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.
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.
This is not about the World Series that the Giants just won, because I watched and/or listened to very little. This is about the nightmare that was 2014’s baseball season. Bud Selig’s last hurrah fittingly sucked, although I admit fully the two teams that just played 7 games were determined, fundamentally sound ball clubs. I think there were three errors in 7 games by both teams combined. That’s an average night for the Dodgers. I am just happy that this season is finally over and I dub it the darkest year yet in Dodgers history.
We’ve (I’ve) bemoaned ad nauseum about the past season so I will paint in broad strokes instead. With young Friedman the latest genius in charge, and the ouster of Logan White, the stage has been set for renewal. I am going to try to play the optimist, a role I rarely covet, and say I am of the belief anything Friedman does will be an improvement. That’s how bad I think things have gotten for the Dodgers.
Poor fundamentals, lack of focus, bad defense, no relief pitching, question marks in the rotation at times, a lack of trust for the farmhands, and now, another San Francisco Giants World Series. No longer can snarky Dodgers fans say it was a fluke, or luck. The Giants have proven that while they don’t have the most talented roster, they have the most focused and determined one. I have long said less is more. More millionaires and more big names does not mean more victories and more success. I have argued that the opposite is the case.
It seems in the pseudo post steroids era (cheating still happens, don’t get me wrong, but it’s selective and even allowed by MLB. Hopefully Bud’s leaving will change that and the game can become credible again), big money, celebrity laden rosters do not guarantee titles. Of course we knew this, as less star-studded Yankees teams did better than those with more box office clout. I am of the belief that Friedman knows this, coming from a respected small market team, and will trim the proverbial fat. Let Hanley Ramirez walk – to Houston, to New York, wherever. Let go of a few highly paid outfielders (three would be fine with me). Make sure your big game pitcher actually can win in big games – how is it that San Francisco’s third option just a few years ago is more money than Clayton Kershaw?
Add youthful legs and defense. Add grinders and lunch pail guys. And certainly add a manager who knows how to play chess, not checkers. I know its P.C. to say the Dodgers can’t sign Joe Maddon, but why the hell not? Do you honestly think Donnie can handle any roster? Even if the pieces were given him?
Substance over style, dirty uniforms over selfies and bubble dances. If you want bullshit like that, toil away on Instagram or follow the Kardashian/Jenners latest embarrassment. Baseball teams need to be balanced – just like in fantasy baseball. I mention this since everyone is a Sabermetrics genius nowadays and if you favor the math, you probably also love fantasy. In fantasy, balance is what wins your league – not loading up on home run hitters. You need average, wins, steals, runs scored, saves, ERA, the whole thing. The two teams you may or may not have watched play 7 games are balanced – the Royals even more than the Giants. The Giants won because of a hot pitcher (1988, anyone?) and a brighter manager. Experience and determination helped.
The Dodgers should not be afraid to break it up and get ballsy. Big trades, a reshuffling of the deck, anything it takes. They won the West, but they didn’t have a great season. And who the fuck cares? The games weren’t televised in almost 3/4 of the city anyway.
Letting Logan White go, or forcing him to is disturbing but I’m ok with it. I loved Logan White and his eye for talent is undeniable. That said, there’s an argument to be made that his finds oftentimes were incomplete players, or merely diamonds in the rough. Not a lot of them were tough baseball players, immune to the “pressure” of pitching in a fish bowl where music and movie stars might show up to any game. Something has happened to LA baseball players since the recent glory days of the 70s. Sure, Jay Johnstone and Steve Yeager banged Penthouse Pets, but they were ballplayers. Technology – Twitter, Instagram, etc., and the blending of fame and connection to ordinary people has made LA ballplayers soft. Ron Cey and Reggie Smith would not have been dancing to bubbles, and Joe Ferguson would not have been shaking his ass to pregame (!) musical acts.
Perhaps White leaving could be a good thing. Friedman, it would seem, understands the current mix isn’t great. I suspect Joc Pederson and young relievers will get their chance. Maybe expensive players sent elsewhere with cash for more prospects, and/or serviceable MLB players similar to what the Giants put out… i.e. not the best, but capable of rising to the occasion. Enough of a track record of production and history of not dancing to win.
