Home > Uncategorized > For Too Trusting Dodgers Fans, it’s Time to Squint and Use Your Imagination

For Too Trusting Dodgers Fans, it’s Time to Squint and Use Your Imagination

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The off-season used to be my favorite time of the baseball year, which is odd since that’s when the teams aren’t playing. I think it was my constructive way of making the cold stretch between playoff baseball and spring training more bearable. Nowadays baseball is a 12 month sport. You can listen to MLB Network Radio or watch their TV channel and get year-round coverage. In the past, you listened on terrestrial radio and hoped some baseball mention occurred between the incessant NFL and NBA talk. We’ve come a long way, baby.

The off-season was a good time for a baseball geek because you could marinate in the months of talk, trade ideas, free-agent possibilities, non-roster invites, etc. Everyone is a winner as the next season approaches, until of course you take off your rose colored glasses and realize your team, possibly, isn’t that good. Being a large market team, one with much past success, a Dodgers fan generally has had reason to be optimistic. Even in lesser years, the downside wasn’t as bleak as those of other teams in smaller markets.

When Frank McCourt was allowed into town by corrupt commish Bud Selig, Dodgers fans were exposed to a reality fans in many of MLB’s markets had to cope with each year. For us, the spoiled and somewhat entitled, it was quite a rude awakening. A Dodgers team cash poor? A relatively dry farm? Bankruptcy? Bounced checks to stadium personnel, including beloved icon Vin Scully? Stadium beatings? What was going on?

McCourt was forced out and a slew of possible owners were trotted out. The group who bought the Dodgers were a global investment firm with deep pockets and selling their plans with the big smile of Los Angeles’ favorite son, Magic Johnson. Fans were so happy to be rid of McCourt and his pathetic reign as owner that they wanted to believe wholeheartedly in the Guggenheim Group who used loveable Magic as their mascot. Magic wouldn’t do us wrong! That’s what long-suffering, brutalized Dodgers fans wanted to believe. Magic played basketball, and pretty much only talks about basketball, but hey, he knew Tommy Lasorda and went to some games, so that’s close enough.

Well, after some immediate maneuvers to get butts (dollars) back in the seats, and after several different plans, different architects, it’s beginning to look a lot like the same old, same old, just in a different package. Instead of Frank McCourt and his now ex-wife using the team and fans as their own personal ATM, we have Guggenheim reaping huge profits from a large gate and even larger, record TV deal. $8B is a lot of money, and more obscene when the majority of fans in the LA area cannot watch the games, and are only “treated” to Vin Scully for three innings on radio (in these Scully’s last years behind the mic).

Each plan was foolproof, until it wasn’t. Now the Dodgers have doubled down on well-regarded executives, while ignoring most aspects of on the field talent. If the Dodgers faced off against other teams with executives, they might have a reasonable chance of winning. As it is, a portion of fans are still desperate to believe (and have to believe), while others, myself included, are tired of being played.

The plan is genius – turn the fans on themselves while Guggenheim and the executives all get rich. Let fans bicker and call one another names, while logically they should all be unified since they have the same common goal – a good, entertaining and championship quality Dodgers team. Like America itself, due to social media and brains warped by technology perhaps, the fans are angry and divided. Half are angry at those fans who are not “real fans” (i.e. have the exact same opinions as they do) and the rest are angry at the snow job they’ve endured for about 3 decades. If one knows anything about the Dodgers, they will realize that this drought is especially shameful for an organization that has championships and history on its side. The Dodgers of 2016 are not the Dodgers of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or even the past decade plus.

In all my years, I haven’t seen a situation like this as a Dodgers fan. Oh sure, McCourt’s era was worse on many levels, but the consistent drubbing we’ve been asked to endure since the end of the O’Malley era, through FOX, and even today, is beyond explainable. Fans should be mad as hell and bright enough to realize when you have the largest payroll in baseball you should have good enough a team to at least participate deep into Oct. Fans should understand that when you’re given a window of opportunity to win now, you need to seize it. When you’re given Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their prime and “unlimited resources”, you have to keep that together and win a few titles. At least one.

What has happened the past few years especially is sad. That half the Dodgers fan base is more impressed by slick operating “suits” than talented players like Dee Gordon is mystifying. Throughout my years following the Dodgers, my friends and I, and fans we encountered along the way or at games never had more allegiance to executives than the players wearing the uniform. There were a few cases where some idiot disrespected the uniform and we wanted them gone, but those incidents were rare. When Al Campanis, a good longtime Dodgers face made indefensible remarks on “Nightline”, we understood that all his years of loyal service did not make him exempt. We did not root Campanis on, we wanted a winning ball club. We got one in 1988, and Campanis has seldom been thought about since.

