Happy Valentine’s Day.
Tomorrow, the Dodgers begin the spring training portion of the 2017 season. Lots has been said of the Dodgers improvement, some true, some not, and many expect the boys in blue to be among the top handful of teams in baseball this season – largely based on their high payroll and “depth.”
Before I get into that, I do want to say what I have tweeted several times this week – the lack of TV across the LA market for a 4th season is shameful. The Dodgers have been passed around from one bad owner to another since Peter O’Malley decided to sell the team to Fox. At the time, we fans knew it was quite a change – going from mom and pop ownership to a greedy Rupert Murdoch run corporation that only was interested in baseball in order to start a local sports network. Little did we realize, however, how bad it would get.
It’s debatable to some whether the skullduggery of Frank and Jamie McCourt is worse than the Guggenheim Partners time as owners, I would say different. When “Hall of Fame commissioner” Bud Selig handed the keys to the Dodgers kingdom to a cash poor Boston parking lot attendant, we knew it wasn’t good. As the McCourts rode high on the hog and drove the franchise into embarrassment, bouncing checks to staff, including Vin Scully, and cheaping out on security until people’s lives were in danger, we ultimately rebelled. Now, with Magic Johnson’s smiling (now absent) kisser conning us into believing everything was ok again, we sit staring at our blank TV screens, or MeTV re-runs of “Hogan’s Heroes” instead of our LA baseball team.
I would say from Fox to the McCourts to Guggenheim, LA Dodgers fans have been passed from one bad guardian to another, much like the Baudelaire children in the “Unfortunate Events” books and Netflix episodes. None of them have/had Dodgers tradition at the core of their belief system – all have been in it for profit motives purely. Yet, through generations now, Dodgers fans infight and quarrel and flaunt loyalty ownership doesn’t have to them. It’s quite amazing, the level of love and Stockholm Syndrome displayed since O’Malley sailed off into the sunset.
To me, it’s easy. Greed + no TV coverage = you lose my loyalty. You want it back? Focus on our needs, and that includes games on TV. Stealing Vin Scully’s final years was a heinous act. Lest anyone think Guggenheim is in no way like the McCourt era, think about that. Consider it when you get an overload of Charlie Steiner.
We will never get back what was taken from us, and considering the misdirection of the overly bloated narcissistic front office, it makes it hard to forgive. All of my life, and prior, the Dodgers were a team known for strong pitching. Over the years there were good offensive teams, and bad ones. The pitching was always key. Look through the Dodgers record books and recall the names. Behind the greats were many good ones, and those who held the fort, eating innings and supplying consistency that always kept the Dodgers in the thick of the National League race.
I don’t recall, prior to this administration, such a dismissal of pitching. The Fangraphs lovers among you will point to cobbled together stats and suggest this is the best pitching staff in baseball. I may not understand numbers like you pretend to (by reading some nerd’s analysis), all I have to base my opinion on is many decades of following baseball and end results. A team, especially a Dodgers team, should be built around pitching – starting and relief. It seems an afterthought or a “ho-hum” to the collective geniuses that run the Dodgers.
So, if you put together no TV, no Vin and very little pitching, it’s hard for me to get overly excited. There’s a reality that says the rotation is three guys, all of whom have concerns. Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher in baseball but after years of carrying the burden of the team on his back, his back gave out. Backs can flare up at any time, and while Kershaw may be healthy all of 2017, his sudden vulnerability at least merits a conversation.
Rich Hill has resurrected his career from independent league hurler (like his fellow well paid staff mate Scott Kazmir), but he’s also an older pitcher who has spent a lot of time on disabled lists across baseball. To assume his “Koufax-like curve” can be counted on for a full season is perhaps a stretch. Then comes Kenta Maeda.
I liked the signing of Maeda, but then I like the signing of most Asian players. Maeda is a gamer with good stuff, but he’s also Japanese and their seasons are shorter than those in the bigs, so his eventual tiring in 2016 should have been expected. He was gassed the last quarter of the season and of course in October, when we all closed our eyes and crossed our fingers as he went to the hill. He is slight of frame and while he could improve on his stamina and continue to evolve, he could also at least be considered someone who may have a solid first half and then vanish after that.
The rest of the rotation is more worrisome than the top three. Julio Urias is a talent touted as another Pedro Martinez. He sure can look good, but he’s also 20 and his young arm is not ready for a full season’s workload. In fact, I’d say given the way he was pushed in 2016, due to Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi not considering reliable innings out of the rotation last year, he could even be a candidate for an injury due to overuse. I am not worried about Urias at the start of the season, but like Maeda, I am worried what happens as the year progresses. A baby pitcher should have his innings built up through the minors; Urias’ success and the front office’s desperation has rushed that timeline. Watching how they use him in 2017 should be interesting.
With Urias as the 4th starter (he should ideally be the 5th), it means a gaggle of curiosities will compete for the last spot. At this point most fans realize the signings of Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy were foolish ones by Friedman/Zaidi. They will compete with Hyun-Jin Ryu, former warrior with a shot shoulder, and assorted guys Friedman devotees will tell you are superstars in the making. No, they are just guys. The league is full of guys who fill roster spots, go up and down from the minors to the bigs and are not stars. Newsflash – not everyone who comes up through the Dodgers system will be a star. And another newsflash – every team has “depth” – it’s called a 40-man roster and minor league system. Living, breathing humans do not “depth” make.
For these reasons, the Dodgers rotation does not impress me. It’s possible they will have a decent first half, enabling Friedman/Zaidi to make a July deal for the 2nd half, but I’d argue, given what we see from most of their deals, and the fact the beef in the rotation should already have been added, who cares? As of today, the rotation is not ready for Oct play, which begs the question: “What have Friedman/Zaidi fixed since taking over?” I’d argue the deficiency the team had was the Oct part of the equation – that one more piece or two that could get the Dodgers over the hump. They already were making the playoffs for years. That isn’t enough. Friedman/Zaidi tinker, like mad scientists, but with the April through September part of the team, which, like I said, was in good enough shape before.
Friedman/Zaidi and their disciples would tell you it’s all about the regular season; the playoffs are all luck and a total crapshoot. That’s what Billy Beane has said, and the Moneyball record of World Series titles would bear that out. Small market executives, like Beane, like Friedman, like Zaidi, think like this because they must. They are traditionally hampered by lack of resources, financial most specifically, and need to assume getting to the dance is good enough. Perhaps, once in the post-season, they get lucky – it happens. Just not to Moneyball teams.
Guggenheim must have had their reasons for hiring Moneyball types to run the Dodgers – either hoping to save some money they could put into their own pockets (that’s not working, Friedman and Zaidi spend like gold-diggers out on the town), or because they were tipped off that the game has gone data and whiz kids who are all Ivy League are the ones you want in charge. I’m not dismissing data, it’s important (I recall loving Ross Porter’s constant stats that drove fans insane), but it doesn’t seem to apply to the work being done by Friedman, Zaidi and their crowded front office team.
