Let’s be clear: I have been a skeptic. In some ways I still am.
I tend to view Dodger owners past and present with a jaundiced eye. The years have instilled that in me. I’ve never worshiped with the cult of Peter O’Malley. I recall all too well the years he let the team flounder, wasting five consecutive rookie’s of the year without a single playoff win to show for them. More to his discredit, I will never forgive him for allowing my beloved Dodgers to fall into the hands of Rupert Murdoch. Nor can I forgive him for returning to baseball. I view him now the way a grown-up child views the parent who abandoned them, playing with his new trophy family (The San Diego Padres).
I doubt that I need to explain here why I never trusted Fox, and then came to loathe Frank McCourt. Those scabs do not need to be picked at right now.
But the point remains, there has been a cumulative sense of betrayal carried around by every Dodger fan for decades. It has grown steadily over the years. O’Malley never seemed to notice that he was planting those seeds, and Fox hardly seemed to care that they were taking full root. Frank McCourt assumed that we were dumb enough to view him as a savior, even as he fertilized the soil with every word he uttered. Thus when Guggenheim came along, I was not sold.
And truth be told, there were reasons to be wary. Their giant overbid that allowed McCourt to profit by more than a billion dollars – even as he was still part owner of the parking lots. Job one of a vanquishing hero is to actually vanquish the enemy and hopefully make them pay. Guggenheim failed on both of those fronts. Worse, they lied to us in the process.
I began to suspect everything about them. I wondered aloud if Magic Johnson was simply a trojan horse they used to escape the scrutiny of an angry Los Angeles populace. I imagined scenarios in which they were a group actually assembled by Frank McCourt to allow him to walk away with the cable profits that Bud Selig had denied him. I bristled as Stan Kasten spouted business jargon about “fan experience” and worried about things like stadium WiFi while a 17 win surplus was frittered away with seemingly no action to improve the team. I howled as promises of action by Mark Walter were walked back by Kasten in a matter of hours. I mocked as Magic Johnston fired off one tone-deaf tweet after another about partying on Rhianna’s yacht or jet-setting the globe while our team was bleeding out on the field. They were all talk. And worse, they seemingly had no idea how deep the distrust they’d walked into was.
Then came the Hanley Ramirez deal. It had been years since The Dodgers made a move for a superstar in their prime. That went a long way. Then came the deadline deals that brought us Victorino and League. I’d have rated the new owners a solid B+ at that point, missing an A because the moves came too late to protect our early-season lead (and after too much comically inept spin).
The Cliff Lee claim was where they won me over. It didn’t matter that they did not come away with a deal for him. They risked having that contract dumped on them. No previous owner would have done that. I suppose I pondered for a moment some plot involving Ned Colletti and his pal Ruben Amaro Jr. wherein Amaro put Lee on waivers just to let us show willingness to claim him, with full assurance that he’d pull Lee back – but that was stupid. Still it speaks to how little I was willing to trust.
Fast forward to last Friday. When the first rumors about Adrian Gonzalez started surfacing, I dismissed them. I considered what it would take to make something like that happen and wrote it off as science fiction. Then when the specifics of the deal began to emerge, I found it even more impossible to believe. Trades like that just don’t happen.
But it did happen.
Lord knows all sorts of ink has been spilled analyzing the deal itself. I am not in the mood to join in. On the field the trade could go either way. Anyone who says they know for sure one way or the other is full of it. Trades happen precisely because nobody knows for sure who will do what. So calculated risks are taken.
In retrospect the trade may just be seen as “classic Guggenheim” one day. Just as they overshot the projected sales price for the Dodgers and included a stake in the real estate for McCourt to ensure that he’d accept their bid, here they chose the player they felt they had to get and offered enough in cash and prospects to assure that they would get their way.
People who worry about the money are missing the point. From a fan’s perspective, worrying about the money is a form of Stockholm Syndrome. It is something that we should never have to worry about. I intend not to worry about it. What I take away from all of this is that the folks from Guggenheim surveyed the free agent market and saw little there to look forward to – so they made their own market. In the process, they brought back a sense of swagger to the Dodgers. More important – they brought back trust. Whether Adrian Gonzales hits, Carl Crawford fully recovers or Josh Beckett rebounds in the NL, trust is a dividend that will keep on paying.