Nowadays it’s all about the executives. The Dodgers main genius is Andrew Friedman, who did remarkable things in small market Tampa but has been churning his wheels here on the big stage. He spends like a demon, yet is frugal at other moments. He buys items one wouldn’t buy, and passes on obvious ones. His supporters point this out as brilliance and align with him to catch some of the moonbeams that run off, but so far there is nothing to show for all this expense and odd logic. I argue, and half of the fans agree, that the team is going backwards. I think many could understand taking steps back if it were necessary. For example, Houston cleaned house, rebuilt and became very good last year. Philadelphia is reloading after riding out the veterans for too many years. Colorado, perhaps, will get it and clear out some of the familiar names to acquire the pitching they desperately need. None of these cities are Los Angeles, however. The Dodgers are rebuilding while still riding the largest payroll. That could be a smart approach if the money being spent amounted to terrific players. You could then say “We have all these great players to win now, plus we’re setting ourselves up to win for years to come.” A dynasty, if you will.

There are talented kids on the current roster as well as in the farm, not so much thanks to Friedman and his group though. These players mostly came into the system via Ned Colletti and Logan White, who ironically were pushed aside and out. And mostly I go back to the money being spent – on payoffs for players to go elsewhere, Cuban players who never amount to anything, and overspending on marginal big leaguers that could have been had for much less. While this money is being wasted, corners are cut elsewhere, whether it’s letting Greinke go, not signing free-agent relief pitchers of note (they did sign Joe Blanton, who might turn out to be a decent pick up based on last season’s relief role, but there were other, more proven options), bats, etc. I am not sure what the Dodgers payroll will be when they open the season, and to me it’s just a number at this point – Guggenheim is loaded and should be paying a lot – but I do know I look at the roster and don’t see the value.

As I said at the top, the off-season is a fun time as any team still has a chance. Could the Dodgers and their large payroll win in 2016? Maybe. But in honesty I see a team with all the problems of last year’s unit with more weaknesses beside. The Dodgers fortunes rest on good luck happening, which is ok if you’re a fan in Tampa, Houston, Milwaukee, etc. but it shouldn’t be the case for fans with the largest attendance in the league and deepest pockets. When your owners ink an $8B TV contract, you shouldn’t be hoping they “save some money” and not re-sign Greinke, or not get a few solid relief pitchers, a big bat, etc. When Guggenheim collects all the money they have been since coming into town, as fan you should DEMAND the best talent possible and yes, a championship team. Whenever I hear Moneyball and geeks who made it work in small markets come in, the hairs on the back of my neck instantly ride up. Paul DePodesta’s worth in Oakland is a nice story, as is Friedman’s in Tampa, but Los Angeles is a big market and hello! the fans here deserve a winner after a nearly 30 year dry spell. i.e. there is urgency here in the City of Angels that there isn’t in Oakland or Tampa. That’s why I think they hired the wrong guys for the job – again. Guggenheim either ignored history or are stupid. The Sabermetrics first philosophy failed when DePodesta assembled the most laughable roster I’ve ever seen as a Dodgers fan, and now the mistake is happening again. I just wonder if the NEXT owner will learn from this latest turn.

If the Dodgers get freak like production from Corey Seager and electrifying stuff from Julio Urias, and get very lucky with health by known brittle players, and maybe the Giants and Diamondbacks suffer some setback, it’s quite possible the Dodgers can sneak in. Again, I’d say a lot has to break right for this to happen. If it does happen, it would be even luckier if it played in October. The true Moneyball philosophy Billy Beane has noted several times is using the analytics to fill out a statistical Bingo card so the team gets X number of hits, X number of runs, X number of wins, etc. out of their machine April-September. October, as Beane has said, is “luck” and the algorithm goes out the window.

Ironically the Dodgers already had a division winning team under Colletti, and were in a better position in October as well. Recall, Colletti’s Dodgers, even with McCourt pocketing money left and right, were very close to the World Series – twice. The team has gotten weaker since, in the bullpen especially, and with a lighter, more party-like atmosphere that I would argue winning teams generally don’t exhibit. On top of that, now the biggest October factor – Kershaw + Greinke – is gone. The half of the fan base that buys anything Friedman throws out there, argue the team is deeper now. I would argue, loading up on lesser pitchers with injury question marks is not depth, its quantity. Quantity over quality isn’t a selling point to me, and if it comes in handy, it might April-September, but not October. Going into short series, I would much prefer having Kershaw and Greinke (even with Kershaw’s October jitters of the past) to Kershaw and Scott Kazmir, or Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. So a team that had a formula for winning in the regular season but not in October addressed (“fixed”) the regular season part, not the post-season portion. That’s Moneyball, and why it hasn’t worked in Los Angeles.