Friedman inherited a windfall. He got a playoff team with a new rich ownership group and ripe farm system. A smarter man would have added the missing parts – perhaps a 3rd starter better than Brett Anderson – in order to go deeper into Oct. Instead, much like Paul DePodesta before them, a lot of tinkering, convoluted, needlessly complicated trades, signings of Cubans, reliance on unimpressive and often injured pitchers (overpaid), and other factors have led the team to no more Oct ready than before. I’d add, taking the long way around the mountain, creating needless busywork to get there.
At some point, perhaps luck will roll the Dodgers way and they will win. There IS talent on the roster. Some of the prospects in particular, holdovers from Ned Colletti and Logan White, look like this generation’s great Dodgers – Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Cody Bellinger, to name a few.
I just have no idea why fans continue to believe in a front office that shuffles pieces around, wastes money, skimps on money (hard to do both at the same time) and is rebuilding the regular season part of the team that was already a playoff contender, rather than the post-season part, which was the obvious weakness.
I chock it up to youth – easy to say, as I am old. I think baseball fans are not as diehard as they used to be, and youth comes with lack of perspective. As you get older, not only do you have to sometimes wake up in the night to pee, but you gain wisdom. As Louis C.K. famously mused in one of his routines, just by virtue of being on the planet longer than a young person, you generally come to know more. A young fan has the right idea – love their team, no matter what, but without a frame of reference, it’s easy to not really know what the fuck you are talking about. I have been young, and now I am old. Believe me, I know more now than I did when I was young.
I won’t even go into depth about the bullpen that was not improved at all over 2016, or the 2 guys for every position approach in the lineup that could work – if rosters are expanded to 35. A new season is upon is, so don’t let me burst your bubble. I will say, perhaps don’t be gullible. Keep your eyes open and your head up. Call “bullshit” when you see it. And yes, you should be very angry that for a 4th season, games are not on TV across all of Los Angeles. I would suggest you don’t pay for games, or McCourt’s expensive parking. If they won’t televise the games, listen on the radio, or just read the box scores the next day. If they don’t care enough about you, you shouldn’t care so much about them. Guggenheim is in it for the money, just as Fox and the McCourts were. The team has not been to the World Series since 1988, and that was a fluke. The rot had set in after the 1981 championship and the greats from the 70s teams moved on.
We are owed more than this. The fans’ loyalty should not be greater than the owners’ loyalty to us. Bickering on Twitter can be amusing, but it does not hold the owners accountable. Demand more and if they don’t give it, consider what else you want from life. Maybe it’s going to the beach, catching the latest superhero movie in the theater or just spending more time with family and friends. For me, if a group of smarties can’t figure out your rotation needs reliable innings and your bullpen should be several guys deep at the back, you don’t deserve my respect. If the games aren’t even available to watch, why should I care?
Here’s to another season of Dodgers baseball. Let’s see what happens. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.
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.
One month to go and the fans are getting anxious. I see the tweets. Some are realizing what morons Andrew Friedman and his pet gnome Farhan Zaidi are; while others are thrilled the Dodgers are clinging to the vapors of first place in the worst division in baseball, the NL West. Of course the majority of the latter group are typical LA fans – thrilled by beach balls, parking lot fights and selfies. Too young to know better, or so is their excuse.
The Dodgers ownership is beside themselves that over 3 million fans attended games this year – or as most understand, 3 million tickets were sold. That’s the important thing, after all. Win, lose or draw (do they have ties in baseball?), the greedy finance company known as the Guggenheim Group get their money. They have that sneaky TV deal with evil empire Time Warner Cable pouring money into the offshore accounts, TV partnerships with MLB, gate receipts, merchandise and expensive stadium food. The parking goes to former sleazy owner Frank McCourt, bless his heart.
Fans are still in-fighting, brainwashed by a steady dose of LA media sucking up to the Dodgers gang of geniuses in the front office. The reporters – print, radio or TV – want access to the locker room and the free food before games, after all. It’s hard to find any media person in LA say anything negative, or dare I say, truthful, about the way the front office has conducted business since the last change in direction that landed Friedman and Zaidi into power. LA Times beat reporters triumphantly point to the scoreboard – “First place!”, they declare – while it lasts. If you point out the team has mostly been in first place for many years, under previous general managers, and that payroll is the highest in sports, as well as playing 80 games vs. terrible NL West competition, they shrug their shoulders and head for the free eats.
Since the message is always sunny, the majority of fans boast of “the Azul” and liken the slugs on the field in 2016 to some of the greatest to ever wear the Dodgers uniform. I figured out some time back that besides mass hypnosis, a lot of this was because the fans are in their teens and twenties and even early thirties and just do not know better. In their lifetimes – think of that! – in their lifetimes they have never seen a truly great Dodgers team. Their parents – yes, parents – mention names like Garvey, Lopes, Baker, Smith, Sutton, Fernando, Cey, etc., etc. and they look starry eyed at their folks while wearing a Luis Cruz or Charlie Culberson jersey. i.e. their perspective is skewed. There is no saving them. They root the laundry Jerry Seinfeld used to mention fans cheering on. “Who is Jerry Seinfeld?”, they ask.
If you try to appeal to them with logic and commonsense you are wasting your time. They are loyal to the core, just like Guggenheim wants. They need these young ones to buy hats and shirts and jerseys and get fanatical so the money keeps rolling in. I will sometimes, for fun, make obvious comments on something that is screwed up and I get attacked or responded to with some confused remark. It’s like explaining the sequence of events in “Pulp Fiction” to a Dalmatian.
I can’t fault the young and blissfully ignorant – hell, if the media is so enthralled with mediocrity, why should a vaping kid with a black Dodgers lid be any different? The Dodgers are dead – long gone, a ghost. The final lap of Vin Scully’s career is superficially celebrated but the majority of fans either can’t wait for the old codger to disappear or have no idea why this “boring old guy” is famous anyway.
The Dodgers have one month to sail into the playoffs – helped by a final month full of weak West foes – or choke. The team is interesting – the pen holding its own for the most part, save for various shitheels Friedman tries here and there, but overworked. The rotation is crap on a stick – the worst I can remember in all my years of following the Dodgers. The lineup is a patchwork any given night since analytics maintain you can’t throw your “best” players out there, you must always be clever and innovative – keep them guessing, seems to be the Friedman/Zaidi mantra.
The Dodgers score 10 runs or 0. They hit homers that get the fans jumping up and down but have trouble hitting in the clutch, moving runners over, stealing bases, taking extra bases and basically all the staples that baseball run producing is supposed to entail. When I wonder how this will play in October, some wet behind the ears whelp thumps his chest mightily and like Bill Shaikin himself, says, “Scoreboard! First place!”
No one cares that with 80 games against doormats and a payroll double most other teams, one should expect a degree of success. Again, logic is lost on the clueless. And after all, who am I to rain on their parade? If they want to think the 2016 Dodgers are the team that will break the jinx and bring a parade, full of rioting and hospitalization, to LA, so be it. The game is their game, after all. The young have inherited the Earth – the VMAs, Instagram, Snapchat and Kylie Jenner have deemed it so.
