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2014 Has Been Frustrating Enough. Don’t Deal Our Best Kids Too

July 31, 2014 1 comment

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This has been a very frustrating season for me as a longtime Dodgers fan. The folks who go to the games, drink too much, roll Giants fans, curse loudly and somehow think Vin Scully might want to get a tat, put in gauges and listen to disposable pop music with them in the parking lot after games would probably disagree. The Dodgers are in first, with one of the top records in the game, how can that be frustrating? Well, it is.

The season began with the promise of a new TV channel that would offer not only every game, but constant programming and all the spring training games too. I’m still waiting for that. As a longtime fan, and not a mere kiddie, I have listened to Vin all these years and now can get him for 3 innings on the radio, or on an illegal link with constantly stop motion visuals that make it annoying to watch.

On the field, the team just isn’t fundamentally sound and the genius architect, Stan Kasten, doesn’t make many appearances – he’s like the queen or something. He is slow to adjust to reality, has let mediocre relievers and other struggles go unanswered and by sheer luck and a $235M payroll, the team is winning. That and the overall mediocrity of this “post steroids” era. So an imbecile would cheer wildly for this mess, I wouldn’t.

As I said in previous articles, the pieces are all pretty much on hand but just aren’t assembled smartly. There are defenders being left in various levels of the minors, a stellar top prospect blocked and ignored in AAA, and yet the shitty relievers remain. Now the trade deadline looms its ugly shadow and the talking heads and baseball writers who like press box buffets pontificate about all the scenarios that might cause the Dodgers to gut their farm and go all in for 2014. I guess on one hand they could, as someone has to win this league of parity, but of all the Dodgers teams I’ve witnessed, this clunky Frankenstein’d together unit is more like the post 1988 patchwork clubs of mercenaries than the storied teams of old.

The Dodgers history is of winning with amazing pitching, defense, timely hitting and fundamentals. We have the first, not the other three. So if by some stroke of luck this team wins the World Series, I won’t feel especially satisfied. Again, how could I? The games aren’t even available on most televisions in the city. The shitty schedule early on with a shortened spring training, injuries because of that, no games to watch, and Kasten’s spring/summer slumber has left me thoroughly disgusted. And now all this talk of dealing the future for the present. THIS present?!

But, I’ll play along. I have to, there’s nothing better to do until the Pittsburgh Steelers and UCLA Bruins start playing football. Let me quickly sum up the three crown jewels in the Dodgers farm system and why I feel each shouldn’t be dealt. Or, if I would. Fun? Here we go…

Joc Pederson:

Joc is major league ready and likely would make a positive impact immediately. He is the best defensive centerfielder in the organization and since the big club has to play Yasiel Puig out of position in attempt to cover the spot, it would seem a natural you’d want arguably your #1 prospect called up. But – with a logjam of expensive outfielders, how can they call Joc up? They could trade him, get that big pitcher they don’t need but covet, but what happens next year, the year after, when you still have these mostly unmotivated 1%’rs in the outfield and really no pure centerfielder?

I don’t know if Joc will be a star. And I completely understand that his minor league numbers this season are enhanced by playing games in the PCL, but that’s a fool’s argument. Joc has done some variation of this at every level and his AAA numbers are not an anomaly. Besides, does thin air help you field better or steal bases? Joc does both well, and the Dodgers would benefit from those attributes. The argument of Joc’s numbers is also ludicrous because it’s to say it would be better if prospects did poorly – that way we’d know their environment wasn’t artificially inflated their stats. The only problem with that is if Joc went to Albuquerque and hit .240 with 6 homers and 8 steals would anyone suggest he might be the centerfield answer?

I think Joc is an intriguing player and since Kasten made it his mission to revitalize the farm, it seems moronic to consider dealing three pieces like these uber prospects. Love him, want to bone him, watch him smile, whatever, Matt Kemp is a malcontent on this team and probably needs a change of scenery. He, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford were all very good outfielders at one time, but aren’t anymore. Kemp is making a late push, perhaps to impress his next team, but his production doesn’t merit that salary and neither do Ethier’s or Crawford’s. Puig is the only one performing up to his contract, and poor Scott Van Slyke is being grossly underpaid for his contribution and potential (if Kasten managed to get him out there more than once a week).