We are on board with you now, gentleman. Don’t take that for granted.
T.J., your columns on McCourt were appreciated, as was your early relentless attack on the various lies the new owners were pushing out to us, but now, join the love. This is an amazing time in the Dodgers history – so much so Vin Scully reupped for another year. Let it go.
People might easily point to us buying a winner, etc., which on the surface is very true. Here’s the difference…
1) The team was neglected so badly under McCourt it was missing several key pieces – necessitating any responsible owner to take action. So, adding pieces of high quality isn’t unusual. This leads to the second point…
2) Previous owner also neglected the farm. The crown jewels mostly made it to the bigs – those were from previous regime. McCourt, save for Zach Lee, inexplicably let the farm dry up. These big moves, plus international signings like Puig, and strong June drafts like we just had, buy the farm several years to catch up. The pressure is off during this restocking.
I am appreciative of all of this and do not believe in a second we are the Yankees of the West. This was a short term, albeit massive, overhaul that serves our needs now and for the next several years.
Besides – we did our winter shopping now, on our terms, as opposed to waiting for the hot stove. News to the cash-laden Red Sox, nothing out there to buy. Greinke, possibly, but unless you want a guy with terrible baggage like Josh Hamilton, there is NO talent to find. The following season’s FA crop about as bad.
So… I wholly support these moves. You should too.
This is where I do a song and dance and say the team isn’t as bad as it’s seemed the past two nights. I want to believe it, have to believe it, because there’s still 7 weeks or so left in the season, and I’ve invested too much time and thought into the Dodgers this year particularly – as well as all my life – to give up now. When the weather cools, I’ll focus on my favorite NFL team and wake up when the winter shopping begins, but right now, it’s unbearable LA heat, earthquakes, and mediocre efforts by our boys in blue.
A few thoughts…
I think ownership has redeemed itself and has listened to fans and put their wallets where there mouths were. All the bold comments by Stan Kasten finally mean something, especially after showing the team was willing to bite into the big contracts of Cliff Lee and Adrian Gonzalez. Forget Hanley’s $38M, small potatoes. The previous two players’ deals would have really hit payroll. I’m impressed. Bowing in reverence to the great baldy – Kasten.
That said, allowing the team’s amazing start, the toast of baseball, a big lead, momentum, 1988-esque magic, etc. to go by the wayside sucks. They simply waited too long, let the patient bleed out, before acting. What could have been the reason? No belief in the team? Well, even if they thought the brilliant start was mere luck, which it might have been, what changed their minds? The cries from the fans? Empty seats? Probably as good of motivators as any, I’m guessing. But, in the end, adding pieces to fill deep holes in our woeful offense, and a few arms to the pen, as well as a starter, all very good, and will definitely help us next year. Now? I think we just waited way too long. It’s a lot to ask to suddenly turn it on now that the pieces have arrived. We sometimes – often – forget the human element in sports. I think the team could gel, but it’s a work in progress and truth be told, may not happen until next year. Regardless, we needed to address that big bat, as well as many of the other areas we did, so not a bad idea to get a jump on this winter’s shopping mid-summer.
What can be done to turn the tide, allowing THIS team to win? Well, patience would help, letting the guys get to know one another and play together. I’d also say there’s still work to be done – we HAVE to get a real first baseman, whether it’s Jerry Sands and/or Lyle Overbay, Morneau, who knows who? We can’t have NO production from as important a position as first base, like we have now for several years. I’m willing to try anything, because Loney is not the answer. His fielding, once his calling card, has faltered a bit lately, and clearly Donnie doesn’t trust him anymore, especially against left-handers. Loney’s numbers are abysmal when you compare them to most anyone in the league. A journeyman like Adam LaRoche, blows Loney away. Hell, the Rockies’ baby shortstop, in under 90 at-bats, has just 9 rbi less than Loney’s had all year – and has more homers and about 100 points on Loney in batting average. I won’t even mention guys like Trumbo, Konerko, etc. Too embarrassing.
I’d cut Uribe today, Loney tomorrow. We could fill those roster spots with people who have a pulse and want to hustle. I’d rather see Sands and Castellanos than Uribe and Loney.
