without several injury concerns)

It’s quite a feat to both be extremely cheap and completely fiscally irresponsible. How does one even manage to spend so much and field a team with so little? Gone is Greinke, replaced with Kenta Maeda and several injury question marks there, plus Scott Kazmir, who was out of baseball not long ago. The pipedream of greatness from Mike Bolsinger or rebounds of epic proportion from Brandon McCarthy or Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon Beachy was always far-fetched. Now here we are, the end of June, and the Dodgers flagship radio station, 570 AM in LA, keeps making excuses. Who could have known? Who could expect? Umm, anyone? It was obvious even if Kershaw could stay healthy and win 20-25 games, it would be a challenge for the Dodgers to beat a reloaded San Francisco team. You need strong pitching to win and 1.5 to 2.5 starters isn’t enough. In fact, it’s a step backward from 2015.

Tonight the Dodgers are starting a guy who was pitching in A ball this year. All season long we’ve heard Friedman supporters talking about “depth.” All of the names that are called either fail or get hurt. When you troll the bargain bin, you can’t expect much. It’s unlikely 29 other teams all missed out and you’re just that much smarter than all of the other baseball executives. But that seems to be the case. The Dodgers front office is packed with big egos who consider themselves brighter than everyone else in baseball. It’s moronic, to them, to just go shopping in the off-season and get players that have track record of success, and hopefully good health. It’s too easy, so a deep thinker like Friedman, or one like Zaidi, don’t do things that way. A “dummy” like Ned Colletti would do that, and that’s not how they think. In complete honesty, Ned was a far brighter baseball mind than the idiots running the show now, and I’m the first to admit Ned was no genius, just a fairly competent, experienced baseball guy. The goal of a Friedman run front office is not necessarily to win – the Dodgers were already doing that under Ned and Stan Kasten – but to do it by showing the world they are smarter than everyone else. So if they could win with guys no one had heard of, waiver wire pickups, AAAA castoffs, injury guys, etc., the fruits of victory would taste that much sweeter.

Well, here we are. Excuses being made why everyone is hurt, or why others didn’t pan out. Excuses why the offense is one of the worst in baseball, why the pen has no real set up men and rotating no one’s on any given day. A great pitching staff can compensate for a low producing offense. Dan Evans, shackled by Fox ownership and given almost nothing to spend each winter, managed to field amazing defensive teams with strong pitchers – usually coming with different looks that confused opposing hitters. Evans’ teams were solid and just needed 1-2 more bats, but alas, it was never meant to be. Now here we are today, offensively challenged, still waiting for Puig to explode, but only the pitching is not what it was under Evans. The rotation is thin, the bullpen thin. We are told, wait, keep waiting. It’s been 3 decades, but we must keep waiting. I’d be happy to wait if an answer were on the horizon. I don’t see how you can ask patience while having the highest payroll in baseball. Those are mixed messages. If you have a payroll of what the current Dodgers do, it’s perfectly right for fans to expect it to be a go year. If you are rebuilding for 2018, as Friedman says he is, then payroll should be small. And if you’re building for years from now, you don’t really need Kershaw, who can walk in 2018, or Kenley Jansen, a free-agent after this year, or Adrian Gonzalez, or some of the other stars on the roster.

Dodger fans are divided – either confused, as I am, by what is going on. Or they’re young and never saw a winner. They have no point of comparison and assume this is a Dodgers team like the teams from Flatbush were or the 1970s juggernaut teams. Hey, they were blue caps with white lettering on them.

I feel sorry for fans of the Dodgers, both the old guard and new. The ownership group hired bean counters that have put their massive egos over the good of the fans and city. There is no real plan except to get cheaper, while apparently blowing that massive TV deal’s money and gate on items that can’t help the big club in any capacity. The pipedream is that somewhere down the line there will be a winning Dodger team filled with kids grown on the farm (mostly by Logan White under Ned’s supervision) and every prospect will be a superstar. Payroll will be very low, allowing the Guggenheim Group even larger profits, and isn’t that what America is about nowadays? Forget the fact it almost never works that way – a) that the prospects all hit, and b) that it could ever happen in a large market like LA anyway (or should).

Fans need to stop asking what happened or wondering how Kershaw could get hurt. They have to stop grousing about bad luck and how this could happen to anyone. No, it really couldn’t. Logically if the Dodgers had kept Greinke and added Price, Hamels, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija whoever, they’d have three strong pitchers. They could have added Maeda, injury question marks or no, to the lower part of the rotation. Having 4-5 pitchers you know you can count on for the majority of their starts is what you should aim for when constructing a pitching staff. You also need a strong bullpen to shorten games. If you work backward, you can have relievers shorten a game to 6-7 innings, allowing you the luxury of 5-6 inning starts on occasion from your starters. The Dodgers under Friedman gambled with innings in the rotation as well as the pen. This is exactly what happens when you think like this. It’s not a surprise that at some point Kershaw, who has logged a ton of innings, might himself get hurt. It’s not a surprise that other guys either couldn’t deliver or are hurt. It’s what you would expect if you were paying attention and not focused on showboating how bright you are.