I am from a long past generation. Antiquated ideas that flawed data has determined is passé. In my twisted world a general manager would start with pitching – build a strong bullpen that is several power arms deep, shortening games and work back to the rotation. The rotation would consist of three very good starters – healthy, reliable, and capable of going deep into games. The four spot would be someone who could also reliably take the ball and pitch competitively. The fifth spot could be a veteran or a tryout for a top pitching prospect. The farm would have several other pitching prospects and a few veterans capable of stepping in in a pinch. I know this sounds like madness to the young, but it was the way baseball pitching staffs were considered and put together for many years. I know, the data has shown that it’s better to use a jumble of minor league lifers and reclamation projects, and that a rotation can consist of anyone with a pulse. Or who once had a pulse.
Again, I recall Dodgers rotations that were amazing, and some that were passable. I don’t recall a time when day to day, every month, no one could say who the day’s starting pitcher was going to be. I don’t recall such a cavalier attitude being given to pitching. This is, was, the LA Dodgers, after all. The team’s pitching has been legendary. Or at least that old man behind the mic has claimed.
I am at a loss how a front office full of geniuses – more cooks in the kitchen than Nobu – can spend so much money and have so little to show for it on the field. I mean, a payroll over $200 million while half the lineup, the starting pitcher and several members of the bullpen were just recently UPS drivers is quite an amazing achievement. How do you spend that much and get this little? It’s an art, I tell you.
The fans, guardians of finance companies’ wallets, will support any move the front office makes. Pay Zack Greinke until he’s nearing 40? Bah! Give the money to a few untried Cubans instead and overpay some guys coming off major injuries. Spread that green around. Any moron could look at the winter free-agent market and sign a few solid arms, but it takes brains to wait until all of those players are gone and then pull something out of your ass. Remember, it’s poker. Wait it out. Wait till every possible move that makes sense has happened, then pounce. Cleverness is more important than commonsense.
I also like how when trouble is evident, the brain trust waits longer still, and lets word leak that something huge is coming. Then the fans get all excited, chattering to themselves about this team’s ace or that team’s best bat and lo and behold, without fail, Friedman and Zaidi hit speed dial in the 11th hour and call on their buddies in Tampa and Oakland to bail them out. Hoarding prospects like nuggets during the California Gold Rush, the duo then foists over kids for anything their old friends want to give them. Rich Hill, old, a walk free-agent – on the disabled list! – and a walk free-agent Josh Reddick who was on the DL himself and has about as much pop as Tim Tebow, assuming the ball is an announced batting practice fastball, heralded as a genius move.
A good one was when Friedman had to move clubhouse hero AJ Ellis to get more offense from that all important backup catcher position. Granted, AJ can no longer hit, but if you look through baseball history, or most big league rosters, how many backup catchers do? AJ is a smart player, beloved by his teammates – most especially the guy who wears #22 and is compared to Sandy Koufax – and is essentially another coach or manager in the clubhouse and on the field. Yes, with a rotation in tatters, Friedman felt the need to risk clubhouse chemistry and momentum by moving AJ for another backup catcher. I guess he figured that his new acquisition could pinch hit in the 3rd inning, when one of his horrific starters was lifted, even though it would mean Kike Hernandez or Andrew Toles catching if something happened to passed ball king Yasmani Grandal. Another old guy baseball mindset – who gives a fuck what your backup catcher is hitting? Is he a good catcher? Is he a good game caller? Is he intelligent? AJ is all of these things, Friedman none of them.
There is one month left and I would assume the Dodgers should make the playoffs. The Giants have shown no fight in them in the second half and while the Dodgers’ shortcomings have been noted, I can’t say for certain the Giants have a run left in them. I sense they do, but who knows? So that means the Dodgers could win the West or get the wildcard, thrilling the legion of Southland fans to no end. They will point to progress – how the team made it to the playoffs, forgetting they have for years. If they make the wildcard, it will be heralded as an amazing achievement, especially due to all the injuries. No mention will be made that the geniuses acquired known injury cases – and a July 31st deadline arm already on the DL.
If the Dodgers don’t do well in October, or miss the playoffs altogether, the suck ups in the media and on social media will cite the amazing year in spite of difficulties. Again, no mention will be made that the difficult road wasn’t one that had to be traveled – how an easier road, with a real baseball man (just one, or two – not a consultancy), using both the financial resources available and prospects to shop with, could have been taken.
Kudos will be given to the progress the farm system made, neglecting the fact that almost all of the prospects were inherited from the previous regime. Corey Seager will win Rookie of the Year and get consideration for MVP, but was drafted and cultivated before Friedman and Zaidi slithered into town. Same for Julio Urias. Ditto for Jose De Leon. And others.
It would take an epic collapse for the greedy stiffs at Guggenheim to consider a change so likely Friedman, Zaidi and their merry men are here to stay. This will encourage reporters to write and say nice things about the smart guys in the front office and get fans enthusiastic for 2017. The Dodgers will of course start advertising season tickets for the coming season while many of the young fans throw their blue foam fingers aside and grab Rams and Kings gear.
As most of us longtime Angelenos know, life in LA is about all the diversions. You can get In N Out Burger, see a Kardashian at the Calabasas Commons, hit the beach, believe the Lakers have a shot, sit in traffic on the 405 and smoke your weed out in public in Van Nuys. The City of Angels, the dream factory, a fantasy world where Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are baseball royalty. It’s not necessarily a great time to be a baseball fan in LA, but it’s a wonderful time to be a suck up.
Well, here we are, the eve of July and the Dodgers are in a huge heap of trouble. With a thin rotation, now ace Clayton Kershaw’s back is bothering him. He’s flying back to LA to be examined but knowing Kershaw, he’ll be ok. But, what if he isn’t? Even if he’s fine, maybe a little less Kershaw-esque than he’s been throughout the year, it opens up a discussion I’ve brought up many times since last season, this past winter, this spring and all season long – Andrew Friedman and his Peter Lorre-like henchman, Farhan Zaidi, did a piss poor job of building a starting rotation and pitching staff, especially for a large market team desperately needing a win after 30 seasons, and most especially when payroll is over $230M.
The Dodgers under Friedman had holes last season but the reason they didn’t go deeper in October was the reluctance to add a viable third ace to the rotation. I understand not wanting to deal Corey Seager or perhaps even Julio Urias but to be so stingy with all of the kid pitchers when options like David Price and Cole Hamels were available, cost the Dodgers in 2015. As we knew then and now, Brett Anderson isn’t the answer in important October games. Kershaw did his job. Zack Greinke did his job. Another solid arm would have helped the Dodgers advance, but small market bean counters like Friedman and Zaidi were, well, thinking small. Hoarding young pitchers as if they were the crown jewels. Newsflash to those in decision making positions for big market baseball teams mired in a 30 year drought – you can trade prospects, especially pitchers. What’s the likelihood the kids held are ever going to be on the level of Price or Hamels? Almost none. Big market teams can always buy an arm in a pinch. This doesn’t mean I advocate gutting the farm all the time to win now, but if you can go further than you have been and already have two supreme pitchers (as the Dodgers did last year), you should be all in and do what it takes – save for moving Seager.
