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.
In a few days spring baseball will start in Arizona and Florida. As a longtime Dodgers fan, I am still not used to the Dodgers playing in the desert and not Vero Beach, Florida. I sense the majority of fans like the change; just a road trip away and all that but as everyone knows, I’m an old curmudgeon and like things the way they were. Major League Baseball is not enjoyable as it once was, with fans strangely concerned with the owners’ profit line and micro focused on data. I recall not that terribly long ago when a regular complaint from Dodgers fans was how Ross Porter was awful because he was so obsessed with statistics, giving them all the time and apparently boring listeners with such minutia. I was – and still am – a Ross Porter fan, and I think when his approach was unique, it was a welcome change from every other announcer. Now, with everyone so concerned with obscure numbers and acronyms, it’s a lot less fun.
The world of social media has done much to destroy the world, pulling people apart, having us bicker, more than connect one another. Baseball fans are as abysmal online as political debaters or Kardashian/Jenner commentators. It’s to the point I sense Twitter, once a neat drive by site for information and quick comments, is dying a welcome death. I will gladly surrender my little part of the Internet if the whole thing gets shut down. Years back it started to strike me as strange that supposed fans of a given team could fight like cats and dogs with other fans of the same team. Back then it was baseball message boards, most long since dead. I would make comments about the then current Dodgers team and get attacked angrily for liking certain players, and not agreeing about others. It went well beyond healthy debate. Nowadays, it’s the norm. If you don’t spew the data and suckle at the teat of the owners, you are branded a hater and attacked en mass by a gang of faceless, anonymous bullies. It’s very unhealthy, so I take frequent breaks. Only my love of baseball, and a lifetime love affair with the Dodgers, keeps me returning. But as I’ve stated time and again, the Dodgers are no longer the Dodgers. They are a team that wears crisp white and blue and occasionally makes mention of something familiar from the past – Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela, etc. – but in no way, shape or form resembles the teams those players went to battle for.
Nowadays the Dodgers are what they have been for decades, a shell of their former self. Various owners have come along and abused the fans and the great brand and most of the way the turnstiles have kept churning money into ownership’s pockets. If you criticize the direction of the organization, which is now three decades into mediocrity, you are bullied and told you are not a fan. It’s a sickness, a perversion that is hard to understand. Why would fans identify more with owners who come, reap great profits, then leave, over their own self interests of seeing a great team win a championship for them? I have no explanation. I have used the term Stockholm Syndrome over the years to define this identification with the one percent who deprives them of happiness, but that doesn’t seem to sink in. I guess the term is out of vogue and unknown to younger people who just root for laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld used to say. Jerry too is probably too antiquated a reference for fans who prefer clubhouse hijinks and handsome looks by the players to dirty uniforms, moving a runner over and stealing a base to start a ninth inning rally. The game of baseball, at least on the professional level, especially in Los Angeles, is dead. I attend college games from time to time to enjoy the more purist form of the game. There you see people keeping score, aware of every pitch, and players standing up for nine innings and rooting on their teammates. I never hear mention of Sabermetrics or Fangraphs predictions that never come true. For under $10 you can watch baseball as it was decades ago and if bored, can take a long walk in the sun on a college campus and not feel you were ripped off. No overpriced tickets, concessions and escalated parking fees.
The Dodgers are in a sad state. There is constant promise that better days are ahead, a return to greatness. We have yet to see it. Save for a fluke in 1988, the greatness stopped after the 1981 World Series win vs. the New York Yankees. Now we have a brain trust of egos running the show for a huge financial corporation, a small market mentality of going cheap with marginal back up players and career minor leaguers, while spending hundreds of millions on unproven or injured players. A bi-polar approach to baseball that supposedly, per head genius Andrew Friedman, should bear fruit in 2018 – ironically the year Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his contract, and will. But what of 2016 and 2017? Fans are being told to come to the games and pay top dollar for a team not prepared to win, since they can’t watch the games on TV anyway. You would think this would upset long-suffering fans, but no. If you point out to them that they should be angry, they turn on you instead. Rooting for laundry, and corporate success, means more than their own selfish goals of seeing their team hoist the World Series trophy, it seems.