We also need to figure out the rotation and pen for next season – the #1 thing that should be on our off-season to-do list. The rotation is really pretty thin, due to the money Ned had to spend, and needs revamping. Perhaps the help is done on the cheap and we just bring back Hiroki Kuroda for one year and an option. He’s old, sure, but damn good. I’d be fine with a rotation of Kershaw, Kuroda, Billingsley, Capuano, and a kid – either Rubby or Webster, with Lilly as a wildcard, should he ever pitch again. We’d have the other kid also on the back burner, as well as Zach Lee. I like the idea of a talented baby pulling up the rear of our rotation.
If we want to be more bold, go after King Felix, and/or Cliff Lee. Fill out the rest of the rotation accordingly, and I’d urge our dual GMs to look at Japanese and other foreign signs for interesting starting pitchers. I’d have them defer to Dan Evans’ approach of years past – creating different looks in the rotation, as he did frequently, adding guys like Nomo, Ishii, etc. A handful of similar right or left-handers isn’t a good approach facing a team in a short series. Any short series.
The pen can be fixed with money, and should. We need to go three deep with dominant stoppers. Perhaps Kenley remains the closer, and we add two strong set-up men, or we go after a proven closer and revert Kenley back to set-up, and add another flamethrower. Brett Myers is a guy who is interesting. If we can shorten games with back-to-back-to-back stoppers, it takes the pressure off the starters and means certain defeat for our opponents as the game goes late. Right now, we have a lot of suspect arms and give up runs and games that shouldn’t be given up. I’d like to see this easily fixable problem addressed. I think Brandon League was meant to help here, and who knows if he can – too early to tell, but he hasn’t been electric this year. Fix the bullpen!
I’d also recommend adding a homerun threat off the bench, which I actually feel Sands is here for. I would prefer an older guy at the end of his career in this role, because it’s asking a lot of Sands to be that guy. I’d love to see Sands get the majority of the ab’s these last 7 weeks as the first baseman. Not sure who the homerun bat off the bench is, but I feel while our bench has been marvelous this year, we have a lot of redundancy there. Everyone does more or less the same thing, and there are no real threats late in games. Strangely, we released Abreu and Gwynn, both of whom, while not homerun hitters, were clutch pinch-hitters.
Maybe it’s Overbay, Nady was a guy like this, but already gone. Thome a few years back, although he couldn’t really play a position anymore, was the type of person I’m thinking of. We need a guy who can at minimum hit a booming double into the gap when it counts. A homerun would be preferred.
It is what it is. I think this team can fold its tent or rally and play well together. I’d like to see some lineup shuffling by Donnie, as I honestly think Hanley would benefit from batting third, in front of Kemp, where he’d see more fastballs. Ethier can sit down below Kemp and do his thing, as he’s shown he doesn’t need a lot of help – doing fairly well for a large chunk of the time while Kemp was DL’d.
Maybe Victorino also goes down, while valuable as a leadoff presence, he’s also a run producer. Maybe our lineup, once Dee returns, should be:
Dee – ss
M. Ellis – 2b
Hanley – 3b
Kemp – CF
Ethier – RF
Victorino – LF
Sands – 1b
AJ Ellis – C
I think Donnie needs to try different things and find a formula that works. In the meantime, we have to hit the road after tonight and win some games on the road. The Giants are probably going to get better with Lincecum finally waking up. Unless we make some post-deadline moves, I don’t know if this team is capable of going all the way, stumbling into the playoffs, or missing them entirely. None of these possibilities would surprise me, but I’m hoping for the first option. This season is wide open, so it’s not like we’re that far off. If Billingsley stays hot, Kemp leads by example, Hanley and Victorino play like they really love it in blue, we could be the top team in the NL.
All around baseball I see mediocrity, so I’m not too down on what I’m seeing. Texas’ rotation looks suspect, the Halos have been losing games, the Yankees are old, the Tigers are good but overrated. I think some of the top teams remain the Cardinals, and the upstart Pirates. There’s no reason to think a team with Kershaw, Kemp, Hanley, Victorino, and Ethier can’t win it all. But will they? And more important, will this heatwave ever end? Will the earth stop shaking? Who knows? Anyone care?