This is not about the World Series that the Giants just won, because I watched and/or listened to very little. This is about the nightmare that was 2014’s baseball season. Bud Selig’s last hurrah fittingly sucked, although I admit fully the two teams that just played 7 games were determined, fundamentally sound ball clubs. I think there were three errors in 7 games by both teams combined. That’s an average night for the Dodgers. I am just happy that this season is finally over and I dub it the darkest year yet in Dodgers history.
We’ve (I’ve) bemoaned ad nauseum about the past season so I will paint in broad strokes instead. With young Friedman the latest genius in charge, and the ouster of Logan White, the stage has been set for renewal. I am going to try to play the optimist, a role I rarely covet, and say I am of the belief anything Friedman does will be an improvement. That’s how bad I think things have gotten for the Dodgers.
Poor fundamentals, lack of focus, bad defense, no relief pitching, question marks in the rotation at times, a lack of trust for the farmhands, and now, another San Francisco Giants World Series. No longer can snarky Dodgers fans say it was a fluke, or luck. The Giants have proven that while they don’t have the most talented roster, they have the most focused and determined one. I have long said less is more. More millionaires and more big names does not mean more victories and more success. I have argued that the opposite is the case.
It seems in the pseudo post steroids era (cheating still happens, don’t get me wrong, but it’s selective and even allowed by MLB. Hopefully Bud’s leaving will change that and the game can become credible again), big money, celebrity laden rosters do not guarantee titles. Of course we knew this, as less star-studded Yankees teams did better than those with more box office clout. I am of the belief that Friedman knows this, coming from a respected small market team, and will trim the proverbial fat. Let Hanley Ramirez walk – to Houston, to New York, wherever. Let go of a few highly paid outfielders (three would be fine with me). Make sure your big game pitcher actually can win in big games – how is it that San Francisco’s third option just a few years ago is more money than Clayton Kershaw?
Add youthful legs and defense. Add grinders and lunch pail guys. And certainly add a manager who knows how to play chess, not checkers. I know its P.C. to say the Dodgers can’t sign Joe Maddon, but why the hell not? Do you honestly think Donnie can handle any roster? Even if the pieces were given him?
Substance over style, dirty uniforms over selfies and bubble dances. If you want bullshit like that, toil away on Instagram or follow the Kardashian/Jenners latest embarrassment. Baseball teams need to be balanced – just like in fantasy baseball. I mention this since everyone is a Sabermetrics genius nowadays and if you favor the math, you probably also love fantasy. In fantasy, balance is what wins your league – not loading up on home run hitters. You need average, wins, steals, runs scored, saves, ERA, the whole thing. The two teams you may or may not have watched play 7 games are balanced – the Royals even more than the Giants. The Giants won because of a hot pitcher (1988, anyone?) and a brighter manager. Experience and determination helped.
The Dodgers should not be afraid to break it up and get ballsy. Big trades, a reshuffling of the deck, anything it takes. They won the West, but they didn’t have a great season. And who the fuck cares? The games weren’t televised in almost 3/4 of the city anyway.
Letting Logan White go, or forcing him to is disturbing but I’m ok with it. I loved Logan White and his eye for talent is undeniable. That said, there’s an argument to be made that his finds oftentimes were incomplete players, or merely diamonds in the rough. Not a lot of them were tough baseball players, immune to the “pressure” of pitching in a fish bowl where music and movie stars might show up to any game. Something has happened to LA baseball players since the recent glory days of the 70s. Sure, Jay Johnstone and Steve Yeager banged Penthouse Pets, but they were ballplayers. Technology – Twitter, Instagram, etc., and the blending of fame and connection to ordinary people has made LA ballplayers soft. Ron Cey and Reggie Smith would not have been dancing to bubbles, and Joe Ferguson would not have been shaking his ass to pregame (!) musical acts.
Perhaps White leaving could be a good thing. Friedman, it would seem, understands the current mix isn’t great. I suspect Joc Pederson and young relievers will get their chance. Maybe expensive players sent elsewhere with cash for more prospects, and/or serviceable MLB players similar to what the Giants put out… i.e. not the best, but capable of rising to the occasion. Enough of a track record of production and history of not dancing to win.
Let it roll, Friedman. Do whatever you want. The Giants winning again is a painful, nay, sickening familiarity that needs to be addressed. The sinking began when O’Malley lost interest when his attempt to get a football team was rebuffed. 1988 was a fluke. Fox and Kevin Malone fucked things up. McCourt raided the coffers. DePodesta gave us embarrassment. Guggenheim and face of the organization Magic Johnson was supposed to be different. Some fans have been duped and ran back into the stadium. To me, there has been subtle changes but arguably more dismal results. No TV? What the fuck?!
The Giants and their (rightfully) cocky fans again hoisting that trophy is akin to rubbing moist piles of dog shit in Vin Scully’s face. Not winning with bad defense, a bad pen, and selfish, egotistical players is horrible. Seeing the Giants and their fans count their rings with this mini dynasty? May as well have ISIS behead us.