So if everything goes according to plan, Guggenheim will make huge profits the next two years with a packed full stadium, and fans can watch their greatest pitcher leave, but in return see a low payroll team of kids competing in 2018. No, this isn’t Tampa, or Milwaukee, or Kansas City – it’s Los Angeles, the second largest market in the country. If all goes well, the team will be full of young players in 2018, the expensive stars all gone, replaced by expensive unproven Cuban and injury-marred players. This is the plan, this is what fans will have to look forward to. If you dare mention this sounds odd, you will be attacked. The Internet bullies will be out in force, telling you why you are wrong, to trust slick talking executives whose pedigrees don’t necessarily merit such trust, as they root on lesser talent to look smart. Meantime, as it always goes, better constructed teams, with top talent, keep winning the titles.
One wonders how long it will take before anyone changes their mind? Will it have to be four decades of mediocrity? Five? Six? If you point this out, they will say, you’re part of the problem. Keep the faith, never question anything, fork over your money, and poo on you if you think “old-time baseball” methods would work in the modern era. You’re a fool if you believe good players should be on the field, or games on TV for fans to enjoy. Remember, if the top does well, it will trickle down to the rest of us. Except when it doesn’t. And it never does. Play ball!
The week between the holidays (no, Christmas! Say Christmas, not the holidays!) is a dull one so rather than slip into a coma I will pontificate about a few Dodgers thoughts that are on my head. None of them is particular new from me, just will elaborate a bit for those who enjoy my stance on things, and for those who hate my guts. We Freudians are an acquired taste, after all.
While there are fan boys and girls who still have faith in Andrew Friedman and his minion, I think it’s becoming apparent that the cleverest guys in the room are in over their head. Oh, their supporters will tell you how it’s still early and they can get this second or third tier pitcher or that, or make some miraculous deal for a Miami malcontent controlled by Scott Boras, etc., but in commonsense real world terms, the act that plays in Tampa and Oakland does not work in the country’s second largest market. Nor should it.
It’s apparent to me that changing gears to a Moneyball-minded guy was Guggenheim’s way of doing what Frank McCourt did when he replaced brilliant baseball mind Dan Evans with doofus Theo wannabe Paul DePodesta. Like DePodesta, the idea here is to go in another direction – re: cheap.
Believe me; I am not afraid of streamlined teams that play kids. Over the past several decades, I have rooted for kids who came into the system and awaited their arrival. All those rookies of the year and so many before and after them. At the same time, I realize not every prospect will succeed and many are to be carefully tucked away for trade currency when then the time is right.
You can argue that in the post steroids era (haha, post) kids are more important than ever. Teams that win seem to have a good young core and aren’t afraid to play their babies, such as KC in recent years and the infant Cubs baptism by fire this season.
If the Dodgers wanted to go young, I’d be for it – except with the following reservations. First, with the aforementioned 3 decades of mediocrity, an alarming number for a fan of the storied Dodgers, you have to take into account what a rebuild means. For example, can the Dodgers, with fans antsy for a winner, with Clayton Kershaw leading the staff, a massive payroll and relatively new owner and management team afford to wait several more seasons for a young team to gel?
Also, if the plan is to go young (no one admits that’s the plan, but Stan Kasten has been hinting at it), why not really go young? Trade veterans for top prospects and infuse the Ravine with a young beating pulse and make baseball excitement that way? Yes, if your plan is to go young (cheap), deal Kershaw, deal Adrian Gonzalez, deal Justin Turner, deal Andre Ethier, deal… you get my point. If you moved the vets, you open spots for kids and most importantly, get a lot more kids. Think about various Miami fire sales and other cities where boatloads of bluechips were accumulated.
I think because it hasn’t been said in such direct terms, the plan is to go younger but more to go cheaper. It’s a half-assed attempt to rebuild right now that is confusing to fans. Since no official word has been given, hardcore fans and pedestrian variety foam finger wearers assume the Dodgers are in another of their “win now” years. Yet, the off-season has so far shown good players going to all the top teams, but none to the Dodgers. Not to mention, the Dodgers top two rivals each got better since the World Series finished.
