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The Lost Season

March 21, 2018 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Perfect Dodgers Team for this Time and Place

July 17, 2015 Comments off

It’s a weird time to be a Dodgers fan, especially if you live in Los Angeles. This is an opinion I have and other longtime fans who are friends of mine share. I don’t think it’s unique, perhaps it’s even widespread, but it doesn’t seem to affect the crowds who still go to Chavez Ravine and cheer nightly. The not-so-new ownership group appears happy that the gate is still successful. Less interested, it seems, is how the brand has held up within Los Angeles and most likely nation and worldwide. The games, as anyone in Los Angeles knows, are not on television for most of the city for a second straight season. That should be appalling and big news considering how the Dodgers always billed themselves as affordable and family-friendly entertainment. Yet, due to apathy and other options, the fans have resided to the fact. I imagine those that want to see the Dodgers attend games live and those who are tired of the mistreatment that dates back to the end of the O’Malley era, have given up. I know for myself and most of my friends who have been Dodgers fans all of our lives, it’s the latter.

The current Dodgers are the perfect team for this time and place in our history. Years ago I started writing and then tweeting about the Dodgers. I began Dodger Therapy as a place where frustrated and abused fans could share like opinions on the constant tragedy surrounding being a Dodgers fan. Of course our pain is not quite what say a Chicago Cubs fan has endured, but nonetheless it’s been a painful journey. My therapy “business” thrived, especially during the comically awful and dangerous days under Frank McCourt’s ownership. Fans enjoyed my taking McCourt to task and took their spots on my virtual couch to vent. Eventually the team was sold to an investment group that used famous smiling local hero Magic Johnson to make the medicine go down more easily. The Guggenheim group won back fans who were frightened to go to games for fear of bodily injury and death and promised a return to Dodgers greatness. It all sounded very good and even the more cynical – like me and my friends – were excited by the possibilities of deep pockets, free-agent signings and a return to the “Dodgers way” of doing things.

My business on Dodger Therapy slowed as there were less “patients” who felt like venting. I wasn’t unhappy to lose them since perhaps the purpose of my endeavor was over and my “patients” got better and were happy. Along the way, I cheered with the rest of them but occasionally would point out what seemed like obvious truths to me but were less obvious to people probably with more well-rounded lives that spent far less time analyzing their local baseball team. My geek friends understood the points I was making and the on field moves management was making. Of course when Stan Kasten orchestrated a massive trade with the Boston Red Sox, infusing the withered Dodgers lineup with stars and large salaries, it was exciting and a statement maker. It told all of Major League Baseball that the Dodgers had arrived and the team in the country’s 2nd largest market was no longer the bankrupt, pathetic and crucified in the press punching bag it had become under previous ownership.

Fans flocked through the gates to watch the team again and pretty instantaneously things seemed more legitimate. The fans and the team got a swagger that was perhaps welcome after years of gloom and lawsuits but premature considering the team hadn’t won anything meaningful since 1988 and even that magical year was an anomaly. I always point to the rust beginning following the breakup of the great 70s team after the 1981 World Series victory. There were nondescript seasons with forgettable players and Peter O’Malley letting the farm rot a bit while he tried to get an NFL team onto the Dodger Stadium grounds. Then of course was the sad sale to corporate entity Fox, who admittedly didn’t care at all about baseball or the fans, they just wanted to leverage the team to launch a new all sports television network in the area. Under Fox’ reign a poorly chosen general manager, Kevin Malone, spent ineffectively on a roster of expensive, aging and ill-conceived players which quickly turned off Fox and the Dodgers payroll spigot. A smart general manager, Dan Evans (who most don’t realize was a data-driven “Moneyball” genius before anyone heard of the term), came in and cleaned up Malone’s mess, constructing a well-rounded roster of good chemistry players, strong pitching, great defense but was a little short on hitting. Fox was already over the baseball business; their TV network launched, and didn’t want to waste any more money on players. Evans’ teams were great fundamentally and fun to watch but always needed that extra bat or two that never came. Evans had to dumpster dive for players like Jeromy Burnitz or an aged Robin Ventura, instead of more prime cutlet.

In that synopsis I glossed over other events of crucial change, such as the nightmarish Mike Piazza trade Fox executives made, etc. Perhaps at another time I could go into things like that but my purpose is to focus on what happened to the Dodgers and their fans. Flash ahead once more to where we sit today. If you attend the games, it’s as exciting as any time in Dodgers history. But that’s only to the 40-50,000 fans at the stadium any given home game. I think beyond that, the brand has definitely been tarnished. Social media due to everything bad about it, allows for lots of bluster and bold commentary due to the availability of sending out one’s every thought conveniently as well as anonymity. I have shut down my therapy “business” as it became wearisome to argue what seemed obvious points about the current state of affairs with those likely too young to have much perception on things before 2015. Occasionally I will still blog and write out long-form takes on what’s wrong with the Dodgers. I get nice feedback and direct messages but it’s like screaming out in the forest with no one around to hear you.

Today’s fans are as bold and cocky as they initially became under Guggenheim. To read Dodgers fans tweets and comments during and after games, one would think they were the team that has won 3 recent championships, and not the hated San Francisco Giants. They strut and talk trash as if they’re St. Louis Cardinals or Boston Red Sox fans. It’s nice to be passionate about your team but when your team’s last World Series win was before most of the current fans were even born, perhaps a little humility and dare I say class is in order. It made me happy to see the long-suffering Kansas City Royals fans – a better blue and white colored team than the Dodgers – finally get over the hump. Ironically, the exciting and well-rounded Royals played winning ball in the manner Dan Evans earlier Dodgers teams used to. The strong rotation, the incredible and deep bullpen, the timely hitting and wonderful defense. I watched through a time machine prism and recalled those fun days of Evans’ incredible middle infield glove work of Cesar Izturis and Alex Cora. The Royals are a great team with terrific chemistry, deserving and classy fans and the story of 2014 was a great one for anyone who claims to be a baseball fan.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, and their fans, thrilled in pre-game musical concerts, dancing players, general merriment and bubble machines. It was like watching Rocky III where Rocky Balboa had gotten comfortable and lazy and mugged for the camera with adoring fans cheering, while hungry and street wise Clubber Lang went about business in a very serious and determined manner. I say the current Dodgers are the perfect team for this time and place because their superficiality serves to feed the younger and less history bound fans. Dancing and mugging players are easily identifiable because they fit in nicely with the fans’ day to day interests, which includes an overabundance of time spent on social media, taking selfies and pseudo celebrities such as the Kardashian/Jenners, Miley, Bieber, Ariana Grande and so forth. “Hot” Matt Kemp dancing and flexing his biceps, dating a pop star and posting photos of himself in GQ clothing made him the perfect sports celebrity – forget the fact he hadn’t done much on the field in years. Yasiel Puig showboating and ignoring veteran players and coaches comments to settle down while acting like one of Bieber’s posse was great. Hanley Ramirez phoning it in and taking 20 minutes to walk to the plate while music played thrilled everybody. To older and fans weary of years of bullshit, it was merely annoying.