Let it roll, Friedman. Do whatever you want. The Giants winning again is a painful, nay, sickening familiarity that needs to be addressed. The sinking began when O’Malley lost interest when his attempt to get a football team was rebuffed. 1988 was a fluke. Fox and Kevin Malone fucked things up. McCourt raided the coffers. DePodesta gave us embarrassment. Guggenheim and face of the organization Magic Johnson was supposed to be different. Some fans have been duped and ran back into the stadium. To me, there has been subtle changes but arguably more dismal results. No TV? What the fuck?!
The Giants and their (rightfully) cocky fans again hoisting that trophy is akin to rubbing moist piles of dog shit in Vin Scully’s face. Not winning with bad defense, a bad pen, and selfish, egotistical players is horrible. Seeing the Giants and their fans count their rings with this mini dynasty? May as well have ISIS behead us.
I am mad as hell and disgusted with the procession that has gone on since after the 1981 title – the end of the 70s era teams. There have been some nice moments since, even 1988’s title, but again, an anomaly. This shit has gone on long enough and just when you think it’s ended, another layer of pain appears. Seriously – how many World Series titles must we see the Giants win? The Dodgers have to stop talking, stop hiring expensive executives, stop being P.C. as it appears to “respecting Donnie” and massaging millionaire players’ egos and do something about it. I have outlined all of the things the Dodgers need to do to win in countless articles just like this. Kasten was supposed to be the guy, just like DePodesta was. Now it’s Friedman. Next it will be a pile of sperm. Younger and sexier doesn’t mean knowledgeable and capable. Put together a good Dodgers ball club asap. Start tomorrow. I want that hot stove fired up now. Throw lazy and overpaid pretty boys out into the street. Get guys who can field and play without being distracted by LA’s latest flavor. Enough is god damned enough. The Giants winning again should make everyone in the Dodgers organization vomit in unison. Get busy and fix this fucker, Friedman.
The more things change, the more they remain the same in the Dodgers universe.
Stan Kasten used Ned Colletti as the scape goat and human shield when surprisingly irate Dodger fans clamored for blood. Or Kasten and Guggenheim assumed they were. Lately Dodgers fans are more into selfies and talking about which players are hot than understanding the inner machinations of the baseball management structure. Ned was sent packing – not far, he got a token consultant position – much like Frank McCourt’s “Theo”, Paul DePodesta, was sent out when fingers were being pointed at him. The Dodgers GM job has become like the Raiders head coaching position under Al Davis – a convenient body to push out when higher management/ownership’s vision doesn’t play out as planned.
Get used to it; new head man underneath the bigger head man, Andrew Friedman, will soon be hiring his own patsy to get ousted should his maneuvers not work. The rumor for Friedman’s dupe is former Arizona and San Diego GM Josh Byrnes. So rest assured, while fans blamed Ned for Kasten’s mistakes, Byrnes will be blamed for Kasten and Friedman’s. The important takeaway here is the more cooks theory happening. Like corporate America, it’s always important for upper management to have more needless layers and bloated salaries in their ranks. I just wonder if Kasten is the “architect”, what is Friedman. And more, what is Byrnes? Oh well, I’m just an old school baseball fan who predicted 2014’s fate long before the season played out, what do I know? Certainly not as much as a Moneyball certified 37 year old like Friedman.
Its a few days before the World Series, so I will use this idle time in the baseball schedule to hypothesize and comment on a few things. Unlike the wiser pundits out there with cool names about certain former Dodgers illnesses, etc., I don’t proclaim to have the answers or believe my takes are more valid than yours or anyone’s. My opinions are just that – opinions – and based solely on a good degree of common sense and many, many years of watching actual baseball games – not studying Excel spreadsheets or bullying people online.
It’s no surprise to me that the Kansas City Royals will face off against mortal Dodgers enemy, the San Francisco Giants. These two teams have balance and play smart baseball. The Royals would appear unstoppable and have more overall balance than the Giants, but with a gulp of disgust, I admit the Giants have been there and done that and have played very good baseball this October, so it should be a competitive World Series. That said, I hope the Royals continue their unblemished record and quickly dispose of the Giants, but Madison Bumgarner is out of his head right now, so it will be a difficult accomplishment to pull off.
