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It’s July and Time for Dodger Fan Déjà Vu

July 9, 2018 Comments off

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Hello, all – I hope your summer is going well and if you live in Los Angeles and happened to just experience the heat wave that hit us Friday, I hope you’re alive. Palm Springs weather – fun times!

 

I thought I would write a short long-form piece as I haven’t in a while and with the mid-season point upon us, trade winds blowing, etc., I felt it might be fun to pontificate. As always, I understand my viewpoints are too sensible for many of you, so by no means think I feel you need to align yourself with me. If you prefer to feel all is well because you lack perspective (e.g. you are young and don’t know better) or brainwashed by fantasy baseball and Sabermetrics gurus, by all means, get thrilled over nothing. Life is full of disappointments; the Dodgers have been a constant for three decades now.

 

I have been getting dribs and drabs on local sports talk radio, the bloggers, the non-controversial beat writers who don’t want to lose their clubhouse access that the Dodgers are back in it! Awesome! They’re a top team! Easily a World Series contender! Name the headline.

 

It’s hard on Twitter to summarize thoughts in the limited about of space, especially to passersby who don’t have a frame of reference and context. To some of you, wisely you get it. In a nutshell, I have been a Dodgers fan all my life and somewhere around the time the ball club was sold to Fox, I started to formulate my current crusty exterior.

 

I witnessed a wealthy entertainment company come in and buy my beloved team to create a local sports network. Oh sure, while their intentions were selfish, they did open up payroll, which at certain times could have helped you and I, the suckers who just root for our team as a pleasant diversion from everyday life. The problem there was Kevin Malone was hired because he was a rising name in baseball circles and told Fox what they wanted to hear – that he could simultaneously rebuild a farm that Peter O’Malley let fall apart AND at the same time buy a winner in one off-season. No respectable individual would claim they could do one or the other immediately, let alone both at the same time. Kevin Malone, as some of you might recall, was an insecure guy who called himself “The Sheriff” and wanted to make his mark. He was Donald Trump before Donald Trump’s political interests, or Andrew Friedman when Andrew Friedman was in college not getting laid.

 

Malone’s gaffs caused Fox to close the vault and even though Dan Evans (you’d like him, kids – he was all about data before it was cool!) replaced Malone, they had a strong enough foothold on their sports network empire not to trust baseball executives with any more of their money. That led to Frank McCourt.

 

Like Fox, McCourt bought the team – well, that’s not correct… McCourt was given the team by that era’s shady commissioner, Bud Selig. MLB and Fox were in bed financially so when Fox wanted out of baseball ownership, Bud did whatever they wanted to make that happen. McCourt was handed the team without any serious wherewithal and Fox co-signed to make it happen. McCourt’s interests were as selfish as Fox’s. He wanted fame, wealth and a lavish lifestyle. It was a low-risk investment and he exploited the fans’ loyalty as he got daily haircuts, many mansions, and eventually was forced to sale after stadium visitors got beaten into comas, checks to Vin Scully bounced and people finally boycotted the games.

 

The Dodgers were back on the market and the third molesting uncle came along – a wealthy investment firm that used a Trojan horse in the guise of friendly, smiling Magic Johnson to again sucker fans into thinking better days were ahead. You can read my brilliance in archived columns here, explaining what was happening each step of the way. It wasn’t like I was a genius but I created Dodger Therapy as a place for all of us long abused fans to talk it out. The problem, most people are either unaware, stupid or easily conned. At the time, there was no Donald Trump to compare this to, but as we are all aware, nowadays there’s a great divide and for various reasons, one side is perfectly sure that the idiocy and lies make perfect sense in some way.

 

Magic knew about as much about baseball as your grandmother did, and that’s an insult actually to your grandmother. He was used for his smile, his connection to the city and to make a large investment firm buying a baseball team seem somehow plausible. It has since come out (I told you years ago, again, go back through all the old columns for yourself) that the Guggenheim group apparently used money from investors inappropriately and are under investigation for it. Their motive, of course, was to make a shitload of money off the Dodgers pending TV deal and the fans stupidity.

 

They paid $1B (!!!) over asking to McCourt AND let him retain stadium parking lots because the idea of paying $2B total for an $8B TV deal seemed a tidy profit. McCourt put in almost nothing when he “bought” the Dodgers from Fox and ended up massively rich, so much so his ex-wife sued after noticing how her pasty, deadbeat husband (who she left financially for dead) slither his way into a fiscal windfall due to everyone using the Dodgers as a pyramid scheme.

 

My point has always been to call out what is wrong, where injustice is happening, where hypocrisy is occurring and what could be done about it. I know I am not a voice anyone really listens to, not rosy enough, not full of shit enough. My take sounds bad because, well, after 30 years of mediocrity, it is. That is a long time. 30 years. More than many fans’ entire lifetimes. Of course, then some old crackpot saying “Andrew Friedman sucks!” or “Guggenheim is screwing you!” does not resonate. How could it? Maybe if I offered a bag of weed or a vape device with each Twitter post, I’d get more interest? Note to self…

 

Over recent years, I have grown tired of battling with idiots online. I do not mind if you have a different opinion than I do, but at least make a credible defense of your point of view. Sadly, I have wasted far too many years observing this downward trend so when some fresh voice pops out of the woodwork, it’s easy to defend myself against such ill-informed ideas. Follow the team for half a century, then come back to me.

 

Each year that has passed recently the fans get their hopes up based on what they feel a baseball team should do, so therefore the Dodgers should too. I agree with that, but unfortunately, what many do not get is quite intentionally Guggenheim hired Andrew Friedman and his band of small-market dipshits due to their ability to look for ringers when given limited resources. I cannot fully explain how it is Guggenheim wants to cost cut while entrusting their boy to overspend on bullshit, but that’s the interesting thing here. More interesting is how no matter what Friedman peddles, fans eat it up. If he does nothing, or almost nothing, at the trade deadline – he’s heralded for his genius! If he sits out the winter while every other team improves, he’s brilliant! If he overspends on marginal players or those who never will play a game at Dodger Stadium, he’s crafty! No, I’m here to make it known that he’s just an idiot and has no clue what he’s doing. It may have worked in Tampa, since the stage was much smaller, but it isn’t working here.

 

Today I flipped on local LA radio briefly to catch Vic the Brick and Fred Roggin blathering about how the Dodgers need to trade prospects for Orioles star Manny Machado and Zach Britton. They reasoned, prospects are well, just that, prospective, and these guys are stars. I can’t argue with that logic, and I have made similar statements hundreds of times myself. The flaws to their comments, and those in all the blogs and mainstream newspaper pieces I read is a) they’re assuming the Dodgers actually want to go all-in, and b) that these moves would do it, put them on par with the best teams in baseball, most of which are powerhouses in the AL. Let me explain.

 

Again, this is mostly to summarize for those who may not know much about me and my ideas. While it’s traditional to say – “Hey, the trade deadline is coming up, the Dodgers should get (this star, that star)…” – you’re not being honest with yourself. You’re considering the Dodgers a well-run, large market baseball team. They are not. They haven’t been since Andrew Friedman came into town. You are assuming also the Dodgers want to win, really win. No, Guggenheim is happy just getting butts in the seats and selling beer, food, merch and parking access. At this point, Guggenheim is more concerned with investigations than the product on the field. After all, they got their TV riches (most of you don’t get the games on TV though).