The Dodgers now are in a quagmire that not much can be done about. I would be surprised even if Friedman and Zaidi wanted to make a big trade or two, if it would be enough. The holes are throughout the boat, not just one or two places. The solution is easy and complex. To get the Dodgers sailing right, Guggenheim has to admit their mistake, bring in an actual baseball person and clean house. This means losing all the cooks in the current kitchen, as well as most of Dave Roberts’ know-nothing coaches, all hand-selected by Friedman, of course. This would be quite a shakeup and of course it wouldn’t help in 2016. The Dodgers are playing for a wildcard and even if they get there, should Kershaw win that game, then what? There are few options behind Kershaw and may not be until Urias develops into a solid option who can log 200 innings. Of course by that time, Kershaw will likely have opted out and be wearing a Rangers hat. Then the question for Friedman apologists will be, what do we have behind Urias?

Does Pepto-Bismol come in blue?

LA Dodgers – “Fantasy” Draft Edition

June 6, 2016 4 comments

 

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The problems with everyone getting excited by the draft are:

  • If last June is any indication, the genius of Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, Gabe Kapler and friends shows they know as much about prospects as they do big league talent. Last June’s draft was pretty embarrassing and fruitless.
  • The Dodgers are focused on relying on kids – foreign and domestic – and ignoring the big league roster which is thin and riddled with holes. In most cases, any kids added will not help against good pitching and good teams. I love prospects, but the focus only on cheap and young – and usually less than spectacular cheap and young – is ridiculous.
  • After 30 years of being screwed first by Fox, then by Frank McCourt and now by a billionaire finance company like Guggenheim, the fans deserve better than kids. Kids are good to have but what most fans – especially Moneyball lovers – don’t get is most kids never make it and of those that do, oftentimes they develop into 4th starters, long relievers and bench players. Not every kid is a scary talent. Some are just scary.

I’d also add that prospects, especially by data loving morons, are hoarded like the crown jewels. The purpose of a good farm is developing players that can help the big league club, as well as providing currency to be used to acquire players of need for the big league club. It isn’t necessary – and actually foolish – to consider every kid pitcher, for example, untouchable. As I already said, many will never make it at all; others will be mediocre at best. To refuse to deal and wait for this windfall of cheap young talent to develop at the same time and magically fill your big league roster with superstars is a pipe dream. Also, it’s a dream of teams like Tampa and Oakland, not ironically where the Dodgers resident boy geniuses herald from.

The Dodgers fans have been dragged through the mud for decades and now can’t watch the games on TV. The team is a hodge podge of who are theys and never weres and the Guggenheim partners are asking the fans to keep coming out loyally, cash in hand, as if the mess constructed by Friedman and Zaidi was actually worth their hard earned dollars.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, get a clue. The team has 2.5 solid pitchers, a talented rookie, a game vet or two and that’s it. The farm system has young arms in the pipeline but to assume they will become the 2-5 starters behind Clayton Kershaw and carry the team to their first World Series since 1988 is unrealistic. If Julio Urias becomes “Kershaw lite” that would be an amazing thing. To think the other arms will be anywhere near that level, and healthy, is optimism to the umpteenth degree.

The lineup is aging, brittle and unimpressive save for any night’s heroics by Corey Seager and maybe one or two others. Are there kids down there ready to fill the lineup full of strong every day bats, speedsters, run producers, etc.? I don’t see it.

The con is of epic proportion. First, pay $2B for a team worth $1B or less, knowing an $8.5B TV deal lays in the weeds. Take that, disregard most of the fans can’t get the games, and bring in bean counters to decimate the roster, focus on mostly international players of marginal worth and simultaneously save money while blowing money ineffectively.

The fans quarrel with one another, citing their loyalty over anyone who disagrees with them, while the front office continues to stick it to everyone courtesy of Guggenheim ownership and Magic Johnson’s charming smile.

I’m not sure how “fans” can take it. I can only guess they are young and have no concept what a good Dodgers team looks like. They were born here, or moved here, and since a winner hasn’t hoisted a trophy since 1988, it’s understandable why they don’t get the criticism.

As someone old enough to remember what greatness was, let me tell you, this isn’t it. Waiting for Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson is sad. Tim Belcher laughs. Burt Hooten cries. Ramon Martinez throws up. And the list goes on.

To think the June draft means something more than a few more kids slotting into the system is a bad mistake. Fans should be pissed that the front office is so incompetent, so small market minded, that they are playing big stakes Saber ball with the team in the second largest market in the U.S.

I hope the fans of the Dodgers rise up and get these idiots tossed out of the front office. Paul DePodesta was served up when the fans were pissed at McCourt. Maybe it takes another uprising and boycott to get the word across to Guggenheim. Of course they’re financial folks, they know next to nothing about baseball. Plus they got their $8.5B (that’s $6.5B above the price they paid McCourt, if math is not your strong suit). I don’t think they care a bit about what the fans say or think.

