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It’s July and Time for Dodger Fan Déjà Vu

July 9, 2018 Comments off

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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For Too Trusting Dodgers Fans, it’s Time to Squint and Use Your Imagination

January 28, 2016 12 comments

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The off-season used to be my favorite time of the baseball year, which is odd since that’s when the teams aren’t playing. I think it was my constructive way of making the cold stretch between playoff baseball and spring training more bearable. Nowadays baseball is a 12 month sport. You can listen to MLB Network Radio or watch their TV channel and get year-round coverage. In the past, you listened on terrestrial radio and hoped some baseball mention occurred between the incessant NFL and NBA talk. We’ve come a long way, baby.

The off-season was a good time for a baseball geek because you could marinate in the months of talk, trade ideas, free-agent possibilities, non-roster invites, etc. Everyone is a winner as the next season approaches, until of course you take off your rose colored glasses and realize your team, possibly, isn’t that good. Being a large market team, one with much past success, a Dodgers fan generally has had reason to be optimistic. Even in lesser years, the downside wasn’t as bleak as those of other teams in smaller markets.

When Frank McCourt was allowed into town by corrupt commish Bud Selig, Dodgers fans were exposed to a reality fans in many of MLB’s markets had to cope with each year. For us, the spoiled and somewhat entitled, it was quite a rude awakening. A Dodgers team cash poor? A relatively dry farm? Bankruptcy? Bounced checks to stadium personnel, including beloved icon Vin Scully? Stadium beatings? What was going on?

McCourt was forced out and a slew of possible owners were trotted out. The group who bought the Dodgers were a global investment firm with deep pockets and selling their plans with the big smile of Los Angeles’ favorite son, Magic Johnson. Fans were so happy to be rid of McCourt and his pathetic reign as owner that they wanted to believe wholeheartedly in the Guggenheim Group who used loveable Magic as their mascot. Magic wouldn’t do us wrong! That’s what long-suffering, brutalized Dodgers fans wanted to believe. Magic played basketball, and pretty much only talks about basketball, but hey, he knew Tommy Lasorda and went to some games, so that’s close enough.

Well, after some immediate maneuvers to get butts (dollars) back in the seats, and after several different plans, different architects, it’s beginning to look a lot like the same old, same old, just in a different package. Instead of Frank McCourt and his now ex-wife using the team and fans as their own personal ATM, we have Guggenheim reaping huge profits from a large gate and even larger, record TV deal. $8B is a lot of money, and more obscene when the majority of fans in the LA area cannot watch the games, and are only “treated” to Vin Scully for three innings on radio (in these Scully’s last years behind the mic).

Each plan was foolproof, until it wasn’t. Now the Dodgers have doubled down on well-regarded executives, while ignoring most aspects of on the field talent. If the Dodgers faced off against other teams with executives, they might have a reasonable chance of winning. As it is, a portion of fans are still desperate to believe (and have to believe), while others, myself included, are tired of being played.

The plan is genius – turn the fans on themselves while Guggenheim and the executives all get rich. Let fans bicker and call one another names, while logically they should all be unified since they have the same common goal – a good, entertaining and championship quality Dodgers team. Like America itself, due to social media and brains warped by technology perhaps, the fans are angry and divided. Half are angry at those fans who are not “real fans” (i.e. have the exact same opinions as they do) and the rest are angry at the snow job they’ve endured for about 3 decades. If one knows anything about the Dodgers, they will realize that this drought is especially shameful for an organization that has championships and history on its side. The Dodgers of 2016 are not the Dodgers of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or even the past decade plus.

In all my years, I haven’t seen a situation like this as a Dodgers fan. Oh sure, McCourt’s era was worse on many levels, but the consistent drubbing we’ve been asked to endure since the end of the O’Malley era, through FOX, and even today, is beyond explainable. Fans should be mad as hell and bright enough to realize when you have the largest payroll in baseball you should have good enough a team to at least participate deep into Oct. Fans should understand that when you’re given a window of opportunity to win now, you need to seize it. When you’re given Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their prime and “unlimited resources”, you have to keep that together and win a few titles. At least one.