The Guggenheim gang obviously must have agreed in some way as they pushed bald and formerly dubbed “genius” Stan Kasten aside, as well as thickly mustached 2nd fiddle Ned Colletti and brought in young Tampa Bay Rays Andrew Friedman to take over. Friedman, a data-driven sort to say the least, hired a group of like-minded young whiz kids to help remake the Dodgers. There were more executives hired over the winter than new players. The Dodgers front office became as bloated with needless levels of executive control as the fattest corporations in the country. One wonders what each of these hires do since obviously Friedman runs the show. And if Kasten was not the answer, why is he still on the payroll? Why is Colletti? It would seem Guggenheim has money to burn and prefers to not admit having made a mistake by hiring Kasten to run their new and exciting baseball team.

Over the winter I was suspicious since I had already seen the newish ownership group promise the moon and deliver a bubble wafting dance party instead. I was impressed though when Friedman, like me, obviously saw that Kemp and Hanley were part of the team’s on field problem, as well as likely off field. Those two were sent packing – I think a year too late – but Puig remained. His incredible athletic talent, and perhaps without the enabling shenanigans of more senior stars Kemp and Hanley, should fall in line. Of course one could have argued (I did) that Puig’s trade value while his statistics were high would have meant a great opportunity to deal him. To think, at one time Puig probably could have netted Giancarlo Stanton straight up in a trade. Puig has had a challenging season so far with injuries and the admission by players (buy Molly Knight’s new book, “The Best Team Money Can Buy”) that his antics are not well-received in the clubhouse. On a team that smartly doesn’t want to deal its star minor leaguers, Puig offers a huge trade chip that could help fill holes in Friedman’s pitching rotation and bullpen. Oh, about that…

Friedman’s reign has been a mixed bag so far. I commend him for initially doing exactly what I suggested hundreds of times in my blog posts and tweets. He pushed out a couple of the obvious clubhouse rotten eggs and played the kids. I suggested as much all of 2014 and was mocked by the new brand of Dodgers “fans” who liked their bubble dancing and cocky stars. After all, they were perfect examples of Los Angeles celebrities and such behavior, where once embarrassing on a baseball field, was now social media gold. So for me to suggest Kemp and his model looks and Hanley with his lack of interest in hustle and defense should be gone, made me a villain to many. I argued any decent shortstop and Joc Pederson replacing Kemp in the outfield would make for a much better defensive team that would save runs and therefore be more valuable than the offensive-minded and often not so productive stars the team currently had. Friedman came in and said he valued defense and thought saving runs was as valuable as scoring runs, plus the chemistry boost of adding young Joc and old man Jimmy Rollins would boost the chemistry of the team that had been suffering. Hmm, sounded vaguely familiar. I also argued all of last year that rather than aging and ineffective relief pitchers, the Dodgers should call up some of the lively young arms in their farm system. When Friedman went with Yimi Garcia, Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez, etc., he was deemed a genius. Another one that sort of smarted for a non-Moneyball old “therapist” who just uses common sense to guide his baseball opinions.

Where Friedman lost me however was in his approach to the pitching staff as well as his return in many of his off-season moves. Quickly, Dee Gordon was a young All-Star second baseman who led the league in steals and exciting moments on the base paths. He also was a good defender at second base and surprisingly suddenly a fan favorite to the nouveau fans who made it seem like they discovered him sitting at the counter of Schwab’s Drugstore (an old reference the vaping, selfie taking young fans won’t understand). I was very happy for Dee, who I rallied behind before he was called up originally, all through his various shortstop experiments that never took off and during the winter prior to 2014 when he was reinventing himself diligently as a second baseman. His winter regiment was impressive, his spring training amazing, and it carried over through the majority of 2014 where the bandwagon got full of supporters. Of course the minute by minute Dodgers fans who don’t understand baseball is a 162 game journey and shouldn’t be scrutinized daily as say a Sunday NFL game is, got on Dee when he had some bumps. Ultimately, he was clearly the best thing about the 2014 Dodgers not named Clayton Kershaw. He excited the fans, the team, and the city and made one see a connection between the great Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers way of the past.

Friedman, like all Moneyball types, doesn’t value the running game and probably also believed Dee was a great sell high candidate. Dee’s 2015 so far has proven he was not a flash in the pan at all but a great young second baseman who has the most hits in baseball at the break and is on pace for a huge year in stolen bases. I have minor problem with Friedman moving the team’s leadoff hitter who wreaked havoc with opposing pitchers, catchers and managers, but if Friedman felt he could get something great for Dee and honestly believed he would come back to Earth, I can see the argument for trading him. But the Florida deal that also threw in reliable bottom of the rotation starter Dan Haren, plus about $13M in salary, did not net nearly what Dee and Haren are worth. Supporters of the trade point to veteran Howie Kendrick, who has been very good for the Dodgers. Kendrick obviously was more of a middle of the order run producer that Friedman valued and you can also argue has certainly done more than an adequate job so far in 2015. The problem is he is a walk free-agent and Dee is young and controlled so for that reason alone, not to mention the hole at leadoff for the Dodgers, the deal wasn’t great. I would think you could do more if you wanted to move a young All-Star second baseman than Friedman did.

The acquisition in the deal of relief pitcher Chris Hatcher was supposedly what really would make the deal great. Hatcher was seen as a Kansas City Royals type flamethrower who could come out of the pen and set up for closer Kenley Jansen. He’s been a major disappointment and stayed on the roster longer than he should have to save face for Friedman. He throws hard, but he’s erratic and his fastball straight. Older Dodgers fans will recall straight throwing guys like Antonio Osuna as basically pitching machines. Note to Friedman – big league hitters can hit fastballs that don’t move well. No matter how hard they are thrown.

Losing Dan Haren – and paying his $10M salary to boot – has proved to be a blunder. Friedman obviously did not respect the numbers of Haren’s and treated him as if he were a piece of trash. Ironically, the Dodgers would love to have a Haren type in their shaky bottom of the rotation, just not Haren. Perhaps if Haren changed his name, Friedman could take a victory lap if he acquired him. But no, better to try out a string of AAAA guys in the rotation and bullpen, costing the Dodgers games. Haren was replaced with always injured Brandon McCarthy and also gimpy Brett Anderson. Anderson has been very solid but McCarthy, predictably, was not. He is out for 2015 and won’t factor in much in 2016, rehabbing a Tommy John surgery. McCarthy was a player to avoid anyway, but Friedman generously signed him to a 4-year contract based on a successful second half last year in New York. The numbers, unlike Haren’s, must have appealed to Friedman.

Friedman’s risk of signing two mostly injured starting pitchers was a gamble, but more ludicrous given the fact #3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was clearly not long for the mound. His 2014 included several serious shoulder concerns that lo and behold sent him to the DL for the season. Shoulders, for those who don’t know much about pitching injuries, are notoriously bad. Ask Jason Schmidt, whose career was cut short due to shoulder problems. Ryu never was going to stay healthy for 2015, which I wrote about endlessly during the off-season. When he got hurt, and McCarthy went out, fans and Dodgers management played it that it was a surprising thing no one could have expected. Again, read my blog posts and tweets – all of this was called well in advance like Babe Ruth’s famous shot.