So who are the Dodgers? What are the Dodgers? Are Friedman and friends inept at big market baseball dealing? Are they under some Guggenheim imposed mandate to strip down payroll? Do they honestly feel losing the best #2 starter in baseball and replacing him with… with no one… is better?
There is still time, as the apologists will point out, but not really. At this point, most of the best names are off the board and settled in with teams actually intent on making a run. The Dodgers could settle for some additions that likely aren’t going to improve their 2016 fortunes any, or they can deal top prospects to try to get back to where they were this year. If that is the answer, I’d say why not have just signed Zack Greinke or one of the available starters as winter shopping began, and/or added free-agent bullpen parts to address that weakness? Personally, for a team I always hear has endless resources, I’d much rather use said resources than moving blue chips.
Friedman and his compatriots make confusing moves such as dealing certain prospects for others and then having pundits assume something remarkable will happen after those kids are acquired. It often seems like rearranging deck chairs as it’s hard to ever say for sure if a Friedman move makes the Dodgers any better. The supporters would smugly say how silly, of course the Dodgers are better. From a mere novice who just has watched a lot of baseball over lo these many decades, I’m not convinced.
Take for example if the plan was to get young and maybe more athletic, why deal Dee Gordon for essentially Howie Kendrick, then seem to say Kendrick is too old so the second baseman will be expensive prospect Jose Peraza (acquired for the $60M man Hector Olivera). Then turn Peraza into a White Sox haul of some mediocrity and perhaps go with marginal minor league utility man Kike Hernandez as your second baseman, with ancient Chase Utley as his potential platoon partner? How is this getting younger or more athletic? Or, dare I ask, better?
Maybe the idea is whoever we bring in (we being Friedman and friends) is better than whoever we inherited. Why? Because we’re clever, we’re outside the box thinkers, we’re geniuses. That’s one theory. Another is they keep making moves and end up without a chair when the music stops. Personally, either long-term perspective or win-now, Dee Gordon seems a better fit for second base than Kike and Utley, as does Howie Kendrick.
There is a feeling out there in smarty pants baseball circles that solid hitting and versatile Ben Zobrist is one of the best players in baseball, after all, statistics of some kind bear this out. Now Zobrist for sure is a good player to have on your team and a clutch performer but I don’t think he’s one of the best players in baseball. I also think going for a cheaper option to be your Zobrist, whether it’s playing a utility man like Justin Turner all the time at third base or Kike at second, isn’t the answer for two regular position spots. Turner is a good player but would be better suited as a backup who fills in as needed, plays around the diamond and gets plenty of rest (bad knees and his production isn’t that outstanding for a regular MLB third baseman anyway). Kike? Who knows? We’ve seen beloved utility men come and go in LA. It seems like just yesterday angry fans were telling me how ignorant I was for not wanting Luis Cruz to play every day, as well as Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. Utility men are utility men and have plenty of value as such, but they’re usually utility men for a reason – i.e. they don’t play any position well enough to be a regular there.
Anyhow, I digress. From a completely layman’s perspective, it seems like Friedman and men are in over their heads. I think ownership, such as it is, is starting to see this as well. Low body fat heart throb Gabe Kapler was about to leave one job he is unqualified to hold for another and become the Dodgers latest field manager, that is, until Mark Walter (probably) nixed it. I think the compromise was Dave Roberts could run the team (I say that in loose terms, Friedman will no doubt butt in constantly, as will Farhan Zaidi) but their ringers would be on Roberts’ coaching staff. Quite a collection of stiffs, busted prospects and the like.
So as we stand here at year’s end, we should wonder what is happening with the Dodgers. Would a 3rd or 4th place finish in the West signal ownership to throw the latest Sabermetrics smart asses out? Would they only do so if fans got sick of the team and stopped coming to games? (at least McCourt had the games on TV, no butts in the seat mean out of sight, out of mind nowadays) Is the team rebuilding, or not? If not, why wait on good players to go elsewhere? If a youth movement, why keep Kershaw and others? Are they afraid to say the words “youth movement” and deal beloved current players, again, as it could alienate fans and cost Guggenheim revenue? Does Friedman actually have a plan or is he simply overwhelmed? I mean, just like DePodesta, he’s no Theo, that’s for sure. Theo uses analytics, as did Dan Evans, but also understood good players and uses money to acquire those players. Friedman? Unless you count money blown on Cubans as a big success, so far it hasn’t panned out. Lots of money has been spent, but on very little that has helped the Dodgers win baseball games.