They don’t have to. The fans are young, uninformed and sniping at one another on social media. If you have nothing to compare it to, I can see why you’d think this is normal. Tip from the wise – it’s not. You’re being conned.

Let’s Pull the Plug on the Andrew Friedman Experiment

June 1, 2016 8 comments

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The believers are still out there but at this point they are truly delusional or just grossly ill-informed. Unless Clayton Kershaw wins 25-30 games with his current stellar ERA, it would be hard to imagine the Dodgers, as constructed by dueling dingbats Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, making the post-season. The Giants are a better team, as are many other teams around the National League.

The injuries keep mounting and Friedman’s so-called “depth” is all but depleted. In fairness, it never really existed anyway – merely a battle cry for Sabermetrics fans and the truly hopeful. As mediocre pitchers hit the disabled list, their supposed replacements either fail or never make the bell. A few weeks ago amateur pundits (Moneyball fans) were boasting of great arms like Mike Bolsinger, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy, etc. ready to step in and lead the little Dodgers ($236M little) to the promised land. Well, Bolsinger is what he is, Ryu’s shoulder looks like a career ender, Urias is 19 and has 60 innings left in his arm before being shut down (we hope he gets shut down, or else he’ll be lost for 1.5-2 years), and McCarthy is off wherever JD Drew, Andruw Jones, Darren Dreifort and other non-performers disappeared to when getting fat paydays before pulling up with an ache or pain.

The Dodgers are what I and many of you always assumed they would be – mediocre. If you are being honest (a hard feat for many who bleed blue and want so badly to think front office geeks know more than people with actual baseball experience – and common sense), the Dodgers have Kershaw, Kenta Maeda who currently has a hand concern, as well as shoulder and elbow concerns, and nothing else of note in the rotation. The pen is worse, believe it or not, with Kenley Jansen and a cast of gasoline cans. No matter what spreadsheet you look at, no one has ever won anything with 2.5 pitchers out of 11-12. Depth would really need to step up to help Friedman/Zaidi’s Dodgers.

I tune in to 570 radio, the Dodgers flagship station in Los Angeles, and listen to the sports guy buffoons making excuses all the time. Today they were suggesting Urias isn’t really being forced into action out of desperation, but merely a test to see if he can respond to major league beat downs. A moment later they asked resident apologist David Vassegh who else could come up from the minors to help – since Urias is being asked to face the Cubs tomorrow in place of Maeda, rather than his scheduled start (replacing herky jerky and disabled Alex Wood on Saturday vs. the lowly Braves). There was a pause, or two, and some muttering, before saying pretty much no one was around who could help the big team.

I want to remind you all that injuries are part of baseball and they can happen to many teams at any time. That said, this was all predicted well in advance by me, and some of you. If you spend winters acquiring garbage and using tea leaves to figure out your rotation and bullpen, this is exactly what will happen. Many of you defended Friedman and Zaidi, saying those in disagreement didn’t know anything, were out of touch and didn’t understand the genius of the depth being acquired. Way too much confidence was put into the returns of either average at best arms or seriously damaged ones. To assume the likes of Brandon Beachy, McCarthy, Bolsinger and Ryu were going to suddenly become large market saviors was absurd. I love Ryu, but as I said last year, all winter and this March through now, to think he was going to come right back and perform, or even make the bell, was unrealistic. Shoulders, sadly for him, are career enders. If he makes some starts this year, consider Friedman lucky. More than likely he will not and certainly not be very consistent. That is my guess, I wish I were wrong.

The Dodgers, if you want to call them that, are a team in turmoil. It will be interesting to see how loyal the Guggenheim collective is with Paul DePodesta II. Friedman has seemed overmatched from the get-go. He has made a plethora of moves, bet on longshots and only occasionally does anything pan out. I’d say Trayce Thompson, so far, has worked out, but not much else. Big bets such as Chris Hatcher and the rest of his bullpen finds would be in the minors for most good teams. To think this is the end result of a $236M payroll makes it all quite criminal.

Say what you want about Ned Colletti, the guy turned around an abysmal (very similar to this team, as a matter of fact) DePodesta roster in one year and made it a fairly representative contending team. Ned made a few mistakes, but I’d argue they were nowhere near the number or level of Friedman/Zaidi. In the end, you could watch the teams Ned put together without having a puke bucket at hand. They felt like Dodgers teams – or at least as much as they could given the owner was fleecing the brand and the fans for every cent he could.

Friedman/Zaidi are betting on 2018, which to me is merely a way to ask for pardon for several more years of incompetence. If you project down the line, you can imagine Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Urias in the mix, and if lucky, a couple of the kid pitchers we always hear about. But to assume all, or most, of the kid pitchers will deliver, or even stay healthy, is a bit far-fetched. What Sabermetrics lovers forget is that every prospect doesn’t make it and those who do often become average or below starters or relievers. They become backups and depth. To think Friedman’s bet that his Cubans and holdovers from Ned and Logan White will all be stars and the team can have a low payroll (apparently paramount to Guggenheim’s end plan) and be composed of young kids is not only false but should be unacceptable.