 

If the Dodgers were all in, last year was when they should have been there. Last season they had a team that ran away with the West and had options available to cement a championship available. Instead, they waited to the last few minutes before the trade deadline to get the Texas Rangers executives to blink and ended up with Yu Darvish as their savior, as well as a couple marginal/bad relief pitchers. Fans were ecstatic! Of course, I had Darvish on one of my fantasy teams and understood how poor he had been most of the season. The Dodgers could have added Justin Verlander instead, but that would have meant paying him in 2018, so they let Houston acquire him. That one non-move cost the Dodgers the 2017 World Series as well as to perpetuate the constant revolving door in the Dodgers rotation this season. If you think it isn’t fair to criticize the Dodgers for what they did or didn’t do vs. what Houston did – do some research on relative market size between LA and Houston, the time between World Series appearances, etc. My point is, a little team like Houston took last year seriously, a big team like the Dodgers did not.

 

We then went through a winter where Houston added another ace and pretty much every other team worked to shore up needs. The Dodgers did nothing all off-season and fans of course lauded them as geniuses! “You just want to waste money!” the sycophants would argue. “What about trades?” I might counter. “You want to give up our future!” You cannot argue with people anymore, they resort to bullying and if they falter, their pack will take up their fight. As a lifetime fan, I just want a team that more or less resembles a team I followed my whole life, or even a very good team that looks slightly different. Your “patriotism” is immediately questioned. You can’t be a Dodger fan and say something bad about Andrew Friedman, and you can’t be an American and say something bad about Agent Orange. Both are supreme rulers; we must bow before their greatness and kiss their feet. Our own self-interests are secondary, third, fourth, to what makes them look good.

 

So now, fans, like this time last year, are waiting for the big deals to occur. One of two things will happen – a) no deals will occur, or very minor ones to appease the rabble and the team will fall sort but say “We tried! We were in on all those stars!” or b) they learned from inaction last July and will deal for some star power. Of course, if b were really much of an option, why didn’t they learn during the hot stove league? They assumed their oft-injured pitchers and inexperienced kids were enough?

 

Let’s just consider now Manny Machado and Zach Britton, since their names were brought up today. Could the Dodgers be working on a deal for both? Sure. The Orioles would love to get rid of them and get something for their rebuild, but would a team probably not looking to keep Machado beyond this year deal anything of serious worth for him? I can see if the Yankees did, or Boston, or Chicago, as they would consider resigning him, but the Dodgers? While the Dodgers could afford the price Machado would want, and no doubt he’d be thrilled to be in a large market, would they run up the credit card immediately after paying it down? Would Machado go back to third with Corey Seager coming back? If so, what happens to Justin Turner? I guess you could go Turner at first, Machado at third and the ghost of Pepe Frias at second but until I see Andrew Friedman target a real star and sign him, I can’t believe it. Now if Machado was an untested Cuban kid, or an oft-injured journeyman starting pitcher, sure.

 

Everyone is up in arms because the Halos took two of three from the Dodgers in Anaheim this weekend. They immediately say “The Dodgers need Machado! They need offense!” Well, I’d say they just scored 30 runs recently in a series vs. Pittsburgh and have set homerun records, so perhaps not. I would say the Dodgers entire offensive approach is feast or famine and has been since Moneyball came into town. No one hits line drives, no one not named Justin Turner settles for a single when runners are in scoring position, no one steals a base, etc. It’s all about swinging hard, every time, and get that home run. It’s why a guy like Max Muncy came come out of nowhere and swings from the heels every at bat and sits near the break with 20 homers and 38 rbi (everyone wants him to be an all-star, btw, which is rather humorous to me). Is offense though the Dodgers biggest need?

 

So you have to believe the Dodgers would go all in now when they didn’t last year or this past winter and that they feel Machado makes the difference and can get them back to the World Series, or hopefully win it, when last year and this winter the prospects were too important to move. You also have to factor in that they’d be ok losing prospects for a rental, or spending a fortune to keep Machado. All of that is worth mulling over.

 

Then there’s Britton. Now in my opinion, and I heard it echoed last night during ESPN’s telecast, you need a rotation capable of logging innings, a bullpen, and a closer to win. They brought this up, as I have, in criticism of Moneyball’s patchwork approach to a game – where 9 pitchers are trotted out nightly, starters going anywhere from 3-5 innings, and no real setup man to speak of. Obviously, of many issues I have with Andrew Friedman and his philosophies, the fundamental ignoring of pitching as vital is first and foremost. So would a setup man for closer Kenley Jansen be helpful? Why of course! btw, Kenley being the only representative to the all-star game (as of now) for the Dodgers pitching staff should tell you all you need to know.

 

As for Britton, he was the best relief pitcher in baseball in 2016 but this is 2018. He isn’t good this year and while might be helpful if thrown into a Machado deal, is certainly no guarantee to give the Dodgers a lockdown bullpen. A sexy name, for sure, but the solution to Paul Goldschmidt? I don’t believe so.

 

We have a few weeks to see what will happen. Personally, I’d respect Andrew Friedman more if he did what the Yankees did a few years ago and traded players away for a short term rebuild. If he got some talent, then smartly went shopping – both in free-agency and trade and revamped the roster for 2019 and beyond. But this is like asking a chicken to give you milk. It would require Andrew Friedman to undergo a “Regarding Henry” experience and completely change his personality. He is happy tinkering, making ten moves when one or two would suffice, and taking the long way around and problem that presents itself. He’s the classic scenario of the man being too proud to ask for directions.

 

Could the Dodgers win if they dealt kids for Machado and Britton? Sure. They could win doing nothing. Wait, win? Win the World Series? I wouldn’t go that far. I think as it stands now they could win the West or make the wildcard but realistically, as Vic noted today, they are pretty thin if you look at their lineup vs. an AL power house lineup. Of course the little 1988 Dodgers teams beat the Bash Brothers, Eck, Dave Stewart and the rest. I just don’t see any reason to believe this team has magic, or at least anymore pixie dust as last year’s team. Maybe more desperate, but not more magic.

 

Personally I would say the best thing that could happen is Guggenheim is found guilty of fraud, is forced to sell, Andrew Friedman and his clowns are pushed out by a new owner and we start all over again. A new uncle to promise us a better life. Hey, it beats what we have now. Will that owner be kinder to us, consider our feelings and not use us to finance some scheme? Probably not, but then the world has become a pretty dark place, so to assume there are rainbows and unicorns anymore is probably not realistic. Unless of course you are a fan of a team that seems to try year in and year out, isn’t using algorithms to calculate bare minimums to acquire wins, etc. My suggestion is forget Machado, forget Britton, buy yourselves a Yankees, Red Sox or Astros hat. If you are adverse to that, try a Mariners, Cubs or Brewers hat. Less wear and tear on your psyche and your doctor will praise you for your reduced blood pressure.

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The Lost Season

March 21, 2018 Comments off

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Not a lot of followers left, but oh well, will push on. Happy 2018 baseball season to you. The game is great, even though there is a lot wrong with the current MLB version and the latest corrupt commissioner. Nonetheless, if you grew up on baseball as I did, or came upon it late, it’s still a wonderfully entertaining game.

The good news for MLB is talent is deep throughout the league, great teams still exist that play the game right, and there’s promise for quite a battle with teams like the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Rockies and yes, the Dodgers, all looking to be part of the fun.

The not so good is money over fans, collusion and the illness of “data” overtaking the enjoyable parts of the game. Those three things, of course, are all tied together. In order for owners to profit, and MLB to profit, it became necessary to undergo a new round of collusion, which they can explain away with “data.” Show me the “data” that says this winter’s free-agent crop couldn’t improve a team that actually is attempting to compete – including the Dodgers. No need to actually do that, as none exists.

The Dodgers came within a game of winning the World Series and that was enough for most fans. We can dismiss how if the current ownership and front office was actually “all in”, how they would have won their first title since 1988. Just adding Justin Verlander alone would have made the difference, considering the Astros rode him to the trophy. However, no, that would have meant taking on a contract and the front office will have you believe that isn’t possible. Why? They will throw out salary caps and so forth but as any fan not wrapped up in Sabermetrics will tell you, a team’s window for winning is short and closes quickly, even for wealthy teams. Player age, some move on, some retire, etc. If you are in a window of opportunity, you either go “all in” or are out.