So, I will concede that it’s “still early” and in theory the Dodgers could sign several pitchers, make a trade or two, play some kids and the team could slug it out with the Giants and Diamondbacks for the NL West crown. That could happen, but considering winning the division years in a row did not amount to October success, even that pipedream doesn’t give evidence the 2016 Dodgers can be any better than this year’s team. Zack Greinke in a red uniform with a snake on it seems to reiterate that point.
It’s a strange time in our lives and as it relates to baseball in general, certainly Dodgers baseball. Cleverness is applauded and rooting on executives seems to have taken the place of demanding your team field the best team they possibly can each season. Obscure stats, looking sideways like a confused German Shepherd, and unsubstantiated optimism more “patriotic” than getting pissed that your team is screwing up.
I’m an old timer, admittedly not as cool or edgy as some of the younger folks out there, but I come from a generation where if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you have no problem saying, “That’s a duck.” Andrew Friedman and his merry men appear to be out of their element and taking a big shit on a rich tradition that is now so faint it’s almost hard to relate to it anymore. I think at one time there were great Dodger teams with players like Jackie, Snider, Campy, Hodges, Newcombe, Garvey, Cey, Fernando, Orel, etc., etc. to cheer on and watch win but honestly, maybe it’s just dementia settling in. The last Dodgers team to hoist a gold trophy was in 1988 and that was a magical fluke of a season. Going back 7 years more, that was probably the end of the era of Dodgers true dominance in the National League. Whatever has been going on recently stinks like three day old white fish, and for you gentiles in the audience, that isn’t pleasant. Think Kris Jenner after a day at the beach.
The only saving grace for me (sorry, apologists) is that if Friedman and his smarm posse fail, and hopefully it shuts the door on Moneyball ever playing in LA again. Of course a new owner could come in and repeat the same mistake, but occasionally you’d like to believe history can educate people. Or maybe not.
In the meantime, it’d be nice to know what the plan is for the Dodgers’ immediate future. Are they a young team willing to punt the Kershaw era as they did the Kershaw/Greinke era? Are they going to try some razzle dazzle and remake the team in their image – one filled with bad Zobrist wannabes and many Cubans? Will they be shown the door? We shall see. As long as it’s “still early” there’s no reason to panic.
By the way, that’s your cue to panic.
Hello, TV-less Dodgers fans throughout the Southland. A little, premature, post-trade talk since that’s what baseball fans do this time of year. Random thoughts, if you will. And on with our program…
A couple quick points:
– Overall I like what Andrew Friedman and his team of numbers crunchers did. I like what they did simply because the price wasn’t great (outside of our future short-term and long-term big bat, Hector Olivera, going to Atlanta – not to mention $30M or so for having him sit in the minors since signing). There were no familiar names dealt and major league players coming back the blue’s way. Of course, one could say the haul wasn’t that great either (no David Price, no Johnny Cueto, no Cole Hamels), save for Jose Peraza, the young middle infield prospect formerly of the Braves. Peraza is curious as… well, I’ll get to that later. Anyway, not bad, not bad at all.
– On the flip side of that, all of the moves only served to address deficiencies that never should have been left alone this long. Again, my many, many comments about the winter shopping and lack of quality, reliability and depth in the rotation and pen have been partially/largely addressed, but why did it take until August’s eve to happen? Shouldn’t a reliable pitching staff have always been part of a team rebuilt on defense? Boggles the mind.
– There’s the new outlook, assuming Alex Wood or Mat Latos isn’t quickly flipped for Rangers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, as is the latest buzz. I think 1-5 the Dodgers are in fine shape now since mostly they have a 1-5, and not a 1-2 or 1-3 + rotating AAAA junk. If the playoffs started today, I’d be fine with Brett Anderson being the #3 (the way he’s pitching now, and as long as he doesn’t break down as is his custom), and think that 1-2 + Anderson is as good as anything out there they might face. I also like the addition of Jim Johnson, who isn’t outstanding, but adds a good back of the pen option to bridge to Kenley Jansen. Again, why didn’t all these rocket scientists get a strong bullpen wins championships before the tail end of July?