But even Seager could have been moved, if the price was right. If you could get Mike Trout, moron Bryce Harper or someone like that, anyone is in play. But let’s assume the Dodgers just needed something extra last July, as they did. If your acquisitions are of the bargain basement variety Friedman made, you end up shorthanded. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are small market, small minded guys who think they are still in those tiny towns. If they were consistent, I wouldn’t have as much to say. But while cheaping out on big league talent, taking flyers instead on reclamation projects and injury marred nobodies, they still manage to spend a fortune on god knows what. All winter long we saw signings of unknown Cubans for lots of money, none of which has helped the Dodgers. Will they someday? Perhaps. But I’d argue with recent releases of the Stan Kasten batch of Cubans, and the failures of Yasiel Puig to put it together, it’s easy to debate that Cuban talent is overrated, especially at the price tags the players sign for. Let’s be frank – would you prefer unknown Cubans with “tools” and “potential” or proven big leaguers? Or strong performers from the Japanese league? (even ones without several injury concerns)
It’s quite a feat to both be extremely cheap and completely fiscally irresponsible. How does one even manage to spend so much and field a team with so little? Gone is Greinke, replaced with Kenta Maeda and several injury question marks there, plus Scott Kazmir, who was out of baseball not long ago. The pipedream of greatness from Mike Bolsinger or rebounds of epic proportion from Brandon McCarthy or Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon Beachy was always far-fetched. Now here we are, the end of June, and the Dodgers flagship radio station, 570 AM in LA, keeps making excuses. Who could have known? Who could expect? Umm, anyone? It was obvious even if Kershaw could stay healthy and win 20-25 games, it would be a challenge for the Dodgers to beat a reloaded San Francisco team. You need strong pitching to win and 1.5 to 2.5 starters isn’t enough. In fact, it’s a step backward from 2015.
Tonight the Dodgers are starting a guy who was pitching in A ball this year. All season long we’ve heard Friedman supporters talking about “depth.” All of the names that are called either fail or get hurt. When you troll the bargain bin, you can’t expect much. It’s unlikely 29 other teams all missed out and you’re just that much smarter than all of the other baseball executives. But that seems to be the case. The Dodgers front office is packed with big egos who consider themselves brighter than everyone else in baseball. It’s moronic, to them, to just go shopping in the off-season and get players that have track record of success, and hopefully good health. It’s too easy, so a deep thinker like Friedman, or one like Zaidi, don’t do things that way. A “dummy” like Ned Colletti would do that, and that’s not how they think. In complete honesty, Ned was a far brighter baseball mind than the idiots running the show now, and I’m the first to admit Ned was no genius, just a fairly competent, experienced baseball guy. The goal of a Friedman run front office is not necessarily to win – the Dodgers were already doing that under Ned and Stan Kasten – but to do it by showing the world they are smarter than everyone else. So if they could win with guys no one had heard of, waiver wire pickups, AAAA castoffs, injury guys, etc., the fruits of victory would taste that much sweeter.
Well, here we are. Excuses being made why everyone is hurt, or why others didn’t pan out. Excuses why the offense is one of the worst in baseball, why the pen has no real set up men and rotating no one’s on any given day. A great pitching staff can compensate for a low producing offense. Dan Evans, shackled by Fox ownership and given almost nothing to spend each winter, managed to field amazing defensive teams with strong pitchers – usually coming with different looks that confused opposing hitters. Evans’ teams were solid and just needed 1-2 more bats, but alas, it was never meant to be. Now here we are today, offensively challenged, still waiting for Puig to explode, but only the pitching is not what it was under Evans. The rotation is thin, the bullpen thin. We are told, wait, keep waiting. It’s been 3 decades, but we must keep waiting. I’d be happy to wait if an answer were on the horizon. I don’t see how you can ask patience while having the highest payroll in baseball. Those are mixed messages. If you have a payroll of what the current Dodgers do, it’s perfectly right for fans to expect it to be a go year. If you are rebuilding for 2018, as Friedman says he is, then payroll should be small. And if you’re building for years from now, you don’t really need Kershaw, who can walk in 2018, or Kenley Jansen, a free-agent after this year, or Adrian Gonzalez, or some of the other stars on the roster.
Dodger fans are divided – either confused, as I am, by what is going on. Or they’re young and never saw a winner. They have no point of comparison and assume this is a Dodgers team like the teams from Flatbush were or the 1970s juggernaut teams. Hey, they were blue caps with white lettering on them.
I feel sorry for fans of the Dodgers, both the old guard and new. The ownership group hired bean counters that have put their massive egos over the good of the fans and city. There is no real plan except to get cheaper, while apparently blowing that massive TV deal’s money and gate on items that can’t help the big club in any capacity. The pipedream is that somewhere down the line there will be a winning Dodger team filled with kids grown on the farm (mostly by Logan White under Ned’s supervision) and every prospect will be a superstar. Payroll will be very low, allowing the Guggenheim Group even larger profits, and isn’t that what America is about nowadays? Forget the fact it almost never works that way – a) that the prospects all hit, and b) that it could ever happen in a large market like LA anyway (or should).
Fans need to stop asking what happened or wondering how Kershaw could get hurt. They have to stop grousing about bad luck and how this could happen to anyone. No, it really couldn’t. Logically if the Dodgers had kept Greinke and added Price, Hamels, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija whoever, they’d have three strong pitchers. They could have added Maeda, injury question marks or no, to the lower part of the rotation. Having 4-5 pitchers you know you can count on for the majority of their starts is what you should aim for when constructing a pitching staff. You also need a strong bullpen to shorten games. If you work backward, you can have relievers shorten a game to 6-7 innings, allowing you the luxury of 5-6 inning starts on occasion from your starters. The Dodgers under Friedman gambled with innings in the rotation as well as the pen. This is exactly what happens when you think like this. It’s not a surprise that at some point Kershaw, who has logged a ton of innings, might himself get hurt. It’s not a surprise that other guys either couldn’t deliver or are hurt. It’s what you would expect if you were paying attention and not focused on showboating how bright you are.
The Dodgers now are in a quagmire that not much can be done about. I would be surprised even if Friedman and Zaidi wanted to make a big trade or two, if it would be enough. The holes are throughout the boat, not just one or two places. The solution is easy and complex. To get the Dodgers sailing right, Guggenheim has to admit their mistake, bring in an actual baseball person and clean house. This means losing all the cooks in the current kitchen, as well as most of Dave Roberts’ know-nothing coaches, all hand-selected by Friedman, of course. This would be quite a shakeup and of course it wouldn’t help in 2016. The Dodgers are playing for a wildcard and even if they get there, should Kershaw win that game, then what? There are few options behind Kershaw and may not be until Urias develops into a solid option who can log 200 innings. Of course by that time, Kershaw will likely have opted out and be wearing a Rangers hat. Then the question for Friedman apologists will be, what do we have behind Urias?