The fans have been told it’s vital to keep costs down, even though we all know much of the salary will be off the books following this season. What are they saving up for? Kershaw’s move to Texas? Apparently, the salary cap is the issue – but is it? Do we care if a rich investment firm pays a little more? After all, they have all that TV revenue (most of LA can’t even watch the Dodgers and haven’t for years, thus creating a long-term problem as children are growing up not able to watch the team on TV), not to mention the increased ticket prices – including charging additional if the game is expected to actually be good. I wonder if they will give refunds if the game turns out to be bad? Probably not.

So the game, especially in LA, a large market with a lot of prospective ticket sales where a Saber minded front office reigns, is now more about rooting on wealthy owners and smarty pants front office executives to a fan’s own self interests. Who cares if you work hard to scratch together money to attend a game with your family – your focus should not be on seeing the best possible players added to your roster in July and over the winter, but the best cost effectiveness for the owners. It’s like a Republican tax plan (sorry to any GOP followers who may be reading this) – as long as the top is doing well, that’s all that matters.

Again, like politics, it’s working. I follow baseball across the country and see other teams’ fans excited by the players they are adding. The great teams are getting greater, the young upstarts loading up, those in the middle generally retooling, but then there’s the Dodgers. The Dodgers are a team that many are penciling in for the World Series, dismissing the strong NL competition altogether. And considering the roster, mostly due to Dan Evans once upon a time hiring Logan White and Ned Colletti working with White in drafting a majority of the current young players, the Dodgers may very well be in the playoffs again.

I’d caution that the Diamondbacks are pretty good, as are the Rockies, and the Giants not only added talent but have a lot to prove – their track record and a healthy Madison Bumgarner alone should be reason enough to take them seriously. Is it possible the Dodgers can win the West again? Sure. Is it possible they can suffer setbacks and fall to the middle of the pack? Sure.

It is not so much whether the Dodgers were good enough to compete – clearly, they were. But it was the lack of conviction when it mattered that is my concern. Last winter and July the front office did little. This winter the front office has done little. Supporters (cultists) say it’s brilliant the Dodgers did nothing. They saved money! Since when should a fan be concerned with a wealthy investment firm saving money? I don’t get it.

The fact of the matter is the Dodgers didn’t win the World Series and lost (at home, no less) to the Astros. The Yankees also lost a game 7 to the Astros but added talent over the winter, including homerun champ Giancarlo Stanton, who is a Southern California native and said he preferred to play in LA. Whether you think Stanton’s monster season is an outlier or not, you have to admit the idea that winners go all in and also rans do not. For a team with a 30 year void of championships, all the money and prospects in the world, not to operate with a sense of urgency is off-putting.

The Dodgers added another junk pile reliever, Tom Koehler, to replace their last one, but that one turned out to be pretty good – Brandon Morrow – who will now close, at least for a while, for the Cubs. Morrow of course replaced Joe Blanton. While there is a pattern here of the front office finding ringers, we can point to the current bullpen and recent ones where the ringers didn’t pan out. Many times, they haven’t. So assuming that the Koehler, already injured, can replace Morrow and offer the security needed to get the ball to Kenley Jansen is a bit of a stretch.

I look at other top teams and they may not only have signed Morrow, but added something additional. Nowadays a good team has 2-3 closer options, though I’d argue it’s not an all new idea. I’ve been saying for years baseball is beautiful due to its simplicity. To win, generally, you need a strong rotation – guys who can log innings and have a track record of success. 4 starters are needed, feel free to try a kid in the 5th slot.

You need a reliable closer and several setup men. The idea is on the front end to log innings – hopefully 6-7 – and have the ability to lock down games on the backend with your closer and setup men. The middle relievers that nowadays are seen far too much to be effective come October, are just guys. Interestingly, apologists of Sabermetrics assume any guy wearing a uniform and cap is great – so they will argue that all of these bodies are “depth” and therefore unique from what any other team’s roster has. Sorry, every team in baseball has a roster of people who eat meals, sleep and shit – as well as a minor league system of similar human beings. Having your roster full does not put you in a position of obvious success.

A team that wants to compete and win – generally we start with the Yankees and Red Sox and fan out – does their best to fill needs. If there is a weakness, they look to improve upon it. They do this with money; they do it with prospects via trade. A good team does not sit idly by while other teams get better. The Dodgers had a remarkable run in 2017 but the likelihood the Giants will be as terrible and that the division overall isn’t one of the more competitive in the sport, is just silly.

Anyway, who am I to tell you what to think? If you really feel it’s great not to add talent and wonderful owners have bean counters from small markets to make sure every possible cent in your pocket ends up in their vault, kudos to you. I’m of the opinion that as a customer, we have rights. We have the right to expect the best possible talent on the field if they expect us to focus and spend. It’s very weird to quarrel with one another and try to act superior for the end-result of wanting the rich to get richer.

MLB has become that, due to what I said earlier – money over fans, collusion and using “data” as an excuse to justify this greed. I don’t want to disparage anyone’s intelligence, but hopefully logic prevails and you understand my only goal is to explain a fan should deserve the best of its team every single year. If you expect less, you should dedicate your time and money to other things.

The Dodgers may do well in 2018 but I see this being a lost season. Not addressing the rotation, not addressing the bullpen, not addressing the need for another bat (unless you count Matt Kemp’s return, which was just a way to “salary dump” the front office’s horrible signings of injured pitchers) and doing this while knowing Kershaw might leave, Seager has a serious elbow problem, etc., is criminal. I say that as a lifetime Dodgers fan and a lifetime baseball fan. If you disagree, it is your right, but you would be wrong.

I’ll be keeping an eye from the wings but as I have for several years now, since the bean counters crawled into town, will focus on the game where it is played well, by teams that actually want to be all in. I love baseball – it can be MLB, minors, college, high school or little league. My attention – and might I add, my money – are not going to the Dodgers’ wealthy owners as they do not respect me. No TV, no money from me. Raising ticket prices, especially for “good games”, no money from me. Business should work like that. Fans should be the ones put on a pedestal and respected, not corporations, not finance companies, not executives who keep costs down for their bosses.

Have a great 2018 baseball season – it should be a good one.

Wasted Movement

April 18, 2017 52 comments

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Happy post Easter hangover to you. I thought I’d write a short article since the whole 140 character thing doesn’t really work all the time. In general I seem to get a lot of followers who follow anything with the word “Dodger” in the name (“Tax Dodger”? Reserved for the Commander in Chief, I guess). Once I tweet a few cynical (honest) comments, they quickly unfollow. Such is life.

Anyway, I thought I’d comment on the topic everyone is talking about – Rich Hill’s 2nd DL stint in as many starts. How is this a surprise to anyone? Andrew Friedman, trying to save face, is making the rounds, saying he’s not worried. No, front offices love when their expensive new toys end up chronically injured. Who are you trying to fool, Andy? Sure, you might feel you have “depth” (I call ’em semi warm bodies), but it couldn’t have been in the plans to have your #2 behind Clayton Kershaw saying it would take a “medical miracle” to get him on the mound again. And now talk of his going to the pen to save the boo boo finger? Really, you signed a 37 year old pitcher to a $48M deal with the intention of him being just another bullpen guy, next to your AAAA retreads? Sorry, not buying that.

I know the beat writers and local radio guys won’t question the genius of the front office as they don’t dare lose access to the clubhouse – and the free meals. I on the other hand have nothing to lose. I write what is very apparent – hardly genius at all. It just so happens in today’s world, if you exhibit a decent amount of common sense, you look intelligent. Who woulda thunk?