Teams comprised of kids should be left for cities where financially that is the only option. A contending team, and of course a large market team, should have a mix of stars, veterans and kids. If you look at the rosters of teams most likely to be around in Oct, the Dodgers do not stack up. If you look toward Friedman’s go-year of 2018, anything resembling a star likely will be gone from LA, and this might include Kershaw. So a plan to wait two more years and hope all the kids are ready to perform is a bad plan for sure.

The only way out of this hinges on what Guggenheim baseball folks think of Friedman’s handiwork. If they like the idea of trimming down payroll and collecting TV money for games no one can see, as well as gate, merchandise, etc., then perhaps Dodgers fans will be subjected to this product for a generation. If Guggenheim, perhaps, sees the brand tarnishing, the gate slowing, and/or need a scapegoat (as Frank McCourt did when he hired, then fired, Depodesta), maybe Friedman and Zaidi are shit canned as they should be. Let’s hope Mark Walter, who seemed to steer Dave Roberts into the manager’s seat over Friedman insider Gabe Kapler, is getting as fed up as most of us are.

It would take Friedman/Zaidi to be fired to turn this around, not that it would be easy for anyone. It would be a ground-up rebuild, likely jettisoning the roster filler acquired by the geeky duo. The new architect (let’s assume they are competent and bright like Dan Evans or Ned or some other experienced baseball man or woman) could cut ties with those Friedman is clearly too sentimental about. AAAA players he favors, bullpen torches and the walking wounded and/or incompetent can be sent away. Some of the veterans or stars could be flipped to bring in younger players perhaps, not necessarily blue chips but major league qualified younger players. The Yasiel Puig experiment could mercifully end (deal him to Texas for Jurickson Profar – the Rangers would likely be intrigued, Profar is blocked at short and second anyway). I would feel more confident because we would still have the prospects Ned and Logan White acquired and a smarter person shopping this off-season. But what about 2016? Sorry, this year is a pipe dream most any way you look at it. Kershaw will have to carry the team on his back in a 1988 Orel Hershiser manner, but even Orel had Tim Belcher, Tim Leary and a bullpen.

My hope is that fans continue to speak up and stop buying expensive tickets to games that ultimately don’t matter anyway. If the owners don’t want to televise the games, stay home and find something else to do. I won’t cave and give Guggenheim money until they show a concern for the fans and the historical brand and replace the morons who have created a roster so convoluted only a snarky geek could like it. Andrew Friedman is overmatched or just a stubborn idiot. His skeevy looking sidekick Farhan Zaidi is a poor man’s Peter Lorre . The two have taken the fun out of Dodgers baseball and when I tune in to 570 or see fans chatting blue online, I can’t believe the nonsense going on. The team was poorly created and not prepared. If the goal was to field an inferior product, they’re doing a wonderful job. When mediocre or poor players don’t do well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. When often injured (and barely passable) players don’t find an elixir for all that ails them and come charging to the rescue, it’s not “bad luck.” Under Friedman and Zaidi, the incompetence has reached new levels – which is saying a lot considering this team was owned by McCourt at one time and designed by DePodesta.

If you like what is happening, or are just there for the 35 Kershaw starts, good for you. I wish you all the happiness. The truth can be painful. As a lifetime Dodgers fan, I call it as I see it. The fans have been fucked over for three decades in one way or another and 2018 will not be any different unless the front office is swept clean. Save your money, read a book, see a summer blockbuster, but don’t count on Friedman and Zaidi’s Dodgers for summer enjoyment unless you like torturing yourself.

The Cavalry is Coming?

May 10, 2016 3 comments

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A friend of mine shared one of the well-known Dodgers pundits on social media slamming fans for getting too high over Dodgers wins and too low over their losses. I agree with that; it’s something I have commented on for years. Baseball is a slow moving game, a 6-month marathon, in the midst of a culture of quick-fix personalities. Football is 16 games and hyped to the max, so fans feel a need to live and die for their team every Sunday. They bring that mentality to baseball, which lends itself to sitting in the sun, chewing sunflower seeds and talking about everything in the world but the game. Social media has easily exacerbated the problem.

 

Where this beloved pundit and I disagree is his next line that the Dodgers will be fine because they have all this great help coming. He points out to the rehab of guys like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Mike Bolsinger and the bullpen arm of Frankie Montas. To assume all of these guys will come back, without a hitch, and buoy the Dodgers sagging pitching rotation and bullpen is wishful thinking at best. Just to believe they will all make it back and contribute in any meaningful way is fairly ridiculous.

 

Of the four, Ryu is the best but let’s face it; damaged shoulders (as I’ve told you countless times in previous articles) are career killers. That his year off has been pushed to May or June is not a good sign. I love Ryu and would love to see him defeat the odds, but believing the current pitching woes of the Dodgers will be fixed immediately by Ryu isn’t likely.

