Home > Uncategorized > Sorry True Believers, The Dodgers Have A LOT of Work to Do

Sorry True Believers, The Dodgers Have A LOT of Work to Do

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Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.

The 2015 Dodgers season fooled a lot of people – either casual fans, Moneyball lovers or the just delusional. The season went exactly as it had to, given the mismanagement of new genius Andrew Friedman. In case you hadn’t noticed, Friedman’s team of consultants fielded a less competitive team than stocky Ewok lookalike Ned Colletti did. Some have deluded themselves into thinking this year was better… newsflash: it was not.

The Dodgers have A LOT of work to do to get this 30-year drought off their back. As I noted in previous articles, I see them going backward, not forward. There isn’t a single area of the team that doesn’t need fixing. The front office through the field coaches to the lineup and pitching. The fans too could use some self-improvement – read the article I posted last night about the decline of twitter and social media as a whole due to mean-spirited mob mentality.

Very few good things happened this year and for anyone who bought a ticket, paid too much for parking, overpriced beer, food and gear, I sympathize with you. Your hearts are in the right place, but you were all duped. The Guggenheim ownership group has done very little right since coming in, while somehow making in-stadium fans feel things are markedly better than they used to be. Perhaps in terms of massive brain trauma they are, but the team itself, the brand, has almost never been lower in all the years I’ve followed the Dodgers. Let us begin…

The Good:

I would say the good is very little. The only things I can see Friedman and his suits did well were obvious things I noted as must-haves in 2014. They focused on defense (even this tarnished with the poor trade of Juan Uribe to Atlanta) and got rid of clubhouse distractions Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. They missed one however in believing Yasiel Puig could be transformed without his enablers around – he couldn’t. Puig regressed across the board and for those who used to criticize me for saying Puig would be lucky to have a career like Raul Mondesi’s (assuming his ceiling was far above Mondy’s), you were wrong. Puig was a trouble spot, loafer and unhelpful (while necessary) part of the team all season long.

So defense for a team built around pitching is good, even though outside of two great starters, I would argue they didn’t build around pitching. And as noted, the chemistry fix was smart, but they didn’t complete the job. So all in all the good is at best a B-.

Philosophy:

The Dodgers fault from the get-go was allowing Friedman total control of every aspect of the team. He doesn’t seem to be Theo Epstein smart, and even Theo has enough humility to hire good people around him (Joe Maddon, etc.). Friedman, like most egotistical executives in all walks of life, clearly dictated how the Dodgers would play baseball in 2015. I can’t point blame at Don Mattingly or his coaches nearly as much as I can at Friedman. The buck stops with him.

Starting with devaluing Dee Gordon and causing a void of speed and leadoff presence atop the lineup to blowing out players and paying their salaries to play elsewhere (sometimes within the division), to trying to prove his superior intelligence by cherry picking disastrous players either with injury histories or no histories (like Paul DePodesta, Friedman loves AAAA nobodies that prove time and again to be nobodies for a reason), 2015’s shortcomings should rest squarely in the hands of the architect. Friedman WANTED this team the way it was constructed and way it played, so I’m giving him full credit.

Anyone who knows baseball understands pitching wins. The Dodgers pitching – save for the two aces – was always going to be a question mark. Brett Anderson was better than expected in terms of health, but that was always a risky pick up given his physical track record. Brandon McCarthy has always been marginal and also a physical nightmare. The slew of arms Friedman had coming and going on a near daily basis were a who’s who of baseball trivia, none of them making an impact.

A team without a full rotation and very thin bullpen has no place in October, so another first round ouster is no surprise to me. And now one of the aces is leaving, or could be signed at a greater price, for more years, and entering his middle 30s with a lot of mileage on his golden arm, so how the 2016 Dodgers pitching staff will look is anyone’s guess. I will say it has to be better thought out and deeper. There’s something to be said for adding known commodities with a history of health. Not knowing who will pitch a given day, who can come out of the pen, etc. is not a way a front running team should operate. Friedman’s lack of understanding, or brash egotism, sunk the 2015 Dodgers from the start.

But the troubles go deeper than the pitching. The offense, except when clicking in spurts against very bad NL West competition, was a strangely crafted bunch with a failing philosophy of swinging for the fences – the more pull hitting, the better. For the majority of 2015 you saw very little going with the pitch, hitting strategically with runners on base, etc. Friedman, like other Moneyballers before him, wanted a lot of homeruns and to his credit, and Big Mac’s excitement to preach this principle, it worked. The Dodgers hit a lot of homeruns with at face value a not very homerun-friendly lineup. Needless to say it didn’t impress me because swinging for the fences isn’t a great hitting philosophy for an entire team.