As I have tweeted many times, all you have to do is go to this blog and comb through the old articles and see my take on everything Dodgers. All the injuries discussed in advance, all the bad deals commented on as they were made, the mediocre or worse players the Moneyball minded acquire, debunked early on. Again, it’s not being super smart, it’s using basic intelligence. And yes, just having seen a lot of baseball in my life. It’s the same thing Saber guys (I don’t think women are stupid enough to be Saber) dislike traditional minded scouting and managing for. It’s too simple. You watch, you gauge it on lots and lots of similar circumstances (100+ years of MLB, pretty much) and you can therefore make semi logical assumptions. One might call it “data”, but I hear that term has been trademarked.

Here we are 13 games into the 2017 season and the Dodgers are in third place, 1 game over .500. The fans, as always, are up and down like the temperature. If they beat the Padres, whose entire payroll is less than what Kershaw makes alone, they talk shit and boast, gearing up for the World Series appearance. If they lose to a better Western foe, they panic.

The season is long and I will go on a limb and say the type of front office work the Friedman/Zaidi and assorted Dream Team collection of overpaid executives are doing could work as well in 2017 as it did in 2016. I think I figured it out, though, like a bad detective show, my answer was right in front of me the whole time.

While I think the West should certainly be better than it was last year (Giants will wake up, Rox seem improved and only getting better, Arizona perhaps better under their new Moneyball-type front office), I can see the Dodgers making the playoffs. Before you get too excited, I can also see them missing the playoffs. Somewhere between winning the West, getting the wild card and losing out in the playoff round robin, is where they will be. I am not one to predict outcomes of divisions so much as a lot of things happen.

I will say that unless changes are made (and why would they be?), it’s unlikely the Dodgers, as constructed now, will advance to the World Series, should they get anywhere near. My reason is I look at tonight’s tragic lineup and I just don’t see where $230M was spent. Any given night the lineup, starter and/or bullpen participants might be aged journeymen or AAAA castoffs. Friedman calls it “depth” – Paul DePodesta didn’t even call it that, but maybe he should have. His roster was the same littering of nobodies and never weres.

With Hill having recurring blister problems, it makes me wonder why Friedman would take a chance on him again. Last July, Friedman waited till the 11th hour before the trade deadline to move three prospects for Hill and Josh Reddick, who apparently Friedman didn’t realize hadn’t done anything since May. Ok, I’ll make excuses and say Friedman thought he could wait everyone out and find lightning in a bottle – after all, Moneyball centerfold Billy Beane snatched Hill up during the off-season after seeing him throw a few good games in unimportant late season starts for Boston. If Hill was good enough for Beane…

Hill, of course, came over hurt, spent a long time on the DL and then made some useful starts in September and October for the Dodgers. But facts are facts and Hill was an aging player, not long out of independent league ball (like Scott Kazmir, who Friedman admitted was a poor signing just a year before as he shopped him this winter, with no takers). But with the free-agent and trade markets thin (the time to shop was the winter before when names like Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, J.A. Happ, etc. were available), Friedman doubled down on Hill. After all, he just dealt three prospects to get him, so to walk away empty handed, and still have a gaping hole in the rotation, seemed unacceptable, even to him. So as is his custom, an identical $48M deal went to Hill – like it had to Brandon McCarthy and then Kazmir. I guess that’s the cap where a Moneyballer feels comfortable “wasting” on starting pitching.

I would say $48M is an ok figure, if you got something out of it. So far, the amount is cursed for Friedman and his little troll Zaidi – all three of the guys acquired have trouble staying healthy. In case you wondered, 3 x 48M = $144M, which is a lot of money and should mean something more capable for your rotation than what Friedman’s guys have shown – at least so far (this being written on April 17, 2017, for historical purposes).

My biggest problem with Friedman and his building of a roster isn’t necessarily the players he selects – ok, it’s a large part about that – but what the ultimate toll it takes on the team in general. As I’ve said before, a rotation is not just the quality of your 5 starters (not 16 starters, as Friedman would have you believe), though that should be top of mind, but it’s the innings. I understand the game is changing and either change with it or die but I can’t believe it’s optimal to have 16 guys tossing 3-5 innings commonly, as opposed to 5-6 guys capable of going 6-8 more frequently.

I know it’s ancient history, but I vividly remember Dodger teams with an ace, 2 or 3 very good pitchers and then 1-2 either called “innings eaters” or perhaps 1 of those and a kid, hoping to stick in the rotation. It wasn’t long ago that Friedman so hated this that he chased Dan Haren out of town, paying his salary to go to Miami. Really, how is Haren at any point much different than Hill, McCarthy or Kazmir? I guess you could argue, he was healthier.

Innings are important because it’s something you can hang your hat on. You can assume your starting pitcher is not only capable of going deeper into games, but taking the ball every 5th day without drama. You don’t need to call a collection of junk, and terrible contracts, “depth”. Your depth is your minor league system, as it always has been and is for every team in the major leagues. If you have 4-5 credible starters who are likely to stay healthy, you can make a phone call should someone get hurt. That “data” is based on 100+ years of the game’s history. Trite, boring, but honest and true.

I think like DePodesta, the Moneyball way Friedman and Zaidi play is merely about looking more clever and smarter than your average baseball guy – folks like myself included. Naive? Giggle inducing ideas such as going with known commodities, staying away from continually injured players – absurd! It’s far more fun to tinker like a very bored fantasy baseball general manager and make things happen. Oh, in the end it could work but all the “wasted movement” isn’t beneficial to anyone. When your new $48M contract is already looking vomit-inducing and you are talking about putting this #2 starter into your bullpen, it’s not good. Not on this Earth, not on any world.

Like I said, it’s possible the Dodgers can win the West – who knows if the Giants, Rox and Diamondbacks might stumble? Plus, the Dodgers have spent a lot more than anyone else, not only in the West, or the National League, or MLB, but in professional sports. That “depth” allows you at least a chance to win, even if your front office is run by overzealous micro-managers with too much time on their hands.

On the other hand, this Moneyball style always proves to address the regular season. Remember, before these guys arrived, the Dodgers were doing well in that respect. More often than not the Dodgers are near the top of the division, even when mere mortals are calling the shots. Moneyball is usually employed when a team does not have the financial wherewithal to compete any other way. It’s odd when it’s employed with deep pockets and a monster payroll.

The team tinkers and scratches to get to the post-season, celebrates this accomplishment but doesn’t win. Don’t feel too bad for Friedman, no Moneyball team ever wins. Or hasn’t yet. It’s because, in the paraphrased words of Billy Beane, the post-season is too unpredictable, the “data” doesn’t work there. Luck is involved, he says. No, I don’t think that’s quite true.

While maybe “data” can predict X number of runs an ever-changing lineup should produce, and how many runs an ever-changing rotation should allow, it doesn’t account for quality. Quantity, oh sure, plenty of that. Proudly Friedman sycophants will point to how quantity is as important as quality. This is said to praise the “depth” – which is actually just less talented players than what otherwise could be assembled. More means more, to them. But in the post-season, Billy Beane might say it’s harder to predict and luck, whereas I would say it’s quality. Here the quantity means less, and that’s why Freidman’s subpar independent league and career minor league players have problems.

It’s not genius to discover independent league and career minor leaguers – why, they’re right there in independent leagues and minor leagues all across the country. It’s not genius to pluck them from obscurity and then sign them to contracts of their dreams. It’s curious, weird even and clogs your roster full of guys that more than likely are not going to hold up and win in October.

It’s early – just the middle of April – but we are seeing the “depth” put to use as the players were never capable in the first place. While anyone can get hurt at any time and certainly bad breaks happen, it is not dumb luck when it happens to players who have a track record (data!) of this happening to them. Only Friedman and his people didn’t understand Hill would be hurt. As his players fall like dominoes, Friedman and his followers say, “Who could have known?” Well, we all knew and continue to scratch our heads in astonishment.