 

McCarthy wasn’t very good when he was healthy, and if the other Brandon’s (Beachy) rehab is any yardstick, the Dodgers will be lucky to get anything serviceable out of McCarthy in 2016.

 

Bolsinger? A nice story last year (his upside apparently was a .500 record and ERA pushing 4) but he’s a career 7-12 with 4.23 ERA. Maybe an improvement over Alex Wood and Ross Stripling, perhaps even “#2 starter” Scott Kazmir and his near 6 ERA, but none of this is saying a lot.

 

That leaves Montas – a big hard thrower that of course could be intriguing, but he’s done nothing in the bigs and has trouble throwing strikes. Coming off an injury doesn’t help. To think a $236M Dodgers team is pinning its hopes on an unproven like Montas and the aforementioned injured starters is just sad.

 

Could some of these guys surprise and improve the team’s sorry pitching? I guess so. I love Ryu, like I said, so if anyone could, perhaps he might. But to think a badly damaged shoulder will just miraculously be healed and he will step in without question and dominate, well, that’s not likely. I wouldn’t bet on McCarthy being worth the $48M braindead Andrew Friedman gave him either and well, Bolsinger is just a guy.

 

It’s time to be honest and admit the Dodgers are not a very good team. I agree with this pundit – you shouldn’t get overly excited when they win and pull your hair out when they lose. Baseball runs from spring training in mid-February to the post-season in October. That is a long time. In a time of social media instant gratification and having access to ways to get your every thought out doesn’t help. Patience, grasshopper, patience.

 

The Dodgers will excite one night, look miserable the next and that bullpen will drive you to drink. The games are not on TV for most of the city and Vin Scully’s swan song is going unheard. If you are over the moon excited about this and the prospect that Brandon McCarthy will beat the odds Brandon Beachy did not, all the more power to you. I’d say you would be better off focusing on finals, getting ready for summer barbecues and beach outings, Marvel superhero movies and perhaps picking up a good book. This Dodgers team is mediocre. The brain trust, and I use that term ironically, concocted a roster full of garbage and extra pieces. The cavalry isn’t going to ride in and save the day. Rather than waiting for that to happen, pray for a mid-season trade, or, wait out this regime’s dying breaths. As Richard Crenna said in the first Rambo movie, “It’s over, Johnny. It’s over!”

MLB Doesn’t Care and Neither Do I

May 1, 2016 2 comments

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The Dee Gordon PED bust is both sad and eye opening. It also opens the door for questions about who else is using and who was but stopped after getting their big payday. A wise friend of mine (@TheDodgerOracle) and I were chatting about this the day we heard the Dee news. We joked (not really) that you have to give Dee credit – he got his $50M payday from the Marlins and still was using. In today’s day and age, that shows integrity. A weird word, we know, when discussing baseball cheats.

We went through a list of all the players who were monsters who suddenly, quickly, faded away – almost all after getting their payday. The list is pretty amazing. As fantasy baseball players know, there used to be a time when guys were first or second round picks, now you see those same names available late in drafts or on waivers. It also used to be that a player was good for a long period of time, reliable, to be counted on in real life or in fantasy, but suddenly their shelf life is only as long as their race for the payday.

You can go through a long list of players who got paid and then disappeared. You can also go through a list of young stars MLB banks on who got paid, but it’s not their last big payday, or they have an opt-out, so they continue to perform. I have my own theories too on the dirty business that is MLB, where generally the guys they catch and suspend are second or third tier, perhaps just to show fans they “do care” about the integrity of the sport.

Dee’s suspension seems like one where they wanted to throw a big name out there, and while a batting champ, a base stealer like Dee isn’t really that big a name to throw out. Well known, sure, but it wouldn’t hurt baseball’s marketing at all if Dee were given up. This is not to defend Dee but if we honestly believe a skinny guy who steals bases is the big cheat of MLB, we’re all in denial.

I wonder how frequently the new commissioner, Rob Manfred, tests more marketable stars such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, aged Big Papi, etc. and if they ever turn a blind eye to the results of those tests? Baseball has done a terrible thing in creating doubt in fans’ minds, so me wondering it isn’t nearly as bad as me being forced to wonder it.

It’s pretty easy to look at players in recent years and guess they might have been on something, and then went off once they were paid. That’s why Dee still using, or doubtfully, starting to use, after getting paid is intriguing. I mean, we’ve seen players get paid, fall off the productivity charts, then perhaps pick up again because their vanity forces them to. I’m talking about players who were great, got paid, sucked, were ridiculed, then got good again. Without saying anyone is guilty or ever used, there are players such as Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols or Robinson Cano, many others, who fit this bill. Then there are guys who got paid and obviously don’t care anymore, sucking up a team’s financial resources while hitting .220 with marginal power.

