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What Black Magic Can the Dodgers’ Hot Stove Conjure Up?

November 7, 2016 Comments off

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The World Series is over; the clocks have changed and now baseball diehards get to await the Hot Stove league. It used to be my favorite time of the year but under Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and the rest, it’s less than thrilling if you are looking forward to your Dodgers making a big splash. The new normal seems to be to remain content with getting to the playoffs, not really making a push. Mark Walter confirmed this recently with his comments about ten years of getting to the playoffs being more prudent than making a big push for a go year. Sigh.

Fans of this group of executives crow that hey, even with a record amount of disabled list visits, the combined geniuses of the Dodgers front office made 2016 a pretty successful season. Of course, no thought goes into the obvious – the injuries were all inevitable since the front office invested in risky, often injured players, mostly pitchers. Whatever magic that happened in 2016, one must remember that it was indeed magic. To assume, for instance, that a team can be constructed of suspect innings in the rotation and that the pen can compensate once more, is foolish. It’s not a repeatable formula to have relievers and minor league journeymen fill in the innings left by management constructing a rotation of question marks.

We shall see, I suppose, what cards Friedman and Zaidi play. And if, more importantly, the Diamondbacks, with a new general manager and new manager, and Giants, in search of bullpen help, decide to make an effort in 2017. The division is weak and winnable. I’m sure Friedman and Zaidi, and the Dodgers ownership group, understands this. Of course, it’s possible that the two other teams who usually are in the thick of things, will make an effort in the coming season. If so, will whatever Friedman and Zaidi do this winter be enough? And what will they do? What can they do? Well, let’s consider a few things.

I would say the most obvious way to improve the rotation is by adding Zack Greinke via a big trade with Arizona, or someone similar in another deal. But, given the fact Friedman and Zaidi allowed Greinke to leave, would they even feel it necessary to go this route? After all, when Greinke left, they made no effort to add anyone of that talent level and only moved on to Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda once most every other option was off the table. But assuming rumors are true and Friedman and Zaidi would like Greinke back, or some other solid ace-type pitcher, that would certainly be the easiest way to add quality behind Clayton Kershaw, who has now shown besides being vulnerable in Oct play, is not super human and can end up on the disabled list. Again, repeating the magic that occurred once Kershaw hit the injured list, seems a poor strategy.

Assuming Friedman and Zaidi stick to their guns, however, and don’t believe Greinke is worth the investment, or even that another pitcher of that cost (think bottom line, we are talking about owners who are a large investment firm, after all), then what? Well, it would mean more of the same. The same being a rotation that likely looks identical to 2016’s – Kershaw, Kazmir, Maeda, and probably youngsters Julio Urias and Jose De Leon. The thought here, of course, everyone remains healthy and that Urias and De Leon make like the Braves young arms of the 80s and become top tier hurlers in no time at all. Seems like a stretch to me. One, that the kids can take on the additional innings workload so quickly and develop that fast vs. big league hitting, and two, that the walking wounded all stay healthy.

The word “depth” has been bandied around a lot by Friedman cultists. It’s to imply in its use that Friedman is a sorcerer, like Dr. Strange, and he has an ability to make the lower reaches of his 25-man roster that much more special than those of the other 29 teams in league. In other words, everything he touches turns to gold. It’s to assume that every other general manager has no concept of backups, on the major league roster or in the minors. It’s ridiculous and in reality, means not acquiring talent and relying on plans B, C and D.

Friedman devotees will point, as Mark Walter seemed to recently, that you just need to get to the playoffs and then “depth” and the dark arts take over and through luck and prayer you are as apt to win as a “better” team. Well, there have been cases where wild card teams have won, but I’d say most teams that have are fundamentally good teams and it’s not an accident they did well. I’d also say, as this year’s post season attests, that the Chicago Cubs were picked by Vegas and others to win the World Series in 2016. They had the most wins and they won, even when down 3 games to 1. Was it luck? No, it was an incredibly talented roster put together and masterfully played by Theo Epstein, who had done it before – in Boston, and a very solid manager in Joe Maddon. Luck? Perhaps a smidge, but while Friedman and Zaidi loaded up on players like Brandon McCarthy, Brent Anderson Chris Hatcher, Kike Hernandez, Kazmir, etc., Theo loaded up with Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, Aroldis Chapman, etc. Luck didn’t have anything to do with it – understanding which players are great and collecting as many as possible, did.