I think it would be foolish to say, well, we have too many outfielders, so Joc isn’t going to crack this millionaire’s club – time to deal him. As the three other guys age rapidly and continue their decline, Joc will be at worst a very solid defender with power and speed upside someplace else. And most importantly, his youth and athleticism would be missed, not to mention the need to turn the tide where every player on the Dodgers makes tons of money. Wouldn’t it be nice to mix in a “cheap” player who is hungry and playing for that payday?

Corey Seager:

Of all the prospects in the Dodgers organization, Seager is the one I think has superstar written all over him. He’s been too good from high school on and just keeps impressing. There is NO WAY I’d deal Seager, unless perhaps the Angels handed over Mike Trout, but then Kasten wouldn’t find a place to play him since he has to play his current millionaires.

Seager is needed and coming fast. He’s at AA and will be in the major league mix in 2015 – first a showcase in spring training, then at least a call up later in the season. Both short and third aren’t set long-term for the Dodgers, so with Hanley’s deal ending this winter and Uribe signed for just one more season, it would be a hugely boneheaded move to trade the best pure hitter the Dodgers have developed since Mike Piazza or Paul Konerko.

The future is near and Seager, still playing shortstop at AA, can move into Hanley’s spot soon or take over for Uribe when he’s done. Either way, I would not entertain dealing Seager. No chance. No way.

Julio Urias:

On the surface, of the three prospects, Urias is the one I’d consider dealing most. My reasons are that you can always buy a pitcher (Greinke, Ryu) and he’s so young, very easily he can be injured before he’s even ready to pitch. My basic philosophy is if you could get a very good big league pitcher for a pitching prospect, do it. David Price is so good that Urias, even if he lives up to the hype, may never reach anywhere close to that level of greatness. On the other hand, Urias is crazy poised and a beast that resembles the second coming of Fernandomania. Whether he’s Pedro Martinez II or Fernando, or even Kershaw, it seems that his young age doesn’t mean a long stay in the minors, as it would for most. Logan White says he can see Urias in the bigs by 18, so who am I to question the great Logan White? Urias might be the best young pitcher the Dodgers have developed since Kershaw, so be careful. Price in the Dodgers rotation, then re-signed for a monster deal, would make the current team better for sure but is this, or one of the other big name pitchers being discussed in rumors, necessary?

In a playoff series, it’s unlikely you’d need more than 3 top flight starting pitchers, which the Dodgers have currently. Is it really vital to move Urias, and/or the other two names, to upgrade in game 3 from Price or Hamel over Ryu? To me it seems a steep price to pay for a small improvement. For decades fans criticized Fred Claire for dealing Pedro to get a much needed leadoff hitter and second baseman in Delino DeShields. I think it could also be looked at in such the same way if Urias matches the expectations scouts have for him. And god forbid Urias were dealt for Jon Lester, and then Lester left in Oct and re-signed with Boston.

Anyway, that’s it. This season has had me reaching for the Alka Seltzer. I am not as impressed as some with the record since I see a team where outside of the starting pitchers, has mostly underachieved. It would be apropos for a long-suffering Dodgers fan that after more than a quarter of a century the team won a World Series with a jumbled collection of slackers and showboats. It’s easy to say this since I haven’t felt close to this team at all – and that’s due to the Guggenheim Group getting into bed with snakes like Time Warner Cable, who has stuck it to the fans and squandered the end of Vin Scully’s magnificent career. Three innings on radio? That’s weak. From the suits in the front office to Kasten, the manager and the players, there has been a lot of combined laziness and profiting going on, but in the end, actual baseball fans just want a good product to watch. A diversion from the day to day grind. To turn on the radio or TV and hear and see Vin call 9 innings of Dodgers baseball is the greatest thing in the world. This season has not included that.