Unlike Dan Evans who could look beyond the numbers, Friedman clearly believes some statistical blip he sees makes pitchers more valuable than they actually are. To me, someone who isn’t a mathematical genius but who has closely followed baseball too much for too long, being healthy and taking the mound are sorely undervalued traits. Dan Haren had value because he took the ball and mostly gave you a chance to win ballgames. Wins in today’s atmosphere of fans and fantasy baseball devotees, is a term that means nothing. If you mention a pitcher’s wins or even say “gives you a chance to win”, you are immediately pounced on like the new boy in prison. In reality, winning a game and giving your team a chance to win a game by throwing a quality start are hugely important. Not to mention health. I would rather have a healthy pitcher than an unhealthy one, almost regardless of some mathematical equation. Haren staying healthy in 2015, winning games for a less than spectacular Miami Marlins team, and giving them the chance to win in others, has proved to be a valuable commodity. The Marlins are talking about trading Haren – who again, the Dodgers are paying for in full – and getting prospects in return. So it could work out that Friedman paid $22M this year for Haren and McCarthy, neither having an impact for the Dodgers, while the Marlins get players in return. And Friedman has to find someone like Haren to fill out the bottom of the rotation for the summer, just not Haren. And of course to acquire this not-Haren pitcher, it will cost the Dodgers talent – likely younger players they’d like to keep.

As it is now, the Dodgers are in first in the West and often mentioned as one of the likely World Series contenders coming out of the National League. The record supports this. But a fan that is more honest can see the Dodgers have not done well in 2015 against good baseball teams. They have fattened up on bad teams, which is nice, but done poorly against the rest. Their division, where they are sitting on top, is very weak. The Giants have one of their lesser performing teams in recent years and unless they make deals this month to change that, are the closest thing to a challenge the Dodgers have. As usual, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres are not contenders. One has to wonder if the Dodgers were in the National League Central, where they might sit.

Fans took their victory laps when a group of Dodgers were selected to the All-Star game. To many, this is their World Series. Winning the West or putting their heroes into the All-Star festivities are enough. Like more disciplined teams, I prefer what happens in October, which for recent Dodgers teams hasn’t been much to crow about. Though – oddly – the fans have. They have rewritten history that Clayton Kershaw did not collapse twice in a row vs. the Cardinals and they took glee that Scott Van Slyke won a standing in place contest against former Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly. To me, the October series against the Cardinals the past couple of years were supremely embarrassing and no reason to boast on social media. That fans would like this is troubling, but that the Dodgers themselves camped it up on the cusp of being eliminated from the post-season, is deeply concerning and indicative of everything wrong with the Dodgers. i.e. fans like things they should be mad about and players laugh it up when a better team – in this case, the Cardinals – just went out and won important games.

Again, it’s hard to be a Dodgers fan in a city where you can’t even turn on your television and watch a game. It’s hard to express an opinion and get attacked for it because it’s not about GQ photo shoots and bubble machines. I think the Dodgers have their work cut out for them and we will see pretty quickly as their post All-Star break schedule is chock full of top National League opponents. It’s quite possible they will rise to the occasion and continue to stay atop the National League West. If that happens, I was not wrong. They will still need to do better in October, and that includes Clayton Kershaw who is one of the best pitchers alive but so far has not done what great aces in recent years have done – put the team on their back and won important October games. Earlier this year it was said how Kershaw had surpassed former Dodger great and current Dodgers broadcaster (who few can see or hear due to the incompetence of Guggenheim’s TV pact with Time-Warner Cable) Orel Hershiser in Los Angeles strikeouts. It seemed the note was to suggest Kershaw is better than even beloved Orel Hershiser was. Until Kershaw mans up and guts out October contests and wins a title for the Dodgers, Hershiser is still the better pitcher in my opinion. Yes, there’s something to be said for winning. One could say, no matter the sport, ultimately that’s all that matters. Data be damned.

In Baseball, Like Everything Else, Common Sense is Right More Often than Wrong

July 2, 2015 2 comments

keep-calm-but-i-told-you-so

It’s been a nice summer, not having to deal with anonymous and therefore brave Internet trolls proclaiming to be Dodgers fans. I still get the occasional “drive by” trash talk, which is funny since I don’t tweet anymore. It’s a huge compliment that even those who don’t follow me take the time to say something completely devoid of fact, chock full of venom, toward me. Thank you for those who obviously have such a crush on me.

As those of you who followed my posts and long-form blog entries know, most of what I have said comes true. It’s a gift and a curse, as Adrian Monk famously said, but it’s a “super power” I’ve had for as long as I’ve followed the Dodgers. I recall a day when I called into Dodger Talk and spoke with Geoff Witcher – one of the big voice radio guys whose presentation was greater than his knowledge. I asked about a prospect named Pedro Guerrero, who was tearing up the minors. I told Geoff I thought he would be a great hitter for the Dodgers. In typical polished radio guy parlance, he told me he might be ok, perhaps a 15 homer guy and part of the bench someday. I told Geoff he’d be more than that. Not long after, he was a co-MVP for the Dodgers World Series team and a fixture in the center of the offense – although he couldn’t slide worth shit – until he and Kirk Gibson butted heads in 1988.

In recent years I’ve “called” the thin Dodgers bullpen, who needed to be dealt, who shouldn’t be dealt, etc. I’ve astutely pointed out you need a strong bullpen – working from the back out, and a pitching staff that included less spectacular innings eaters (thus sparing the pen). I pointed out how vital team chemistry is and called out pretty boy Matt Kemp, much to the disdain of his female and male admirers, and Hanley’s lazy approach. I said – look it up if you want, it’s in the tweets and in the blog editions – how calling up Joc Pederson would mean more to the team than the superstar party boys the Dodgers put together. I said not only would Joc provide offensive firepower, but he’d be a pure centerfielder and good teams – any sport – have a strong defense. I was mocked for having the audacity to question Kemp and Hanley, but also the foolishness to think Joc was anything more than a product of Albuquerque’s altitude. Again, look it up, it’s all written down as proof.