It’s too early to predict what will happen in the Hot Stove this winter but I will say it would take a lot of good baseball work to improve the Dodgers more than hoping Ned Colletti and Logan White’s farm fills in the gaps. Last winter’s shopping season, which went largely ignored by Friedman and Zaidi, was so important because this winter the cupboard is bare. I believe the best free-agent pitcher available is Jeremy Hellickson, if that tells you something. I know Moneyball fans turn their noses up at anything that resembles the old way of doing things, but there’s a reason why most teams look to the winter meetings as the time to fill needs. It’s how business is done.

Say Friedman and Zaidi realize they better add reliable innings behind Kershaw, and they might. The cost will be more than dollars; it will be in the prize prospects so many baseball fans covet. Personally, I have no problem dealing young players, if it makes sense and if it fills needs for a chance to win now. After all, while the Dodgers have spent almost 3 decades doing it in a less than aggressive fashion, winning is what it’s all about. It’s why the Cubs and Indians both dealt huge chips in their farm system for a chance to play in this year’s World Series. It’s almost once in a lifetime – in fact, for the Cubs fans, it was once in several lifetimes. Do you think Theo regrets trading for Chapman? The Indians for Andrew Miller?

It would be curious to me to see Friedman and Zaidi, however, deal blue chips for pitching when said pitching was available this time last year for cash. I know, I know – the Sabermetrics lovers will say, but it costs a draft pick! Who cares? The way Friedman drafts, it’s inconsequential anyway. And what draft pick will undoubtedly become as good as an ace the team could have signed? It’s a one in a thousand shot (I didn’t use a Moneyball calculator, I just used that figure for dramatic effect, so don’t have an aneurysm trying to fathom that).

I would say, without knowing the war room plans of Friedman, Zaidi, the genius of Gabe Kapler and Josh Byrnes, etc. that more than likely the 2017 team will more or less resemble the 2016 bunch, except with more emphasis on Ned’s kids and less pixie dust. As I said, to bank on magic to be as plentiful next year as it was this, probably isn’t the best plan in the world. But, we shall see, we shall see. Fire up the Hot Stove, it will be a trade heavy winter as the shopping isn’t there. Let’s see what Friedman and his merry men can conjure up.

Andrew Friedman is on the Clock

November 13, 2015 2 comments

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The hot stove season is here, heating up already for teams that actually have a plan and are going places. The Dodgers meantime are mulling the most manipulative managerial candidates to replace scapegoat Don Mattingly. Andrew Friedman (and his minions) manages from his luxury suite he has to decide between unqualified Gabe Kapler, collegiate manager Darin Erstad (also someone he could control), or Bud Black and Dave Roberts. The latter two could be forced to listen to Friedman’s superior metrics but might be a little less apt to bend over and hold their ankles for the dashing young GM/president du jour/emperor of Dodgerland.

It will be interesting to see what Friedman does after plan A flopped. For a guy with all the financial wherewithal in the world, his genius and sidekicks in all things Saber, it sure wasn’t pretty what happened in 2015. His cult-like supporters would argue “Hey, they won the West!”, to which I would laugh and chortle, “Gee, $300M+ in a shitty division and you’re happy about THAT?!” No, let’s not beat around the bush… the team Friedman crafted (if you want to insult the word) is exactly the team he thought would be cute and sly and steal the post-season. Umm, not so much.

It turns out in real baseball – not what’s played in a board room by giggling, taking-matters-into-their-own-hands fan boys – requires more than data. I don’t know personally what data would tell someone Brandon McCarthy should be your big pitching acquisition, or that AAAA pitchers dug up from unknown minor league towns could cobble together a championship bullpen, but hey, I’m not a mastermind like Friedman.