We have several weeks now before pitchers and catchers report and a month before spring games begin. The executive loving faithful remain dogged that Friedman will not disappoint, he will make a big trade, or trades, and the Dodgers will be right up there with MLB Network Radio’s mentioned top contenders for 2016 – Chicago, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington and Arizona. I’m not sure that trade or trades are going to happen, but I’d prefer a little less ego and brilliance and a lot more common sense. The top teams in MLB loaded up over the winter and improved themselves. You don’t need a PhD to see how either. Top teams in both leagues acquire talented players. You know the players, you know their production, and you can see how they fit into a rotation or lineup. You don’t need to turn your head like a confused dog and squint to see why they made a great pick up. With the Dodgers nowadays, everything is needlessly complex. A trade often includes several teams, then some players are flipped, salaries absorbed, etc. In the end, you’re told how intelligent the move was, but you just can’t see it. I can see how other teams are getting better, I can’t see it with the Dodgers. I can’t see how a punch and Judy lineup not being fortified is improvement, adding injury risks or sending an ace to a rival is progress. Half of you can, and those of you are like the people who can look at those weird dot pictures in the mall and see a sailboat. Good for you; I’ll just go to the museum and look at real art.

Don’t forget to watch the special video bonus…

Look, a Sailboat!

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  1. snider fan
    January 28, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    I was reading about Yadier Alvarez, and while he may be the next Mariano Rivera or El Duce, it’s by no means a sure thing. For the same amount of money ($16 million+100% tax) they could have had an extra year of Greinke. Different types of risk, although risk is inherent in any pitcher. Only time will tell if they made the right decision.

  2. Freudy
    January 28, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Well, since the days of Dan Evans, I’ve been a huge advocate of using the international pool to add talent. Back then it was mostly Japanese and Dominican players, of course. Cuba is all the rage now and Friedman must have the island always on his mind. So far, as Steve Dilbeck reported in the LA Times the other day, not a lot of Cubans have hit for the Dodgers. I have no problem using Guggenheim money on Cuban players, but I would mix in some generally more emotionally mature and professional Japanese players as well, and Venezuelan who are often advanced. Raw talent and tools don’t impress me, unless they can be harnessed. Oftentimes they cannot. Remember the potential of Mondesi, “Corky” Guerrero and so many others. I would gladly swap tools for smarts. A solid smart players is worth more imo than flash. That said, a few of Friedman’s Cubans could hit but we know what Zack Greinke is and we lost a huge advantage there – not to mention to a division rival. Ouch. Not smart.

    • Snider Fan
      January 29, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Mondesi and Hideo Nomo, going even further back. Actually, if you look at Mondesi’s numbers they were pretty respectable by today’s standards…until that idiot Davey Johnson messed with his head. Of course we came up $500 short in signing Vladmir Guerrero, doh!

      • Freudy
        January 29, 2016 at 9:12 pm

        Well, if you have followed me on twitter and in this blog for any amount of time you’ll recall me stating that Puig would be very fortunate to have a “disappointing” career as Mondesi did. Mondesi’s career was cut short unfortunately for a variety of reasons but the power/speed combo he put up for years is something Puig can only dream of. Right now Puig would be lucky to have Jose Guillen’s career. Guillen, if you recall, was a Mondesi type who didn’t even achieve that level. Puig right now is in jeopardy of being a real bust, so he better get his shit together. Giving young players, especially someone who comes from extreme poverty, is a huge disservice. A Cuban new in LA with hot blondes, fancy cars and a big house? Where is the motivation? Not to mention the discipline to cope with such life-changing turns of good fortune?

        As I’ve said, the best outfielders currently on the roster are Ethier and Joc. Joc is young and will learn. If he doesn’t, at least you have a hustling defender. Ethier has remained fairly consistent and is mostly a very good citizen. Puig is a man-child and needs to grow up. I would have dealt him when his value wasn’t in the crapper. When Friedman (wisely) got rid of Kemp and Hanley due to character reasons, he forgot one of the bad apples. Puig’s behavior affects the team on the field and it’s a distraction the Dodgers can’t afford. If Roberts can’t get through to him, deal him for whatever you can get. He’s no Mondesi though at this point.

  3. badger3
    January 28, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    I see the boat. Don’t see the sail.

    Another solid post. Mind if I use everything you said on other blogs?

    I’ve been saying this tag team Moneyball squad is marking time until ’18. The point about having a team is entertainment. Do we have that? Well, we did when three guys were OPS’n over 1.000, but then the Oxy kicked in and everybody went into sleep mode. I don’t see improvements where I felt they were needed. It looks like Groundhog Day could be playing all of ’16. That said, IF Puig and Pederson snap out of it, IF Ryu, IF Seager, IF Grandal, IF fill in the blank.