I pointed to Joc’s several seasons in a row – different towns, different leagues – of being the complete package. The always on point Dodger Oracle noted how not only was Joc successful in the minors, but his output statistically was greater than Paul Konerko, who outside of Mike Piazza, in my opinion was the best offensive Dodger prospect in several generations. No, I was a fool, wrong as usual, the anonymous trolls said. They would loop in those on mutual block lists like Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Prostate and other pundits who naturally would laugh at such things. Dee Gordon… a spark? A catalyst that threw off managers’ games and brought havoc to pitchers and catchers and defenders league wide? What a fool! I was told that years of defending Dee, only to see him become an All-Star last season, was a fluke. Andrew Friedman, the smartest man in the world, knew best to trade high on Dee. He was useless. Well, he’s lead the National League in hitting all season and was the steal of the winter per many national journalists and baseball people. And the Dodgers have had lead-off issues as a result. Oh, and Dan Haren! How dare I say he was a valuable part of the pitching staff; a former ace who gobbled up innings and save for a month or so slump in 2014, held the bottom of the rotation firm. Who needs him?! Better to pay 2nd half of 2014 surprise Brandon McCarthy for four years – plus Haren’s 2015 salary! – for a better pitcher. Well, I warned, McCarthy has always been hurt, and Friedman already added Brett Anderson, plus – so important! – Hyun-Jin Ryu and that bad shoulder. Wouldn’t it have been smart to add some less questionable guys and keep healthy Haren? No!!! You fool!!! You know NOTHING about baseball. cc all the Moneyball lovers to validate such takes, but of course.

Those who have read my opinions (and that’s all they are, I don’t proclaim to be a sage) also recall my many, many, many comments about Yasiel Puig. I have suggested that his presence likely was as big a part of the chemistry concern in the Dodgers’ clubhouse as star fucker Kemp and party hearty Hanley. Unlike the other two, I understood why keeping Puig made sense, though I suggested many times that if they could find value back in a trade, it might be wise to move the new edition of Raul Mondesi (also citing it would be a challenge for Puig to ever reach Mondesi’s “underachieving” career tally of 271 homers and 229 stolen bases). I was told Puig was leagues beyond Mondesi – not true – and that he would be an MVP in short time. Also, his fun and games, tardiness, bickering with teammates and obvious Kardashian/Jenner-like ego was just Puig being Puig and part of the fun. I was an idiot to suggest dealing him for Mike Stanton or good pitching (this was pre Stanton’s complete breakthrough and massive contract extension). Well, now we hear from journalist and Dodger follower Molly Knight, in her new book (“The Best Team Money Can Buy”), that Puig has indeed been a concern, a cancer, upsetting many of his teammates, even beloved guys like Justin Turner and Zack Greinke. His antics, his entourage, engaging in a relationship with a minor league coach’s daughter, his constant tardiness, his diva-like persona have become an open topic of disdain in the Dodgers locker room. Perhaps it’s no coincidence than when he was shelved for a good part of this season with his hamstring problem, the team rather excelled (except for that inconsistent/inept bullpen and bottom of the rotation) with Andre Ethier stepping up.

During the absence, with regular playing time, Ethier, much more of a good soldier and professional than Puig, put up numbers as good as almost any outfielder in the league, and certainly on par with his glory days in blue. With Scott Van Slyke and Alex Guerrero around (I won’t mention Carl Crawford, he’ll limp around till October, assuming the Dodgers get to play in October), and even Scott Schebler a phone call away, is it really necessary to have this combustible piece on the roster anymore? Imagine if the Dodgers traded Puig… maybe they could turn him into some of that much-needed pitching that’s missing. While his value can only get lower due to the finally public clubhouse cancer comments, he’s still viewed as an amazing athlete and ticket seller. Plus, the Dodgers have offensive potential coming out of their ass with Hector Olivera and Corey Seager soon to be in the lineup.

Would the team be any worse for the wear without Puig, and instead Ethier and SVS playing more, with Olivera and Seager up as well? Would turning Puig into a very good young pitcher or even veteran with several parts for the bullpen be bad? Cole Hamels? A blue chipper? Relief pitchers that have a proven track record as opposed to reclamation projects holding back a team whose payroll tops $300M? I’m going to say something once more that I’ve said many times – and been attacked for by people (young and dumb, it’s not their fault) who don’t know better… balance is the key. An offensive-heavy team usually doesn’t win in any sport; you need the pitching and defense too. The Dodgers, to Friedman’s credit, have done a lot of the things I have advocated for years – addition by subtraction, losing those bloated egos and marginal all-around talents, shoring up the defense, and playing the kids. Those are things I think Friedman and his large team of executives have done well. Bravo! But skimping, or choosing the wrong guys, for the rotation and bullpen, taking risks on a team with endless financial resources, is just foolish. Use some of the chips on hand to address the weaknesses.

Earlier this year, I spoke with friends who follow the team. None of us actually watch the games since the Guggenheim group is much like the Fox group, worse in some ways, and doesn’t give a shit about the fans. The games are not televised to most, so why would we care? Contrary to popular opinion, out of sight really is out of mind. Lifelong fans I know are very disinterested, more chatting with friends about the foibles rather than the games themselves, which is albeit very tragic. During our discussions, we suggested how the Dodgers could use parts such as Alex Guerrero or Scott Van Slyke, or maybe (gasp!) even Julio Urias, whose ego reportedly is also not in check, to obtain the pitching the team obviously needed. No way, of course, should Friedman deal Corey Seager. So we groused how Guerrero could easily slot into some team’s everyday lineup, especially as a DH in the American League, or wouldn’t SVS be a 20+ homer guy given 400+ at bats? Well, all that remains true. The Dodgers bench is bustling with bodies, especially once Olivera and Seager arrive. Even everyone’s favorite, Justin Turner, might fetch something good for the pitching staff. But now, lo and behold, Puig possibly could be a trade piece. Again, would the Dodgers offense be worse if Ethier were allowed to play every day, and when he wasn’t, perhaps SVS was, or Guerrero, and Oliver and Seager were soon to be in the mix. I’d say, not at all. And with the chemistry fix of not having Puig’s ego and entourage trying to crash team travel, probably much improved. Remember, the team did well while he was out – if only they had the pitching in place to not lose some of those games.

Anyway, it all remains to be seen how it plays out. I don’t imagine Puig will be traded, but you never know. I just chuckle as this latest development is just another “I told you so” moment. The bullpen woes for the first half of the last several years, the iffy additions this winter, the Kemp and Hanley issues, Joc, and now Puig. It’s all documented, yet doesn’t resonate with “smarter fans.” Most of these bright fans weren’t even born when the Dodgers were last actually a force – that era ended in 1981, when the famed 70s team was scattered to the wind. 1988, as most know, was beautiful and magical and also an anomaly. Before and after were a lot of listless teams that drifted without direction and a broken infrastructure as O’Malley abandoned ship, Fox razzle dazzled us, then a Botox’d dandy ran the thing aground, and finally global financial gurus took away the joy of watching games on television.

I’ll go on record again as saying the Dodgers need several solid relievers from Kenley Jansen backward, plus stability in the rotation and moving out any piece that causes clubhouse disrupt if they want to beat the Cardinals and more in October. A collection of bats, lots of exciting Cubans, and brainwashed broadcasting guys chiming like Scientologists how great the pitching is isn’t going to work. The data heads who take glee being bullies online know nothing about actual baseball and while they have fanboy wet dreams over what Friedman is doing, the old adage of pitching, defense and timely hitting is what wins baseball games in real life.