I am mad as hell and disgusted with the procession that has gone on since after the 1981 title – the end of the 70s era teams. There have been some nice moments since, even 1988’s title, but again, an anomaly. This shit has gone on long enough and just when you think it’s ended, another layer of pain appears. Seriously – how many World Series titles must we see the Giants win? The Dodgers have to stop talking, stop hiring expensive executives, stop being P.C. as it appears to “respecting Donnie” and massaging millionaire players’ egos and do something about it. I have outlined all of the things the Dodgers need to do to win in countless articles just like this. Kasten was supposed to be the guy, just like DePodesta was. Now it’s Friedman. Next it will be a pile of sperm. Younger and sexier doesn’t mean knowledgeable and capable. Put together a good Dodgers ball club asap. Start tomorrow. I want that hot stove fired up now. Throw lazy and overpaid pretty boys out into the street. Get guys who can field and play without being distracted by LA’s latest flavor. Enough is god damned enough. The Giants winning again should make everyone in the Dodgers organization vomit in unison. Get busy and fix this fucker, Friedman.
The more things change, the more they remain the same in the Dodgers universe.
Stan Kasten used Ned Colletti as the scape goat and human shield when surprisingly irate Dodger fans clamored for blood. Or Kasten and Guggenheim assumed they were. Lately Dodgers fans are more into selfies and talking about which players are hot than understanding the inner machinations of the baseball management structure. Ned was sent packing – not far, he got a token consultant position – much like Frank McCourt’s “Theo”, Paul DePodesta, was sent out when fingers were being pointed at him. The Dodgers GM job has become like the Raiders head coaching position under Al Davis – a convenient body to push out when higher management/ownership’s vision doesn’t play out as planned.
Get used to it; new head man underneath the bigger head man, Andrew Friedman, will soon be hiring his own patsy to get ousted should his maneuvers not work. The rumor for Friedman’s dupe is former Arizona and San Diego GM Josh Byrnes. So rest assured, while fans blamed Ned for Kasten’s mistakes, Byrnes will be blamed for Kasten and Friedman’s. The important takeaway here is the more cooks theory happening. Like corporate America, it’s always important for upper management to have more needless layers and bloated salaries in their ranks. I just wonder if Kasten is the “architect”, what is Friedman. And more, what is Byrnes? Oh well, I’m just an old school baseball fan who predicted 2014’s fate long before the season played out, what do I know? Certainly not as much as a Moneyball certified 37 year old like Friedman.
Its a few days before the World Series, so I will use this idle time in the baseball schedule to hypothesize and comment on a few things. Unlike the wiser pundits out there with cool names about certain former Dodgers illnesses, etc., I don’t proclaim to have the answers or believe my takes are more valid than yours or anyone’s. My opinions are just that – opinions – and based solely on a good degree of common sense and many, many years of watching actual baseball games – not studying Excel spreadsheets or bullying people online.
It’s no surprise to me that the Kansas City Royals will face off against mortal Dodgers enemy, the San Francisco Giants. These two teams have balance and play smart baseball. The Royals would appear unstoppable and have more overall balance than the Giants, but with a gulp of disgust, I admit the Giants have been there and done that and have played very good baseball this October, so it should be a competitive World Series. That said, I hope the Royals continue their unblemished record and quickly dispose of the Giants, but Madison Bumgarner is out of his head right now, so it will be a difficult accomplishment to pull off.
The important thing here is how the Royals, who I have compared to the Dodgers under Dan Evans, have it all. Balance between starting pitching, relief pitching, speed, defense, timely hitting, power and heart is the key. I can’t think of any team in MLB who has a better balance than the Royals, and they deserve to win. Kasten, Friedman and their puppet GM should take note. Like Evans, Dayton Moore constructed his current Royals from the back of the bullpen out. The Dodgers need to do that this off-season, and fortunately for the three-headed decision maker, the most wriggle room for the Dodgers is in the bullpen. Hard throwers from Kenley Jansen back are the solution to success in 2015 and beyond. Shortening games. The Dodgers needed to rely too frequently on their starting pitchers to go 8, or at least 7, and that ended up causing a lot of problems – especially vs. the Cardinals in the games Kershaw started. I would recommend doing whatever it takes to get that solid bridge in place to Kenley.
The last thing I will say about the World Series is Dodgers fans have to stop acting like douches when it comes to the Giants and their fans. Is it optimal that the Dodgers keep getting ousted and the Giants, no matter who wears the black and orange, get to the Fall Classic? No. But to pretend fans of the blue wouldn’t rub it into Giants’ fans faces every chance they could is dishonest. The Giants fans are obnoxious, but their team has been dialed in under Cujo eyed Bruce Bochy and they play smart baseball. As a result, not by accident, they win. They don’t have bubble machines, and unless you could little Busty Posey, they don’t have hunks. They play hard, fundamental baseball and take care of business on the field. I’d also say the past two years, Dodgers fans should think the Cardinals are the most hateable team anyway – in my opinion, they’re evil, their fans are idiots, and all the class and good will of 100+ seasons before this has been eroded. The Cardinals are the new Giants and far less likeable than the Hated Ones.
Pray for a blue and white win this next week, or it will be a long, horrible winter and spring.
Getting back to the Dodgers…
This bring in the young whiz kid to call the shots thing sounds more than a bit familiar. As mentioned, pasty former owner/current Dodgers partner Frank McCourt pushed out a perfectly excellent baseball man in Dan Evans and brought in his own young genius, Paul DePodesta. DePodesta, who looks nothing like Jonah Hill, screwed up the team in record time; dismantling a solid baseball team mid-season and constructing the worst Dodgers roster ever assembled. When the villagers took to the streets with torches and pitch forks, McCourt canned his boyfriend.