I think the appeal here is painting themselves into a corner and trying to get out. Houdini did it to show his superiority and fantasy baseball managers do it when they are bored out of their minds. Make dumb moves, drop better players, constantly swap our anyone with a pulse and hope it works. If it does, you can puff out your chest and claim superiority. Again, it’s “wasted movement” and unnecessary.

It’s an outdated way of thinking, sure, but would it be so terrible to have a rotation with at least 3-4 very solid guys you had a pretty safe expectation for making it through the season unscathed? Would it be ludicrous to assume your bullpen could be 3-4 men deep? Even 2 deep? Would it be insane to think if you had a payroll larger than anyone else’s your roster would likely have more great players than other teams?

All out of touch, old school ways of thinking, I realize. What do I know? I’m just a guy who has watched a lot of baseball for a lot of years. I sometimes write baseball articles, all archived here, with dates, and I seem to somehow do a remarkable job calling a lot of the “unforeseen events” that befall Friedman and his think tank, before they happen. I don’t call it “data” – just common sense and reasonable intelligence. Enjoy the ride and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Have the Pepto-Bismol and Prilosec at your side; nothing is easy in a Friedman universe.

Wasted movement.

Good Enough to Be Good Enough

April 2, 2017 7 comments

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There are two sides to every story. Either the story being told by those either employed or indebted to the Dodgers propaganda machine as well as the notion “it’s their time” or the alternative.

I’ve witnessed the Dodgers’ front office fumble and bumble their way since coming into power, doing very little, or worse, making boneheaded gaffs. The results some cheer about, but to others, myself included, they are the same, no better, than the results from the past.

The Dodgers can’t help but being in the thick of things. They have Clayton Kershaw, after all, and had Zack Greinke and other arms. They have Kenley Jansen. They have Corey Seager. You add up the parts and no matter who is running the show on and off the field, the Dodgers assemblage of talent is enough to be at or near the top of their division. They have been finished first or second 10 times in the past fifteen years. They have won 0 championships during this time, and 0 championships in almost three decades.

I have tried to say, much to the dislike of many, that this is all well and good but the steps forward are not great. If being at or around the top of the National League West is the goal, things are going fine. I don’t see how the current front office or ownership should be given credit, however, as the end results are no greater than usual. You can even point to the win/loss record, which shows a nominal decline in victories the past three seasons.

Dodgers fans are rabid and that is a wonderful thing for the Guggenheim Group and current Dodgers front office. The team, in some ways, is in poor shape if you consider availability to the large marketplace. The only way to see Dodgers games is if you attend them – at great cost – or if you happen to be in a portion of the greater Los Angeles area who gets the new-ish TV channel. The historic organization’s games are not readily available to most of the populace.

In 2016, the Dodgers won the West and advanced to the NLCS vs. the Chicago Cubs, the team who ultimately won the World Series in a thrilling 7-game series vs. Cleveland. While the Dodgers record of futility neared three decades, it was nowhere near that of either the Cubs or Indians. Thus, the baseball gods determined it was destiny, and the Dodgers never had a chance.

Still, supporters of this front office and ownership group would argue, they “could have won”. Well, in some world I suppose they could have. Teams with little starting pitching and little relief pitching seldom win championships. The Dodgers, in my opinion, were very lucky in 2016. I would credit the front office for patching together an eyesore and getting a lot out of the pieces they had. It does not appear to me a sustainable plan, if winning championships is your end goal.

It was painful to watch Kershaw pretty much go it alone, and Jansen doing the same from the backend of the bullpen. The other starters were hurt or gassed and could barely muster three innings at a time. The bullpen, overworked all season due to the shortcomings of the starting five, did the best they could on heart and whatever talent they had. The better team won, as usually is the case.

Knowing how Moneyball general managers operate, I did not expect changes in the off-season. In fact, because their high school chemistry experiment “worked” – to some degree – it no doubt would validate their hypothesis that they were on the right track.

It was interesting how they and their disciples continued to point to the Cubs as a “similar” team, although the construction was not at all alike. Theo Epstein, who has Moneyball roots, after all has changed quite a bit since moving to the big stage, first in Boston, then in Chicago. With deep pockets backing him, Epstein loads his rosters full of great professionals, as well as farm bred talent. Pitching depth, position depth, stars, great role players… he does not leave things to chance. As a result, his Boston teams have won and now his Chicago team.

The winter shopping season is one the Dodgers front office usually ignores, as is the mid-season trade deadline. They seem to look at these peak times as pedestrian. “Anyone can shop during these times; we’ll show them.” They sit idly by while starting pitchers move from team to team, as well as proven relief pitchers. Speedsters are never a consideration since the only reason to have any speed at all on a Moneyball team is perhaps moving from first to third – interestingly, a skillset rarely to be found in Los Angeles baseball these days.

I was not surprised that the 2017 team went to spring training not altogether different from the 2016 team that ended the year, losing in Chicago. A few guys left, a few came in, but the same issues that cost the team in 2016 are still those weaknesses as the new season gets underway.

The writers and announcers who cover the team and want access to the clubhouse are painting a rosy picture that this looks to be a world beater. Many have said the Dodgers will not only be in this season’s Fall Classic, but win it. I can only assume this is because they feel they are due, not because of big acquisitions made, unless you count Logan Forsythe as the difference maker.

Personally, I don’t see it. I do see a Dodgers team that will be around the top, as they always are, but not necessarily in first place. Last season, part of the Dodgers luck was the complete lack of fortune for the San Francisco Giants, whose second half was dismal. The Giants bullpen was a disaster and they acquired a closer this winter to rectify that. Still, being held to a budget the Dodgers are not, they still have some problems in their pen, though they have more reliable innings in the rotation. At any rate, however that comparison pans out, it seems unlikely the Dodgers can count on the Giants taking half of the year off again.

With the Giants therefore improved and the natural development, possibly, of the rest of the West – most particularly Colorado – the Dodgers must be a bit better in 2017 than in 2016. With 81 games against the West, just by virtue of the Giants adding a closer and the Rockies talented offense and young pitchers developing a bit more, that should be more of a challenge.

In a perfect world, the Dodgers get health they did not get in 2016. As I pointed out, it’s unrealistic to hope that all the many (often desperate) moves the front office employed is a repeatable formula. So, Kershaw being Kershaw for six months and Rich Hill, an older player who has no track record to illustrate he is a regular rotation piece, much less a #2 starter, is imperative. Kenta Maeda, who was wonderful for most 2016, needs to get stronger during his second season in the big leagues and be there at season’s end, which he was not at all last year.

The bottom of the rotation is the same collection of injured and suspect parts, mostly due to the front office wasting money on players such as Brandon McCarthy, who any honest person knew was a bad signing from day one, to Scott Kazmir – like Hill, a player who was out of MLB and toiling in the independent leagues. Both pitchers, like Hill, received $48M contracts. When you have so much money invested in players, you are hand tied to use them, thus additional arms were not added.

So, the Dodgers need Kershaw not to have a flare up of his back problems, Maeda to remain reliable (just stronger) and Hill to overcome the odds at age 37. Then between frequently injured Korean warrior Hyun-Jin Ryu, McCarthy, Kazmir and young Julio Urias, who has been pushed to develop quickly but is not ready for a full season workload, the front office hopes for two starter spots to be filled. It’s a lot to ask to go right, given reality and the health and circumstances of most of these pitchers.

There are also players such as Alex Wood, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart who supporters point to as the remarkable depth the front office has acquired but the truth is most of the players to be counted on were here before they arrived. I’d also add that depth is an interesting word that is bandied about by Dodgers writers and announcers as if it’s unique to the team. Every team has minor league rosters to call upon and additional players set aside as contingency plans. Perhaps the Dodgers depth is more in the spotlight since the health of the regulars is so poor.