Oh, and huge kudos to former Dodger great Mike Scioscia for refusing to listen to dimwitted GM Jerry Dipoto’s “advice” on using data to win baseball games. Mike knows baseball as much as any person alive and for a suit to tell him what to do is beyond insulting. Dipoto – another thing I have mentioned endlessly over the years (again, feel free to look it up!) – was a mediocre GM who squandered away money on the wrong star players. The organization blaming Josh Hamilton, a drug addict, for having a relapse and not Dipoto for signing a junkie to an ill-advised long-term contract is beyond ludicrous. Not to mention inking older in body and mind Albert Pujols to a 10 year deal. His 2015 has been outstanding, well, his June sure was, but before and likely after was a colossal waste of money and fans who blame Pujols at any point should instead point the finger to smarty pants Dipoto. A fan with any intelligence would have known better – I know I did. Mike Scioscia, the Dodger who never should have gotten away, should take his victory lap and make Dipoto scrub his toilet.

It was nice touching base – ignore the trolls, they secretly have crushes on executives because they look so cute in their fitted suits. The rest of us know better.

2015 – Our Longshots are Better than Yours

December 31, 2014 2 comments

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Happy New Year’s to Dodgers fans. I hope 2015 is brighter than 2014, which to me at least was another unsatisfactory year. No TV while all the advertising was of every game, from spring training on, available + loads of extras by the crack new TV team. In my world, the advertising and hype was like a kick in the nuts. Vin Scully forced to shill for this new product, knowing no one was watching, even in his own home. Then lots of promises from the Guggenheim group and Stan Kasten and another quick ouster from the playoffs, perhaps more humiliating than the year before. No adjustments in season, no attention to defense, or chemistry. Now a new dawn. Geniuses from all corners will right the ship that the last genius (Kasten) couldn’t, and perhaps made worse.

2015 has to be better – unless it’s not. There are pro’s and con’s to what’s happened so far, and we’re still months away from knowing fully what the new year’s edition of the blue will be. Right now, I understand – in principle – what they’re doing, but then again, like the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I’m don’t. The Sabergeeks are wetting themselves because naturally any move one of their kind makes is infinitely smarter than any move a hero of ours could make. What was there had to have been shit, in order to accept the changes made by the new suits. Dee Gordon stunk! Forget that he reinvented his game, made Billy Hamilton eat his dust and was not only the bigs’ base stealing champ but also an All-Star in his first year at a new position. He stunk because speed isn’t loved by Moneyballers and because Andrew Friedman and friends said so. Of course a year of Howie Kendrick for almost $10M is better than 4 more low-cost, controllable years of Dee running wild. What about after 2015, when Kendrick can leave if he wants to? Who cares? Anyone is better than Dee! Or so they’d have us believe.

Dan Haren was useless! Useless, Friedman says! And so, an expensive, oft-injured Brandon McCarthy and even more fragile Brett Anderson are a vast improvement. Never mind Hyun-Jin Ryu threw less innings in 2014 than he did in 2013 and had injuries that put him on the DL twice and Haren’s brittle body was of less value than McCarthy and Anderson’s upside. Oh, wait – Haren wasn’t brittle? Never mind. It’s all above our IQ pay grade – Friedman and team know potential and looking sideways at a stats sheet is the real currency baseball geniuses deal with. What happens if Ryu, McCarthy and Anderson all get hurt? Well, mediocre journeymen have been acquired for just that purpose. Anyone could have signed James Shields, Jon Lester or Max Scherzer – that’s the cowardly way to go. Better to work on guys whose “counting stats” aren’t that great but have the ability to beat the odds. These kinds of guys are ringers that real baseball minds know can be counted on. Unless they’re guys who already were in-house and therefore need to be jettisoned. You know – Haren, Brian Wilson, Brandon League, Erisbel Arruebarrena, etc. are all iffy, but Juan Nicasio, game-fixer Chin-hui Tsao, Sergio Santos and Enrique “Kike” (?) Hernandez are untapped potential.

On the surface of it, a rotation that includes Ryu with a shoulder concern, 4 years of McCarthy and Anderson may not seem secure, but what is? A bullpen that might be Kenley Jansen, JP Howell, Chris Hatcher, Joel Peralta, Nicasio and Tsao may not seem World Series caliber, but who can say? Ours is not to reason why…

The Dodgers so far have addressed some things that on the greater scope need not have been addressed. Normally when a rebuild like this is made it’s to get the team competitive and to win regular season games. Moneyball’s concept is to get the team to the dance and once there, hopefully have a chance. Any mathematician knows once in the playoffs anything can happen, and it’s too hard to predict. i.e. Wild Card teams have commonly went deep into the post-season. The 2014 Dodgers, with all their bulk and bloat and massive egos did win 94 games (losing 68). The problem, one could argue broadly wasn’t the regular season, but the post-season – you know, the part that is hard to predict. It’s unlikely the team Friedman and members assembled will win 94+ games. On the face of it, the team is worse in several areas, not better. That said, they are apparently putting a spin on the traditional rebuild and building for the harder to predict Oct games. And here, I guess, is where you can look at what’s been done and say the team may be improved over what was trotted out this past Oct.

Addition by subtraction – without big bats and big egos like Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, the Dodgers have jettisoned two guys Don Mattingly probably couldn’t get through to, and certainly not manage effectively. Replacing those guys essentially with veterans like Jimmy Rollins and Kendrick, and a young, hungry Joc Pederson, the team may be not only better balanced, but less volatile. Donnie may be able to get through to these guys, who shouldn’t have any reason to push back on him. i.e. Joc will be happy to be there and not throw a hissy fit if asked to move to left field for some reason. Likewise, Rollins and Kendrick, while not spectacular, are professionals who won’t make demands like Hanley probably did. So this alone helps Oct play – a bit – IF the 2015 team, with the rotation so far assembled, and the pen so far mixed together, can win enough regular season games to get there. That remains to be seen.

Some of the fans of big brains running teams are in love with most every move the new regime has made. They don’t see any problem paying for many different players to leave because they were just “that bad.” I would argue that a responsible executive would try to get the most in return for players and pay the least to make it happen. If it takes eating salary, that should mean getting more back in players. To me this isn’t old math or new math, its common sense. While I said forever that a team feasibly built on pitching should also have a strong defensive presence, as well as a good mix of veterans and kids and therefore chemistry, and I am not complaining about Kemp being moved, I will say the return seems slight and sending him within the division is unfortunate. If the idea was to move Kemp within the West, I would have chosen Arizona, where Miguel Montero could have been had, vs. a PED using catcher like Yasmani Grandal, whose numbers haven’t been nearly as impressive as Montero’s.

I don’t want to go through each deal again, but outside of perhaps the Kendrick for Dee deal (essentially), I don’t see one that the Dodgers can honestly say they “won.” And like I noted, there’s a lot of reason to argue the Dee deal was terrible. Time will tell. I just wonder how this new team can win 94+ games – the number it would take to improve on the 2014 regular season. I guess that number is less important than making the playoffs and advancing due to more balance of offense and defense, less egos and a better blend of veterans and kids. If, however, we get through 2015 and the Dodgers don’t win the West, or even make the playoffs, or get there and are immediately sent packing as they have the past two years, it would be safe to assume the smarter pedigree suits failed both in terms of improving the product on the field, but also financially (I don’t see payroll going down in any of this).