I admit I don’t know much about Friedman’s abilities outside of the fact he got a lot out of a little in Tampa. He’s young, apparently very smart (his introductory press conference Friday was full of vague corporate speak that always is confounding to fans of oh, say baseball), isn’t afraid to move veterans, and can work on a budget. This is where things get interesting to me.
Guggenheim pocketed $8B from the Time-Warner TV deal that has left most people in Los Angeles without televised Dodgers games. To buy loyalty, they collected all the expensive contracts other teams wanted to move and gave us the bubble dancing party animals we’ve all grown to love and loathe. Now Friedman comes in with a history of working cheap and the Dodgers have said they’d like their $240M payroll become more like $190M, hardly a “cheap” team (side note to Dodgers brass – don’t tell us what you plan to reduce payroll to. That sends a familiar and distasteful message… field the best team, and if it comes in $50M less than last year’s, great. Fans don’t need to be obsessed with payroll like we’ve become). I guess my questions are will Friedman get rid of the bloat, as I’ve been calling for, and how aggressive he will be at doing that? Also, how far will it go – how low will payroll drop, and if it’s necessary, say, to add a few very good relievers to create that late inning bridge to Kenley, will the uber wealthy Dodgers cry poverty?
Some of these questions may seem silly, but given the void in the baseball schedule and trying to get my head around what Guggenheim and Kasten are doing, I don’t mind putting my neck out and asking such questions. Here are a few more (those who know me know I’m not afraid to be completely honest)…
Will reducing salary and changing things up extend to the main pieces in the team’s offense? Will Andre Ethier finally be sent packing, and/or will it include Matt Kemp moving on? Would they re-sign Hanley Ramirez when they have Erisbel Arruebarrena, Alex Guerrero and Miguel Rojas around? Would they go another route and find a different shortstop altogether, some proven guy who fields the position and hits with a bit more certainty than the three guys I just mentioned? Would they move Dee Gordon to free up second for Guerrero? Will they acquire David Price, James Shields, or some other sexy starter to go after Hyun-Jin Ryu? Would they consider packaging petulant Cubano Bop star Yasiel Puig and Zach Lee for hometown favorite Giancarlo Stanton? As big as Stanton would be in LA, Puig might be bigger in Miami.
I can sense some of you feel your blood boiling. I look at the Hot Stove league as one of the best times in my baseball year. I love rumors, I love what if scenarios. I love to deconstruct and reconstruct the team I love. In my opinion, no one is untradeable – even the three prize kiddies I love so dearly – if you can get something that makes sense for now and the future. As for moving favorites like Kemp or even Dee, think about it – both have very high values. You trade high, not low. Kemp was nearly impossible to deal, except perhaps to the Mariners, but now, coming off a mysteriously great second half, you could move him to a team in need of a bat and star power. Dee went from outhouse to penthouse, an NL All Star appearance. If you wanted, you could get something good for Dee and put Guerrero at second. Especially if you believed Dee played over his head and his awesome year was something of a fluke.
Personally I believe in Dee. He looked comfortable, even very good at second base defensively. Even during the times his bat slowed, his glove work was always top notch. Factor in his game-changing speed and what he did for guys batting in the two hole, not to mention who could bat leadoff if Dee were gone, I say you do not move him. That said, it’s an intriguing thought and the off-season (coming soon) is for such conversations and speculation.
I think Kasten/Friedman/Byrnes need to find a way to trim fat, insert energy and all-important balance into a celebrity laden roster of lazy baseball players. If you want examples of what I think the Dodgers need, you just keep watching the Royals. I can accept more superstars than KC – Guggenheim SHOULD have to spend some of that $8B TV deal – but the notion is less superstars, more substance. The Giants manage to find very good major league players and avoid a roster of massive ego $20-25M guys. To be honest, I can’t even tell you who makes the most on the Giants. Busty Posey? Perhaps. It’s not as apparent as it is with the Dodgers, where fun and games and investment portfolios take precedent over driving in runners from third.
I would be more than fine with a 2015 outfield of Carl Crawford/Scott Van Slyke (platoon), Joc Pederson and Stanton. Or even Kemp in right and some of the other bloat moved. The Dodgers have to get smarter, less selfish, and more balanced (there’s that word again). If they just swap out Chris Perez with some new reliever and add another starting pitcher, I don’t think anything will change much. And maybe that’s the plan. Let Donnie Mattingly and team muddle through 2015 and get serious in 2016 when Tampa’s skipper Joe Maddon may be available for the Dodgers. There’s an argument to be had for saying why make a lot of drastic changes if you’re handing the keys back over to Donnie? But, you can also argue that at some point – soon – Joc, Corey Seager, Julio Urias and some of the kiddie relievers WILL be in Chavez Ravine, so maybe you start serious construction in anticipation of that.