– As good as the belated address of pitching is, I have been watching curiously a tepid and inconsistent offense flounder. Let’s be real – the Dodgers have trouble facing good teams, and they have real trouble facing good pitchers. In October, that’s what you face. If the Dodgers struggle against Oakland, how can they do well against St. Louis, San Francisco, Washington and even Pittsburgh? The Dodgers have interesting parts, but while I look at Toronto’s left side of the infield with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, I wince at the combo of Justin Turner and Jimmy Rollins. Outside of Andre Ethier, the outfield doesn’t supply that much consistent offense either. Of course things can start firing on all cylinders, Corey Seager could come riding in on a white horse to save the day, or maybe there’s another trade coming, but I don’t like the station-to-station, pray for the three-run home run approach the team lives on. I blame Mark McGwire whose hitting expertise isn’t much, and Donnie’s unimaginative approach – not to mention Andrew Friedman’s mandate no one move on the bases. I think, and thought, the Dodgers are a small ball team, yet they play long ball. It’s not working and will not work in October. If this year’s team is ousted in the first round, I hope a housecleaning comes and Donnie and his coaches are sent packing. Donnie’s expertise is apparently dealing with massive egos. Nowadays there is only one – Yasiel Puig. i.e. Donnie’s greatest skill is not worth keeping – find a manager, and coaches, who can get more out of this team. Not that the current player personnel will be back in 2016 anyway.
– The Ned bashing by idiots on social media is sad and misguided. I know it became trendy to bash Ned Colletti but the truth is, he field competitive teams even while working under a penny pinching white collar thief. It’s funny how folks give data-driven Friedman and team blind kudos for any move they make (every failed minor leaguer is a hero in the eyes of “DodgerFam” for some inexplicable reason – reality check… AAAA “prospects” are available for nothing because no one wants them, not because Friedman is a genius for finding them) while taking the opportunity to slam Ned, who is no longer doing anything anyway. If Ned did indeed suck (he didn’t), who cares? He’s no longer a decision maker anyway. Besides, last year Ned was Stan Kasten’s human target. Ned did not make boneheaded moves in 2014, Kasten did. But more, as I said, Ned was at worst, competent. He would not, for example, have left a rotation up in the air and pen paper thin. Ned always found ways to add decent players that he could afford within the constraints of the then-reasonable budget. If Ned were given endless resources like Kevin Malone was back in the day, or Friedman and friends are now, he would not have left the pitching staff in such disarray. Also, if he went out and had the chance to build the back of the rotation, he would not have opted for 4 years of Brandon McCarthy. Of course there’s no way to prove this, but take my word for it. In other words, stop slamming Ned. He’s not the enemy; he’s not even making decisions. Bash a GM on a team that’s actually making mistakes currently, or more, be realistic about what Friedman and team have done this first year in charge. I would say it’s not markedly better than last year’s team, save for addition by subtraction of ego maniacs Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.
– I noted Peraza’s acquisition earlier, who I think, along with Wood, are the more interesting parts acquired in yesterday’s deals. I’m not sure what will become of the Dodgers infield the last 60 days of this year, or next year, but perhaps the plan is Peraza moving back to shortstop and Seager to third, and resigning Howie Kendrick or finding another second baseman (or shortstop, if Peraza plays second). Peraza seems like a very exciting young player and was labeled the Braves #1 prospect, and already is being called the Dodgers #4. I think the idea of a good average hitter who has speed is exciting. Hmm, kind of reminds me of a watered down Dee somebody or other. At any rate, that’s my point. If Friedman didn’t value Dee, now a 2-time all-star who can run like the wind, and has kept his current roster from stealing or even apparently taking extra bases, why Peraza? If Peraza is told not to run, he’s a decent average hitter with little power and then no speed game. It just seems like an odd Friedman addition, unless the point is adding another sexy prospect he can later deal.
