What Happens When a ‘Whole New Blue’ Makes You Blue?
A little long form is needed as twitter is handy for sarcasm but not so great for making a point.
A lot of people have been muttering, ‘What’s wrong with the Dodgers?’ I guess the answer is somewhere between nothing and everything.
I feel sorry for fans, especially younger ones, who don’t fully understand the magnitude of what’s happened to the organization since their 70s heyday, which wrapped up with the 1981 World Series win over the Yankees.
Yes, to understand why the team is disappointing, you can track it that far back. But wait, the Dodgers won in 1988! Well, after 1981 and through most of the 80s, the team lost a lot of its allure.
Gone were most of the stars everyone loved and Peter O’Malley began focusing on the changing game and NFL ownership. When MLB, including Milwaukee owner Bud Selig, made it a haves and have nots argument and he couldn’t get a football team up at Chavez Ravine, O’Malley became disillusioned.
That and the team’s once proud farm system had fallen into a malaise. The 1988 season happened as all the stars aligned, but it masked the issues surrounding the Dodgers. It also became an anomaly in that post-1981 period as even younger fans know that not much happened after that miracle vs. Oakland.
Oh, there was enough to excite fans – Nomomania, rookies of the year, etc., but as O’Malley handed the Dodgers (and we fans) into the arms of creepy Rupert Murdoch, the bloom was really off the rose.
Fox didn’t give a shit about the Dodgers or baseball in general, using the ownership to develop a lucrative cable sports empire. Once done with that, and having traded away Mike Piazza, now maligned, but then the ‘strongest man in So Cal’, the path got worse with Bud Selig, now the morally bankrupt commissioner of MLB, ensuring the Dodgers were passed off to a no-money owner from Boston.
McCourt’s reign of terror is pretty well known by everyone, but wouldn’t have happened if a) O’Malley didn’t sell the team to evil Fox and b) Bud and MLB didn’t let a guy with no apparent resources other than the Dodgers, buy the team.
After embarrassment and shame, Bud and MLB did the unlikely thing and took the team away from McCourt and forced its sale. Enter Guggenheim, apparently playing with insurance clients’ dollars, and with Magic Johnson’s toothy grin leading the way, the unenviable mission of undoing all this dry rot began.
The farm, which was revived during the Dan Evans administration under Logan White and staff, was barren when McCourt left. The new owners would have to make over the team much like idiot GM Kevin Malone once did, via the free market.
Smarter than Kevin Malone, the new Dodgers braintrust created their own market, not waiting for this past winter’s thin free agent crop to do all their shopping. One thing the new owners have plenty of, is cash. So they absorbed bloated contracts and tried to reassure fans that things would be better – a ‘whole new blue’, they call it.
So this Frankenstein bunch of big contracted superstars, some perhaps on the decline, others coming off serious injuries, some aging, were cobbled together to not so much win now (though that would be nice), but to buy a few years for the neglected farm to catch up.
With resources, international signings, forgotten under McCourt in lieu of mansions and expensive haircuts for he and his wife, came back and the Dodgers added an expensive, unknown Cuban hitter and a chubby, successful Korean pitcher.
Nevertheless, the team is a collection of parts and no clear leader is evident. The rich guys have their money and probably aren’t as motivated as the young would be, and the young are few and far between as Stan Kasten, the player personnel czar of the team, has chosen to go with veteran journeymen over the few kids they have available. (That seems to be changing the past two weeks, as the veterans have looked tired and not up for the challenge)
So now we have a team loaded with crazy injuries, perhaps less than motivated stars, and a manager looking over his shoulder, his contract not being renewed this past winter, as he may have liked.
Fans are pissed, understandably, as they were promised a ‘whole new blue’. The fact of the matter is it appears very much like the old blue, only now with the most expensive payroll in baseball, and naturally, due to that, much higher expectations.
So the question is, will the Dodgers turn it around? I have to think, even at my most cynical, they will. There is just too much talent here not to at least get into the top three in their division. But the owners said anything short of a World Series appearance would be a disappointment! Well, if you really believed that, you were thinking with your heart and not your baseball brain.