I think this off-season will be an interesting one. Although similar in some respect to what happened the last time a young man was put in the position of calling the roster shots, this time the tear down would be welcome. DePodesta threw out good, smart baseball players that were winning in order to feed his own ego. He had to show everyone he was smarter than old school baseball guys (he didn’t know, perhaps, Evans was into data when he was still wetting himself). Friedman (and his buddies Kasten and Byrnes, assuming he’s the GM Friedman hires) could break apart something we know isn’t working. I have to assume he/they would also be bright enough to understand the value of adding Joc’s young athleticism to the outfield, holding onto a pure hitter like Seager appears to be, and a young ace like Urias. So, I’m not worried. In fact, outside of being confused over who does what and why we need so many executives in the Dodgers front office, I’m open for anything – even if it meant dealing Dee, who’s arguably the most exciting player on the field when the Dodgers play.
The Dodgers have gotten comfortable and content. They are all about flash and not hard work. I welcome some change. I would love to see a more complete roster and a smart baseball guy like Maddon leading the show. I want new coaches, especially a new hitting coach. I want it all. I want to stop seeing the Giants have success in Oct and I want to stop listening to and reading sour grapes Dodgers fans whining that the Giants and their fans are jerks. They’ve earned the right to crow. If it were our Dodgers winning, we would too. Stop blaming them, blame the Dodgers multi-layered front office. Demand better. And if your goal is to use the Dodgers for masturbatory material, then you have the team you deserve. I’m an old guy who appreciates well played, professional baseball. I am demanding more. And some god damned games televised in LA.
Go, Royals. You’re the Dodgers team I want to root for.
A brief, longer than tweet-length Dodgers commentary…
The natives are restless. They want blood. LA baseball fans, ripe from another quick exit in Oct (read my words and you’ll know this was what should have been expected); want to see someone pay for this latest Dodgers playoff debacle. In my last entry, I labeled three primary goats: Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly and Stan Kasten. So, to no great surprise, just as the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq following Egyptian and Saudi Arabian terrorists attacking on 9/11, the focus is on somebody different. Ned Colletti, he of Oscar appearances without product in his hair, cool retro mustache and more legit testosterone than pretty boys Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, is the publicized scapegoat whose job hangs by a thread.
I am not here to defend and beg for Ned’s GM life, though I have gone to bat for him many times over the years when ill-informed dipshits attacked him. I did so because they were either wrong or devoid of facts. The Dodgers, as I’ve said time and time again, alienating many Twitter nitwits and short-tempered “fans” whose idea of devotion is hand jobs for the players, are a poorly constructed baseball team. They are in fact the anti-Kansas City Royals. The Royals have balance, which is what wins in the post-season. The Dodgers have none of that. The Royals could have been assembled by former Dodgers GM Dan Evans, a guy who understood both Moneyball statistics (even before Billy Beane heard of them) and flesh and blood factors, such as human chemistry, heart, etc. But leave it to Bud Selig to allow a fake rich guy like Frank McCourt to be handed the Dodgers. He then hired “his Theo” – ultra geek and doofus Paul DePodesta – and Evans was sent packing. And now it’s Ned’s turn.
Ned is no Dan Evans. He doesn’t have Evans understanding and smarts. What Ned has (and why he earned my respect years ago) is baseball knowledge. DePodesta relied on Excel spreadsheets and his massive ego, tearing down Dan Evans’ team just because he could. He destroyed a Dodgers team that had just had a 21-7 July record, selling off parts for scraps. His Dodgers roster was a collection of AAAA characters that were overmatched and easily manhandled. Sure, a few good players were mixed in, notably Jayson Werth, who at the time was always hurt and wouldn’t blossom (as usually is the case in LA) until he left town. By and large the roster was – in delicate terms, an embarrassing piece of shit. DePodesta had to be fired to keep the then-hungry villagers from focusing on McCourt, who was busy using the Dodgers as a personal ATM machine and vehicle for real estate transactions. The difference between DePodesta’s ouster and Dan Evans’ and Ned’s is DePo deserved it – Evans not at all, Ned not very much.
I don’t want to go into an exhausting defense of Ned and his mustache. All I will say is you can point to the “bad deals” and I could point to the good – and more, explain the rationale of the bad deals. I also can defend – and have – Fred Claire dealing Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields. I cannot defend Tommy for trading Paul Konerko.
Ned, in my opinion, quickly righted the shit show that was DePodesta’s team, turned the Dodgers into a fairly smart and well-functioning baseball team, and eventually a back-to-back NLCS team. Ned’s teams have won more than they’ve lost and one could argue (I do) that Ned’s two NLCS teams were certainly World Series type clubs, had the owner not been busy looting the pharaoh’s tomb and actually given Ned a bit more support (money) to get the last piece or two needed. This was the case under Dan Evans as well. Evans’ Dodgers were genius teams that played amazing defense, had speed, pitched, pitched in relief and didn’t lose games due to mistakes (again, the anti-2014 Dodgers). Evans though was a victim of Fox, who had tired of baseball and had seen village moron Kevin Malone squander their money on poor player acquisitions. By the time Evans took over, he was working with Confederate money and when a key pieces was needed down the stretch, he had to dumpster dive for old guys like Robin Ventura, Greg Maddux and Jeromy Burnitz. The old guys were game, but their best days had passed. Evans’ Dodgers, with those slick fielding and baseball smart guys like Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora, Dave Roberts, etc., were left at the altar.