– The Olivera thing is of course the most curious part of the trade whirlwind since he was looked at all year as the offensive shot in the arm the Dodgers desperately needed. We were told reliable, clutch, defensive whiz Juan Uribe was needless since Olivera would be playing third soon anyhow. Then Olivera is dealt and the logjam at third is now utility men Justin Turner and Alberto Callaspo, plus lead glove Alex Guerrero. I don’t know, makes you wonder. I guess they can move Seager over, since many say he’s tall and should play third anyhow, but that’s no given. The kid will be adjusting to big league hitting and suddenly asked to crash course learn third base? Perhaps the answer is trading troublemaker Puig and getting a good third baseman in return. Who knows? I just question what the plan is but am not necessarily complaining. I always questioned giving $70M to a 30 year old Cuban who never played in the bigs and always was hurt. His short tenure in blue ($30M, must be nice!) was one sprinkled with the injuries one could only envision for years to come. It may be a good riddance, but it does make me wonder where the “pure hitter” the Dodgers were so looking forward to might be coming from. Seager? Maybe, but it could have been Seager + another bat, now it’s left to a young kid to save the day. Well, unless some of the treading water guys suddenly perk up.
That’s all for now. It’s too early to say as by the time you read this, the Dodgers might have added some other parts and dealt the names noted here. This is as of July 30th, 2015 and having not watched all season – I can’t do that, due to Guggenheim’s idiotic TV deal – but following, from afar. Like a baseball stalker, I’ve become. Glimpsing through the window at what could be and probably never was.
I hope all of you are well and are more honest with yourself. You bleed blue, but let’s face it, the AL is stacked, the good NL teams are too, and the Dodgers do not perform well against good teams and good pitching. They have 50+ games to turn the tide or it will be an off-season gutting, I hope.
Let’s play what if…
What if Stan Kasten and Don Mattingly grew a pair (two pair?) and played the right collection of players, instead of not hurting rich people’s feelings and playing the most highly paid guys? Pretty much NO trades would be needed if simply the deck chairs were arranged differently. For example…
By playing defenders much of the time at short and especially in center (Hanley at least hits, center the argument is less), the benefits would be huge. A team built around its starting pitching would be greatly benefitting this pitching with glove men behind them. The Dodgers in actuality and statistically are a poor defensive team. Defend the popular players as much as you wish, but defense wins championships in all sports and for the most part, offense-first teams do not go deep into sporting post-seasons.
The biggest obstacle here is what to do with Hanley, who obviously will throw a tantrum if left on the bench. The “good” thing here is that he’s so physically challenged these days; the decision might be made by fate. At any rate, playing a defender at shortstop is a no-brainer, and those who defend Hanley because of past deeds or because he slyly walks to the plate with cool music playing, indeed have no brains.
Center is an area the Dodgers could make immediate improvement to by calling up Joc Pederson. He is instantly the best defensive centerfielder of the large group of outfielders and would become the pitchers’ best friend. While Ethier and Van Slyke have been gamely going about playing center, their lack of range is evident and now and in October, it’d be nice if a guy who could go get ’em was out there to do just that. I’d also say Pederson, with whatever growing pains he would experience, offers offensive upside certainly to Ethier. Pederson has speed and power and while his average won’t be the .325 or so it is in Albuquerque, if it’s anything above .260 say, with the potential to hit a jack, steal a base and more impressively manning center, it’s a big win.
The problem, of course, to calling up Joc is what to do with all of the outfielders already on hand. Kemp has shown he will sulk if not in the lineup and Puig isn’t going anyplace, so you have Ethier, Van Slyke and Crawford sitting around if this scenario came to be. The obvious answer is to deal at least Ethier, which should be doable if Kasten eats a portion of the contract. Ethier is a decent, sometimes better, veteran outfielder some team could surely use. The Dodgers could use him, if the situation weren’t what it is. Van Slyke is fine on the bench and just grateful to be in the bigs (though I would argue he needs to play more and should ultimately be in left most days). Crawford isn’t going anyplace due to that contract and physical shortcomings. I actually don’t mind Crawford coming and going, as if he’s checking in and out of a bed and breakfast. He definitely is no longer a reliable option for any team’s starting outfield, but he is quite a potent weapon off the bench and in spurts – recall last Oct? He can stay, on again, off again the DL as he’s a very pricey but potent weapon for a fairly thin bench.