Cobbled together mega star teams don’t normally work. Moneyball be damned, you need heart and chemistry and leadership to win. Perhaps someone will step up and make that happen, but as of right now, I don’t see it. I think the closest thing we have to leaders are Mark and AJ Ellis, and they’re fairly low paid parts that aren’t likely to get through to guys who scoff at the price of a Bugatti.
Management and coaching sometimes can kick people in the ass and light that fire, but Donnie seems afraid and the other coaches don’t appear vocal. Surprising, when you consider we have Davey Lopes on staff.
So, I urge fans to be patient and wait for the injured guys to come back. I think the biggest issues, besides the injuries, are the poorly constructed bullpen and the rotation.
I lamented all winter that the Dodgers should have made a play for Soriano or Fujikawa as I wasn’t sold on League. Kenley, coming off his heart issues, was iffy as well. And Bellisario is an up and down thug who has moments – some good, some horrible.
I think championships are won most often through the bullpen. To spend over $200M and not put an exclamation point on the pen was irresponsible by the new owners and Kasten (Ned, if you prefer to blame him and assume he makes decisions over Kasten).
‘Buying high’ on League, who was already booted out of closing duties for lowly Seattle, was unfortunate. The idea is to buy low, or at least buy fairly. League is doing what League does, and showing why he couldn’t be the Mariners closer.
I don’t know who the closer is, but I’d find one and move all our current guys back a slot. There are only a few guys in the pen I trust at all, and that’s not a Dodgers pen, in my opinion, or the pen of a winner.
Getting Greinke was huge, of course, and Ryu thus far has looked better than imagined, but the fact that Kasten and company believed to some extent in our group of broken down pitchers at the back end has left us shaky at best at times.
Billingsley was never going to make it through the season with rich platelet injections over surgery, and while a nice story, I never bought into it. Lilly is a guy I have nothing but respect for, but shoulders are usually brutal and I also suspected he was near the end.
Harang was always more of a long man than starter, 4-5 inning filler, at best. Capuano was the best of the lot, but remember, he was as bad in the second half of 2012 as he was good the first half. He would have been fine for the 5 slot, which usually doesn’t require much, and still may be, but I’m not in love with him.
I think the Dodgers have to add an innings eater in the mold of Mike Morgan come July. Younger fans can look up Mike Morgan, if you want. Basically someone healthy and experienced who can do what Beckett should be doing more consistently. And Beckett needs to reach back and find some part of the old Beckett if this team wants to win the West.
Outside of a leaky pen and incomplete rotation, I question Kasten and team for also being fooled by Cruz and loading the bench with identical utility infielders.
Cruz was a nice story, and being from Mexico, ripe for fans of the Azul. The problem is, Cruz was a career minor leaguer who played mostly shortstop, and was never known for hitting. He did a great job in 70 or so games last year, but again, like League, to ‘buy high’ or be sold based on the last thing you saw is like buying a used car because it sounds ok in the driveway.
Cruz was one of many fill ins in 2012 and I could point to Hairston and Herrera as two others who did well in bursts. Cruz just happened to be the last one. So for proven baseball men to think a 29 year old shortstop who hadn’t homered in the bigs before 2012 was suddenly a starting third baseman was foolish. It left a huge hole in the lineup that could have been addressed over the off-season.
As most know, the Dodgers are not known for third base success, so I’m sure the feeling was Cruz could at worst hit .250 or so and field the position and with all the fire power around him, that would be more than enough.
People still defend Cruz, I assume because they feel embarrassed for ranting about him as much as they did, maybe even spending big money on a jersey with his name on it. It’s possible Cruz could be part of a team’s bench and fill in all over the infield as needed, but I think unrealistic to assume every other scout in MLB missed the boat on this guy and he’s not only a big leaguer, but a big league third baseman.
With the team as it’s currently constructed, fat whipping boy Uribe should be the third baseman on most days. I sort of hoped and predicted he would rise from the ashes under Big Mac, and while his average is bad, he’s at least been a functional player (which is sad, but a huge thing after his first two disasterous years in blue).