My feeling on Ned’s eventual departure is – why? Ned, since Stan Kasten came aboard, is a glorified caddy. It would appear (at least to me) his chief function is finishing up the details after Kasten makes a decision. Ned may have come to the table with some ideas, but as “architect” of those Braves teams, and chief guy in charge of player personnel with the Dodgers, Kasten wasn’t allowing anyone to make deals without his fingerprints all over them. Ned served some purpose to Kasten – perhaps as human shield he could later execute in ISIS fashion, or just an assistant who could finish up the contracts and busy work Kasten didn’t want to.
If you’re a Ned hater – and there are many – ask yourself…
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, the team’s payroll was always in check?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, Ned’s teams seemed to have more balance – defense, pitching, bullpen, especially?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, very frequently Ned would pull off sometimes stunning trades in July and even after?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, Ned always seemed to be busy? Even when he was coy about it (i.e. lots of rumors)?
So if you consider some of these things, either one of two conclusions could be drawn…
– With a massive influx of cash under Guggenheim, “GM” Ned went hog wild spending – a la Kevin Malone – and bought a bunch of crap – a la Kevin Malone.
– Ned just reaffirmed what suspicious fans long thought – that he’s an idiot and time finally caught up to him.
You know my theory. I think Kasten came in, had a plan – bought time by literally buying bloated contracts teams wanted to unload – and let his superstar big money team go as far as they could (first series ouster this year, as it turned out). With this plan, Kasten bought some International talent, refused to deal any kids, and looks at 2013-2015 as placeholder teams that will put butts in the seats, but the “real” Dodgers team will show itself more likely in 2016 (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, etc.).
I’m actually a fan of this plan but always thought if you were going to sink $235M into the current team, why not spend a little more to address the glaring needs – most importantly, the bullpen? The problem with a $235M team, whether it’s a placeholder or not, fans and the baseball world expect something from that investment. So, go all out – go up to $255M and add the relievers needed to win a World Series or two – and then, with all the kids falling into place, bloated fat cats sent packing, etc. – really have a dynasty situation that could linger into 2020. I guess my point is – if your only purpose for acquiring a lot of faded/fading superstars is to sell tickets, eventually you may have to answer for not winning more.
The average Dodgers (and baseball in general) fan isn’t exactly a Rhodes Scholar. They buy their tickets, wear expensive jerseys and hats, buy expensive beer and wilted hot dogs, pay too much for parking, etc., etc. When average people – and even some with more money than average – see a lot of big names dancing and taking selfies on and off the field, they assume this is THE team. They feel this is the team they have to live and die with, and therefore the team that should win. They don’t get it’s a placeholder, and that there really wasn’t THAT big of an intention for the current group to win. Ownership believed, but not that much.
So when Cinderella turns into a pumpkin, I saw it coming and wasn’t upset. I predicted it! I was agreed with by some, vilified by others, but the majority of fans of “the Azul” or “Doyers” just aren’t either smart enough to get it, or haven’t invested enough time to really study it. There was NO WAY the Dodgers were going to advance in Oct without a bullpen and with poor defense. It was a point of contention all season long, so much so I stopped sharing my thoughts via tweets. Just not worth the drama. How can you argue rationally with people who either want to fuck the players or think bubble parties are cool?
So it is what it is, and the Dodgers lost (no surprise). Someone has to be fired. Everyone wants Donnie fired, and again, refer to my last column for thoughts on old sawdust head. The easiest guy to can though is Ned, since most don’t like him anyway, and he wasn’t just handed a big extension.
Does anyone beside me think it’s funny that Donnie only gets aggressive when it comes to himself? He lets the inmates run the blue asylum and shows no emotion when the Cardinals (last year) are throwing at Puig’s head and breaking Hanley’s ribs, but if his contract is under fire – press conference!!!!
After the Dodgers humiliating defeat this time against the Cardinals, rather that discuss intelligently his thoughts on Kershaw’s collapse, the bullpen he was too afraid to use, Puig’s continued stupid play, Kershaw over Haren in Game 4, etc., Donnie speaks up on his job and even Ned’s. Donnie is an interesting cat. A guy who got the job due to being a good soldier under Joe Torre, not due to managerial experience, expertise of any kind, or having ties to Dodgers tradition. The fact he was extended, and likely will be the manager in 2015, is kind of interesting considering you could poke around and find a lot more “deserving” candidates, yet cockroach Donnie keeps living to see another day. He hasn’t mastered knowing when to change pitchers, how to use a bullpen, get creative with his lineup, etc., but he sure has proven excellent press conference skills. Donnie is a survivor!
So fire Ned, if you must. I don’t see how that will affect anything since Kasten is still running the show. You essentially make a middle-management guy the patsy and keep everything else the same. Names are being bandied about, but in honesty, super smart Dan Evans is still available and like the wise Dodger Oracle (@TheDodgerOracle) said in a recent post, why not just bring him back? It will never happen of course, but it would make the most sense. The Royals are a thing of beauty and I hope they don’t choke on the bigger stage in Baltimore, whose fans are almost equally as hungry for Oct superiority as those in KC, but if it’s balance, defense, pitching, relief pitching, chemistry, fundamentals and high baseball IQ you want, nobody does it better than Dan Evans. My two cents.
Enjoy the ALCS (if you’re watching the NLCS, you shouldn’t call yourself a Dodgers fan). If you squint, you can make believe the Royals are the Dodgers and the black and orange clad Orioles are the Giants – baseball in Oct continues! I just think that if you truly believe Ned is to blame for the 2014 situation, you’re misguided and probably not a very bright Dodgers fan. If that’s the case, and my blog here offended, please unfollow. There’s a Kardashian or other vapid moron you can have more enjoyment reading. Ned’s a pretty good GM; he proved it with fairly competitive Dodgers teams. He’s no Dan Evans, but then neither is Stan Kasten.