That leaves Kemp and his long-term prognosis. Fans (chicks and some men) love him due to his past achievements and sexy modeling shoots, but the fact is he’s no longer a very good outfielder. Both leagues are filled with guys as good as Kemp in the outfield. I would look to move him, knowing Van Slyke and sometimes CC can fill in, but that isn’t likely to happen, at least not now. Perhaps the idea will be explored this Dec during the winter meetings.
I would not hesitate however to get Joc into center. The pitching becomes better, the overall defense improved, and as I said, perhaps it’s an offensive upgrade to boot. Will Kasten and Donnie have the balls to do this? Will they instead opt for the way things are now, or trade prospects (perhaps even Joc) for a journeyman centerfielder no better than a very young and untried Joc? We will know soon enough, I suspect.
That leaves tinkering in the pen and bench. As I said, all of the pieces are here – either on the roster now or in the minors, a phone call away. I would look long and hard (that’s what she said) at Maholm, Wilson and Perez. Also, of course, Haren. The starting pitcher issue likely will need to be addressed outside the organization, if it’s addressed at all. For a team that usually drafts pitching, its odd there is so little of the starting variety pushing for a big league promotion. I recall in years past how there was always a AAA guy waiting for a shot. Now we have Zack Lee, and he’s reverted badly in 2014.
The pen though seemingly has options. Whether you promote Paco, Yimi, or someone else with a cool name, I’d have more faith in them than I do 3 of the guys out there currently. I also have to think dealing second-tier prospects for a reliever would be easy enough to do, or if a move is made with Ethier or even Kemp. A good, less implosive reliever + promotions of a few of the Dodgers’ own would make an immense difference.
There are other things wrong, but mostly I think if honesty and not consideration of millionaires’ feelings were exercised, the Dodgers could make the tweaks needed to actually play consistent good baseball and make a legitimate run this post-season. Right now, as any twitter user knows, it’s excellence one day, and comedy/tragedy the next. The league is full of mediocrity so while the Dodgers have “one of the best records in baseball”, to me they haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible.
The nice thing is that bloated payroll has made it possible to stockpile everything a team could need. The fat cats pushed or have kept less expensive and deserving players off the field. If the Dodgers want to win and actually do it more through good play and less luck, someone has to grow a pair. Will it be bald Kasten, living off his Atlanta pedigree, or Donnie, who has about as much passion and energy as a very sleepy housecat? That is the question.
A lot of hoopla (by bored – and lazy – baseball writers) that the Dodgers will deal for David Price. In years past, when the Dodgers didn’t have that true ace, maybe, but now… why? I get the greed factor – “build a super rotation – that’ll show ’em” – but again, why? As it is, the Dodgers have played mostly mediocre or poor baseball and are one of the top teams in either league? Why? Because of the strength of their starting pitching – top to bottom, and yes, that includes Dan Haren, people. So if the Dodgers win the West and go into October play, it is largely due to that rotation, not the bullpen, not the offense, and certainly not the defense. So again I ask – why Price?
Would it surprise me if the Dodgers dealt for Price? No. The Guggenheim group came in declaring Frank McCourt’s farm was barren so they’d get that churning again. They drafted some good prospects, retained others, bought some International players and lo and behold, there is hope once again. To deal for Price would derail that hope – and for what? I don’t mean to diminish Price’s ability. If not hurt, like he was last year, he’s as good a pitcher as any in the game. But as it stands now the Dodgers are solid 1-2-3 and outside of an occasional lapse, Josh Beckett has learned to pitch and relies on smarts more than stuff nowadays. Haren is playing on a one-year deal and while uninformed and greedy “fans” complain, as a bottom of the rotation starter, he’s been mostly good, and certainly what you’d expect from a 4-5 starter.
