Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
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.