Well, sometimes it hurts to always be right…
As I predicted from the off-season, through spring training, and every step leading to the playoffs, the 2014 Dodgers were not built for Oct baseball. As a wise friend said, it’s like Billy Beane admitting his team is good enough to get there, but once in the post-season, anything can happen and he has no control over it. The $235M payroll Dodgers turned out to be an expensive Moneyball collection of individuals, not a “team.” The pieces were cobbled together by Stan Kasten to win over Angelenos who had grown weary of McCourt’s antics and parking lot mayhem. Stars – pretty stars – guys who could be counted on X amount of home runs, RBI, wins, etc., etc. were assembled without thought of old baseball truisms like timely hitting, defense and leadership. A bullpen? Who needs a bullpen? Certainly Kasten didn’t think so, and he did nothing to alter the path as the season progressed. Suddenly it became a surprise to pundits and fans that lo and behold, the Dodgers didn’t have one.
Well, it didn’t matter, since the Dodgers did have starting pitching. Forget Ryu was coming off a month long break due to a shoulder surgery and all world Cy Young/MVP candidate Kershaw came off a beat down in Game 6 last year vs. the same St. Louis Cardinals. Surely this year would be different. Just hope and pray the starters all went 8, to get the ball to mostly reliable closer Kenley Jansen. Expensive starters pitch late into games, right?
Fans too easily point to Don Mattingly, who is a simpleton to be sure. He’s not a good manager, too safe, too unimaginative and not cut out for playoff action when the managerial guide book is thrown out the window. As bad as Donnie is, it’s not his fault – or not all of it. There is plenty of blame to go around for why the Dodgers again have been eliminated and will have to watch the Fall Classic on TV, and here are some of the goats and reasons why they are…
Clayton Kershaw – as good as Kershaw is in the regular season, he’s as bad in the playoffs. Blame Mattingly if you wish, but Kershaw is paid a ton of money to get the ball and win important ballgames. Kershaw had to win Game 6 last year and got crushed. He had to win the other night at Chavez Ravine and sailed along nicely until he got pulverized. He had to win today and gave up the huge homer that buried the Dodgers. Donnie makes mistakes, as Donnie isn’t a good manager, but when you make as much as Kershaw does and are called not only the ace, but the best pitcher in baseball, you have to deliver. Like them or not, but Curt Schilling wouldn’t have lost these games. He wouldn’t have made that costly pitch today. Roger Clemens. Greg Maddux. Tom Glavine. Randy Johnson. And the list goes on. When you accept a lot of money, you accept responsibility. Donnie is a moron for continuing to bat Puig in the 2 hole when he’s striking out as much as you or I would, but Kershaw was given leads and all he had to do was be Kershaw – and he couldn’t. I said it in the winter and again during the season – everyone loves him, and for good reason, but Kershaw is NOT a big game pitcher. He’s young, he may be at some point (if his confidence isn’t shattered much like another talented farm product – Ismael Valdes – was), but last year and this, he hasn’t manned up when it mattered most. Donnie is a dunce, can’t think outside the box, but Kershaw lost 2 of the 3 games the team dropped and only has himself to blame. Disagree if you want, but its fact. Let’s hope it’s a Cardinals thing and not a post-season thing. Let’s hope the young man learns from this and wins a ring or two down the road. He’s young enough that it would make a great story – remember how he couldn’t win the big games, and now he can? He’d be the John Elway of baseball. Right now, he’s an MVP candidate who should feel sick holding the award (should he get it).
Donnie Baseball – he’s the popular patsy for the pedestrian Dodger fan and he is as bad as all that. His skill is being Joe Torre, and keeping the clubhouse content. I see it that he lets the inmates run the asylum and is an enabler. Donnie is either too stubborn or too dumb to make obvious changes. For quite some time he penciled Kemp and Ethier into the heart of the lineup while they were dead in the water. This post-season he batted Puig second when he couldn’t make contact. When he had to make a pitching change, he goes to Scott Elbert, a guy Kasten never should have included on the playoff roster. He pinch hit Van Slyke for Ryu when Ryu was sailing along. His lineups are thoughtless and he has no game calling skills. Al Campanis meant him when he said something about “lacking the necessities to manage.” When Kershaw was imploding the other night, he didn’t believe his eyes – he listened to Kershaw say he was fine. After he actually got up to investigate. A smarter manager would know the team was bleeding out and perhaps you throw convention out the window and do something radical like bring in your closer – have Jansen pitch two innings, stop the bleeding and restore order. Also, Kershaw could have left without being humiliated, which would have been a plus. But what if you used Jansen, you say, and then he wasn’t around for the ninth? Who gives a shit? There would be no call for Jansen if you were to bleed out. If the situation came up, you let Howell, Wilson, Haren, anybody throw the ninth. The playoffs are unlike the regular season. You don’t have to put together the same lineup you would vs. San Diego in July. Every man is available, anytime, because every out is important. Each game is a must-win game. If you have guys cold as ice, bench them. Move them around. With AJ and Crawford hitting the ball, why is Puig batting second? AJ bat second? Sure, Scioscia did it. A contact hitter – more, a smart hitter – can do damage up there, as opposed to the bottom of the lineup. The point is, Donnie can’t manage and enables his players to goof off as he prefers a happy clubhouse to a gritty, smart, focused one. I hope to god he’s not allowed to manage the “real Dodgers” – the team coming after this selfie taking, bubble dancing monstrosity. I don’t want him turning Joc and Seager into pretty boys who dance to pre-game concerts and pose for clothing store catalogs. I don’t want him to manage the Dodgers period. Getting a real baseball manager in there who smashes the bubble machine and tells these party boys it’s time to play baseball, and isn’t afraid to be creative with his lineup and thinking, would do wonders for the Dodgers. One wonders if Farty Arte will fire Scioscia. I would say he’s probably safe due to winning the most games in baseball’s regular season, but Donnie, while finishing first, didn’t do so in as impressive fashion as the Anaheim skipper. Donnie should go. Kasten would be sacrificing him and no one in LA would balk. Fans don’t care about Donnie, and they don’t think he’s a good manager. Nice guy, former star, but not a good or tactical manager. The Dodgers can do better. Then can some coaches. Donnie’s a dunce, but he’s not the only one responsible for this. He played the hand dealt to him by Kasten.