What has happened the past few years especially is sad. That half the Dodgers fan base is more impressed by slick operating “suits” than talented players like Dee Gordon is mystifying. Throughout my years following the Dodgers, my friends and I, and fans we encountered along the way or at games never had more allegiance to executives than the players wearing the uniform. There were a few cases where some idiot disrespected the uniform and we wanted them gone, but those incidents were rare. When Al Campanis, a good longtime Dodgers face made indefensible remarks on “Nightline”, we understood that all his years of loyal service did not make him exempt. We did not root Campanis on, we wanted a winning ball club. We got one in 1988, and Campanis has seldom been thought about since.

Nowadays it’s all about the executives. The Dodgers main genius is Andrew Friedman, who did remarkable things in small market Tampa but has been churning his wheels here on the big stage. He spends like a demon, yet is frugal at other moments. He buys items one wouldn’t buy, and passes on obvious ones. His supporters point this out as brilliance and align with him to catch some of the moonbeams that run off, but so far there is nothing to show for all this expense and odd logic. I argue, and half of the fans agree, that the team is going backwards. I think many could understand taking steps back if it were necessary. For example, Houston cleaned house, rebuilt and became very good last year. Philadelphia is reloading after riding out the veterans for too many years. Colorado, perhaps, will get it and clear out some of the familiar names to acquire the pitching they desperately need. None of these cities are Los Angeles, however. The Dodgers are rebuilding while still riding the largest payroll. That could be a smart approach if the money being spent amounted to terrific players. You could then say “We have all these great players to win now, plus we’re setting ourselves up to win for years to come.” A dynasty, if you will.

There are talented kids on the current roster as well as in the farm, not so much thanks to Friedman and his group though. These players mostly came into the system via Ned Colletti and Logan White, who ironically were pushed aside and out. And mostly I go back to the money being spent – on payoffs for players to go elsewhere, Cuban players who never amount to anything, and overspending on marginal big leaguers that could have been had for much less. While this money is being wasted, corners are cut elsewhere, whether it’s letting Greinke go, not signing free-agent relief pitchers of note (they did sign Joe Blanton, who might turn out to be a decent pick up based on last season’s relief role, but there were other, more proven options), bats, etc. I am not sure what the Dodgers payroll will be when they open the season, and to me it’s just a number at this point – Guggenheim is loaded and should be paying a lot – but I do know I look at the roster and don’t see the value.

As I said at the top, the off-season is a fun time as any team still has a chance. Could the Dodgers and their large payroll win in 2016? Maybe. But in honesty I see a team with all the problems of last year’s unit with more weaknesses beside. The Dodgers fortunes rest on good luck happening, which is ok if you’re a fan in Tampa, Houston, Milwaukee, etc. but it shouldn’t be the case for fans with the largest attendance in the league and deepest pockets. When your owners ink an $8B TV contract, you shouldn’t be hoping they “save some money” and not re-sign Greinke, or not get a few solid relief pitchers, a big bat, etc. When Guggenheim collects all the money they have been since coming into town, as fan you should DEMAND the best talent possible and yes, a championship team. Whenever I hear Moneyball and geeks who made it work in small markets come in, the hairs on the back of my neck instantly ride up. Paul DePodesta’s worth in Oakland is a nice story, as is Friedman’s in Tampa, but Los Angeles is a big market and hello! the fans here deserve a winner after a nearly 30 year dry spell. i.e. there is urgency here in the City of Angels that there isn’t in Oakland or Tampa. That’s why I think they hired the wrong guys for the job – again. Guggenheim either ignored history or are stupid. The Sabermetrics first philosophy failed when DePodesta assembled the most laughable roster I’ve ever seen as a Dodgers fan, and now the mistake is happening again. I just wonder if the NEXT owner will learn from this latest turn.

If the Dodgers get freak like production from Corey Seager and electrifying stuff from Julio Urias, and get very lucky with health by known brittle players, and maybe the Giants and Diamondbacks suffer some setback, it’s quite possible the Dodgers can sneak in. Again, I’d say a lot has to break right for this to happen. If it does happen, it would be even luckier if it played in October. The true Moneyball philosophy Billy Beane has noted several times is using the analytics to fill out a statistical Bingo card so the team gets X number of hits, X number of runs, X number of wins, etc. out of their machine April-September. October, as Beane has said, is “luck” and the algorithm goes out the window.