And don’t fucking trade our future on this either.

Gut the Farm for This? A Stand Against Idiots Disguised as Fans

July 23, 2014 2 comments

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By and large the world is probably at its zenith of stupidity. It’s around us everywhere, just watch the news. From politicians to kids taking selfies outside of Auschwitz, the Kardashians, Bieber, Miley, Donald Sterling, idiots going to sporting events and hurting other people, and on and on it goes. It continues with baseball, especially how it’s tied to the Internet. Twitter and all other social media outlets give everyone a voice. It helps share information worth sharing, as well as moronic thoughts and various hatred. I am a long-suffering Dodgers fan, which is how Dodger Therapy came to be, but as I’ve uncovered along this journey, there is a great divide amongst people who share the same interest I do. I always could understand having a disagreement with a Giants fan, but should there be such a chasm between fans rooting for the same team? It’s a research paper waiting to happen, but I don’t have time for it just now. I will say that my TL is blowing up as the July 31st trade deadline comes and the Dodgers lose a game here and there. The reason for this is Internet immediacy that causes people to check their phones every 2 seconds and share whatever pops into their head. They may like the Dodgers, but they don’t really understand how it all works. Some of them, of course, not all. And obviously, we all have the right to our opinions. Here is mine…

I will make this short. The Dodgers are a big, overpriced team (the term used loosely) with a lot of obvious problems. Their expensive players are overpaid and not very good. Their defense isn’t consistent. Their bullpen is problematic. Their rotation was fine, now dinged up. They don’t hit in the clutch. They have three blue chip prospects (maybe a few more) and they’re either not ready or blocked by expensive players on the big league roster. They have bad defense at shortstop and the same in center. Their best prospect is Joc Pederson, tearing up AAA and playing centerfield, but they have too many millionaires in front of him. The only solution is to trade some millionaires, trade Joc, or wait. Fans, who I don’t identify with at all, want to win now (somewhat understandably) and are willing to do whatever it takes to do so. Thank goodness these people are not in the Dodgers front office.

In my opinion, the Dodgers could immediately help themselves by moving millionaires (plus cash) for bullpen help, and perhaps other pieces of usefulness. They could promote Joc for centerfield and solve the defensive question mark there and likely greatly improve the offense. They could play one of Arruebarrena, Guerrero or Rojas at shortstop and get something nice for Hanley, who likely will not – and should not – be re-signed. They could call up a few live arms from the system and remove stinkers like Perez, Wilson and Maholm – or at least Perez and Maholm. They could recognize Scott Van Slyke is a very good outfielder and potent bat and play him most every day and not waste that offense 6 days out of the week. In effect, the parts are already on hand to make the team better now and in the playoffs, without touching the precious few prospects Stan Kasten has supposedly been trying to cultivate.

The fans who want David Price or whatever big star they hear is available are not getting the bigger picture – in this case, reality. The Dodgers have MANY issues, not just the sudden need for 1-2 more starters. Those who complain the Dodgers are wasting Kershaw and Greinke by not going all in are misguided to think trading the future to try to patch this pricey, lumbering wreck is the answer. Joc Pederson looks to be a very good two-way player and just what the Dodgers need in the outfield. If they deal him for a pitcher, who plays center? If they deal Corey Seager, they will be reliving the Paul Konerko mishap Lasorda made. If they deal Julio Urias, they could be missing Fernandomania part 2. I have no problem moving the prospects below these three to help fill in the gaps. I do think, as I stated already, the parts are here already and just need to be moved around. No doubt it will be challenging to move some expensive duds currently on the big league roster, but Guggenheim is flush with cash after the TV debacle with TWC, so it’s either eat some money now or put up with this nonsense for 3-5 more years. At some point the situations will need to be dealt with, why not begin now when a rare prospect is screaming for his chance to solve the centerfield void?