Does Pepto-Bismol come in blue?
The believers are still out there but at this point they are truly delusional or just grossly ill-informed. Unless Clayton Kershaw wins 25-30 games with his current stellar ERA, it would be hard to imagine the Dodgers, as constructed by dueling dingbats Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, making the post-season. The Giants are a better team, as are many other teams around the National League.
The injuries keep mounting and Friedman’s so-called “depth” is all but depleted. In fairness, it never really existed anyway – merely a battle cry for Sabermetrics fans and the truly hopeful. As mediocre pitchers hit the disabled list, their supposed replacements either fail or never make the bell. A few weeks ago amateur pundits (Moneyball fans) were boasting of great arms like Mike Bolsinger, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy, etc. ready to step in and lead the little Dodgers ($236M little) to the promised land. Well, Bolsinger is what he is, Ryu’s shoulder looks like a career ender, Urias is 19 and has 60 innings left in his arm before being shut down (we hope he gets shut down, or else he’ll be lost for 1.5-2 years), and McCarthy is off wherever JD Drew, Andruw Jones, Darren Dreifort and other non-performers disappeared to when getting fat paydays before pulling up with an ache or pain.
The Dodgers are what I and many of you always assumed they would be – mediocre. If you are being honest (a hard feat for many who bleed blue and want so badly to think front office geeks know more than people with actual baseball experience – and common sense), the Dodgers have Kershaw, Kenta Maeda who currently has a hand concern, as well as shoulder and elbow concerns, and nothing else of note in the rotation. The pen is worse, believe it or not, with Kenley Jansen and a cast of gasoline cans. No matter what spreadsheet you look at, no one has ever won anything with 2.5 pitchers out of 11-12. Depth would really need to step up to help Friedman/Zaidi’s Dodgers.
I tune in to 570 radio, the Dodgers flagship station in Los Angeles, and listen to the sports guy buffoons making excuses all the time. Today they were suggesting Urias isn’t really being forced into action out of desperation, but merely a test to see if he can respond to major league beat downs. A moment later they asked resident apologist David Vassegh who else could come up from the minors to help – since Urias is being asked to face the Cubs tomorrow in place of Maeda, rather than his scheduled start (replacing herky jerky and disabled Alex Wood on Saturday vs. the lowly Braves). There was a pause, or two, and some muttering, before saying pretty much no one was around who could help the big team.
I want to remind you all that injuries are part of baseball and they can happen to many teams at any time. That said, this was all predicted well in advance by me, and some of you. If you spend winters acquiring garbage and using tea leaves to figure out your rotation and bullpen, this is exactly what will happen. Many of you defended Friedman and Zaidi, saying those in disagreement didn’t know anything, were out of touch and didn’t understand the genius of the depth being acquired. Way too much confidence was put into the returns of either average at best arms or seriously damaged ones. To assume the likes of Brandon Beachy, McCarthy, Bolsinger and Ryu were going to suddenly become large market saviors was absurd. I love Ryu, but as I said last year, all winter and this March through now, to think he was going to come right back and perform, or even make the bell, was unrealistic. Shoulders, sadly for him, are career enders. If he makes some starts this year, consider Friedman lucky. More than likely he will not and certainly not be very consistent. That is my guess, I wish I were wrong.
The Dodgers, if you want to call them that, are a team in turmoil. It will be interesting to see how loyal the Guggenheim collective is with Paul DePodesta II. Friedman has seemed overmatched from the get-go. He has made a plethora of moves, bet on longshots and only occasionally does anything pan out. I’d say Trayce Thompson, so far, has worked out, but not much else. Big bets such as Chris Hatcher and the rest of his bullpen finds would be in the minors for most good teams. To think this is the end result of a $236M payroll makes it all quite criminal.
Say what you want about Ned Colletti, the guy turned around an abysmal (very similar to this team, as a matter of fact) DePodesta roster in one year and made it a fairly representative contending team. Ned made a few mistakes, but I’d argue they were nowhere near the number or level of Friedman/Zaidi. In the end, you could watch the teams Ned put together without having a puke bucket at hand. They felt like Dodgers teams – or at least as much as they could given the owner was fleecing the brand and the fans for every cent he could.
Friedman/Zaidi are betting on 2018, which to me is merely a way to ask for pardon for several more years of incompetence. If you project down the line, you can imagine Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Urias in the mix, and if lucky, a couple of the kid pitchers we always hear about. But to assume all, or most, of the kid pitchers will deliver, or even stay healthy, is a bit far-fetched. What Sabermetrics lovers forget is that every prospect doesn’t make it and those who do often become average or below starters or relievers. They become backups and depth. To think Friedman’s bet that his Cubans and holdovers from Ned and Logan White will all be stars and the team can have a low payroll (apparently paramount to Guggenheim’s end plan) and be composed of young kids is not only false but should be unacceptable.
Teams comprised of kids should be left for cities where financially that is the only option. A contending team, and of course a large market team, should have a mix of stars, veterans and kids. If you look at the rosters of teams most likely to be around in Oct, the Dodgers do not stack up. If you look toward Friedman’s go-year of 2018, anything resembling a star likely will be gone from LA, and this might include Kershaw. So a plan to wait two more years and hope all the kids are ready to perform is a bad plan for sure.
The only way out of this hinges on what Guggenheim baseball folks think of Friedman’s handiwork. If they like the idea of trimming down payroll and collecting TV money for games no one can see, as well as gate, merchandise, etc., then perhaps Dodgers fans will be subjected to this product for a generation. If Guggenheim, perhaps, sees the brand tarnishing, the gate slowing, and/or need a scapegoat (as Frank McCourt did when he hired, then fired, Depodesta), maybe Friedman and Zaidi are shit canned as they should be. Let’s hope Mark Walter, who seemed to steer Dave Roberts into the manager’s seat over Friedman insider Gabe Kapler, is getting as fed up as most of us are.
It would take Friedman/Zaidi to be fired to turn this around, not that it would be easy for anyone. It would be a ground-up rebuild, likely jettisoning the roster filler acquired by the geeky duo. The new architect (let’s assume they are competent and bright like Dan Evans or Ned or some other experienced baseball man or woman) could cut ties with those Friedman is clearly too sentimental about. AAAA players he favors, bullpen torches and the walking wounded and/or incompetent can be sent away. Some of the veterans or stars could be flipped to bring in younger players perhaps, not necessarily blue chips but major league qualified younger players. The Yasiel Puig experiment could mercifully end (deal him to Texas for Jurickson Profar – the Rangers would likely be intrigued, Profar is blocked at short and second anyway). I would feel more confident because we would still have the prospects Ned and Logan White acquired and a smarter person shopping this off-season. But what about 2016? Sorry, this year is a pipe dream most any way you look at it. Kershaw will have to carry the team on his back in a 1988 Orel Hershiser manner, but even Orel had Tim Belcher, Tim Leary and a bullpen.