The offense worked, except when it didn’t. It didn’t, for example, against good teams, in any month, let alone October. If you look at the 2015 Dodgers record vs. each team, they fattened up against patsies in the West – San Diego, Colorado and Arizona, and had a losing record vs. most good teams – for example, EVERY team that played in this year’s post-season. For good measure, the hated Giants even beat the crap out of the Dodgers.

If you can’t beat good teams, you shouldn’t consider yourself a serious threat to win the World Series. Fans believe with their heart, and are drunk half the game anyway, so to truly feel the Dodgers were a good team this year was ignoring the truth. I’m sure Friedman, a man who relishes data, had to be concerned with the fact his team only could beat bad teams. I think that became apparent with desperate lineup switches in September and October and suddenly leaning heavily on Corey Seager, who wasn’t even deemed promotion-worthy till late in the year.

Friedman needs to stop being Al Davis and hire the right people on the field to make the moves. His baseball philosophy isn’t based in reality. Perhaps he subscribes to Billy Beane’s idea that it’s his job to get the team to October based on statistical probability of what players reasonably should do over the course of the year – once there, it’s impossible to predict. That works fine in Oakland, perhaps, but with a $300M payroll and ability to absorb any amount of contracts or luxury tax penalty? Does. Not. Compute.

Other Things:

While Friedman should be held most responsible for this year’s team, I am not giving a pass to Donnie and his staff. I think, as I said earlier, top to bottom there are problems with the team – from deficiencies to bloat, poor philosophy and unfounded ego.

Donnie is not the great thinker you’d want to manage a top ball club. Luckily for the Dodgers, this isn’t a top ball club. Donnie got the job by being a good soldier under Joe Torre and was a good hitting coach. He apparently is in demand for some reason in Miami, so likely Friedman will toss him out as his scapegoat and Donnie will bask in the Florida sun. That’s okay with me because while a great former player and a decent guy, he’s not a terrific X’s and O’s kind of guy.

I’m not sure who should manage the Dodgers next and it really doesn’t matter what you or I think anyway. Friedman will do what Friedman does and do what he wants. Personally, I’d love to see Friedman sent packing and Dan Evans brought back to construct the team, and Alex Cora hired to manage. The team needs an influx of smarts and not the kind data loving pundits fantasize about either, but actual baseball IQ.

So Donnie will go, the fans will be happy, and neglect the fact that the house is rotten from the inside out. Moving Donnie out will NOT make the Dodgers suddenly a great team, maybe not even a really good team. Donnie and his coaches – all could go in my opinion, especially useless Mac – are all tired and had difficulty getting the most out of the botched collection of players Friedman handed them. I really can’t blame them. When Justin Turner, a former waiver wire bench player, is your big threat, you have trouble. When Kike Hernandez is the best thing you got in a trade for NL batting champ and stolen base leader Dee Gordon, you have trouble. When you’re leaning on journeymen outfielders in a pennant race, guys who weren’t even in the big leagues until they arrived in LA, you have trouble. THIS is a $300M team? Friedman spends as much and as inefficiently as George W. Bush.

Turn over the entire coaching staff and perhaps with Friedman letting HIS staff (he inherited the current group) handle the on-field action, things will improve. It couldn’t get much worse.

The Dodgers won the West in a down year for the Giants and with three other dogs in the race. Beating up on bad teams and losing to anyone with a pulse isn’t “winning” – not with a payroll and expectations the Dodgers had going into this season.

Let’s face it; it’s been over three decades since the Dodgers were a dominating team so humility should be practiced by everyone. When I read tweets from Dodgers fans talking shit to the Giants fans, I chuckle. The Giants have won 3 titles recently, so winning the West – with triple the payroll of the enemies from up north, should not be setting you off into a victory lap.

To get back – if even possible – to the Dodgers way, the Dodgers – Guggenheim – need to get smarter. Hiring “smart guys” (walking around referring to yourselves as smart makes me wonder how smart you are anyway) isn’t enough. The smart guys may ultimately “get it” and create a winning formula, but let’s face it, Friedman’s whirlwind of suspect trades and bad signings were his attempt to “get it” for 2015. The end result, as noted, is less satisfying than Ned Colletti teams under evil Frank McCourt, which at least made it to the NLCS.

I think A LOT of work needs to be done. It’s frightening to think how poorly the team played, how bad the hitting philosophy is, the station to station base running, lack of team speed, strikeouts, 3/5 of a bad rotation, soon to perhaps be 4/5, a terrible bullpen, and now no Nancy Bea Hefley and soon, no Vin Scully. Not to mention no TV for the majority of people living in Los Angeles.