In closing I will say that the Dodgers should be near the top once again – with such a large payroll and the Kershaw, Jansen and Seager alone, they have a chance based on that alone. I think the Giants will be very much a factor and at some point, the front office should admit their faults and add quality innings from somewhere. Perhaps they do get good fortune with some of the walking wounded the past couple years, as well as unexpected success from journeymen like Hill, McCarthy and Kazmir.

Personally, I’d put young Urias in the pen since innings are innings, after all, and why waste his down in the minors? I’d put those innings to better use, shoring up an average bullpen and then when the innings count made sense, stretch him out for the rotation, if needed. At any rate, the bullpen would be that much better while the MASH unit of pitchers gave their all once again.

I’m not sure what to make of the outfield, which is Joc Pederson in center, forever to be platooned, and similar platoons everyplace else. Yasiel Puig seems to forever be tainted by being tantalized by Hollywood too soon, Andre Ethier continues to have health issues and Andrew Toles, a player with exceptional athletic ability, has defensive limitations and is told not to steal bases – perhaps one of his biggest plusses.

The infield is solid, though not spectacular. It does have the chance to be very good however if Adrian Gonzalez can somehow turn back Father Time and Forsythe continues to develop. The latter is in the right place as the mandate for a Dodgers offense is to swing for the fences and his 20-homerun power seems to be ideal for the Moneyball Dodgers. Justin Turner’s knees must hold up once more at third base. Seager is remarkable but had a spring with back issues, who like Kershaw, you have to wonder about. All in all, the offense of the Dodgers runs through the infield.

I am not a fan of Yasmani Grandal, though I know many are. Grandal, a former PED user, is also tailor made for this front office as his strength is trying to hit home runs. I prefer catchers who field first primarily and make contact. Maybe this player is Austin Barnes, who won a roster spot as all Andrew Friedman Miami acquisitions do. It will be interesting to see what happens at catcher if Grandal gets hurt, as he does. He’s being asked to play more than ever in 2017.

The Dodgers have enough talent on the roster and coming up through the minors to be near the top once again. It would be nice if they started to take real steps forward and understand they have the financial wherewithal, not to mention the prospects, to acquire players more guaranteed than what they tend to count on. The trademark of the front office seems to be trying to make it to the top by taking the harder route. Reliable innings in the starting rotation, strong setup men at the back of the bullpen, shortening games, is for chumps. Complex trades, working the disabled list like a traffic cop and platooning across the diamond seems immensely more satisfying to these smarties.

The method may be madness, but it has its fan club. Certainly, those on the Dodgers payroll, or who like access to the players and free pre-game meals. World Series winners in 2017? I don’t see it but anything is possible. It has been about thirty years and the payroll is the largest in organized sports. Maybe they are right, maybe they are due.

The Slow Boat is Painted Dodger Blue

January 27, 2017 2 comments

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I hope everyone is doing well and surviving the election craziness with the post-election craziness. I decided, to lighten the mood, I would put together a few thoughts on the Dodgers recent moves and non-moves, for anyone who cares. If you disagree, hate me or are merely stupefied, feel free to move on to another blog. My feelings won’t be hurt. With that said, on with the show.

So Fangraphs came out with their usual prediction of Dodgers superiority. Gee, I wonder why geeks obsessed with Saber data would keep picking a team with a brain- (uggh) trust full of geeks obsessed with Saber data. Let me think about that for a moment. Ok, forget it.

The source is as suspect as you would think. If you agree with the obsession with data vs. reality, that’s all well and good. You are entitled to your opinion, and I mine. As hosts of one of the MLB Network Radio shows said the other day, Fangraphs has their opinions and they believe the Dodgers are the best team in baseball but unfortunately in reality games are not played on spreadsheets and real injuries and likely DL stints do matter. They said the Cubs don’t have these concerns, the Dodgers do. I’d also add, no matter what data you are looking at, you are either high or dumb to assume the Dodgers current pitching staff is championship quality.

I had a little back and forth with some folks recently who disagree and hold Fangraphs up as a Scientologist holds up L. Ron Hubbard’s work, and as you can imagine, that went nowhere. They insisted that “every analyst agrees” that the Dodgers are better than the Cubs and the favorite to win it all. I believe this was the same case made last year, but my main point of contention is that I listen to pretty much every show on MLB Network Radio, at some point during a week, and I have yet to hear anyone “agree” with Fangraphs assessment. In fact, I hear the opposite.

I hear a lot of questioning why Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi would deal the same blue chip they planned for “baseball’s best second baseman”, Brian Dozier, in a deal for Logan Forsythe. As I’ve pointed out, the Dodgers had Dee Gordon, then had Howie Kendrick, then had José Peraza, and then Howie again and still found a way to have no second baseman, necessitating moving José De León for one.

I guess one could argue they solved all their problems if they added Dozier or even Ian Kinsler. But is it the same marked improvement getting Forsythe, a 30-year-old journeyman with a .255 career average and some question about his glove?

This is not to bash Forsythe, who I can see being an upgrade over Chase Utley and that bum who hit .190 but has nude photos apparently of the front office and therefore keeps making the roster, but is it worth passing on three guys we had and dealing a prospect that could have come in handy at some point either for the rotation or another deal – to get Forsythe?

Someone I heard referred to Forsythe as a kid. Umm, 30 is not a kid. In fact this morning the GM show on MLB Network Radio mocked how genius Tampa’s GM was to turn a 30 year old second baseman into an elite pitching prospect, age 24.

I am of the opinion, and I’ve said it many times, prospects are currency. This discussion is not about holding onto prospects, De León or most any other. I understand that a farm should ideally cultivate future big leaguers for your roster, as well as be used to deal for parts you might need. Holding onto every prospect is not to be applauded, it’s foolish. So a problem I have with the Dodgers front office is taking the slow boat in everything they do. Keep what you want, deal what you don’t. Surely even the Dodgers front office understands not each prospect will be a superstar. But perhaps, just maybe, you could deal some of them for useful parts – before their value is gone.

I have no real problem with dealing De León for Forsythe and again, suspect it will be some improvement over the mess at second base last season. That said, I don’t know if one can say it’s improvement over Dee, Peraza or even Howie (and in Howie’s defense, I say that meaning the longtime second base fixture Howie, not the utility fielding occasional player Friedman created last year).

My issue, or better, comment is that as always, the Dodgers seem to take the long route to everything. A guy like Theo Epstein comes in, with many fewer resources than Friedman inherited, and gets to work fast. Within a few years the team is completely made over and winning a championship. It’s not the time only, it’s the approach. Problems are fixed. With the Dodgers, it’s always breaking down what’s unnecessary to break down and trying something new. Money that can be spent on proven big leaguers instead paid to Cuban prospects. Aces dealt. Injury marred pitchers or AAAA nobodies acquired. It all just seems so unnecessarily exhausting.

I suspect if Theo had Dee, he would have kept him. If he felt Dee was a trade high candidate, and somehow he got Peraza, or wanted Howie, I think he would have done that. Friedman and his merry men had to go through 5-6 players to settle on Forsythe – the optimal word here is settle. They hoped to land Dozier, after all.

Again, no offense made to Forsythe, I suspect he will be a decent enough part, not spectacular, but decent. But it is terribly humorous (and sad) to see Friedman apologists spinning this as a genius move. They too wanted Dozier. Friedman made it seem like Dozier (he of the cold streaks that last a month) was the solution. The welcome mat was out, and then Forsythe is acquired. Not for less, mind you, but for the same prospect Dozier was targeted for.