    With the Dodgers money there is no excuse to not blend youth with expensive veterans. We should have had Miller in ’14 and we should have had Hamels, Cueto or Price last year. (my pick was Hamels) We should have signed a marquee bat AND Greinke this winter. The fans in LA would pay for all of it. Just show us you are trying to get the best and we’ll support it.

    • Freudy
      January 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      Well said. The Dodgers COULD do well but more than likely, they’re now the third best team in the division. Sorry, not a believer in Moneyball bullshit in a large market. Where it has worked – with Theo in Boston and Chicago – he’s hardly playing Moneyball. He gets the GOOD players he wants, not flyers on second-tier guys like McCarthy, etc. And I don’t believe in platoons all over the place or utility men playing regular roles. All that does is mean you don’t have a player good enough to play everyday + weakening your bench. Friedman’s antics work in small markets, not in large. He’s over-matched and I hope Mark Walter tosses he and Zaidi out and lets Alex A or some other real GM handle things.

  4. badger3
    January 31, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    It’s too bad more fans aren’t commenting here. I find this to be some of the most clear and concise writing found on the Internet.

    • Freudy
      January 31, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      I appreciate the kind words and sometimes I wonder why there aren’t more comments myself – even negative ones. I try to be honest all the time. I don’t swill the Kool-Aid and I don’t think being a “fan” means you walk around with an idiot’s grin at whatever is happening. I am a lifelong Dodgers fan. I am old enough to know what the Dodgers were, and the greatness they’ve accomplished. I am not a “fan” of ownership groups or executives. If someone is worthy of compliments, such as Dan Evans, who studied and applied statistical data before anyone heard the name “Moneyball” yet like Theo Epstein, was smart enough not to ONLY adhere to that, I call it out. Friedman, Zaidi, Kasten and all the others haven’t done much worthwhile yet, nor has Guggenheim ownership. I won’t turn a blind eye to that. A real “fan” wants the team they root for to be the best possible team they can be and to be in a position to win the World Series every year. Looking for trimming payroll and getting second-tier players instead of better should not be something a “fan” roots for. I don’t get the idiots who cheer blindly for the top tier – it’s like a GOP nightmare. Ownership OWES US the best they can accomplish, we should not accept – or want – less. I won’t anyway, so if something good is done – such as realizing their earlier fuck up not re-signing Howie Kendrick – I will comment positively on it. If they do boneheaded things, I will call them on that as well. “Fans” who don’t like me are generally misguided lovers of executives and owners, so I can’t hope to get through to them. I take it as a badge of honor when folks like that get mad at what I write.

  5. badger3
    February 3, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Well, I won’t get angry, but if it would make your day I could probably say something to piss you off. I did it often to Timmons on LADodgertalk. He finally snapped and quit. If there are no comments you should keep writing. If not here then on other blogs. Even if I didn’t agree with your take, and I do, your writing is superb. There’s a lot of if’s in this paragraph. A lot of if’s on the Dodgers too.

    I am currently in a conversation regarding speed and how saber dudes value it. I would think they would as OBP is valued. I don’t see them getting a lot faster. It’s my opinion if you get on a lot, at least now and then you should hit the accelerator. But Mattingly didn’t do it much. And the two guys with great speed that FAZ has seen here were both traded.

    Yep, a lot of if’s remain on this team. We could be good. We could be caught by our rivals. I just don’t know. I look forward to seeing if Maddux will be teaching the break both ways two seamer to those 97 mph one pitch bullpen guys. The article I read said he was a front office hire. He better be on the field this Spring or it’s a waste of talent. I live in Northern Arizona so I’ll go down in March for a day.

    Later……

    • Freudy
      February 5, 2016 at 3:07 am

      Maddux is a great addition as is Ibanez. I just wonder why we need Kapler still and a whole gang of other geniuses. Way too many cooks in this kitchen. A friend of mine and I were chatting and he proposed Puig (and a good prospect if needed) to NY for Gardner and Miller. It works for both teams and gives us a leadoff guy the Saber dummies would accept since Gardner has power. He may actually have more power than the underachieving Puig. If Puig did get his act together in NY (more nightlife distractions), between Gardner, Joc and Seager there would be enough power output (i.e. to replace Puig, not counting A-Gone, Ethier, Grandal, Turner, etc.). Not to mention Miller slots in behind Kenley and is not only the setup guy the team needs, but depth if Kenley has more health issues, or they let him walk this winter. Get the Super Bowl over with so baseball is front and center. Here’s to Friedman adding three or four more geniuses before opening day!

  6. snider fan
    February 24, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Have you looked at Gardner’s splits? Last year he was a different hitter away from Yankee Stadium, and not in a good way. And what to do with Crawford?

    • Freudy
      February 28, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Not to worry, it won’t happen. I have more faith in Gardner though than I do Crawford, Kike or Puig.

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