Ironically the Dodgers already had a division winning team under Colletti, and were in a better position in October as well. Recall, Colletti’s Dodgers, even with McCourt pocketing money left and right, were very close to the World Series – twice. The team has gotten weaker since, in the bullpen especially, and with a lighter, more party-like atmosphere that I would argue winning teams generally don’t exhibit. On top of that, now the biggest October factor – Kershaw + Greinke – is gone. The half of the fan base that buys anything Friedman throws out there, argue the team is deeper now. I would argue, loading up on lesser pitchers with injury question marks is not depth, its quantity. Quantity over quality isn’t a selling point to me, and if it comes in handy, it might April-September, but not October. Going into short series, I would much prefer having Kershaw and Greinke (even with Kershaw’s October jitters of the past) to Kershaw and Scott Kazmir, or Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. So a team that had a formula for winning in the regular season but not in October addressed (“fixed”) the regular season part, not the post-season portion. That’s Moneyball, and why it hasn’t worked in Los Angeles.

We have several weeks now before pitchers and catchers report and a month before spring games begin. The executive loving faithful remain dogged that Friedman will not disappoint, he will make a big trade, or trades, and the Dodgers will be right up there with MLB Network Radio’s mentioned top contenders for 2016 – Chicago, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington and Arizona. I’m not sure that trade or trades are going to happen, but I’d prefer a little less ego and brilliance and a lot more common sense. The top teams in MLB loaded up over the winter and improved themselves. You don’t need a PhD to see how either. Top teams in both leagues acquire talented players. You know the players, you know their production, and you can see how they fit into a rotation or lineup. You don’t need to turn your head like a confused dog and squint to see why they made a great pick up. With the Dodgers nowadays, everything is needlessly complex. A trade often includes several teams, then some players are flipped, salaries absorbed, etc. In the end, you’re told how intelligent the move was, but you just can’t see it. I can see how other teams are getting better, I can’t see it with the Dodgers. I can’t see how a punch and Judy lineup not being fortified is improvement, adding injury risks or sending an ace to a rival is progress. Half of you can, and those of you are like the people who can look at those weird dot pictures in the mall and see a sailboat. Good for you; I’ll just go to the museum and look at real art.

Don’t forget to watch the special video bonus…

Look, a Sailboat!

Don’t Panic Yet, but Maybe Soon

December 11, 2015 3 comments

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To be sure, there’s plenty of time left before spring training, so to panic now is premature. My comments, which I feel are honest, are based on not just the calendar date but based on what Andrew Friedman and friends have done since arriving in Los Angeles, what I’ve witnessed so far this winter, and what I think they will or more, will not do.

 

There are those who love Sabermetrics and grew up on a steady diet of the stuff mixed into their fantasy baseball teams. There are others who just inexplicably idolize executives, and no doubt are Donald Trump supporters. Then there are cockeyed optimists who always assume someone with a big title must know a lot. Me, I go with the gut and many decades of baseball experience. To me, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

 

As I’ve said over the years, baseball is pretty simple. You need to have strong pitching (rotation and most importantly in the bullpen), timely hitting, defense and speed. If you have a good balance of those things, not only will your team win on the field, but also in fantasy baseball. Baseball, like life, is about finding balance. If you are heavy in some areas and not others, balance it out by buoying the deficient. If you are full of potholes all over the place, well, you have troubles. The Dodgers, in my opinion, have holes in most areas which means it would be challenging for someone to fix, let alone a team who won’t admit such problems are even problems.

 

As it is now, the Dodgers can be fixed. Less every day since good players have come off the table. The issue I have with Friedman and his merry men is that they always seem to try to overthink things and I believe this is because they truly believe they are superior intellects to we mortals. Anyone can sign a person like Joakim Soria if the bullpen needs help, but far more interesting to come up with convoluted three/four team trades which “could” address the problem, perhaps not, will cost prospects, but my, won’t they look clever. This is my problem with Friedman and team, they’re making an over 100 year sport that is pretty basic at the core of it, needlessly complex. And I believe it’s to make themselves appear uber smart.