The genius comedy comes from the spin then going to how De León wasn’t that good anyway. I have said many times that scouts have claimed De León was not the Pedro Martinez type many had crowed he was, but perhaps eventually a middle of the rotation starter. No one listened. Now when De León is dealt for Forsythe (why must it always be Tampa, by the way? And Oakland. They made a minor deal with Oakland this week as well – so embarrassing), the story is rewritten that Forsythe is one of the best players ever and De León was nothing special. Ho ho ho

So for whatever it’s worth, the Dodgers infield looks pretty much set. It’s a good infield – there, I said it. It’s got a superstar (Seager) and useful parts. The great depth falls off fast if anything happens to Turner or Forsythe but such is life. I would say the Dodgers infield is not an issue anymore, unless you start wondering about speed. The team’s foot speed and athleticism are still lacking, but then, Sabermetrics doesn’t care about that.

I am of the opinion the Dodgers are marginally better than they were in October, thanks to this trade. I was not impressed with the winter up until now, and I’m still not sure I can say I’m impressed. But, doing something more than retaining your own free-agents, is a start. I would temper anticipation by reminding loyalists that the division has improved and the cake walk the team enjoyed in the West last year might be harder to repeat. So, the question is – has enough been done to repeat as Western division champs, or go all the way, if such ideas are in your head.

I’d say the West is a dogfight with the Dodgers having a chance based mostly on the health of the rotation. The Giants, if I had to guess, look like frontrunners. The Rockies look interesting to. And at some point the Diamondbacks might get their act together.

I think the Dodgers lineup, depending what configuration they use in the outfield, is serviceable. If Yasiel Puig could ever get it together, or a real right-handed power bat in the outfielder were added via trade, I’d be a bigger believer. There are good parts, and some question marks. No one knows what the three outfield spots will look like, or how many outfielders Friedman will run out there to fill those three spots. Twelve?

I’m still a firm believer in things like speed (absent), health (absent) and a deep pitching staff (likely absent). I think you win series in October by lining up well with your competition and what we witnessed last October was hard to watch. I’m not used to seeing starters hoping to “gut their way” through three innings. I’m not used to a bullpen one deep (ok, two – but Blanton likely won’t come back, and his October performance sadly was his lowlight for the year).

I think when you put together a pitching staff you need to think foremost about innings. How many innings can I count on my starters for? If you have a bunch of injured pitchers and potential DL stints, it’s a huge problem. It means your day’s start is in question, as are the games after it, since you likely taxed your pen to make up for the innings your injured starter could not go. i.e. for every suspect member of your rotation, it costs 2-3 days afterward as well. So if you have 2-3 suspect starters, you likely will always be running on fumes. This was the case with the 2016 Dodgers and their spent bullpen that was asked to do too much in October.

You would think the lesson would be learned and a few horses were added to the rotation and a few stoppers to the back of the pen, but it’s virtually the same group we saw last season. Brandon Morrow was brought in on a minor league deal, but he’s just more proof to my point. It is only the end of January, so who knows, perhaps a trick is up Friedman’s sleeve. If so, I’d still say why does he always have to go the long way? Theo certainly wouldn’t.

That’s all I have for now. To summarize – Logan Forsythe may be a fine person and a decent second baseman. He certainly helps compared to what was at second most of last season. That said, as a Dodgers fan you had three answers already around and teased with a bigger fish and ended up with a 30 year old Tampa Ray and it cost you one of the top prospects in the organization. Was it worth it? Only time will tell. I will simply say the dancing around and shuffling of musical chairs was clearly unnecessary. A smarter front office wouldn’t have chosen this route.

I will also remind that this isn’t about holding onto prospects. Some of course you choose and hang onto for dear life – Seager is one, and Bellinger looks to be another. Every prospect a future superstar for your team? Only in some fantasy world. If you pick the guys you want and deal some others for needs, that’s ok. I’d argue that for all the credit he gets as someone holding onto prospects (mostly chosen and developed under Logan White and Ned Colletti), he did deal three to Oakland in July and another to Tampa this week. The net haul is the right to sign Rich Hill for a lot of money and Logan Forsythe. Not sure that’s exactly how you best use this important currency.

Another funny thing from the debate I had the other day. Someone was telling me how De León wasn’t that good anyway and luckily we have Grant Holmes, who will be much better. I had to break it to the guy that Holmes might be better, but he will be better in Oakland.

The final point of comedy I will share this Friday afternoon is a CBS Sports article I saw yesterday, again saying how the Dodgers are better than the Cubs. The article was very firm in that the Dodgers have everything the Cubs had and more and that Friedman and the front office are geniuses. Wow, something other than Fangraphs, saying the exact same thing.

As I am rather skeptical of such rhetoric, I did a quick Google search and found the author (Jonah Keri) of the CBS Sports article had written a book. The topic? What a genius Friedman is and how he transformed the Tampa Rays. Again, consider the source. I have not in all honesty heard such praise on the Dodgers winter or the Dodgers unseating the Cubs anywhere else. I listen to MLB Network Radio fairly regularly, read what the known baseball writers say, etc. but I am not hearing it.

Can the Dodgers win? Well, it’s been three decades and the team does have some good players, so sure, maybe. Would I say they are a favorite? Even in their own division? Would I say they are better than the Cubs? The Indians? The Red Sox? No, I couldn’t say that. They are the same team they were in October, with a new second baseman and a few hail marys added as “depth.” I’d say losing Blanton from the pen and not really replacing him makes it arguably a net negative.

Let’s see what else these guys do. It just shouldn’t take this long. Their route is very unnecessary, which tells me they are either extremely arrogant or clueless. You decide.

Told Ya So. Now What?

October 27, 2016 6 comments

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As the playoffs approached I started to feel bad for long-suffering Dodgers fans, and even some of the young, naive and snarky ones. Maybe especially them. Anyone, really, who believed that this ownership group, this front office, and many of the players on this year’s roster, would undo nearly three decades of pain and suffering. I tried to warn them – anyone who reads my tweets or articles here knows this to be true. I did my best, but sometimes, well… a fan is short for fanatic, and the definition of is a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.

I saw the fervor building and deep hopes that this year it would be different. Admittedly, as a person who has spent wayyyy too much time analyzing Dodgers minutia over the past several decades, I knew it would not be. Again, feel free to look up my points of view from articles past to tweets long ago – it’s all there for the record. Andrew Friedman, and his boy troll Farhan Zaidi, were never going to do the impossible – not now, not with what they put together. When your front office is boasting never before has the disabled list been used so intensely, you know as a fan you are in deep doo doo.

I’ve chatted with friends and friends of friends who had one foot on the bandwagon themselves – these, people who should know better. Sort of like Trump Mania, they got swept away with the less experienced, believing a cake walk through a listless NL West meant things were different. I tried using reason – but they have no rotation! When would a team with no rotation – the only top tier pitcher coming off a serious back ailment and October yips – be enough to go to or win a World Series? But what of that tired, generic looking bullpen that logged wayyyy too many innings, covering for said lack of starting pitching? What of the team that also set another record – lowest batting average ever of a post season team vs. left-handed pitching? Last of 30 teams vs. left-handed pitching. No speed. Relying too heavily on a 22-year-old rookie, especially curious given the highest payroll in organized sports. No, you don’t understand, the chemistry – this year will be different! Ok. You can only argue so much, and who am I to piss on everyone’s shoes?

The Dodgers did as well as could be expected – not buoyed by greatness from the ownership group and front office, but more the soft Western division (the only other good team was the worst in baseball after the All-Star break) and bloat of payroll. Kids finally ripe, or nearly ripe, helped out immensely. The fans cheered the kids that the owners and front office executives provided, ignoring completely, or rewriting history, that the previous regimes did all the heavy lifting – scouting, drafting, signing almost anyone on the roster who had a good season, this includes Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw. In fact, it’d be hard to find plus players the current group of geniuses found. Andrew Toles is the one that comes to mind, but like Kike Hernandez the previous year, too small a sample size, may still be exposed.