The best way for someone to apply data to their fantasy baseball game would be to create a spreadsheet of players and when they got paid, or when they are going to be free-agents and hope to get paid. With that chart, you could analyze who is hungry and playing for the payout and who is flush with cash and isn’t. That, I suspect, directly correlates into who is possibly using PEDs and who was and stopped.

Again, it’s not a perfect science as some guys don’t care about shrinking their balls because the limelight and caliber of groupies as they blow into town on a road trip are better for top players. Barry Bonds kept using (allegedly), Big Mac, Papi (perhaps), etc. You have to hand it to those guys who want the fame so much they will risk cancer and death for their egos.

MLB is a dirty game and one I’ve lost respect for. They obviously don’t care about longtime fans, like me, older fans. They want to appeal to young people and casual fans who just care enough to go to the park, take a few selfies, dance to the between innings music and spend a lot of money. The game used to market to “baseball fans” but it’s now anyone who will show up with a wallet ripe for the picking.

I guess that’s how it has to be to compete with the NFL and NBA, sports that offer a lot more attention span challenged excitement. The demographics of baseball fans is older and while the sport has never made more money, I guess it’s necessary to think long-term and about the next generations of fans.

Exciting players sell, and as long as fans throw out conspiracy theories on cheats, there will have to be a few people handed up here and there, selectively, to make baseball seem honest. I don’t defend Dee for cheating – it’s a terrible letdown – but to assume he’s public enemy #1 in this age of sleight of hand is more than a bit naive.

Even if baseball is honest and trying to catch all the cheats, guys like BALCO president Victor Conte have said that there are plenty of ways players can cheat and not get caught. It could be as simple as being tipped off a test will be coming, or taking quick acting drugs in the morning, which are undetectable by the time the guy goes to the ballpark. I suspect it works that the top guys, like Barry and A-Rod and all the current crop, get the best drug dealers and supply, and guys down the ladder are more on their own. I’m not sure where Dee falls, but his contract is nowhere near as great as the top stars in the game. Make of that what you will.

Since the game appears not to care, neither do I. I have been a baseball fan since childhood and am perfectly content going to college games in recent years and not the big league ones. In Los Angeles, where Moneyball rules and the games are not even televised, it’s very easy not to care very much. Baseball is a dirty business and they are focusing on a fan base that doesn’t care, while turning its back on the one that does. In turn, I’m turning my back on MLB. They don’t care and neither do I.

What Dodgers Fans Should Know

April 20, 2016 2 comments

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The season is new and fans are euphoric over the early returns. The $236M payroll Dodgers beat the crap out of the sad sack Padres to begin the season, then played a real team in San Francisco and struggled, but rebounded at home before getting the crap kicked out of them by the lowly Braves last night. The Dodgers played sloppy defense, perhaps hung over from Atlanta area nightlife, and Alex Wood’s effort made you wish his crazy whip like motion landed him on the DL. But, as Eric Karros famously used to say, “It’s only April.” The season is 6 months long and baseball fans shouldn’t look at the game like they might the NFL – while every game matters, they really don’t… well, until they do when you’re doing mathematics in September.

 

A wise friend of mine found the article below and I thought I would share. I liked it a lot and it made me think of some of my earlier articles from last season and this past winter. To me what’s happening with the Dodgers is very simple and obvious, but to casual fans or the over trusting, celebrating Kike Hernandez, Charlie Culberson or whatever other utility castoff you worship, it’s not. Anyway, here’s the link…

 

http://www.ladowntownnews.com/opinion/dodgers-owners-have-failed-the-fans/article_2bce74e2-05a8-11e6-a9da-8fee1b566d1c.html

 

My take, as I’ve stated before, is that Guggenheim cares about business and the bottom line. They came in and paid well scrubbed Frank McCourt $2B, or $1B+ over the estimated asking price, knowing full well they would win the bid and soon gain major profits from the deal. McCourt quickly sold, ran off with his profits (after profiting every step of the way from the time he slithered into Los Angeles) and a smiling Magic Johnson convinced fans the worst was over.

 

Most fans who are a bit more serious about the Dodgers have noticed not much has changed. Guggenheim promptly signed off on a lucrative TV deal that netted them over $8B, knowing full well that to make the deal work Time Warner Cable would need to pass the cost on to the fans. Guggenheim didn’t care how it all worked out, taking the money and clearing over $6B after the buying price. That number goes up of course as they increase prices on tickets, merch, food, parking, etc. All of the gate proceeds and other revenue streams are gravy.

 

Of course Time Warner could not swing a deal to pass the cost on to the fans, meaning 70% of the city is going on two years without the Dodgers on TV. Many fans are getting pissed, others say, “Switch TV providers” or “Get MLB.TV” and can care less.

 

The damage being done affects both new and old generations of Dodgers fans. New fans, and young people you would hope Guggenheim would like to one day become Dodgers fans, could care less since the Dodgers are mostly invisible if you live within Los Angeles. No TV, no concern. There are many other diversions for young people to get into without watching Dodgers games on TV. This is especially problematic since baseball is a dying sport in terms of young viewers, so you’d think if there was a way to appeal to them, Guggenheim would be very interested. I guess they assume by the time it matters, they will have sold the team, their profits already tucked away in Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts.