 

As it is right now, a more basic GM (whatever the title you want to put for the decision maker) could sign some players and fill holes that way. I would have probably kept Zack Greinke since it’s hard to deny the Dodgers strength last year was the 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Greinke. Even replacing him with Johnny Cueto, should they do that, is not strengthening anything. I guess you could argue adding Hisashi Iwakuma + Cueto beats just Greinke alone, but that remains to be seen as both pitchers have had injury problems in the past. Besides that, the Dodgers should have had a better 3 option last year as the season mostly was Kershaw and Greinke, with an assist from Brett Anderson, vs. the world. Note to Friedman – teams need good 3/4/5 options as well, which the Dodgers were suspect on. Don’t get me started again on Brandon McCarthy.

 

So let’s assume the Dodgers sign Cueto, or even Yovani Gallardo or someone like that. That pitcher + Iwakuma “could” be better than Greinke and rotation bum du jour, so maybe – perhaps – possibly – the rotation isn’t any worse for the wear, possibly even better. Personally, if I were willing to give Greinke 5 years, I would also have no big issue giving him 6. Or… if I didn’t think Greinke was worth 5, let alone 6, I would have not waited and signed David Price or Jordan Zimmerman. i.e. I wouldn’t have waited. Friedman’s either very slow, or too fast. He will make no moves, or too many moves. He’s either spending like a mad man on untested Cubans and willing to swallow $80M salary for players to play against the Dodgers, or he’s Tampa Bay minded and cheap. Meantime, his fans, such as Molly Knight and unnamed others (you know who you are) crow how no one can top the Dodgers because they have so much money. Well, what good is the money if you can’t keep your second ace or add other top players who have signed elsewhere this winter?

 

When the better aces went away, suddenly we are to believe Friedman finally realized a bullpen is a good thing. Why he didn’t know this last year when daily he was calling up unknown AAAA pitchers who got spanked and went right back down to AAA, is beyond me. Maybe he watched the playoffs and noticed the teams that were still playing had good pens, and the Royals won the whole thing with a decent rotation but dominant pen. So Friedman, who thinks relief arms are interchangeable, suddenly gets the idea that two closers is the way to go. Of course we know that Aroldis Chapman turned out to (perhaps) be a maniac who chokes women and shoots off guns near them in his garage, but was the plan ever to have two closers? Would he have flipped Chapman, or maybe dealt Kenley Jansen? Both guys are free-agents after this year, so at best he’d have one season of two dominant closers, neither I assume would want to set up the other in their contract year. It’s been said Kenley, for example, was not happy hearing the brass was bringing in another closer. And why would he be? Why would Chapman want to go to LA and possibly back up Kenley? Just another sign that Friedman doesn’t really know what he wants, what he’s doing and for sure not considering that the guys in uniform are actual people and perhaps two closers wouldn’t want to play nice together. Most GMs would know this and have opted for Soria, Darren O’Day or some other set up man instead. Again, easier.

 

If that wasn’t enough, and it remains to be seen if indeed Chapman to LA is officially dead or not, there were rumors Friedman turned his attention to the Yankees’ Andrew Miller. This is literally a player Friedman could have had last winter for cash. But remember, when good relievers were available last winter, Friedman thought he was fine with the likes of Joel Peralta, Ian Thomas, Josh Ravin, Chris Hatcher, etc., etc.

 

Forget the rotation and bullpen for a moment. Both can be fixed, but perhaps won’t be. What about the lineup. I’ve heard many pundits saying the Dodgers lineup doesn’t have that bonafide big bat most teams have. Adrian Gonzalez is no doubt a very good player, but he’s probably not that scary talent that top teams covet. He’s a very good second banana, which is fine with me. I guess the plan was sexy Matt Kemp was the top dog, but we know what happened there. Or wild horse Yasiel Puig, another we know what happened guy. There are some interesting pieces around – young Corey Seager (too young to count on him now to be that guy), Joc Pederson. Then you have a fall off that includes utility men playing every day and faded stars. It’s not a bad lineup, but you can argue it’s gotten worse under Friedman and more frighteningly, seems what they want. You don’t hear the Dodgers going after Heyward, Davis, Frazier, etc. Heck, they aren’t even interested in Howie Kendrick, who apparently was more intriguing to their plans than Dee Gordon.