I love pointing out the failures of guys like Friedman and Paul DePodesta because A) it’s easy and B) data be damned, facts are a pretty hard thing to ignore. For example, sending the team’s heart and spark, Dee Gordon, to Miami, paying his salary and acquiring some sort of potential setup man (who failed for 3/4 of the season) and a utility man who wears tight pants, didn’t seem like a bright idea then, nor does it now. Since, Dee’s proven Friedman’s “sell-high” plan was a foolish mistake, no matter what puppet GM Farhan Zaidi will tell you. Batting championship, stolen base leader, Gold Glove, Defense Player of the Year for 2b, Silver Slugger and enthusiastic energy bunny trumps the lackluster station-to-station approach and leadoff devoid lineup Friedman sold us. And now Friedman is desperately trying to figure out who can play 2b in 2016. Old Chase Utley? His best “action” in 2015 was a dirty slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg. Kike Hernandez? Jose Peraza? Or re-up with Howie Kendrick, who’s a very good player but has chronic hamstring concerns (as do most Dodgers). Personally, I would have kept the young, under team control Gordon, all the excitement he provides, speed, steals, driving the pitchers and defenses crazy, etc., but then as a Moneyball lover would say, “You don’t know the game.” Then they would laugh like teenager girls glimpsing Bieber’s “leaked” dick shot online.

No, I am completely aware that nowadays someone who thinks like me is a minority. Common sense has given way to mean-spirited idiocy and numbers that never quite add up. When some genius like Friedman comes in and I can forecast a year in advance how he will flop, and he does just that, something is flawed in the analytics. In the real world, the world I grew up in, and where great baseball was played up to the steroids era, things like pitching, defense, team chemistry, leadership, timely hitting, speed and character mattered. Now… just obscure stats that say traditional measures no longer apply. Yeah, right.

I keep seeing good play in Oct by teams not wearing “Dodgers” across their chests. The difference with these teams is they play the game it is supposed to be played. There is no magic formula. There are gamer pitchers, clutch hitters, terrific defensive plays, relief pitchers that have ice water in their veins and throw 100 mph, excitement, energy, team camaraderie, etc. In very few cases do I see career bench players starting, or partial rotations or no bullpens advancing. Friedman can go back to the drawing board this year, but until he is humbled and admits some of his cleverness was just youthful foolishness, the Dodgers will experience the same letdown in 2016. Remember – the team that stumbled against any team over .500 in 2015 was EXACTLY the team Andrew Friedman wanted.

We will see how much Friedman wants to retain his job. While the generous but dense ownership group has unlimited resources taken from insurance clients, at some point their faith will wane. If fans slow down coming through the gate and grumble about the mediocrity and 3 decade dry spell, Friedman and his groupies may be sent packing. I sincerely hope so. I saw DePodesta fuck up a perfectly good Dan Evans Dodgers team and now Friedman has sapped any fun out of being a fan of the blue. Only a young, narcissist could root for this, and I am neither.

It’s possible Friedman will have learned and acquire bullpen arms, somehow piece together a rotation that is now 2 men and get the most out of a tepid lineup of overpaid playboys. I wouldn’t imagine this will happen, given what “data” I have seen on Friedman, but you never know. I will tell you exactly what will happen in 2016 once his winter shopping is over. Like last year, if he doesn’t address real baseball concerns, his team will fail. Sorry, the Kansas City Royals do not play the brand of baseball Friedman is trying to sell. I would rather have a team in blue and white like that, than the mess shaking their asses at the Ravine these days. Agree or disagree; I could care less. If you like this type of approach, you don’t know anything about baseball.

For Baseball and the Dodgers – The Times They Are a-Changin’

February 13, 2015 1 comment

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When it comes to the Dodgers, and probably Major League Baseball as a whole, the famous Bob Dylan song comes to mind – the times they are a changin’.

This is a good time to be a Sabermetrics or modern fantasy baseball nerd, not so much a purist of the game. The “progress” baseball is going through is summed up as keeping in touch with what the fans want vs. what old people want. I fully acknowledge that pop culture, music, TV, fashion, and just about everything else is moving in a different direction in today’s fast-paced, social media fueled society but my feelings on baseball are the same today as they were when I was 12. I don’t think baseball – or how it always had been – is something that necessarily needs to evolve over time.