So again, why would the Dodgers want Price? Well, who wouldn’t? Also, I can see Stan Kasten thinking, “easier to add another superstar to the group than do the hard work of benching or trading the superstars we have now.” I honestly don’t believe the Dodgers would be much better by adding Price. He’s a great starter, but 1-5 the rotation now is pretty dominant. Can Price field at SS, LF or CF? Can Price drive in runs consistently? I don’t think so, so adding another fancy pants starter seems redundant to me. Basically you’d be saying, “Haren isn’t a good option at 5, so we better deal for Price to upgrade.” Why?
In a post-season series you have 3 starters, and your other 2 go to the pen. So if the Dodgers added Price, Ryu would be moved to the pen. That’s saying Hyun-Jin Ryu isn’t to be trusted in important Oct games, which I don’t feel is the case. The bullpen currently has some deficiencies, mostly Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Paul Maholm. In the post-season, a few of those guys wouldn’t even make the roster. So even if the Dodgers did nothing (I would opt for a good relief pitcher), the horses are present to win – the deck chairs just need to be rearranged a bit. Oct mandates such decisions, since 2 starters don’t have jobs.
A few other things bug me about the Price talk. First, it’s assumed by fans Tampa would give the Dodgers Price for nothing. Some say they’d part with garbage, but little else. If the deal this weekend between Oakland and Chicago didn’t teach you anything, you’re not that bright. Mid-season deals cost the front-runner a lot – or should. Chicago got, one most “experts” agree, to be a crown jewel for their infield, one of the games’ top prospects. In return – the price for doing business – the As addressed rotation deficiencies and are now set up to contend in the dog days and into the Fall. Both sides got what they wanted and no one put one over on the other. For Price, who’s markedly better than the 2 starters Oakland acquired, the price would be steep. The Dodgers don’t have the need to pay that kind of price and very little resources to do it anyway. In lay man’s terms, the price for David Price would be quite high and while improving the Dodgers rotation (again, already their strength), it would only improve it so much. The cost would be great in terms of next-generation kids, which I’d like to think is what Kasten is actually building towards, since this bunch of Dodgers is lackluster most of the time.
The other thing that’s funny is that Price is continually called a rental by those who oppose the trade to LA. I like the thinking but the getting there confuses me. If the Dodgers were fool enough to trade for Price, don’t you think the richest team in baseball would retain him? Also, wouldn’t Price, going from the outhouse (sorry, Tampa) to the penthouse, in a pitcher’s park, fitting in alongside Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Ryu, want to stay put? The term rental is used when Pittsburgh acquires someone, not the Dodgers. Not anymore. So I think that aspect of the conversation can be shelved.
Finally, I will say that while the Dodgers do not need another top starting pitcher, to humor those who are greedy and have been Lakers fans too long, I will throw out the name Cole Hamels. Hamels is not needed by the Dodgers any more than Price is, but if I were a GM and wanted to build the ultimate rotation, I would sooner deal with bottom dweller Philly. Hamels is a pretty outstanding starter and owed a lot of money. That money means Philly can ask for less than Tampa can for their star pitcher. So instead of moving Corey Seager, Joc Pederson or Julio Urias, the price would be more like Zach Lee, Paco Rodriguez, or some lesser prospects no one cares about anyhow. The Dodgers would be doing Philly a favor, so when you ask for favors, you can’t be as demanding. And before you complain about the contract Hamels carries, Price will have the same deal, or larger – once he was re-upped to stay in LA. i.e., it doesn’t matter. All things being equal, I’d prefer to keep the aforementioned kids, especially the position players, since pitchers can be had – as this mid-season is proving.
My hopes are that Kasten is smart and acquires a few relievers, perhaps a veteran for the bench and forces dumb Donnie to make the tough decision of playing the players who give the Dodgers the best chance to win over those who make the most money. If the team wants to seriously contend in Oct, they will need to play defense at shortstop and in centerfield. The best outfield combination, in my opinion, is SVS, Joc and Puig. The best defense at short is Arruebarrena or Rojas. Kasten and Donnie can let the inmates run the asylum, but in all my years of watching baseball, I know that the rotation is more than good enough now, the pen needs some tweaking, and the right players are on hand to fix the defensive shortcomings, they just aren’t being used. I hope Kasten and Donnie start using their heads for something other than holding their hats.