Maybe it’s all a moot point, as most of us have no reason to assume there will be any more TV for fans of the Dodgers than in 2014. It’s odd that as a Steelers fan living in Los Angeles I saw probably half the team’s games this year – without an NFL package – but got to watch just a few Dodgers games. Again, living in Los Angeles, and a team that plays and televises close to 200 games – pre, regular and post season – vs. a team that plays under 20 and plays on the other side of the country. To me, no matter what all the new geniuses bring to the table, it’s hugely embarrassing this can happen. And NOT a way to treat fans who have been consistently abused for much of the past 30 years, and certainly NO WAY to treat Vin Scully in what may be his final year of calling the Dodgers. I’ve been very patient, as have many fans, but it’s time to show us something. Let’s start with games on TV we can all watch.

Happy New Year, friends and fans. May 2015 be less sucky than the past years have been.

Matt Kemp – Hipper than We Thought

December 18, 2014 Comments off

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It would appear Matt Kemp has big dog problems – arthritic hips (why would an extremely fit 30 year old have two deteriorating hips? Hmm). One has to wonder if this kills the deal, which would be interesting (funny) to see what Andrew Friedman and company do with their celeb outfielder coming back to the fold (and losing out on such a GREAT catcher like Yasmani Grandal – 13th overall in pitch framing, people! 13th! Pitch framing!). You thought Kemp was a bad clubhouse influence before… imagine how he’d feel about being shipped out and have to return?

It could be that the Padres would be happier without an expensive diva outfielder; even with the $32M the Dodgers ludicrously plan to pay for the right to get a slow-moving PED using catcher in their lineup. Why? Since the deal was struck, recent uber prospect Wil Myers was acquired, and the Padres already had a full outfield before either deal. Maybe Kemp is less a priority since they bought low on Myers? Perhaps Friedman will sweeten the pot – pay off ALL of Kemp’s contract and throw in Julio Urias or Corey Seager as well. Don’t question it; you’re not smart enough! :p

At least Kemp’s latest agent, former utility man Junior Spivey, says all is well. That and a $5 will buy you either a Starbucks red cup or maybe a viewing of a Kardashian sex tape.

Oh, as the stomach churns in Dodgerland.

GASP!!! Daring to Question the Genius of Andrew Friedman

December 14, 2014 1 comment

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The smoke has cleared. Its business as usual in MLB now and football is getting most of the headlines. Unless you’re PED cheat Melky Cabrera, then you’re still being rewarded for augmenting mediocre baseball skills into another plump payday.

The Dodgers whirlwind of moves at the winter meetings is done and fans wonder what happened and what will happen next. I made a mistake by posting about some of this on twitter because morons rule social media and immediately attack anyone’s opinion not their own. I had the audacity to question the moves Andrew Friedman and his geniuses made, as who can really say all the moves actually made the team better. I have Dodgers fans friends who are in agreement, and have even gotten on me for being so open-minded to what the data dorks in the Dodgers front office did. The reason I defend the principle of what was done is because it was basically what I had suggested. Where I offer criticism is in how it was carried out. Which players were acquired in the barrage of moves. Sometimes, it’s quite possible deals are made for deals sake. They don’t all work out, even if you have “big brains” making the moves. Looking at all the deals and what the Dodgers look like now, I think it’s quite reasonable to ask questions.

My opinion has always been the Dodgers were a weak team, not tough, not fundamentally sound, not good defensively and needed more balance. Just like a fantasy team, you want a spread of your talent. The Dodgers always relied too much on their “big bats” and for a pitching-oriented team, neglected defense. For well over a year I have cried to anyone who might listen how the mix was bad, chemistry was awful, coaches and the front office enabled the lazy, bad behavior and adjusting for more balance and defense would improve the product on the field. No, I was told, you’re a hater, you don’t know anything. The pundits everyone love on twitter and in sports columns know more. Sabermetrics proves how good bad players are. Well, I like some data, but I understand baseball is played by actual people and not calculators. Certain things like on-base percentage are important, but a lot of the other stats exist mostly to appease those who masturbate alone in their parents’ basements. The internet is all about feeling smarter than everyone else, and bullying those who don’t agree with you. I can dish it out, so I don’t care, but it doesn’t make for quality conversation (a lost art) when nerds and sycophants bully and attack your opinion – in your own little corner of the internet.

I look at the moves and completely understand WHY they were made. I’d argue with even my friends that the idea was good, the execution flawed. I get that Saberidiots don’t like speed and think its value is meaningless. They must hate when Kevin Kennedy talks endlessly how Dee Gordon is a very good player, how his speed in 2014 made a difference. Not only as a top of the order threat and MLB leading base stealer, but what it means to the game within the game, and how his legs affected defenses, pitchers and the #2 hitters’ at bats hitting behind him. His haters will say his on-base percentage was poor, his defense not good, his second half bad, etc. I would say if you imagined going into 2014 that Dee would hit around .300 most of the season, lead the game in steals and play a solid second base, you’d be ecstatic. But again, speed doesn’t matter. Heck, Theo Epstein hated it too – well, until he picked up Dave Roberts for nothing from Moneyball-minded pal Paul DePodesta and Roberts stole arguably the most important base in baseball history, sending the flat on their backs Boston Red Sox to an unbelievable World Series title.

Going into the off-season, I had no issue with the new high IQ front office dealing anyone. I hoped they wouldn’t move our most intriguing prospects, but anyone else, including Dee, would be ok with me. My reasoning was – and management must have thought the same – no one should be spared since the mix was bad and the team proved not to be very good as they couldn’t win with these players. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, the list goes on. Big names, big paydays, but all together, they proved two years in a row they couldn’t win when it mattered. I think it had to do with egos, fundamentals and heart. Whether we thought as much for the same reasons or not, Friedman and team agreed that the group the fans fell in love with in the post-McCourt era, wasn’t a very good team and something had to be done. So, they went to work.

Many of the deals seemed to be providing depth, something missing that hurt the Dodgers the past few years. While big names were all over the diamond, the backup situation, due to the trade with Boston, a lull in player development, injuries, etc., left the call up potential a huge issue. The Dodgers, unlike years past, could not call down to AAA and bring up that about-ready stud arm to step into the rotation. And during or because of this, clearly Stan Kasten lost confidence in the farm all around, as even while bleeding out over the past two years, help rarely came up from the minors. The pen was the pen was the pen. Kid arms, even those with a track record of success, like Paco Rodriquez, were not to be trusted. When the Dodgers expensive outfield had turmoil and defensive woes, uber prospect Joc Pederson was left to toil in second-rate towns. Friedman and team started gathering guys that could provide additional depth, while they planned bigger things for the past week in San Diego.