 

For the older fans, the two years of the botched TV deal means no Dodgers and more, no end of Vin Scully’s career. You would assume if Guggenheim didn’t consider this when they made the deal (they didn’t), they certainly would after the bad publicity last year. A caring ownership would have done everything possible over the off-season to ensure everyone in Los Angeles who wanted to see and listen to Vin could in 2016. But here we are – hollow celebrations of Vin Scully Avenue and Opening Day pomp and circumstance, yet nothing has been done to correct the actual problem – fans largely do not get to relish in all things Scully one last time.

 

I could go into how the payroll is high (highest in the NL) but the Dodgers have half a rotation and almost no bullpen, and are playing utility players from other organizations most days, but the focus here is the con job being thrust upon Dodgers fans. We are being played for fools and while the money is vaulted, the fans in-fight and hope Magic responds to a tweet to “fix the TV situation.” Note to everyone – Magic is just a bit more an owner than a guy working at the car wash and could care less about such things. It’s the NBA playoffs; that’s Magic’s focus in April.

 

So sadly the only way out of this pickle is the same way we got out of the Frank McCourt shit storm. The fans have to get fed up and stop going to games, and make a big stink so Guggenheim correct the error of their ways. If they keep letting Time Warner be the only villain, and slowly cutting on-field costs with dual incompetency (Friedman/Zaidi) then they win. Before long you will have a team of kids and utility players and will be paying top dollar to watch them – at the stadium, as there won’t be any other way to do it.

 

The plan worked last time – a rat was thrown out and forced to sell. Don’t think for a moment that what is happening now is all that different than what happened before. They have substituted unsafe stadium conditions and personal injury for little opportunity to watch games and higher costs. You are being sold a bill of goods. If you find all of this just great, my argument will mean nothing to you. I wish you the best and you need not reply. But if you didn’t consider this before or your blood has been boiling, do something about it. Kick, scream, refuse to go to games, and stop swilling the Kool-Aid. A con is a con is a con and this is like a déjà vu from hell all over again. If being asked to follow mediocre pitching and marginal players who may or may not be big leaguers isn’t enough for you, perhaps the fact Guggenheim is making over $6B (billion with a B) while you are being deprived Vin Scully’s last games might.

Three Decades and Counting

April 4, 2016 5 comments

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Happy Opening Day, everyone. Today the Dodgers have as good a chance as anyone of winning their division, the pennant and even the World Series. Enjoy it while you can; tomorrow’s another day.

The Dodgers open the season against the lowly, also Moneyball-inspired, San Diego Padres. Two dogs playing at Petco; apropos. It’s nice the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw face off against the Friars, one of two teams in the West they should finish ahead of. Should.

Fans likely will be impressed by Kershaw’s mastery tonight and if you bet on sports, betting on a Kershaw start would seem money in the bank. Expect the Twitter-verse abuzz with boasts and trash talking in a classy manner becoming of Dodgers fans in recent years. Then the rest of the week there will be excuses, as there always are, for the losses, errors, left runners, injuries, and perhaps even that ownership doesn’t care enough to let 70% of fans in the Los Angeles marketplace see the team’s games on TV.

The other day I jokingly (sort of) remarked how in some ways the Guggenheim ownership group is as bad as the Frank McCourt reign of terror. Immediately simpletons attacked me for suggesting the smiling Magic Johnson fronted group could be anywhere near as bad as the tragedy of the Botox’d regime of old. Umm, that’s the problem – in the Dodgers fan world and America as a whole – stupidity is abundant.

I would say as a fan there is very little difference between a Boston parking lot heir ripping off the fans for his own personal gain and what’s happening now. Each side has left unspeakable scars in Dodgers fans consciousness. Whether it’s McCourt going cheap on stadium security and allowing fans to get hurt or Guggenheim pocketing money while fans are left to imagine what Vin Scully’s years might look and sound like, same bullshit, different day. Both owners also employed Moneyball nerds to dismantle rosters of professional baseball players and insert players no one knows who probably were driving a Sparkletts route a few months previous (no offense to Sparkletts drivers – I have more respect for you than I do sleazy executives and rich investment bankers).

The Dodgers new owners are repeating the sins of the previous – as in America, apparently no one learns from history. When Paul DePodesta destroyed a solid Dan Evans built roster for his own ego – only to appear clever – it was criminal. Guggenheim came in and after quickly giving up on a new direction under Stan Kasten, went the same route McCourt did and hired cost-cutting Sabermetrics guys. The rosters, then and now are sprinkled with unknowns, while in this case, still maintaining a NL high payroll. It’s quite an achievement to have little talent on the field yet spend well over $200M. The 2016 Dodgers have a payroll about $100M higher than the World Champion Kansas City Royals, with a fraction of its talent or heart. One should award the two-headed snake called Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi executives of the year for this feat alone.