Stan “Baldy” Kasten – he may have been the genius behind the Braves teams or perhaps he was a bit lucky with good scouts and amazing fortune. He may have a grand scheme and showed smarts not dealing the main prospects mid-season… but… his inability or unwillingness to make adjustments, especially in the pen, crippled the Dodgers. Giving a dull tool like Donnie the option to use Elbert in a must-win playoff game makes him every bit as responsible as his manager. Insisting Elbert, Wilson, Perez, etc. were good during the regular season and after and not considering Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia and other kids was foolish. Believing his $235M team could get by with a bad pen was idiotic. Thinking defense wasn’t important was ridiculous. I argued with people on Twitter until I finally decided it wasn’t worth it and stopped posting – they too said I was wrong to assume defense and relief pitching didn’t matter in Oct. It’s pretty much everything, not a luxury. Look at Kansas City. Why are the Royals so good? Defense, pitching, relief pitching, timely hitting, chemistry, leadership, and enough power to get the job done. The Royals also have a dumb manager, but that team is so well constructed it’s hard for Yost to screw it up. With the Dodgers, a team missing a lot of those components, mistakes are magnified. The Dodgers never would have survived the one game play-in with Oakland. Kasten may have tricks up his sleeve, but I fully believe today’s loss is a good thing ultimately for the Dodgers and their fans. It stings, but it will force Kasten to address the bullpen, perhaps Donnie and the coaches, and maybe even move some celebrity millionaires. Would it be so bad to turn some hot shot into a gamer in the Royals mode? If the Dodgers won and advanced deeper into Oct, fans, and Kasten himself, likely would feel all was well and not want any changes. The rude awakening for the second year in a row shows changes need to be made – if only a real bullpen acquired. Kasten has annoyed me all season because he’s had a lot of the pieces, but ignores them, banishes them and insists on guys he brought in who proved they weren’t up to the task. Try as I might, I can’t understand why Paco spent the entire season in AAA and more, why he was left off the post-season roster after showing he was performing well in Sept. I hope Kasten gets busy and improves the team. Bullpen, defense, leadership, toughness. Trade away a few celebrities. The female fans will moan but they’ll get over it. The blueprint should be the current Royals team – a group that resembles something former Dodgers GM Dan Evans put together. There’s a reason that team feels magical, why they make crazy defensive plays, come back from behind, mow down opponents in late innings, etc. They’re a good team, a well-constructed team – the 2014 Dodgers are not a team, but a collection of parts. It bought some time, but when Kasten had other options on hand, he dismissed them. Is it some scheme we’re not aware of, arrogance, stubbornness, or a mix of the three? Kasten is the guy who created the current Dodgers, and re-signed Donnie, so he’s very much to blame for this season. $235M should buy more. Oh, and if you’re also working under the assumption Donnie is the problem for everything, you must also believe Ned is the problem. I don’t mind if you blame Ned, but he’s just a figurehead – Kasten runs the team. Getting rid of Ned would be like dealing with your Obama hatred by removing Biden. In the case of who makes actual decisions for the Dodgers, follow the shine off the bald head.
I won’t go into individual players any more than I have because it’s unnecessary. The players are what they are, and were never going to be much more than that. I choose to look at the ace/best pitcher in all of baseball, the manager and architect of the team. I think the buck stops there. Frankly I’m annoyed the National League representative in the World Series will be some team that makes me ill. I’m going for Kansas City, and if they lose in the ALCS or big dance, it will still have been an impressive season for them. It’s easy to like the Royals because they play baseball the right way. They’re a cohesive unit and a fun team that plays fundamentally sound and with a ton of energy. The Dodgers need to get some of that back. The 1988 team had it, Dan Evans’ teams had it, but it’s not been around since perhaps the back to back NLCS teams McCourt underfunded. It’s time for change. It’s time to get back to playing baseball smartly, and not worrying about bubbles, dancing, walk up music and who has more groupies. Old fashioned? You bet! But it’s the way you win in Oct – and as I said, the current Dodgers’ brand of baseball was never going to fare well in the post-season. And look where they are now.