I understand that what has been accumulated is not the opening day lineup, and that likely different bodies will be added, and some others moved out, you can start to see the forest for the trees and figure out who most likely will be in place come April. Again, I don’t question the motivation for making moves, or even the rationale for why specific deals were made, but I do think they went a bit crazy with so many moves, so fast, possibly to impress and make a statement to the industry. Much like Paul DePodesta making over the Dan Evans Dodgers in his image, young executives tend to like to piss on every fire hydrant they can to show a) who’s in charge, and b) how much smarter they are than the previous regime. Time will tell how smart Friedman and his math geeks are, but we know what happened when DePodesta (no Jonah Hill), slash and burned a perfectly good Evans roster. Antonio Perez anyone? Jason Grabowski?

A question I have with what happened is not only did the Dodgers take on arguably the wrong players, but they’re paying them and the previous players too. Paying Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to pay Howie Kendrick, who’s also a walk free-agent. Paying San Diego $32M to have Matt Kemp possibly haunt the blue, while only getting PED cheat catcher Yasmani Grandal and two prospects?

Kemp is the big one people want to talk about. Kemp is a beloved, sexy hunk that women and men all want to bed. The fact is, whether he used performance enhancing drugs or not at some point (the league is dirty, sorry, you have to at least ask if top players touched the stuff), he hasn’t been as great an all-around player has his reputation suggests. In 2011, he was very, very, very good. Before that he was young, inexperienced, made many mistakes, upset coaches, and after, a lot of the same, including trade demands and tantrums when things didn’t go his way.

I am not a Matt Kemp fan, and mostly never was, but that said, I wouldn’t want to deal him within the division, unless the haul was a good one. Given the few options on the market for big bats, Kemp’s once cumbersome contract suddenly looked very palatable. The rumors started to increase on where Kemp might go, and San Diego began taking on legs. As I said, I wouldn’t want Kemp in San Diego, not so much because I believe he’s a monster, but because Dodger fans’ Murphy’s Law states it is a foregone conclusion that Kemp will be highly motivated to punish the Dodgers to show them they made a mistake. Given 18 games vs. the division rival, that’s 18 times out of 162 game schedule Kemp could cause damage. That said, it’s also as likely Kemp would disappear in San Diego, the big park, the injuries coming up again, continued lack of motivation, etc. It was a risk though, and unless the return was something like Kemp (no cash) for Andrew Cashner or Ian Kennedy + Grandal, I wouldn’t even consider it.

I have heard the nerds and cyber bullies stroking themselves lately to Grandal and his pitch framing (13th overall, which doesn’t sound so great if this is the main criteria you’re banking on). This is a term that’s come up in the new math but was never mentioned until Friedman and pals sprinkled it out there. I know enough about Grandal in that he’s a PED cheat. As we know, once a cheat, always a cheat. It’s quite possible he’ll go clean, but a lot of players cheat due to the financial implications and continue to do the same and hope they don’t get caught. Mostly, I have not been a big Grandal guy because he’s not a very good catcher, for an offensive-minded one (.225 avg last year, .327 OBP). I like the idea of power spread around the diamond, not locked up in a few players, but I much preferred the Miguel Montero mentions than Grandal. To me, if a catcher is serviceable and can pop 15-20 homers, that alleviates the need for pouting, flirting millionaire outfielders who are more style than substance. I’m not sure Grandal is good, but he’s got to be better than what we got last year out of the catcher position. I can accept Grandal, assuming he stops juicing and doesn’t fail drug tests, but the other part of the deal – two prospects and a massive check? I’m not thrilled. And again, I am not a Kemp fan and in part am relieved he’s gone. He wanted to go, he’s gone. It frees up a spot, possibly, for Pederson, and improves the team by adding a young player who’s healthier, hungrier, a better defender and has offensive upside himself. So I guess any Kemp deal always had the make-believe caveat that you “got Joc in the deal too”. But still – you couldn’t get more for Matt Kemp? What does that say about Friedman and company? And Kemp? Either Kemp just isn’t viewed as valuable as LA’s fawning fans would have you believe, or he was so toxic Friedman and company had to get him out of here. Probably some combination of the two. Still, not a great haul, so for Moneyball-lovers who say I don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re wrong. I do. I just would have gotten something better, especially if I was going to eat that much money. Bad trade, but not for the reason Kemp’s supporters would have you believe.

I don’t want to devote that much time to the other deals, but in summary – an old Jimmy Rollins for a team that’s not a World Series contender seems odd. Again, he’s old. He’s a much better defender, even at 36, than Hanley, but why did Kasten bring in two Cubans as Hanley insurance if neither could field the position once Hanley was gone? And why do you want a 36 year old Rollins when you’re sort of in rebuild mode? No interest in trying for Elvis Andrus?

Now you have a middle of the infield, hell, three-quarters of the infield, that is clearly short-term and just Corey Seager on the horizon to replace any of the three. Then what? Re-up with Howie Kendrick? Maybe. Kendrick is a good player for sure, but he wasn’t an All-Star last year, costs 4 times more than Dee and costs basically $20M plus this season – his $9.5M, Dee’s $2.5M and Haren’s $10M. And as I said, he’s a walk free-agent with no guarantee he’d stick around. Hard to say the middle infield situation was handled properly, or saved any money. I keep hearing how Friedman and team are saving money for the Dodgers, but I keep seeing them write checks to have guys play elsewhere, and take on big salary themselves. Brandon McCarthy? I hear how great he is because he “finally got it” in New York in the second half, but 4 years for a guy no one would have given 4 years to? With past injuries? $48M to man the bottom of the rotation where Haren was doing it for $10M? Am I missing something, is McCarthy so valuable? I never thought so. Serviceable, but not sure why he was a must-have item for 4 years (post-4 ERA lifetime with a losing record… yes, I know things like pitching wins are overrated to the smarties out there). Again, I was told how dead wrong I am here – the Moneyball fans know better.

In the end, I know more will be done – it better be. Right now the team lost two massive egos in Kemp and Hanley but still have man-child Puig, who finally needs to stop dancing and get serious about baseball. He was picked the cover boy of a video game but still sucked in the All-Star homerun contest and in Oct, and when it mattered most, was a bust in Oct and benched. Perhaps without fellow party boys Kemp and Hanley, Puig will not have the support group he did previously and maybe Donnie, not a good manager by any stretch, can wrestle his team back from the inmates. Puig needs to become the player he’s supposed to be and provide protection for A-Gone. He needs to stop acting silly, stop having mental gaffs and perform. 16 homers is not acceptable for a yoked out power hitter of such “potential.”

As of today the rotation still has some question marks, especially since Greinke can opt out and Kershaw can’t win in Oct. The pen has a great closer, but I’d argue question marks everyplace else. A good baseball team needs a very good bullpen. The Dodgers pen has been spotty for several years and that’s a huge reason they don’t win. Friedman and pals need to continue to fortify it – as they have, admittedly – but figure 9th inning on back. Right now, the games haven’t been shortened in such a way the Dodgers can reasonably expect anything different than 2013 and 2014’s results. But, there’s still time.