While thugs beating the crap out of fans aren’t happening as much, the dark embarrassment of the Dodgers is still alive and well. I would love to say, sign Zack Greinke, that will fix everything, or hire this guy, sign this FA, etc. The truth is there are many, many issues here and it starts with the ownership group, the front office and as they say, the shit rolls downhill. Simply blaming Don Mattingly would be oversimplifying the problem. Mattingly didn’t deal Dee Gordon, didn’t sign Brandon McCarthy, admire Yasmani Grandal for his pitch framing or Kike Hernandez for his tight fitting pants. The team played as well as they could given what they are. Losing a 5 game series to the Mets when you have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke going 4 of the 5 is pretty god awful. All that was missing was Scott Van Slyke trying to out freeze Joe Kelly in a human statue standoff.

The Dodgers need to get A LOT better. It’s up to Guggenheim to figure out how to do that. Calling Dan Evans. Dan Evans to the Dodgers front office please.

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  1. October 19, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Very well written….can’t say I disagree with any of it.

    • Freudy
      October 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      It will be interesting to see if Friedman learns from his small market ideas in a big market mistakes. I’m not sure what market would think it’s ok to ignore your bullpen and have just 2 viable starters though.

      I’d recommend he rebuild around Seager, Joc, Schebler and other kids. A few years of this would be better to get to the right place than the “win-now” and fail philosophy the Dodgers have employed for years.

  2. Beatles12
    October 24, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Some of Friedman’s pickups were good.Mike Bolsinger stepped in and did a great job until August when he past his innings history. Nicasio did a good job in the bullpen. Those two were basically free. The July trade is where he messed up. Although Jim Johnson and Latos were pitching very good…especially Johnson….they fell apart. Alex Wood is a fifth starter at best.

    The problem is….do you trade Cory Seager or Julio Urias for one year of David Price? No…I wouldn’t do that. You mentioned Dan Evans…I was a big fan of him also and I didn’t like with Mccourt got rid of him for no reason but Friedman deserves a chance and time. The farm system shot up in the past year and they traded no one of value in July…of course they didn’t get no one of value except Luis Avilan and Jose Peraza who I think may be really good. To me these were the only two that I really liked at the time though I thought Jim Johnson would pitch like he had with the Braves.

    I do agree that Friedman can out think himself too much. Sometimes I think the whole bunch tries to be clever just for the sake of being clever. The Dee Gordon trade doesn’t bother me. Hatcher and Kike are good. I will admit I’ve never been a big Dee Gordon fan. Did he do better than I thought? Yes he did and I’m happy for him because he seems to be a really good guy. But he did get caught 20 times stealing and his on base was low compared to his batting average. I would prefer to have Howie but I doubt they resign him. The fact is that Dee had value and Kemp, Ethier and Crawford did not…mostly because of the low salary.

    What I liked about this year? They had depth for the first time in a long time in most positions. If Turner or Rollins got hurt we would have someone of quality come in. Last year when Hanley went out we were in trouble. More people contributed this year. People were worried about power… there were no problems in that but I do think they relied on it too much….AJ Ellis has found his 2013 swing again and I hope he is resigned.
    Also they are getting younger which is a must.

    What I didn’t like this year? Lack of starting pitching. I agree with you…bringing in so many disrupts the flow and the clubhouse….Joc Pederson not making adjustments after the all star game. He was a black hole in the lineup in August and September.

    There is more for both but the key thing is the farm system is looking up and they are getting younger on the field…. I just hope they sign the right starting pitchers.

  3. Freudy
    October 25, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Good analysis. I disagree on Dee completely, but we’re entitled to our own opinions. Dee led the league in hits and steals and earned a batting championship, so I don’t care how many times he got caught stealing. Most of that was in the first half, he got better as time went. Great catalyst, the spark the Dodgers needed badly. Can’t win with station to station base cloggers and everyone trying to hit homeruns. Terrible offensive approach in 2015, so if you point to the Dee caught steals, I’ll point to everyone swinging for the fences. I’d have preferred half as many overall homers and a better hitting approach, plus base running, which improved when Roenicke came on, for whatever reason. I think it was because Donnie went public talking about how abysmal the base running was and Friedman and his data dorks allowed them to run a bit.

    I wouldn’t credit Friedman for the farm improving, that farm was in place under Ned. The Dodgers were atrocious and need to improve across the board. I’d go younger, more athletic, and play smarter baseball. They need more than two great starters going against weak NL West opponents to win. If they were in the Central, they’d never have made the playoffs. They’re quite fortunate the West is so weak.

    Let’s see what Friedman learns. If he continues going for AAAA nobodies while blowing through cash on god knows what, the Dodgers will be mediocre for years to come.

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