The Dodgers spring training was a series of injuries that left the front office dropping the D word (“depth”) every chance they could. They made it sound like it was good players were getting hurt as it tested them even sooner than they imagined. Fans meantime were left scratching their heads and surprised all this great talent Friedman/Zaidi added was hurt – and so fast. Well, when you sign mediocre, often-injured players they tend to be hurt. I’ve said it for years and each season some new bully on Twitter calls me out for being “negative.” Truth = negativity, if it’s not their truth.

It still amazes me that Dodgers fans – way too many of them – side with a front office and ownership team that obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them. For Guggenheim, they gladly doubled the estimated $1B sale price many financial experts assumed they’d have to pay McCourt for the team since they knew full well the TV deal with Time Warner Cable would net $8B, or $6B in immediate profit after paying off McCourt. Add to that baseball’s best gate, merchandise, expensive beer and hot dogs, parking, etc. and it’s quite a nifty payday. Yet, like lemmings, the Dodgers fans cheer and plan their day at the park, angry at anyone who dares question why a team with a near 30 year championship drought would opt for marginal minor league utility players in starting roles. As Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “Fans root for laundry.”

These are not the Dodgers I grew up with, rooted for, and this includes even more recent Dodgers teams. I loved Dan Evans’ underfunded, huge hearted teams, and to a slightly lesser degree the teams Ned Colletti put together that featured smart big league players and were always a player short (since the owner needed daily hair styling at his mansion). But as I witnessed Paul DePodesta destroy a solid roster, I’ve seen it happen again. While I feel sorry for Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez, I feel sadder for the idiots who dedicate more than just their summers – perhaps every day of their lives – to a team that stopped being the Dodgers of old long ago.

Instead of smart, motivated players the fans are supposed to pay for (live, you can’t watch on TV) jokesters and career minor leaguers, or castoffs from other organizations. The saving grace is kids – the farm Logan White and Colletti cultivated, mostly. I have always been a big fan of the prospects, and still am, so I’m very excited to see how Corey Seager’s career goes, as well as some of the others, but I’m sorry, in a market as large as Los Angeles, with that aforementioned near three decade drought, to construct a team around kids is sad. With the always talked about wherewithal of Guggenheim, there has to be a bigger sense of urgency than to wait to see if the kid pitchers in the system pan out. As I’ve told people for years, prospects are currency – not each makes it, and as often as they bolster your big league roster directly, equally they are there to be used in case of need to acquire great big league players in trade. Anyone who covets prospects to the extent they assume each will be an impact player on the roster is fooling themselves. Their value means more in smaller markets anyway, where money isn’t plentiful. The fact that Plan A is the kids is telling. Guggenheim wants to extract far more than $6B out of fans in Los Angeles.

This isn’t meant to attack the kids – the Dodgers have good ones and they are probably the lone reason for excitement in 2016 and beyond. As good teams got better over the winter, the Dodgers famously did nothing. Then the spring injuries, with 10 players starting the season on the DL. Friedman/Zaidi apologists will have you believe this is a freak occurrence, but they’re not. Like last season, I called this in the winter. If you build your team like DePodesta or Friedman/Zaidi have, this is what you get. The only time this philosophy should be your go-to is if you are in that tiny market that financially has no other way to compete. Friedman has brought his Tampa mindset to Los Angeles, and don’t think that’s by coincidence. Just as McCourt brought in Oakland celebrity DePodesta in to cut costs, Guggenheim has with Friedman, and then Zaidi.

The fans will need to decide what they want to do. Will they continue to go along with this odd method of spending a lot of money on random pieces while cutting obvious good ones, or will they boycott? It took some time for fans to stand up to McCourt and maybe the same thing needs to happen again. Could the Dodgers win the West? I would say no, but I suppose it’s possible. But does it matter? The Dodgers won three Western titles in as many years and still can’t win in October. With a thin rotation and marginal pen, I can’t imagine October success even if the opportunity arose. The Moneyball faithful would say, well, this is by design – playoff baseball is too hard to predict from a data perspective. I would counter with that’s why good teams build teams like Dan Evans did, and even Colletti did – getting as many good or at least proven players as they can.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence you look at the top contending teams and see known names, talented players, and a lot of them, on the rosters. Then you look at the Dodgers roster and outside of a few names, you are left with unknowns, question marks, injury risks and the aged. The only way to celebrate this brand of Dodgers baseball is if you’re either delusional or brainwashed. Anyone who would take the Dodgers current roster over the Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, etc. is stupid or so in love with the cleverness of Moneyball they’re ripe for Scientology membership.

We will see how 2016 shapes up. I sense it will be a very painful season for Dodgers fans who honestly feel we deserve better. For the apologists, the possibly mentally ill, it will be a celebration of numbers and math that has no basis of fact. While the top teams move into October and play for a World Series ring, the Dodgers fans will be snapping at one another about what changes need to be made and how to get more very average minor league players from other organizations into the Dodgers lineup and rotation. Three decades and counting.

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