As folks who read my articles and follow my tweets know, I am honest. If you are on the wrong side of my point I wish you all the best but you’re clueless when it comes to what building a winner is. This team was patched together by grabbing up bad contracts to buy time for the kids. The kids are in the very near future. If you prefer to deal those gems for this, then you’re wrong. This isn’t a Dan Evans team that was fundamentally sound, playing Gold Glove caliber defense and just needed one more big bat. This team has a myriad of leaks and question marks and while it can be tweaked to win, it’s no guarantee the way it’s run now. Adding David Price will not solve the defense. It will not solve centerfield. It will not make Matt Kemp hit and steal bases. It will not make the hitters smarter and more consistent. It will not stop the fire the bullpen’s been. All it will do is add one more big name starter at the cost of the farm. If Price could be had for a slew of second tier guys, go for it. But it won’t happen. The As just dealt one of the best prospects in the game for pitching not nearly as good as Price. I’m sorry; I can’t sign off on that. As a Dodgers fan, I’d be horrified if Kasten went this route.

For anyone offended by my honesty, I urge you to unfollow me. I have offended idiots before and take glee in it. Smart fans, baseball fans, get what I’m saying. The delusional and those who think Bryan Stow “got what he deserved” have a problem with me. That I wear as a badge of honor.

For the “Meh” Dodgers, All the Pieces are There

July 12, 2014 2 comments

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Let’s play what if…

What if Stan Kasten and Don Mattingly grew a pair (two pair?) and played the right collection of players, instead of not hurting rich people’s feelings and playing the most highly paid guys? Pretty much NO trades would be needed if simply the deck chairs were arranged differently. For example…

By playing defenders much of the time at short and especially in center (Hanley at least hits, center the argument is less), the benefits would be huge. A team built around its starting pitching would be greatly benefitting this pitching with glove men behind them. The Dodgers in actuality and statistically are a poor defensive team. Defend the popular players as much as you wish, but defense wins championships in all sports and for the most part, offense-first teams do not go deep into sporting post-seasons.

The biggest obstacle here is what to do with Hanley, who obviously will throw a tantrum if left on the bench. The “good” thing here is that he’s so physically challenged these days; the decision might be made by fate. At any rate, playing a defender at shortstop is a no-brainer, and those who defend Hanley because of past deeds or because he slyly walks to the plate with cool music playing, indeed have no brains.

Center is an area the Dodgers could make immediate improvement to by calling up Joc Pederson. He is instantly the best defensive centerfielder of the large group of outfielders and would become the pitchers’ best friend. While Ethier and Van Slyke have been gamely going about playing center, their lack of range is evident and now and in October, it’d be nice if a guy who could go get ’em was out there to do just that. I’d also say Pederson, with whatever growing pains he would experience, offers offensive upside certainly to Ethier. Pederson has speed and power and while his average won’t be the .325 or so it is in Albuquerque, if it’s anything above .260 say, with the potential to hit a jack, steal a base and more impressively manning center, it’s a big win.

The problem, of course, to calling up Joc is what to do with all of the outfielders already on hand. Kemp has shown he will sulk if not in the lineup and Puig isn’t going anyplace, so you have Ethier, Van Slyke and Crawford sitting around if this scenario came to be. The obvious answer is to deal at least Ethier, which should be doable if Kasten eats a portion of the contract. Ethier is a decent, sometimes better, veteran outfielder some team could surely use. The Dodgers could use him, if the situation weren’t what it is. Van Slyke is fine on the bench and just grateful to be in the bigs (though I would argue he needs to play more and should ultimately be in left most days). Crawford isn’t going anyplace due to that contract and physical shortcomings. I actually don’t mind Crawford coming and going, as if he’s checking in and out of a bed and breakfast. He definitely is no longer a reliable option for any team’s starting outfield, but he is quite a potent weapon off the bench and in spurts – recall last Oct? He can stay, on again, off again the DL as he’s a very pricey but potent weapon for a fairly thin bench.