The important thing here is how the Royals, who I have compared to the Dodgers under Dan Evans, have it all. Balance between starting pitching, relief pitching, speed, defense, timely hitting, power and heart is the key. I can’t think of any team in MLB who has a better balance than the Royals, and they deserve to win. Kasten, Friedman and their puppet GM should take note. Like Evans, Dayton Moore constructed his current Royals from the back of the bullpen out. The Dodgers need to do that this off-season, and fortunately for the three-headed decision maker, the most wriggle room for the Dodgers is in the bullpen. Hard throwers from Kenley Jansen back are the solution to success in 2015 and beyond. Shortening games. The Dodgers needed to rely too frequently on their starting pitchers to go 8, or at least 7, and that ended up causing a lot of problems – especially vs. the Cardinals in the games Kershaw started. I would recommend doing whatever it takes to get that solid bridge in place to Kenley.
The last thing I will say about the World Series is Dodgers fans have to stop acting like douches when it comes to the Giants and their fans. Is it optimal that the Dodgers keep getting ousted and the Giants, no matter who wears the black and orange, get to the Fall Classic? No. But to pretend fans of the blue wouldn’t rub it into Giants’ fans faces every chance they could is dishonest. The Giants fans are obnoxious, but their team has been dialed in under Cujo eyed Bruce Bochy and they play smart baseball. As a result, not by accident, they win. They don’t have bubble machines, and unless you could little Busty Posey, they don’t have hunks. They play hard, fundamental baseball and take care of business on the field. I’d also say the past two years, Dodgers fans should think the Cardinals are the most hateable team anyway – in my opinion, they’re evil, their fans are idiots, and all the class and good will of 100+ seasons before this has been eroded. The Cardinals are the new Giants and far less likeable than the Hated Ones.
Pray for a blue and white win this next week, or it will be a long, horrible winter and spring.
Getting back to the Dodgers…
This bring in the young whiz kid to call the shots thing sounds more than a bit familiar. As mentioned, pasty former owner/current Dodgers partner Frank McCourt pushed out a perfectly excellent baseball man in Dan Evans and brought in his own young genius, Paul DePodesta. DePodesta, who looks nothing like Jonah Hill, screwed up the team in record time; dismantling a solid baseball team mid-season and constructing the worst Dodgers roster ever assembled. When the villagers took to the streets with torches and pitch forks, McCourt canned his boyfriend.
I admit I don’t know much about Friedman’s abilities outside of the fact he got a lot out of a little in Tampa. He’s young, apparently very smart (his introductory press conference Friday was full of vague corporate speak that always is confounding to fans of oh, say baseball), isn’t afraid to move veterans, and can work on a budget. This is where things get interesting to me.
Guggenheim pocketed $8B from the Time-Warner TV deal that has left most people in Los Angeles without televised Dodgers games. To buy loyalty, they collected all the expensive contracts other teams wanted to move and gave us the bubble dancing party animals we’ve all grown to love and loathe. Now Friedman comes in with a history of working cheap and the Dodgers have said they’d like their $240M payroll become more like $190M, hardly a “cheap” team (side note to Dodgers brass – don’t tell us what you plan to reduce payroll to. That sends a familiar and distasteful message… field the best team, and if it comes in $50M less than last year’s, great. Fans don’t need to be obsessed with payroll like we’ve become). I guess my questions are will Friedman get rid of the bloat, as I’ve been calling for, and how aggressive he will be at doing that? Also, how far will it go – how low will payroll drop, and if it’s necessary, say, to add a few very good relievers to create that late inning bridge to Kenley, will the uber wealthy Dodgers cry poverty?
Some of these questions may seem silly, but given the void in the baseball schedule and trying to get my head around what Guggenheim and Kasten are doing, I don’t mind putting my neck out and asking such questions. Here are a few more (those who know me know I’m not afraid to be completely honest)…
Will reducing salary and changing things up extend to the main pieces in the team’s offense? Will Andre Ethier finally be sent packing, and/or will it include Matt Kemp moving on? Would they re-sign Hanley Ramirez when they have Erisbel Arruebarrena, Alex Guerrero and Miguel Rojas around? Would they go another route and find a different shortstop altogether, some proven guy who fields the position and hits with a bit more certainty than the three guys I just mentioned? Would they move Dee Gordon to free up second for Guerrero? Will they acquire David Price, James Shields, or some other sexy starter to go after Hyun-Jin Ryu? Would they consider packaging petulant Cubano Bop star Yasiel Puig and Zach Lee for hometown favorite Giancarlo Stanton? As big as Stanton would be in LA, Puig might be bigger in Miami.