All of this is a work in progress. I get changes needed to be made – I have been calling for them for quite a while. I just am not sure the personnel acquired is the right group, and more, if the Dodgers actually won any deal Friedman has made. I’d argue his best deal was Dee for Kendrick, as it turned out, even though I could argue why a 26 year old lead-off presence under team control trumps an older, more expensive free-agent to be. The second deal that might be ok is the Tampa one for Joel Peralta and serviceable lefty Adam Liberatore for hard throwing former PED cheat Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris. Liberatore may be the steal of the deal, as it turns out. The other moves – flashy, headline grabbing, but I’m not sold they were quality hauls for the pieces moved away.

It’s not even Christmas, things will change. It’s possible addition by subtraction will turn the Dodgers around. Still, I see logjams and an unspectacular manager and coaching staff. I still see a big payroll and question marks now and next winter. As a Dodgers fan, I don’t know what to make of what’s happening. It smells a lot like the shitburger DePodesta served up. I don’t want to buy a Marlins hat, a Cubs hat, or even a Mariners or White Sox hat, but the old ticker can’t take much more of this. And it sure as hell is fed up with elder children hiding out in basements, typing venom on their iPads about how stupid fans are for not seeing the genius in every bowel movement Friedman and Farhan Zaidi take. Agree to disagree, but I have a right to my opinion.

Save Yourself a Headache, Don’t Try to Figure Out the Dodgers Moves Just Yet

December 11, 2014 Comments off

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Wheeling and dealing, left and right. A fun time of the baseball year.

I’ll start this edition by saying trying to make sense of today’s Dodgers moves is futile since they’re part of a bigger makeover. So analyzing the specifics right now isn’t worth it. Wait, wait and see what happens next and more, what the thing looks like when the smoke clears.

On the face of it, here are some random comments about deals and rumors of deals we’ve heard today…

Losing Dee Gordon is a big loss in terms of a catalyst, a kid who finally got it under Maury Wills’ watchful eye, and a fun player to watch. He will wreak havoc atop a fun Miami Marlins lineup – good for him, going to a good home. Those who say trading high on Dee was smart and he tired in the second half, or got lucky, well, you’re entitled to your opinion and you’re partially right. Trading high, like the Dodgers may next on Matt Kemp, is always a smart move. Not sure about the haul they got back, but regardless of who “won” the trade, Dee was the Dodgers position player MVP last season imo, all due respect to A-Gone and half-season Matty. Speed kills. Speed changes games. Speed makes pitchers nervous. Speed makes fielders nervous. Speed makes #2 hitters better as they get fastballs – something that was evident last year as the Dodgers #2 hitters thrived. Dee played a very solid defense, even though lazy pundits tonight have said he didn’t. I suspect they only know his defense from his shortstop days. I’ve heard Andrew Friedman said Dee was poor defensively. If this is true, Friedman didn’t watch Dee either and is wrong. Dee’s a good player and I hope he runs wild in Miami. I hope the Fish are a surprise NL power as they’ve certainly collected a nice group of players over there. Dee will be missed, because unlike many of the players on the team, Dee loved being here and was a joy to see each day.

Not sure how Brandon McCarthy for four years is better than Dan Haren for one. I guess I’m not a big brain like the Moneyball gang the Dodgers have assembled. McCarthy will be the 5 starter, or perhaps 4, depending on whether they add Cole Hamels and/or trade Zack Greinke.

If they add Hamels, they have Greinke insurance – two dominant lefties at the top of the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu had shoulder injuries twice last year and it’s reasonable to think he will be hurt in 2015, at least spend some time on the DL. So maybe you have Clayton Kershaw, Greinke and Hamels, with McCarthy, Andrew Heaney and others behind that if Ryu is hurt, or they move Greinke rather than wait for him to probably opt out after 2015. So then your rotation is Kershaw, Hamels, Ryu, McCarthy and the rest. As you can see, a lot depends on Ryu’s health and whether Greinke is around. i.e. big names, but still a little confusing to me.

I am not a fan necessarily of what I’m seeing but given the Dodgers were embarrassed two straight Octobers, I don’t mind any changes. I hope they don’t deal Joc Pederson or Corey Seager, but almost anyone else is ok with me. The folks enamored with celebrity hottie Matt Kemp moving to San Diego, likely in a three-team deal with Philadelphia, need to realize the Dodgers weren’t winning with him. If you could trade high on a young, cheap All-Star like Dee, you can trade high on an expensive, sometimes pouty, injury-marred Kemp. The fact of the matter is Kemp could bring back Hamels and maybe a catcher, and there are a lot of outfielders around beside him. He’s a luxury item that can be parlayed into another luxury item and clear space in the crowded outfield. My only thing is dealing Kemp within the division will no doubt come back to haunt the Dodgers as Kemp, if he stays healthy, is the kind of guy who will rise to the occasion vs. the blue. But, San Diego has to find a way to attract a big bat to spacious Petco and Philadelphia needs to move Hamels and get younger – so…

I know Yasmani Grandal’s name is bandied about as the next Dodgers catcher and I understand his value, especially as a power bat, but I wish Friedman instead got Miguel Montero. Better catcher, better hitter, not a proven PED cheat. I do like the idea of replacing Kemp and Hanley’s “big bats” (and big egos!) by spreading the offense around more evenly (KC style!) – some at catcher, some at shortstop, some probably at second (if/when Dodgers add Chase Utley). So assuming the dust clears and Kemp and Hanley are gone but Grandal, Jimmy Rollins and Utley are added, also allowing Joc to play, you might have a more balanced attack looking something like…

Rollins SS
Crawford LF (SVS vs. lefties)
Utley 2B Kendrick 2B***
A-Gone 1B
Puig RF
Uribe 3B
Joc CF
Grandal C

As you can see it’s more evenly distributed, with no need for those two “big bats”. Plus, decent defensively.

Anyway, these are some of my initial thoughts. I don’t like the pen and hope they fix that, and probably some of the long men they’ve added and other arms acquired as second parts of recent deals may address that. Teams need bullpens, and the Dodgers is not good. The rotation is a work in progress and I’m not as confident with all those big names as some are because I don’t know which will be there, and which might be hurt.

I do appreciate the interest in tweaking something that wasn’t working. Dodger fans are creatures of habit, so they don’t understand what is happening. They like to wave the foam fingers and talk about how hot Kemp is. The Dodgers have not been a serious contender and have been soft. Not sure if all this change will help – it could create new chaos – but it’s at least interesting to watch.

Unless you hear tomorrow the Dodgers have acquired Cole Hamels and perhaps Chase Utley in a three-team deal with San Diego, sending Matt Kemp to the Padres, don’t try to wrap your head around what’s happened so far. There are months until spring training, and nothing right now is as it appears.

*** Moments after posting this, the Dodgers apparently have flipped Andrew Heaney to Anaheim for Howie Kendrick. I told you not to try to figure any of it out. 🙂