Uribe can hold the job, with fill ins from Punto and Hairston, until a better option is available. People mention Chase Headley, who could be available if the Pads can’t sign him, but the cost would be great in terms of much-needed kids and as we now know, just because we add good players, they aren’t necessarily good in Dodger blue. I wait for Seager to make the bigs; in the meantime, go with plugs – just not guys who are playing out of position, haven’t showed much over their careers and can’t hit .100.
I’ll just finish up by saying it’s possible the fire the team needs comes from returning players, like Greinke next week, or a token firing. Who to fire? Donnie? Honeycutt? Ned? Big Mac? All of them?
I think fairly the team has been beat up, so no one of them is to blame solely. I would say Donnie has frustrated me the most since he’s rigid and refuses to adapt to what’s happening around him.
The crazy roster was put together by Kasten (and Ned) and the owners, but I have to think Donnie at least gets to fill out the lineup card.
To continually get men on base (6th in MLB, last I heard) but put your weakest hitting options in the heart of the lineup is foolish. I understand Kemp is making $160M and is the center of the team and Ethier is getting $85M and is usually a guy who hits in April, but it’s been painfully apparent these guys are lost, for one reason or another, so to always make out the lineup card the same way shows idiocy on the part of Donnie.
He has some bad options to choose from, thanks to the GMs, but he doesn’t make the most of things when he does get to contribute. Compare a Donnie lineup to the forward thinking Bob Melvin does when his whole outfield goes on the DL.
There have been some good things – Crawford has looked happy and more like his Rays self, Kershaw has been Kershaw, Ryu, and A-Gone has done well (when healthy). I love the two Ellis and am happy Kasten and gang either read my tweets (joke) or just come around to common sense after awhile and have called up Dee, Federowicz (hello, we can release Hernandez now) and Scott Van Slyke. How many games did Donnie have to trot one of his 25 utility infielders out to cover for injured A-Gone before someone realized it might be helpful to have a guy with some power around who actually plays first base?
I think fans have to understand this has been a process. I say after 1981, with a few positive blips here and there, but overall the rot began setting in way back when O’Malley still owned the team. To think otherwise is your option, but I don’t think it’s correct.
So the future of the Dodgers really rests on what the new owners can do once the farm is back up to snuff. When we can routinely go down and call up a young pitcher like Orel Hershiser, Ramon or Pedro Martinez, Ismael Valdes (before he lost his heart), Pedro Astacio, etc., etc.
Right now we have few options available, so they Frankensteined a roster of expensive parts to a) buy time and b) get fans thinking blue again after the raping that happened at the hands of McCourt.
I think ultimately everything the new owners do is about getting people to go to games, buy crap and come back again and again. That’s not bad, but it’s the motivation. I think all you have to do is look at what was spent on established stars, a stadium makeover, WiFi and high-def scoreboards, etc. to see that that’s true.
They should just not have told fans this was going to be ‘the year’, and that the future is now. It could be. On paper, there are big names here and it’s possible the owners really think that all you need to do is buy a bunch of pricey stars and other teams will lay down for you. I know Fox and Kevin Malone thought that.
Logically it takes a perfect mixture of good, smart major leaguers, stars and kids. It takes a leader or two, a smart manager, all sorts of things. Maybe this team shakes off the rust and kicks it into high gear this month or next. It’s possible, and it’s probable they’ll at least get out of the cellar, but I think this is a transition team that bridges the gap to whatever the ‘real Dodgers’ are in a year or two.
I think in the future (I hope) we look to guys like Puig, Pederson, Seager, Lee, Magill, Ames, Federowicz (and some international signings!) as the team we can really be proud of. Something like the 70s Dodgers teams we still recall fondly.
So here’s to hoping the owners and management are as fed up with what’s happened the first 6 weeks of the 2013 season as we have. Maybe it’s a sacrificial firing or two, good health, stuck in neutral stars just suddenly waking up, an exciting call up, etc., but perhaps something positive happens – and soon. If not, it will be a long, agonizing summer and not the ‘whole new blue’ being foisted on us from billboards and bus banners all over Los Angeles.