The beauty of baseball has always been the timelessness of it. The game, more or less, was what it was in 1990 as it was 1950 or 1900. Unlike other sports, there was no clock and announcers told stories and fans lapped them up. You didn’t watch a baseball game expecting gimmicks; you watched a beautiful, perhaps perfect, chess game unfold.

For the Dodgers, ushers wore straw hats, organ music played, and Americana reined much like it does at Disneyland. Children didn’t question it, nor did teens. They sat alongside their parents and grandparents and accepted that when you watched baseball, you put everything else on hold. You ate a hotdog, had some cotton candy perhaps and just took a break from anything faster paced or stressful. This experience was worth the price of admission. How much would you pay for total peace?

Fox took over the Dodgers and decided an entertainment makeover was needed to make the stadium and product more hip. Up until this time, the players on the field, and their connection to generations of Dodgers that came before them, was all fans wanted and needed. Suddenly Fox TV and movie tie ins were displayed in lights on Diamond Vision and entertainers like Snoop spoke to the fans from the scoreboard. Contemporary music replaced most of the traditional organ songs and the focus was on bringing our lives’ outside baggage and interests into the park. The stadium and game were no longer looked at as a pleasant escape from the norm.

This continued under Frank McCourt and now Guggenheim. Secretly, I imagine, talks have happened anticipating Vin Scully’s retirement or even death. What cool voice can they bring in that younger fans would more relate to? Fireworks, bubble dancing, pre and post-game concerts – Wi-Fi. The point is now that you go to the game to multi-task – you can talk data with friends, send out tweets, post to Instagram, take selfies, rock out to your favorite pop songs, etc. It’s no stretch to say long ago the Dodgers lost connection with the fabric that is over 100 years of history that fans used to know like their own family’s story.

When Frank McCourt threw out Dan Evans (ironically, very much a data person himself – just not a personality-deficient geek like most baseball executive are today) in favor of Oakland A’s front office sidekick Paul DePodesta, fans were treated to one of the worst collection of baseball players ever put onto a big league field. Most nights people didn’t know 3/4 of the players in the lineup – and that’s not an exaggeration.

That experiment failed (Moneyballers would argue it needed more time) and a more traditional face was brought in to win back angry fans. Now the Dodgers are reverting back to the stats-heavy approach and have 5 or so “general managers” creating a team that 70% of Los Angeles won’t be able to watch on TV anyway. The new team is sort of a Giants light approach – addition by subtraction, ditching some of the personality issues like Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, adding more rational players like Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, but in the process wheeling and dealing in a way only 5 “general managers” could, cutting off pieces that were perfectly serviceable, even well received, just to show they are smarter than the previous regime. Oddly, the previous regime is still employed and in some capacity working on this 2015 Frankenteam called the Dodgers.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether the 2015 Dodgers are better than the 2014 edition. It’s almost irrelevant as a good many longtime Dodgers fans I know have given up. They can’t see the games on TV due to a botched deal the Guggenheim group made to score over $8B for their $2B initial investment, and they don’t know who most of the players wearing blue this summer are anyway. And worst, at least long-term for the Guggenheim gang, is they don’t care. After decades of drama and abuse in one form or other, most are saying they’ll watch college baseball instead, or other teams, or just stop following baseball altogether.

If you have the MLB app and follow the Dodgers on there, you can read an article about all the new faces the team has brought in this off-season and who they expect you’ll be familiar with the spring. I looked at the article and forgot most of this acquisitions and while some might do perfectly well, it’s more like the DePodesta era – at least as of right now – that an impressive hot stove season that should have Dodgers fans counting down the days until pre-season action begins.

I listen to MLB Network Radio and most of their pundits are curious about the Dodgers who assembled a large amount of bodies, but still have question marks in the bullpen, a weaker offense on the face of it, and several starting pitchers that could hit the DL even before opening day begins.