That leaves Kemp and his long-term prognosis. Fans (chicks and some men) love him due to his past achievements and sexy modeling shoots, but the fact is he’s no longer a very good outfielder. Both leagues are filled with guys as good as Kemp in the outfield. I would look to move him, knowing Van Slyke and sometimes CC can fill in, but that isn’t likely to happen, at least not now. Perhaps the idea will be explored this Dec during the winter meetings.

I would not hesitate however to get Joc into center. The pitching becomes better, the overall defense improved, and as I said, perhaps it’s an offensive upgrade to boot. Will Kasten and Donnie have the balls to do this? Will they instead opt for the way things are now, or trade prospects (perhaps even Joc) for a journeyman centerfielder no better than a very young and untried Joc? We will know soon enough, I suspect.

That leaves tinkering in the pen and bench. As I said, all of the pieces are here – either on the roster now or in the minors, a phone call away. I would look long and hard (that’s what she said) at Maholm, Wilson and Perez. Also, of course, Haren. The starting pitcher issue likely will need to be addressed outside the organization, if it’s addressed at all. For a team that usually drafts pitching, its odd there is so little of the starting variety pushing for a big league promotion. I recall in years past how there was always a AAA guy waiting for a shot. Now we have Zack Lee, and he’s reverted badly in 2014.

The pen though seemingly has options. Whether you promote Paco, Yimi, or someone else with a cool name, I’d have more faith in them than I do 3 of the guys out there currently. I also have to think dealing second-tier prospects for a reliever would be easy enough to do, or if a move is made with Ethier or even Kemp. A good, less implosive reliever + promotions of a few of the Dodgers’ own would make an immense difference.

There are other things wrong, but mostly I think if honesty and not consideration of millionaires’ feelings were exercised, the Dodgers could make the tweaks needed to actually play consistent good baseball and make a legitimate run this post-season. Right now, as any twitter user knows, it’s excellence one day, and comedy/tragedy the next. The league is full of mediocrity so while the Dodgers have “one of the best records in baseball”, to me they haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible.

The nice thing is that bloated payroll has made it possible to stockpile everything a team could need. The fat cats pushed or have kept less expensive and deserving players off the field. If the Dodgers want to win and actually do it more through good play and less luck, someone has to grow a pair. Will it be bald Kasten, living off his Atlanta pedigree, or Donnie, who has about as much passion and energy as a very sleepy housecat? That is the question.

The Dodgers Do NOT Need David Price

July 6, 2014 3 comments

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A lot of hoopla (by bored – and lazy – baseball writers) that the Dodgers will deal for David Price. In years past, when the Dodgers didn’t have that true ace, maybe, but now… why? I get the greed factor – “build a super rotation – that’ll show ’em” – but again, why? As it is, the Dodgers have played mostly mediocre or poor baseball and are one of the top teams in either league? Why? Because of the strength of their starting pitching – top to bottom, and yes, that includes Dan Haren, people. So if the Dodgers win the West and go into October play, it is largely due to that rotation, not the bullpen, not the offense, and certainly not the defense. So again I ask – why Price?

Would it surprise me if the Dodgers dealt for Price? No. The Guggenheim group came in declaring Frank McCourt’s farm was barren so they’d get that churning again. They drafted some good prospects, retained others, bought some International players and lo and behold, there is hope once again. To deal for Price would derail that hope – and for what? I don’t mean to diminish Price’s ability. If not hurt, like he was last year, he’s as good a pitcher as any in the game. But as it stands now the Dodgers are solid 1-2-3 and outside of an occasional lapse, Josh Beckett has learned to pitch and relies on smarts more than stuff nowadays. Haren is playing on a one-year deal and while uninformed and greedy “fans” complain, as a bottom of the rotation starter, he’s been mostly good, and certainly what you’d expect from a 4-5 starter.

So again, why would the Dodgers want Price? Well, who wouldn’t? Also, I can see Stan Kasten thinking, “easier to add another superstar to the group than do the hard work of benching or trading the superstars we have now.” I honestly don’t believe the Dodgers would be much better by adding Price. He’s a great starter, but 1-5 the rotation now is pretty dominant. Can Price field at SS, LF or CF? Can Price drive in runs consistently? I don’t think so, so adding another fancy pants starter seems redundant to me. Basically you’d be saying, “Haren isn’t a good option at 5, so we better deal for Price to upgrade.” Why?