My hope is that fans continue to speak up and stop buying expensive tickets to games that ultimately don’t matter anyway. If the owners don’t want to televise the games, stay home and find something else to do. I won’t cave and give Guggenheim money until they show a concern for the fans and the historical brand and replace the morons who have created a roster so convoluted only a snarky geek could like it. Andrew Friedman is overmatched or just a stubborn idiot. His skeevy looking sidekick Farhan Zaidi is a poor man’s Peter Lorre . The two have taken the fun out of Dodgers baseball and when I tune in to 570 or see fans chatting blue online, I can’t believe the nonsense going on. The team was poorly created and not prepared. If the goal was to field an inferior product, they’re doing a wonderful job. When mediocre or poor players don’t do well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. When often injured (and barely passable) players don’t find an elixir for all that ails them and come charging to the rescue, it’s not “bad luck.” Under Friedman and Zaidi, the incompetence has reached new levels – which is saying a lot considering this team was owned by McCourt at one time and designed by DePodesta.
If you like what is happening, or are just there for the 35 Kershaw starts, good for you. I wish you all the happiness. The truth can be painful. As a lifetime Dodgers fan, I call it as I see it. The fans have been fucked over for three decades in one way or another and 2018 will not be any different unless the front office is swept clean. Save your money, read a book, see a summer blockbuster, but don’t count on Friedman and Zaidi’s Dodgers for summer enjoyment unless you like torturing yourself.
Happy Opening Day, everyone. Today the Dodgers have as good a chance as anyone of winning their division, the pennant and even the World Series. Enjoy it while you can; tomorrow’s another day.
The Dodgers open the season against the lowly, also Moneyball-inspired, San Diego Padres. Two dogs playing at Petco; apropos. It’s nice the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw face off against the Friars, one of two teams in the West they should finish ahead of. Should.
Fans likely will be impressed by Kershaw’s mastery tonight and if you bet on sports, betting on a Kershaw start would seem money in the bank. Expect the Twitter-verse abuzz with boasts and trash talking in a classy manner becoming of Dodgers fans in recent years. Then the rest of the week there will be excuses, as there always are, for the losses, errors, left runners, injuries, and perhaps even that ownership doesn’t care enough to let 70% of fans in the Los Angeles marketplace see the team’s games on TV.
The other day I jokingly (sort of) remarked how in some ways the Guggenheim ownership group is as bad as the Frank McCourt reign of terror. Immediately simpletons attacked me for suggesting the smiling Magic Johnson fronted group could be anywhere near as bad as the tragedy of the Botox’d regime of old. Umm, that’s the problem – in the Dodgers fan world and America as a whole – stupidity is abundant.
I would say as a fan there is very little difference between a Boston parking lot heir ripping off the fans for his own personal gain and what’s happening now. Each side has left unspeakable scars in Dodgers fans consciousness. Whether it’s McCourt going cheap on stadium security and allowing fans to get hurt or Guggenheim pocketing money while fans are left to imagine what Vin Scully’s years might look and sound like, same bullshit, different day. Both owners also employed Moneyball nerds to dismantle rosters of professional baseball players and insert players no one knows who probably were driving a Sparkletts route a few months previous (no offense to Sparkletts drivers – I have more respect for you than I do sleazy executives and rich investment bankers).
The Dodgers new owners are repeating the sins of the previous – as in America, apparently no one learns from history. When Paul DePodesta destroyed a solid Dan Evans built roster for his own ego – only to appear clever – it was criminal. Guggenheim came in and after quickly giving up on a new direction under Stan Kasten, went the same route McCourt did and hired cost-cutting Sabermetrics guys. The rosters, then and now are sprinkled with unknowns, while in this case, still maintaining a NL high payroll. It’s quite an achievement to have little talent on the field yet spend well over $200M. The 2016 Dodgers have a payroll about $100M higher than the World Champion Kansas City Royals, with a fraction of its talent or heart. One should award the two-headed snake called Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi executives of the year for this feat alone.
The Dodgers spring training was a series of injuries that left the front office dropping the D word (“depth”) every chance they could. They made it sound like it was good players were getting hurt as it tested them even sooner than they imagined. Fans meantime were left scratching their heads and surprised all this great talent Friedman/Zaidi added was hurt – and so fast. Well, when you sign mediocre, often-injured players they tend to be hurt. I’ve said it for years and each season some new bully on Twitter calls me out for being “negative.” Truth = negativity, if it’s not their truth.
It still amazes me that Dodgers fans – way too many of them – side with a front office and ownership team that obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them. For Guggenheim, they gladly doubled the estimated $1B sale price many financial experts assumed they’d have to pay McCourt for the team since they knew full well the TV deal with Time Warner Cable would net $8B, or $6B in immediate profit after paying off McCourt. Add to that baseball’s best gate, merchandise, expensive beer and hot dogs, parking, etc. and it’s quite a nifty payday. Yet, like lemmings, the Dodgers fans cheer and plan their day at the park, angry at anyone who dares question why a team with a near 30 year championship drought would opt for marginal minor league utility players in starting roles. As Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “Fans root for laundry.”
These are not the Dodgers I grew up with, rooted for, and this includes even more recent Dodgers teams. I loved Dan Evans’ underfunded, huge hearted teams, and to a slightly lesser degree the teams Ned Colletti put together that featured smart big league players and were always a player short (since the owner needed daily hair styling at his mansion). But as I witnessed Paul DePodesta destroy a solid roster, I’ve seen it happen again. While I feel sorry for Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez, I feel sadder for the idiots who dedicate more than just their summers – perhaps every day of their lives – to a team that stopped being the Dodgers of old long ago.
Instead of smart, motivated players the fans are supposed to pay for (live, you can’t watch on TV) jokesters and career minor leaguers, or castoffs from other organizations. The saving grace is kids – the farm Logan White and Colletti cultivated, mostly. I have always been a big fan of the prospects, and still am, so I’m very excited to see how Corey Seager’s career goes, as well as some of the others, but I’m sorry, in a market as large as Los Angeles, with that aforementioned near three decade drought, to construct a team around kids is sad. With the always talked about wherewithal of Guggenheim, there has to be a bigger sense of urgency than to wait to see if the kid pitchers in the system pan out. As I’ve told people for years, prospects are currency – not each makes it, and as often as they bolster your big league roster directly, equally they are there to be used in case of need to acquire great big league players in trade. Anyone who covets prospects to the extent they assume each will be an impact player on the roster is fooling themselves. Their value means more in smaller markets anyway, where money isn’t plentiful. The fact that Plan A is the kids is telling. Guggenheim wants to extract far more than $6B out of fans in Los Angeles.