Then there’s talk about Cole Hamels, which seems insane considering Andrew Friedman and his merry men collected “no-brainer” starting pitching depth like Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Erik Bedard, Juan Nicasio, etc. Unless the plan is to deal precious prospects for Hamels and then move Zack Greinke, who had the gall to question some of the off-season moves and who plans to likely opt out of his final years in order to get a bigger payday, why? And would the Dodgers be better with Hamels than Greinke? Could either ensure the pen will be better, the offense enough, the catching solid?

I’ll go on a limb here and say that the Dodgers should be better in 2015 in terms of professionalism (though Adrian Gonzalez has said he hopes the dancing bubbles come back – makes me question his professionalism) since they’re copying the Giants model, but can they win more than 94 games? Can Clayton Kershaw get tough in October and not fold like a rookie in over his head? Will PED cheat Yasmani Grandal be the big bat behind the plate the new general managers think he can? And do they know that his defense is worse than AJ Ellis’ in every aspect except the suddenly in vogue “pitch framing”? It’s true – “fans” blasted AJ last summer for passed balls – Grandal led the league in them. Throwing out runners? Not Grandal’s business.

So the Dodgers need to either win more than 94 games (probably won’t happen, especially with a more competitive NL West) or advance deeper into the playoffs than last year’s cuckolding by the Cardinals. If that happens, the new big brains know what they’re doing and fans will just have to adapt to the selfie taking and Instagramming and get to know all the unfamiliar faces on the field. And of course you will have to go to the field since there will not be any TV coverage for most of us.

I know something about marketing and I’d say the Dodgers, whether it was Frank McCourt or this new group who pretend to want to make everything right, do not get it. They are focused solely on the in-stadium experience, one might argue lowering themselves to the lowest common denominator and trying to ensure the game at Dodger Stadium is familiar to the distracted fans, rather than elevate the proceedings and make the stadium a safe haven and chance to get away from the superficiality of everyday life. One wonders when the new geniuses will have a vape pen giveaway or hookah night.

The types of “fan” I’m dismissing will write my comments off as those of a clueless old person who doesn’t get it. As I said, I felt this way when I was 12. Even if the technology was available then, I understood that when you went to a baseball game, you escaped. You listened to Vin Scully, heard the organ music, could logically tie and compare the Dodgers on the field to those from decades past. It was fun. You didn’t need the trappings from outside to enjoy baseball. Now, it’s not only the Dodgers who are guilty of it, but Major League Baseball and their new commissioner. They are trying to chase after a demographic that just isn’t made for the game. And if they did things the way they always had been, without enabling or changing their own ways, the hipsters and gang types would have come anyway and behaved themselves. It always worked before. I don’t think being “young” is any new development in our history. Empowering distraction, catering to multi-taskers and creating some “cool” haven that is like some lounge or Starbucks the “fans” feel comfortable in just isn’t baseball, and it’s not the Dodgers.

On the field, I can’t see anything quite yet that has me impressed. I don’t view free-agent to-be Howie Kendrick as an upgrade over Dee Gordon. I don’t understand dealing with the Padres to get so little back while improving a division rivalry. I don’t get paying the salary of almost every player dealt. I don’t see injury heavy pitchers as sure things we can count on. I don’t know if an elderly shortstop is the improvement we needed at the position. I don’t see how the bullpen will be markedly better than it was. I don’t even know how Donnie, whose “strength” you could argue was taming his collection of divas and goof offs, will fare with a group perhaps a little less self-aware. Time will tell, but if the games are unavailable, I’m not sure who will be watching.

Bob Dylan The Times They Are A Changin’ 1964

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.

Andrew Friedman Hates Novelty Beards

December 18, 2014 Comments off

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The winter boredom thought process…

To me it’s fascinating to watch what Andrew Friedman and his team of numbers geeks are doing with our beloved Dodgers. As I mentioned before, it has the same air (stink) to what Paul DePodesta did when he came on as the Dodgers GM. The basic rule of thumb appears to be – making over the team in MY image. Throw out anything from the previous regime, whether equal value is obtained or not and especially cut things that have no business being on MY team (i.e. base stealing, on-base percentage concerns, etc.).