I can sense some of you feel your blood boiling. I look at the Hot Stove league as one of the best times in my baseball year. I love rumors, I love what if scenarios. I love to deconstruct and reconstruct the team I love. In my opinion, no one is untradeable – even the three prize kiddies I love so dearly – if you can get something that makes sense for now and the future. As for moving favorites like Kemp or even Dee, think about it – both have very high values. You trade high, not low. Kemp was nearly impossible to deal, except perhaps to the Mariners, but now, coming off a mysteriously great second half, you could move him to a team in need of a bat and star power. Dee went from outhouse to penthouse, an NL All Star appearance. If you wanted, you could get something good for Dee and put Guerrero at second. Especially if you believed Dee played over his head and his awesome year was something of a fluke.
Personally I believe in Dee. He looked comfortable, even very good at second base defensively. Even during the times his bat slowed, his glove work was always top notch. Factor in his game-changing speed and what he did for guys batting in the two hole, not to mention who could bat leadoff if Dee were gone, I say you do not move him. That said, it’s an intriguing thought and the off-season (coming soon) is for such conversations and speculation.
I think Kasten/Friedman/Byrnes need to find a way to trim fat, insert energy and all-important balance into a celebrity laden roster of lazy baseball players. If you want examples of what I think the Dodgers need, you just keep watching the Royals. I can accept more superstars than KC – Guggenheim SHOULD have to spend some of that $8B TV deal – but the notion is less superstars, more substance. The Giants manage to find very good major league players and avoid a roster of massive ego $20-25M guys. To be honest, I can’t even tell you who makes the most on the Giants. Busty Posey? Perhaps. It’s not as apparent as it is with the Dodgers, where fun and games and investment portfolios take precedent over driving in runners from third.
I would be more than fine with a 2015 outfield of Carl Crawford/Scott Van Slyke (platoon), Joc Pederson and Stanton. Or even Kemp in right and some of the other bloat moved. The Dodgers have to get smarter, less selfish, and more balanced (there’s that word again). If they just swap out Chris Perez with some new reliever and add another starting pitcher, I don’t think anything will change much. And maybe that’s the plan. Let Donnie Mattingly and team muddle through 2015 and get serious in 2016 when Tampa’s skipper Joe Maddon may be available for the Dodgers. There’s an argument to be had for saying why make a lot of drastic changes if you’re handing the keys back over to Donnie? But, you can also argue that at some point – soon – Joc, Corey Seager, Julio Urias and some of the kiddie relievers WILL be in Chavez Ravine, so maybe you start serious construction in anticipation of that.
I think this off-season will be an interesting one. Although similar in some respect to what happened the last time a young man was put in the position of calling the roster shots, this time the tear down would be welcome. DePodesta threw out good, smart baseball players that were winning in order to feed his own ego. He had to show everyone he was smarter than old school baseball guys (he didn’t know, perhaps, Evans was into data when he was still wetting himself). Friedman (and his buddies Kasten and Byrnes, assuming he’s the GM Friedman hires) could break apart something we know isn’t working. I have to assume he/they would also be bright enough to understand the value of adding Joc’s young athleticism to the outfield, holding onto a pure hitter like Seager appears to be, and a young ace like Urias. So, I’m not worried. In fact, outside of being confused over who does what and why we need so many executives in the Dodgers front office, I’m open for anything – even if it meant dealing Dee, who’s arguably the most exciting player on the field when the Dodgers play.
The Dodgers have gotten comfortable and content. They are all about flash and not hard work. I welcome some change. I would love to see a more complete roster and a smart baseball guy like Maddon leading the show. I want new coaches, especially a new hitting coach. I want it all. I want to stop seeing the Giants have success in Oct and I want to stop listening to and reading sour grapes Dodgers fans whining that the Giants and their fans are jerks. They’ve earned the right to crow. If it were our Dodgers winning, we would too. Stop blaming them, blame the Dodgers multi-layered front office. Demand better. And if your goal is to use the Dodgers for masturbatory material, then you have the team you deserve. I’m an old guy who appreciates well played, professional baseball. I am demanding more. And some god damned games televised in LA.
Go, Royals. You’re the Dodgers team I want to root for.