 

To me it’s unclear what Friedman wants and what his ultimate plan is. Again, there is plenty of time to address needs and I’m sure he will to whatever extent. In February we will have a more clear idea of what the 2016 Dodgers can be. I would say Friedman should be under the gun a bit as Bill Plaschke said in his column yesterday. Friedman Saber fans roasted Plaschke but shouldn’t fans be concerned not only about the near 30 year (!!) drought the Dodgers have had, but also another wasted era of talent? Lots of great Dodgers players have come and gone but if Kershaw should opt out of his contract in a couple years and you look back having wasted (albeit he added to the problem by struggling in Oct at times) the Kershaw years, the Greinke and Kershaw partnership, etc., that will be a very, very bad thing. So yes, Friedman should be held accountable and there is some definite truth to the win now mantra. Not to mention with money apparently in abundance, there’s little excuse for the team not snapping up free-agents as they come available.

 

Andrew Friedman may yet prove himself to be the “genius” his fan club would have you believe he is, but so far, he’s looked much less than that to me. I prefer keeping it simple, looking at needs, character, etc. and not sideways at secondary stats. Give me hardnosed players and I will be happy. Health, determination, consistency and fundamentals. To me those things mean more than being clever – or coming away from the winter meetings almost empty handed.

Dodgers Trade Deadline Reboot – as of July 30, 2015

July 31, 2015 Comments off

Mat-Latos-USA-Today-2

Hello, TV-less Dodgers fans throughout the Southland. A little, premature, post-trade talk since that’s what baseball fans do this time of year. Random thoughts, if you will. And on with our program…

A couple quick points:

– Overall I like what Andrew Friedman and his team of numbers crunchers did. I like what they did simply because the price wasn’t great (outside of our future short-term and long-term big bat, Hector Olivera, going to Atlanta – not to mention $30M or so for having him sit in the minors since signing). There were no familiar names dealt and major league players coming back the blue’s way. Of course, one could say the haul wasn’t that great either (no David Price, no Johnny Cueto, no Cole Hamels), save for Jose Peraza, the young middle infield prospect formerly of the Braves. Peraza is curious as… well, I’ll get to that later. Anyway, not bad, not bad at all.

– On the flip side of that, all of the moves only served to address deficiencies that never should have been left alone this long. Again, my many, many comments about the winter shopping and lack of quality, reliability and depth in the rotation and pen have been partially/largely addressed, but why did it take until August’s eve to happen? Shouldn’t a reliable pitching staff have always been part of a team rebuilt on defense? Boggles the mind.

– There’s the new outlook, assuming Alex Wood or Mat Latos isn’t quickly flipped for Rangers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, as is the latest buzz. I think 1-5 the Dodgers are in fine shape now since mostly they have a 1-5, and not a 1-2 or 1-3 + rotating AAAA junk. If the playoffs started today, I’d be fine with Brett Anderson being the #3 (the way he’s pitching now, and as long as he doesn’t break down as is his custom), and think that 1-2 + Anderson is as good as anything out there they might face. I also like the addition of Jim Johnson, who isn’t outstanding, but adds a good back of the pen option to bridge to Kenley Jansen. Again, why didn’t all these rocket scientists get a strong bullpen wins championships before the tail end of July?

– As good as the belated address of pitching is, I have been watching curiously a tepid and inconsistent offense flounder. Let’s be real – the Dodgers have trouble facing good teams, and they have real trouble facing good pitchers. In October, that’s what you face. If the Dodgers struggle against Oakland, how can they do well against St. Louis, San Francisco, Washington and even Pittsburgh? The Dodgers have interesting parts, but while I look at Toronto’s left side of the infield with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, I wince at the combo of Justin Turner and Jimmy Rollins. Outside of Andre Ethier, the outfield doesn’t supply that much consistent offense either. Of course things can start firing on all cylinders, Corey Seager could come riding in on a white horse to save the day, or maybe there’s another trade coming, but I don’t like the station-to-station, pray for the three-run home run approach the team lives on. I blame Mark McGwire whose hitting expertise isn’t much, and Donnie’s unimaginative approach – not to mention Andrew Friedman’s mandate no one move on the bases. I think, and thought, the Dodgers are a small ball team, yet they play long ball. It’s not working and will not work in October. If this year’s team is ousted in the first round, I hope a housecleaning comes and Donnie and his coaches are sent packing. Donnie’s expertise is apparently dealing with massive egos. Nowadays there is only one – Yasiel Puig. i.e. Donnie’s greatest skill is not worth keeping – find a manager, and coaches, who can get more out of this team. Not that the current player personnel will be back in 2016 anyway.