It’s too early to tell, of course, but it seems from a layman’s point of view that this slash and burn approach is curious, to say the least. Many players are being pushed out with the Guggenheim gang set to pay their salaries to compete for other teams. Most of the deals have suspect return. It’s hard, as an example, to see many deals the Dodgers have “won”.

It’s quite possible all of this shakes out into a more “Giants like” worker bee type team that spreads around the offense and wins with better chemistry and less bloat, but some of the moves have been at least confusing.

Yesterday the black bearded Brian Wilson was sent packing to make room on the 40-man roster for oft-injured pricey 4th starter Brandon McCarthy. Given the state of the Dodgers bullpen, I’m not sure this was the best way to clear a spot. I’m not a Wilson lover – his injuries early on in 2014 set the tone for a catch-up type season. That said, the pen IS thin and Wilson did turn it around in the 2nd half with an ERA of 3.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking the newly acquired relievers offer better options. It will be interesting though to see if the Dodgers pay Wilson’s salary and he has a rebound year. He is a proven clutch performer with World Series hardware to back up the point. Not exactly a shlub you kick to the sidelines normally.

Then after the Wilson news, Friedman and group made Brandon League available. League, reviled by most Dodgers fans, actually had a nice season (2.57 ERA), especially since not being asked to close anymore. The plan here is paying half his salary in order to deal him – or $13M or so between Wilson and League, to add to all the other salaries they’re on the hook for with players who won’t be in blue in 2015.

It seems some of this has to do with Moneyball vanity. Again, DePodesta did the same when he tore apart Dan Evans team, and now the same is happening with Friedman. Previously the names added were household favorites such as Jason Grabowski, Hee Seop Choi, Oscar Robles, Antonio Perez, etc. Now we have McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Yasmani Grandal and Adam Libertore.

I am willing to suspend belief and see how this falls into place. My vested interest is seeing Joc Pederson patrolling centerfield and getting a real shot to contribute. For the record, many “fans” bashed Joc and called him Billy Ashley, as low an insult as you can heap on a Dodgers outfield prospect. I would respond with – you’re idiots.

Joc has performed at a high level every step along his minor league career, and plays good defense. The similarities with one dimensional Ashley end with both having male genitalia. Joc, for those who quickly dismiss the kid before he’s had a real audition, had a higher minor league OPS than Paul Konerko. Think about that. Joc, playing a skill position in centerfield, had a higher OPS in the minors than Konerko, arguably the Dodgers best hitting prospect the past several decades not named Mike Piazza.

Joc will be just fine. Its one thing Friedman and his nerd squad and I all agree on. Joc and Corey Seager are anchors for the Dodgers plan moving forward. If either is dealt, or fails, it will make this new makeover more curious. With three quarters of the infield having expiring contracts Oct of next year, and a lot of turnover on the field, Dodgers fans better hope that the kids are allowed to flourish.

All I know from what we’ve seen so far this hot stove season – don’t get Friedman mad. Don’t dare have had an option vest or have skills Saber folks don’t value. If so, you will be plying your trade in another town. But don’t worry; the Dodgers will still be paying your salary.

Brett Anderson for $10M?!

December 16, 2014 Comments off

Chicago Cubs v Colorado Rockies

In a nutshell…

Imagine if “dumb Ned” signed often-injured Brett Anderson to a $10M deal – while paying a healthier, less risky option (Dan Haren) $10M to go away? $20M (including Haren’s money) for a #5 starter and a too long (4 years), too expensive ($12M per) deal for the #4 (Brandon McCarthy). And let us not forget Hyun-Jin Ryu’s tender shoulder in the 3 slot. Could be quite a year for the Dodgers pitching staff.

Also, isn’t the idea of taking on injury risks paying them less? McCarthy, with his own injury past, and Anderson (only 1 season with over 19 starts), sounds like bad dealing to me. Sorry, if it were anyone but a “smart data guy” making these moves, fans would be livid.

Could all work out, but lots of risk at lots of money right now. LA payroll doesn’t appear to be shrinking, as Guggenheim had hoped, and it seems a good place for mediocre free-agents to come get rich.