Long-form, no tweet edition of Dodger Therapy…
Last night was a playoff game. When I look at the National League landscape, I still think the Giants are the team to beat. They are peaking at the right time and have a good mix of selfless players who are mostly fundamentally sound (outside of Busty Posey’s cowardly defense). The advantage the Dodgers had was they have 3 aces vs. the Giants 1. Now, with Ryu getting hurt (the state of that still up in the air as of this writing), that may come down to 2 aces. That gives the Dodgers a 1 ace advantage essentially but the Giants an advantage in most other areas. I could see the Dodgers doing what they have been – eeking out wins in unimpressive fashion and winning the West, but I can also see them miss the playoffs entirely. As I said, last night was a playoff game. The Dodgers and Don Mattingly didn’t get the memo.
Many fans gravitate toward bench players. It happens every year. Last year everyone was in love with Punto and even Schumaker. I argued they were just guys. Schumaker actually had an interesting pedigree with the Cardinals and in my opinion, flopped in blue. This year’s bench hero has been Turner, and it’s not right to criticize a guy they picked up off the waiver wire and has hit over .300. Turner is a good bat off the bench, but when starting, you quickly understand why he is a bench player. Don playing Turner last night over Dee, who is the spark of the Dodgers tepid offense, not only was foolish for that reason, but opting for lesser defense up the middle. Continuing to play Puig in key spots in the lineup also doesn’t help. The talented Cuban could pop out of his several month tailspin, I suppose, but reality suggests it isn’t happening anytime soon.
I am a lifelong Dodgers fan but disturbed after many years of abuse. I have said it all before. The end of the O’Malley era wasn’t as great as some would like to remember it. The Fox era with The Sheriff’s mad spending and Hitler-esque mustache left me cold. The McCourt situation made us all ill. Things are on the upward climb I believe if only because Stan Kasten, who hasn’t done much to improve the current team, at least had the foresight not to panic and deal the top kids in July. Staying the course, adding International signs, etc., tells me he is not to be carefully judged yet. I nitpick because as an Internet pundit and armchair GM, I have that right. My thought is the big picture of infusing the organization with young bodies and foreign talent is ideal, letting a $235M “win-now” type of club wither without tweaking around the margins is both stupid and irresponsible. And then there is the fact I, along with many other fans, feel completely disconnected from this expensive, not so touchy feely group due to not being able to watch a crucial September series in San Francisco on television. Guggenheim feels they have done no wrong, but I would argue they’ve perpetuated the abuse, just in a more loving way (“Come on, baby, it won’t happen again”).
Baseball due to the come down of the PED era, and the continued usage of select players that it would appear are on the don’t ask, don’t tell list, along with wild cards and parity in general, have made for a weird time in baseball. The most dominant team most of the year was the Oakland As and now they are a laughingstock due to uber genius Billy Beane’s overreaction to what Anaheim’s GM was up to. As I look around now, I have to think (unless something changes the last several weeks of the season), the most likely champion for 2014 will come from the American League. I like the Halos, Orioles, Royals and even Mariners. I am not sure how a seemingly unremarkable Matt Williams has turned things around in DC to where the Nationals may be the best chance for the NL to win. I can’t sign off yet on Williams as a great manager, so that leaves the Giants. They are doing so much right, and have been there before, it would seem possible they could do it again. As much as I dislike them, Bochy and company are smart and grind, whereas the Dodgers brain trust isn’t so smart and the players do not grind.
I’m hoping for leadership and clutch performances from Dee, Uribe, A-Gone and good pitching to make the difference. I just think if they go down an ace, and given the up and down state of the bullpen, the comic defense (3 errors on one play the other night was the highlight of the season), and the surprisingly bad hitting by so many millionaires. That Kasten and Donnie keep trotting out the same bunch, with very little thought of adjustment, is pretty amazing. Stubbornness is the rule of law in LA. And if the Dodgers lose the West lead and either have to resort to a wildcard situation or heaven forbid, miss the Oct dance altogether, it would be apropos. This placeholder team could easily have been reconstructed just a bit and made better. I would still have understood this was not THE team but I could have embraced it more. It seems as if Guggenheim and Kasten are rubbing it in our faces. The complete disregard for trying anything different has confounded me.
Anyway, let’s hope for the best. Going into the weekend Giants series I thought the Dodgers could win one game – probably the Kershaw game on Sunday. Ryu, even before getting hurt, would seem the sacrificial lamb vs. Bumgarner. Greinke has been good but in my opinion has not been the guy he was early in the season. The Giants are hungry, the Giants are hot, the Giants are passionate about embarrassing the Dodgers. I just don’t see how a lackluster, unmotivated Dodgers team could rise to the occasion. Last night, they clearly did not. We shall see what happens next.