– The Ned bashing by idiots on social media is sad and misguided. I know it became trendy to bash Ned Colletti but the truth is, he field competitive teams even while working under a penny pinching white collar thief. It’s funny how folks give data-driven Friedman and team blind kudos for any move they make (every failed minor leaguer is a hero in the eyes of “DodgerFam” for some inexplicable reason – reality check… AAAA “prospects” are available for nothing because no one wants them, not because Friedman is a genius for finding them) while taking the opportunity to slam Ned, who is no longer doing anything anyway. If Ned did indeed suck (he didn’t), who cares? He’s no longer a decision maker anyway. Besides, last year Ned was Stan Kasten’s human target. Ned did not make boneheaded moves in 2014, Kasten did. But more, as I said, Ned was at worst, competent. He would not, for example, have left a rotation up in the air and pen paper thin. Ned always found ways to add decent players that he could afford within the constraints of the then-reasonable budget. If Ned were given endless resources like Kevin Malone was back in the day, or Friedman and friends are now, he would not have left the pitching staff in such disarray. Also, if he went out and had the chance to build the back of the rotation, he would not have opted for 4 years of Brandon McCarthy. Of course there’s no way to prove this, but take my word for it. In other words, stop slamming Ned. He’s not the enemy; he’s not even making decisions. Bash a GM on a team that’s actually making mistakes currently, or more, be realistic about what Friedman and team have done this first year in charge. I would say it’s not markedly better than last year’s team, save for addition by subtraction of ego maniacs Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.

Last points…

– I noted Peraza’s acquisition earlier, who I think, along with Wood, are the more interesting parts acquired in yesterday’s deals. I’m not sure what will become of the Dodgers infield the last 60 days of this year, or next year, but perhaps the plan is Peraza moving back to shortstop and Seager to third, and resigning Howie Kendrick or finding another second baseman (or shortstop, if Peraza plays second). Peraza seems like a very exciting young player and was labeled the Braves #1 prospect, and already is being called the Dodgers #4. I think the idea of a good average hitter who has speed is exciting. Hmm, kind of reminds me of a watered down Dee somebody or other. At any rate, that’s my point. If Friedman didn’t value Dee, now a 2-time all-star who can run like the wind, and has kept his current roster from stealing or even apparently taking extra bases, why Peraza? If Peraza is told not to run, he’s a decent average hitter with little power and then no speed game. It just seems like an odd Friedman addition, unless the point is adding another sexy prospect he can later deal.

– The Olivera thing is of course the most curious part of the trade whirlwind since he was looked at all year as the offensive shot in the arm the Dodgers desperately needed. We were told reliable, clutch, defensive whiz Juan Uribe was needless since Olivera would be playing third soon anyhow. Then Olivera is dealt and the logjam at third is now utility men Justin Turner and Alberto Callaspo, plus lead glove Alex Guerrero. I don’t know, makes you wonder. I guess they can move Seager over, since many say he’s tall and should play third anyhow, but that’s no given. The kid will be adjusting to big league hitting and suddenly asked to crash course learn third base? Perhaps the answer is trading troublemaker Puig and getting a good third baseman in return. Who knows? I just question what the plan is but am not necessarily complaining. I always questioned giving $70M to a 30 year old Cuban who never played in the bigs and always was hurt. His short tenure in blue ($30M, must be nice!) was one sprinkled with the injuries one could only envision for years to come. It may be a good riddance, but it does make me wonder where the “pure hitter” the Dodgers were so looking forward to might be coming from. Seager? Maybe, but it could have been Seager + another bat, now it’s left to a young kid to save the day. Well, unless some of the treading water guys suddenly perk up.

That’s all for now. It’s too early to say as by the time you read this, the Dodgers might have added some other parts and dealt the names noted here. This is as of July 30th, 2015 and having not watched all season – I can’t do that, due to Guggenheim’s idiotic TV deal – but following, from afar. Like a baseball stalker, I’ve become. Glimpsing through the window at what could be and probably never was.

I hope all of you are well and are more honest with yourself. You bleed blue, but let’s face it, the AL is stacked, the good NL teams are too, and the Dodgers do not perform well against good teams and good pitching. They have 50+ games to turn the tide or it will be an off-season gutting, I hope.

Matt Kemp – Hipper than We Thought

December 18, 2014 Comments off

kempCrooks

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.