In a post-season series you have 3 starters, and your other 2 go to the pen. So if the Dodgers added Price, Ryu would be moved to the pen. That’s saying Hyun-Jin Ryu isn’t to be trusted in important Oct games, which I don’t feel is the case. The bullpen currently has some deficiencies, mostly Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Paul Maholm. In the post-season, a few of those guys wouldn’t even make the roster. So even if the Dodgers did nothing (I would opt for a good relief pitcher), the horses are present to win – the deck chairs just need to be rearranged a bit. Oct mandates such decisions, since 2 starters don’t have jobs.

A few other things bug me about the Price talk. First, it’s assumed by fans Tampa would give the Dodgers Price for nothing. Some say they’d part with garbage, but little else. If the deal this weekend between Oakland and Chicago didn’t teach you anything, you’re not that bright. Mid-season deals cost the front-runner a lot – or should. Chicago got, one most “experts” agree, to be a crown jewel for their infield, one of the games’ top prospects. In return – the price for doing business – the As addressed rotation deficiencies and are now set up to contend in the dog days and into the Fall. Both sides got what they wanted and no one put one over on the other. For Price, who’s markedly better than the 2 starters Oakland acquired, the price would be steep. The Dodgers don’t have the need to pay that kind of price and very little resources to do it anyway. In lay man’s terms, the price for David Price would be quite high and while improving the Dodgers rotation (again, already their strength), it would only improve it so much. The cost would be great in terms of next-generation kids, which I’d like to think is what Kasten is actually building towards, since this bunch of Dodgers is lackluster most of the time.

The other thing that’s funny is that Price is continually called a rental by those who oppose the trade to LA. I like the thinking but the getting there confuses me. If the Dodgers were fool enough to trade for Price, don’t you think the richest team in baseball would retain him? Also, wouldn’t Price, going from the outhouse (sorry, Tampa) to the penthouse, in a pitcher’s park, fitting in alongside Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Ryu, want to stay put? The term rental is used when Pittsburgh acquires someone, not the Dodgers. Not anymore. So I think that aspect of the conversation can be shelved.

Finally, I will say that while the Dodgers do not need another top starting pitcher, to humor those who are greedy and have been Lakers fans too long, I will throw out the name Cole Hamels. Hamels is not needed by the Dodgers any more than Price is, but if I were a GM and wanted to build the ultimate rotation, I would sooner deal with bottom dweller Philly. Hamels is a pretty outstanding starter and owed a lot of money. That money means Philly can ask for less than Tampa can for their star pitcher. So instead of moving Corey Seager, Joc Pederson or Julio Urias, the price would be more like Zach Lee, Paco Rodriguez, or some lesser prospects no one cares about anyhow. The Dodgers would be doing Philly a favor, so when you ask for favors, you can’t be as demanding. And before you complain about the contract Hamels carries, Price will have the same deal, or larger – once he was re-upped to stay in LA. i.e., it doesn’t matter. All things being equal, I’d prefer to keep the aforementioned kids, especially the position players, since pitchers can be had – as this mid-season is proving.

My hopes are that Kasten is smart and acquires a few relievers, perhaps a veteran for the bench and forces dumb Donnie to make the tough decision of playing the players who give the Dodgers the best chance to win over those who make the most money. If the team wants to seriously contend in Oct, they will need to play defense at shortstop and in centerfield. The best outfield combination, in my opinion, is SVS, Joc and Puig. The best defense at short is Arruebarrena or Rojas. Kasten and Donnie can let the inmates run the asylum, but in all my years of watching baseball, I know that the rotation is more than good enough now, the pen needs some tweaking, and the right players are on hand to fix the defensive shortcomings, they just aren’t being used. I hope Kasten and Donnie start using their heads for something other than holding their hats.