This isn’t meant to attack the kids – the Dodgers have good ones and they are probably the lone reason for excitement in 2016 and beyond. As good teams got better over the winter, the Dodgers famously did nothing. Then the spring injuries, with 10 players starting the season on the DL. Friedman/Zaidi apologists will have you believe this is a freak occurrence, but they’re not. Like last season, I called this in the winter. If you build your team like DePodesta or Friedman/Zaidi have, this is what you get. The only time this philosophy should be your go-to is if you are in that tiny market that financially has no other way to compete. Friedman has brought his Tampa mindset to Los Angeles, and don’t think that’s by coincidence. Just as McCourt brought in Oakland celebrity DePodesta in to cut costs, Guggenheim has with Friedman, and then Zaidi.
The fans will need to decide what they want to do. Will they continue to go along with this odd method of spending a lot of money on random pieces while cutting obvious good ones, or will they boycott? It took some time for fans to stand up to McCourt and maybe the same thing needs to happen again. Could the Dodgers win the West? I would say no, but I suppose it’s possible. But does it matter? The Dodgers won three Western titles in as many years and still can’t win in October. With a thin rotation and marginal pen, I can’t imagine October success even if the opportunity arose. The Moneyball faithful would say, well, this is by design – playoff baseball is too hard to predict from a data perspective. I would counter with that’s why good teams build teams like Dan Evans did, and even Colletti did – getting as many good or at least proven players as they can.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence you look at the top contending teams and see known names, talented players, and a lot of them, on the rosters. Then you look at the Dodgers roster and outside of a few names, you are left with unknowns, question marks, injury risks and the aged. The only way to celebrate this brand of Dodgers baseball is if you’re either delusional or brainwashed. Anyone who would take the Dodgers current roster over the Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, etc. is stupid or so in love with the cleverness of Moneyball they’re ripe for Scientology membership.
We will see how 2016 shapes up. I sense it will be a very painful season for Dodgers fans who honestly feel we deserve better. For the apologists, the possibly mentally ill, it will be a celebration of numbers and math that has no basis of fact. While the top teams move into October and play for a World Series ring, the Dodgers fans will be snapping at one another about what changes need to be made and how to get more very average minor league players from other organizations into the Dodgers lineup and rotation. Three decades and counting.
Happy New Year, everybody. Although under 12 hours old, 2016 is looking to be an active one for Dodgers commentary. This morning I awoke to a great exchange by the ever-wise Dodger Oracle (follow on Twitter @TheDodgerOracle) and several clueless Dodgers fans. One exchange include pearls of wisdom from someone who calls himself Utility Fan, perhaps because he idolizes utility men starting in the Dodgers infield. Here are a few of his brilliant thoughts…
These nuggets are indicative of a brand of fan I can’t identify with. It’s beyond the Stockholm Syndrome I always chat about, wherein fans feel some obligation to rich executives and even richer owners, rather than fans who struggle all week at work to earn money to take their fans to a ballgame. I guess it’s why Donald Trump is so popular.
This mentality is an offshoot of earlier generations of fans who booed players who were once Dodgers and who come back in different uniforms, whether they left on their own or were traded away. Now don’t get me wrong, if a prickly character like Gary Sheffield comes back into town, boo at will, but someone like Mike Piazza, who came up in the system and was a star for many years? Or Shawn Green, who conducted himself with the utmost of class while in blue and fought Paul DePodesta as the geeky GM tried to ship him away? They’re booing a guy who did local charity work and after each home run gave his batting gloves to kids sitting in the stands. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t today.
It’s odd if you have a pro-Dodgers/anti-rich guy attitude you’re labeled a villain by these folks. Of course I wear that as a badge of honor since it means the very people I try to get thinking are upset (thought is hard for them). Today (Happy New Year!) I received an irate response to a recent article I wrote on this very blog. First of all, I know my ideas (reason, common sense) aren’t for everyone. I don’t expect folks who disagree with me to read my words and I don’t care to sway them. They, after all, have to look at themselves in the mirror every day and have people in their lives already who don’t like or respect them. I would say if my articles or tweets upset you, please do not read them. There are plenty of thoughtful, intelligent people out there who enjoy and share a like sensibility. The miserable and snarky are welcome to follow a Sabermetrics sycophant or other executive lover’s words.
I will finish this brief New Year’s edition of Dodger Therapy with the earlier mentioned retort on my recent article It’s indicative of this type of mental illness that proliferates baseball fans the country over, but especially the Dodgers fans now that pinheads are calling the shots in the front office. I will show both the words of this poster, grabarkewitz, and my responses. Enjoy, and have a great day with family and friends and a truly wonderful 2016.
“You sure you are not Plaschke because I haven’t read such moronic dribble in my whole life. For all of things you blame this front office for, you seem to avoid the big thing – they have only been in charge for one year. First, they have to reverse the seven years of Ned Colletti’s regime and before that rebuild what was destroyed under the McCourts. As of today, we have the number one farm system and it didn’t take tanking like the Cubs or Astros, but using our financial might to rebuild what was broken.”
Thank you for your kind words. I would say first off that do we know the Dodgers have the #1 farm system right now? It was #3 during last season and that included Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Scott Schebler, Chris Reed and Hector Olivera, who are all in the big leagues, the last three with other teams. Of what’s left, most were in the system before Andrew Friedman and his little gremlin Farhan Zaidi came to power.
I keep hearing fans touching themselves over all the draft picks the Dodgers are accumulating or could get which is nice, except for the reality that many times draft picks amount to nothing and if last June’s draft is any indication of the talent evaluating might of Friedman, Zaidi and gym rat minor league talent evaluator Gabe Kapler, I’m a bit leery.
You’re right the Dodgers have been using Guggenheim’s financial might to acquire picks and young players, but is this the best use of money when you had a finite window with the world beating pair of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and now are left with three years of Kershaw before that window also closes? For example, is it wise to celebrate $60M being paid to Hector Olivera in essence to get Jose Peraza, who was then spun for a potentially interesting White Sox arm and two older prospects? Or, was it wise to pay $80M for major league players to play against the Dodgers last year? Perhaps if it amounted to October success, but it did not. Which leads me to your obvious Ned Colletti bashing.
Personally, I would take Ned back in a minute if we could. Since he’s currently on the payroll, perhaps the same influence in ownership that nixed Kapler as manager and chose Dave Roberts, will eventually grow weary of the brainy arrogance of Friedman and his henchmen and put Ned back into the driver’s seat. This isn’t to say I love Ned, I don’t. I did however always think his criticism was unfair. Outside of a very manly mustache, Ned put together good fundamental teams that always gave the Dodgers a chance to compete. In July, he made straightforward trades that addressed weaknesses. There were no needlessly complicated moves such as Friedman’s three-team thriller with Atlanta and Miami last July that didn’t really help the team at all.