Playoff edition long form therapy session…
Well, Oct baseball is in the air and already there have been some remarkable games. The Dodgers, of course, have huge issues after Game One’s surprise collapse of Kershaw. I have said – and gotten a lot of heat for it – that while Kershaw owns the regular season, the last feather in his very young cap is showing he can carry that domination over to the post-season. Now whether it’s the Cardinals (I think it is) or just being psyched out from last year’s Game Six flop (also a factor, but coupled with the Cardinals, an even larger one, no doubt), something has made Kershaw an average post-season starter.
Of course his career – albeit with a lot of innings logged already – is just starting, and there’s plenty of time to find his way, it is troubling that a guy who is compared routinely to Koufax and other greats is so shaky when it counts most. What went wrong? Well, the Cardinals just know how to get into the shaggy haired head of his, and they’re also a smart and somewhat dirty team. The good news is the Dodgers showed fight last night (they didn’t last year) when Puig got beaned. And they also scraped and fought back to make it interesting in the last few innings (something they hadn’t done all season). Don’t panic yet, but Greinke is also sporting a post-season ERA over 4, so which Dodgers team comes out today in Game Two? The pussies from last year, the ones who understandably could be demoralized from last night’s drubbing or the team that showed fight vs. Molina? Just a spark of life they showed gives me faith.
I think the Dodgers and underwhelming manager Donnie Baseball have an interesting pickle here. Would you rush Kershaw back on 3 days’ rest, knowing Kershaw has been decimated twice in a row by the Cardinals? Or would you feel safer with another option? That’s a big question, as well as why Donnie and Honeycutt didn’t get out to Kershaw earlier when he was melting down on National television. Donnie said his face looked ok and he said (when he did eventually go out there) that Kershaw claimed he was ok. Note to Donnie and Honeycutt – any sort of competitor is going to say he’s ok – go by what you’re watching. Kershaw’s bombardment and collapse was pretty obvious, so where the Dodgers are in trouble this Oct is having a poor manager at the helm. Of course one could point to Ned Yost, perhaps dumber than Donnie, as someone who lucks by, but I’d say that’s mostly because his team is just so scrappy and fundamentally sound. I don’t think Donnie has that luxury – though he does have “superstar potential.”
Looking around at the other games, I am really impressed with the aforementioned Royals. Hey, squint and you can watch a team in blue and white playing baseball the right away, and think it’s your Dodgers. Defense, speed, pitching, relief pitching, clutch hitting, chemistry, power when needed… is this a Dan Evans designed club? Anyway, I am rooting for the Royals, hope they sweep Anaheim, and give the deserving fans in KC something they haven’t enjoyed in quite a long time. This is the type of team I wish Stan Kasten built. No superstars, no egos, just gamers and baseball players. Take note, baldy Kasten.
I am also impressed with the Orioles, who I’ve long rooted for as another old time team with good fans. Their beating of the Tigers is fun to watch, although somewhat bittersweet knowing how many of their guys have had PED suspicions or busts. Nonetheless, like KC, they play hard and are beating up a powerful Detroit team that thought stars could make up for lack of bullpen. Oct is won with defense and pitching and to skimp on the pen, both in Detroit and LA, is a huge risk. I would prefer a lineup of flame throwing relief pitchers like KC has to mega stars who strike a pose before walking up to home plate to hit. I’m a purist, and if you disagree with my assessment, you’re part of the problem.
I actually hoped the Giants would beat the Nats, which pisses off some of my friends who can’t stand the Giants. Unbiasedly I say the Giants aren’t as good as some of the teams playing now, but they have a track record of winning and Bochy gets a lot out of them when it matters most. The Pittsburgh win isn’t too surprising given the Bucs countered Bumgarner with Volquez (wtf?) but beating the pundits’ darling, Strasburg, was impressive. The reason I want the Giants to win is so the Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Cardinals) don’t have to deal with them. While I am not a fan of Matt Williams and hate Harper, on paper the Nats seem the best team in playoff action. Their 5 starters are crazy good and anyone thinking, well, the Dodgers have Kershaw, Greinke and maybe a healthy Ryu, needs to look at the Nats starters and especially their success since Sept.
Anyway, this is a fun time of year. You can flip from one game to another and tune in to teams you perhaps never watched all year. You can see each pitch matter, each out be meaningful, and you can get swept away in breathtaking baseball. I will leave it that I warned of Kershaw come Oct, and am skeptical he can go back out there on short rest and somehow dominate after getting torched for a bushel full of runs the last two tries against the Cards. I will say the fight and scraping back the blue did was impressive. Where was this fight last year when the Cardinals made a mockery of the Dodgers? I would urge the players to keep up that aggressive approach because the Cardinals will not stop pitching inside. The sign stealing, perhaps, is a problem the coaching staff will have to address, but the dirty shots are something that cannot be tolerated. Pitching inside to power hitters is smart. Sometimes a pitch gets away, and that happens. The Dodgers – not known for being mentally tough – need to take a page from the St. Louis book. Pitch inside to Holliday and Molina. Don’t let the hitters get comfortable in the box. If they balk, fight with them. This is a five game series, each out and each game is huge. The Dodgers have to come out tonight and make the statement they were trying to make last night, before the wheels came off the bus. Make Vin proud, win Game Two.