The fact of the matter is a lot of money was saved not signing Zack Greinke, not going after the free-agent arms like Johnny Cueto, David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, trade options like Cole Hamels, etc. but any savings were offset by overspending (again) on the walking wounded and never weres – Scott Kazmir, Brent Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, and so many “toolsy” Cubans we have not seen and likely never will. As I’ve stated before – an interesting high wire act of being cheap and being irresponsible with the wallet at the same time.

In reality, as I said last winter and this spring and many, many times (too many for most) during the year, the Dodgers could have fixed their 2015 playoff problems by addressing the issue that haunted them. The issue was starting pitching – rather than go it again with the lefty/righty ace combo of Kershaw and Greinke, and add more behind that, they instead subtracted. The sycophants wallet watching and saying how Greinke’s years 6-8 would bankrupt the team are the same types who don’t get how after trading top minor league talent for Andrew Miller, the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series. The illness that has taken over baseball fans where they feel compelled to be guardians of billionaire owners’ bottom line, as opposed to fans who deserve a title in their town, is impossible to argue with – believe me, I have tried. Whatever Greinke’s cost might be when he is older and less amazing means nothing if along the way you win a title, or perhaps more. The Indians understand this, and they are still playing today.

Kershaw and Greinke are a lot better than the alternatives, especially those brought in by Friedman, Zaidi and their gang of numbers crunching simpletons. What the Dodgers needed was to keep Greinke and add another arm of quality besides. Or – part with Greinke and sign two arms of quality. The problem last Oct was Anderson and the rest, not Kershaw and Greinke. The irony now that Greinke might be on the Dodgers radar as a winter trade target (the free-agent crop last winter was so vital as this year’s is non-existent) is humorous. Friedman lovers will hail a reunion as genius, even after saying how brilliant it was to let Greinke go. When you subtract your #2 starter and fill the void with a slew of question marks and DL cases, you’re just not bright. Innings, quality, healthy innings, are very key to constructing your pitching staff. The Dodgers had a big problem there from winter through spring into summer and fall. Micro-managing, using 7 pitchers per night since the starter could only go 2-4 innings, worked in the short term vs. very bad competition, but there is a massive difference between facing San Diego pitching and the Chicago Cubs.

I am curious to see if the administration learned this, or if they are going to go back to the same type of ineffectiveness that got them where they ended up. Part of the problem is the logjam of contracts and possible slots players like Kazmir and McCarthy take up. Not to mention Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was a warrior – until injuries made him unable to make the bell. The only way out of the situation is sucking up more salary, padding offers with desirable prospects and going for impact starting pitching via trade such as Greinke, Chris Sale or perhaps Justin Verlander, etc. Counting on sudden health and greatness from the guys Friedman did this year no doubt means the same problems in 2017 as 2016. And remember, Kershaw’s injury I warned you about in the past – occurred and could flare up again. Would you feel comfortable with Kenta Maeda as your ace and a group of young pitchers who are nowhere near ready for a 200-innings workload?

The rosy prospects of 2017 rely on one of two things happening – the Guggenheim ownership throwing out the current group or the current group suddenly learning from reality and making adjustments. I assume the second is more realistic as while I’d love for the Moneyball experiment to end in Los Angeles (again), more than likely it will be spun – we got to the championship series! Of course, when Ned Colletti did that two years in a row under Botox loving, penny pinching Frank McCourt, it was argued as not enough.

I guess it’s possible even a math crunching geek like Friedman could understand that his pitch and ditch fantasy approach to getting innings out of his overachieving and no name bullpen wasn’t ideal. But even if that happens, the market is pretty dry. It would indeed mean eating more bad contracts and trading parts many don’t want the team to trade. Them’s the breaks, as they say. Conventional baseball guys know that winter shopping is the easiest and most tried and true time to acquire assets. The July trading deadline is the other. Last winter, seemingly either out of Guggenheim trying not to spend or the executives’ need to look brighter than old school baseball guys, the Dodgers waited the shopping frenzy out. Only after almost every name was taken off the board, did Friedman move. In July, top teams loaded up, Friedman waited till the last hours and traded three prospects for two walk free-agents. It seems the pattern is Friedman always waits, and ultimately is left out in the cold.

His supporters will deny this and argue but the fact is that teams who want to win get the parts they require and do so aggressively. You don’t watch the Red Sox, for example, sit on their hands as the best players are looking for homes. The Cubs loaded up as soon as Theo arrived and are playing in the World Series because of it. For the Dodgers, there’s always an excuse why this player or that didn’t come to LA. Too expensive, a risk, or just plain not interested. The fans, sadly, in a large part have come to not only accept these excuses, but parrot them back as a sort of gang standing behind the bully’s back in support. Stockholm Syndrome – the fans oftentimes are more in support of geeks than they are their own self-interest. Shouldn’t fans of a baseball team be looking after themselves? A team like the Dodgers has gone through multiple ownership changes over the past three decades and so much money has come in via record attendance, increased parking, concessions and merchandise fees, massive TV deals that don’t allow the games to be televised to the majority of the market and any savings planned by playing inexpensive prospects (from previous regimes). As a fan, when I yell out the window like that guy in the movie Network, that I’m as mad as hell… I believe it’s my right as a fan. I would never consider, for example, screaming how awesome a polo shirt wearing dork from Tampa or Oakland is. Yet, the game has changed, and many do just that.

Again, it’s not just the uninformed, there are some real fans swept up in this. Longtime fans – fans over 40 years old – fans who actually witnessed Dodgers greatness in their lifetime and know all too much about the roots dating back to Flatbush. Fans by their very nature, I guess, want to believe. You can’t fault them for that. I do fault them for supporting sleazy executives however over their own best interests.

It’s too early to say what will happen in 2017. It depends, as I noted, whether the front office is sent packing (won’t happen) or they learned from the past. If neither of those things happen, 2017 will be less successful than 2016 just based on the unlikelihood of the entire division phoning it in again. If the Giants add Kenley Jansen, or if the Boston exec who is taking over the Diamondbacks does anything, that alone would make it harder to repeat the success of this year. I have hinted what should have been done and what needs to be done – innings need to be added to the rotation. Reliable, solid innings. It will require bold moves and trades, since signing good pitchers to free-agent contracts apparently escaped the draft pick hoarding dummies the Dodgers employ. It will require finally getting that Ryan Braun for Yasiel Puig (and of course more, Puig has proven he needs to be gone) deal or something like it, so a big right handed presence is added to the lefty heavy lineup. It will mean adding some youth and speed to the top of the order, probably at second base (oh for Dee Gordon or Jose Peraza, huh?). It will mean lopping off frequent DL guys who almost never are healthy and on the active roster.

The Dodgers, we are told, have all the financial wherewithal in the world and want to win. I see cheapness, I see intensely stupid spending. I would like to see that turn into smarter spending, healthier bodies, more positive results and less of the magic potion Friedman and Zaidi and Josh Byrnes and Gabe Kapler and all the rest of them giggle feverishly and try to concoct in their nerd lab. There’s a reason the game was largely unchanged for more than a century, the formula is pretty simple. The tinkering, looking sideways, squinting and trying to be overly clever was devised for teams with no other possible option. A team, going through a near 30-year drought without a championship, with the highest payroll in sports, and more money in the kitty than anyone, should not be building this way. The experiment in Los Angeles is frustrating and ugly. Let’s use some smarts. “Moneyballer” Theo Epstein was wise enough to understand this – turning impossible situations in Boston and now in Chicago around. I guess the question is, how smart (stubborn) are Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi? Or the Guggenheim Group, for that matter.