I also find it intriguing that fans slam Ned as if it’s a sport, yet his Dodgers teams did exactly what Friedman’s did – win the West. In fact, Ned’s teams, as you point out, under great financial limitations by Frank McCourt, were playing for the league championship. Until Friedman’s teams do better in October, and the way he’s been building the teams (Moneyball style), that seems unlikely, it would be unfair to say this regime is markedly better than Ned’s. Also, what of Stan Kasten? While Ned is often blamed for shortcomings in the end of his time as GM, you and I both know uber genius Kasten was brought in and had final say over everything player personnel wise. Worth mentioning as it shows that since taking over ownership from McCourt, Guggenheim has changed plans multiple times and all fans have to show for it is a TV deal that keeps 70% of the Los Angeles area from watching Vin Scully’s last days behind the microphone.
“The fact that you cannot see the plan is mystifying to me because is quite obvious. Getting younger while also bridging the gap to the farm system. Kendrick fit that role as did Rollins. Trading Gordon filled three big holes – catching depth (which we didn’t have), depth on the ML roster and a set up guy. In my opinion, it was a great trade for us. The plan this year is very easy to spot – get younger, be less beholden to the overpaid (no matter how you slice it, Greinke is overpaid and I, for one, am glad we are not on the hook for that contract) and improve our depth. I can even see the Utley signing for what it is, improving depth at a marginal cost.”
Thanks for allowing me insight into your superior intellect. I would counter, I suppose, by saying the fact that you SEE the plan is even more mystifying than me missing it. If the idea is to “get younger while also bridging the gap to the farm system” I’m not sure we’ve seen that much of that happening. Chase Utley for $7M to replace 32-year-old Howie Kendrick or 27-year-old Dee Gordon is getting younger? I would say in reality Utley is older than Howie and Howie was older than Dee. The truth of the matter is Moneyball connoisseurs do not value the running game, so they decided to “trade high” on Dee. Zaidi himself this past season admitted they underestimated what that high was as Dee surpassed his 2014 season by quite a bit.
Allowing second ace Zack Greinke to leave and fans (Stockholm Syndrome) citing his age (32) as a good reason for his departure would be more meaningful if Friedman didn’t then sign Scott Kazmir (32) to replace him as the #2 (assuming, of course, if they don’t package prospects for a better #2 – after all, “it’s still early”). There is definite risk in signing ANY pitcher long-term, but one could argue with a decent track record of durability, monster numbers and an athletic body, Greinke might be worth banking on. Especially, I would say, if you had that incredible 1-2 punch of Kershaw/Greinke that few teams (none?) could match. I would say that’s where that “financial might” you noted would be useful – moreso than Olivera’s rich signing bonus and eating $80M to make players hit home runs against the Dodgers.
I’ll be devil’s advocate and say Friedman WILL still tinker and perhaps try to add a more legitimate #2 to slot behind Kershaw, but for now the reality is many optimistic fans are trying to suggest Kazmir makes the Greinke exit more palatable and I’d say it really doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Kazmir and yesterday’s addition of Kenta Maeda (who I like) definitely adds more quality innings to the lower part of the 2016 rotation than what Friedman foisted on us in 2015, but neither is Zack Greinke. Why is this important? Well, Moneyball loves to use a jumble of numbers to predict how many individual stats can be mixed together to win X numbers of games. That’s a nice theory and has success during a 162 game season (witness last year’s tepid West title). On the other hand, as Billy Beane himself has said, the algorithm goes out the window in Oct. That explains why the Dodgers folded rather quickly, even with “superior intellect” in charge of decision making (Friedman and Zaidi geniuses are better than Stan Kasten as solo genius, I guess, though result was no different).
Your comment about the Dee Gordon trade being “great” is even more glowing than Zaidi’s comment, which I noted earlier. You’re also wrong in the package the Dodgers received in return for the award-winning second baseman. Essentially what the Dodgers got was Howie Kendrick, who is now suddenly deemed “too old”, Chris Hatcher, who was horrendous until the end of 2015 and Austin Barnes. Yasmani Grandal, the catcher you credit the Gordon trade for acquiring, actually came from San Diego in the Matt Kemp move that also cost $35M in cash. So if you think Grandal’s .282 first half, .162 second half, and .000 in October was a sensational haul for Kemp, plus $35M, you have every right to that opinion. But no, trading a young(ish) All-Star/Gold Glove/Defensive Player of the Year in Gordon may not be a complete slam dunk, as it turns out.
Oh, and you note Utley came at marginal cost. $7M is a lot for an old player with a history of injury concerns. I’m not a fan by any means, but the Nationals just signed Stephen Drew for $3M (that’s less than half) and Drew had more home runs, more RBI and a higher OPS in 2015. So if you want to be concerned with the owners’ wallet, be fair and admit the Utley deal wasn’t a youth movement and didn’t come at a great price.
“Lastly, you lost all credibility the moment you made the claim that keeping Gordon would’ve translated into more wins. How many more wins in ’15 from ’14 did the Fish get with Gordon in their lineup? Don’t bother looking it up – they won six less games, in a weaker division with less injury issues than the Dodgers. You can have your asterisks on the back of baseball cards, I will take what I am seeing for the 2016 Dodgers, another division title and in the playoff crapshot, maybe a ring. I like our odds a whole lot better with this front office than that under Ned Colletti.”
Well, as I said in the opening, you are entitled to your opinion and by no means should you read my tweets or articles if they offend you (I would not read yours). We discussed all of this but I guess I will leave it as we shall see. I don’t personally believe the Dodgers (Fangraphs would disagree) can expect to win the West with both San Francisco (3 titles in 5 seasons) and Arizona (they won much more recently than the Dodgers) greatly improved. It would take an addition like Sonny Gray, another arm or two in the bullpen and a bat or the complete maturity of Yasiel Puig to honestly convince me the Dodgers could cruise to a West crown (cruise too strong a word, even with a pitcher like Gray, the Dodgers have their work cut out for them).
Blaming Dee Gordon’s amazing season on the Marlins losing games has no basis in reality, so I’ll let that go. If you honestly believe having the batting champion and Gold Glove at second over Utley and/or .27o minor league career hitter, utility man Kike Hernandez at second will equate to more wins, much less more excitement, I don’t know what to say.
I am happy you are enthralled with the math geeks in the front office. I personally like a more traditional approach, such as Dan Evans, or straightforward, like Ned, or if it includes lots of analytics (they are important, don’t get me wrong, just need to be used in conjunction with actual baseball IQ and common sense), Theo Epstein. Theo, for example, uses numbers but when given resources, such as he was in Boston and now Chicago, acquires good players. You don’t see a lot of confusing, multi-team deals that you have to squint at, look sideways, and then argue throughout the year and winter if the team improved. It’s pretty evident, given his track record with Boston and Chicago, Theo’s teams improved immensely. With Friedman and Zaidi and whatever dorks they have tied up in back, it’s harder to say.
Have a very Happy New Year, everyone. I think we all have the same goal, but some of us just prefer to sniff the rarefied air of executives’ asses. I prefer freshly mowed grass, a little old fashioned organ music and a bag of peanuts.