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.
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.
The 2015 Dodgers season fooled a lot of people – either casual fans, Moneyball lovers or the just delusional. The season went exactly as it had to, given the mismanagement of new genius Andrew Friedman. In case you hadn’t noticed, Friedman’s team of consultants fielded a less competitive team than stocky Ewok lookalike Ned Colletti did. Some have deluded themselves into thinking this year was better… newsflash: it was not.
The Dodgers have A LOT of work to do to get this 30-year drought off their back. As I noted in previous articles, I see them going backward, not forward. There isn’t a single area of the team that doesn’t need fixing. The front office through the field coaches to the lineup and pitching. The fans too could use some self-improvement – read the article I posted last night about the decline of twitter and social media as a whole due to mean-spirited mob mentality.
Very few good things happened this year and for anyone who bought a ticket, paid too much for parking, overpriced beer, food and gear, I sympathize with you. Your hearts are in the right place, but you were all duped. The Guggenheim ownership group has done very little right since coming in, while somehow making in-stadium fans feel things are markedly better than they used to be. Perhaps in terms of massive brain trauma they are, but the team itself, the brand, has almost never been lower in all the years I’ve followed the Dodgers. Let us begin…
I would say the good is very little. The only things I can see Friedman and his suits did well were obvious things I noted as must-haves in 2014. They focused on defense (even this tarnished with the poor trade of Juan Uribe to Atlanta) and got rid of clubhouse distractions Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. They missed one however in believing Yasiel Puig could be transformed without his enablers around – he couldn’t. Puig regressed across the board and for those who used to criticize me for saying Puig would be lucky to have a career like Raul Mondesi’s (assuming his ceiling was far above Mondy’s), you were wrong. Puig was a trouble spot, loafer and unhelpful (while necessary) part of the team all season long.
So defense for a team built around pitching is good, even though outside of two great starters, I would argue they didn’t build around pitching. And as noted, the chemistry fix was smart, but they didn’t complete the job. So all in all the good is at best a B-.
The Dodgers fault from the get-go was allowing Friedman total control of every aspect of the team. He doesn’t seem to be Theo Epstein smart, and even Theo has enough humility to hire good people around him (Joe Maddon, etc.). Friedman, like most egotistical executives in all walks of life, clearly dictated how the Dodgers would play baseball in 2015. I can’t point blame at Don Mattingly or his coaches nearly as much as I can at Friedman. The buck stops with him.
Starting with devaluing Dee Gordon and causing a void of speed and leadoff presence atop the lineup to blowing out players and paying their salaries to play elsewhere (sometimes within the division), to trying to prove his superior intelligence by cherry picking disastrous players either with injury histories or no histories (like Paul DePodesta, Friedman loves AAAA nobodies that prove time and again to be nobodies for a reason), 2015’s shortcomings should rest squarely in the hands of the architect. Friedman WANTED this team the way it was constructed and way it played, so I’m giving him full credit.
Anyone who knows baseball understands pitching wins. The Dodgers pitching – save for the two aces – was always going to be a question mark. Brett Anderson was better than expected in terms of health, but that was always a risky pick up given his physical track record. Brandon McCarthy has always been marginal and also a physical nightmare. The slew of arms Friedman had coming and going on a near daily basis were a who’s who of baseball trivia, none of them making an impact.
A team without a full rotation and very thin bullpen has no place in October, so another first round ouster is no surprise to me. And now one of the aces is leaving, or could be signed at a greater price, for more years, and entering his middle 30s with a lot of mileage on his golden arm, so how the 2016 Dodgers pitching staff will look is anyone’s guess. I will say it has to be better thought out and deeper. There’s something to be said for adding known commodities with a history of health. Not knowing who will pitch a given day, who can come out of the pen, etc. is not a way a front running team should operate. Friedman’s lack of understanding, or brash egotism, sunk the 2015 Dodgers from the start.
But the troubles go deeper than the pitching. The offense, except when clicking in spurts against very bad NL West competition, was a strangely crafted bunch with a failing philosophy of swinging for the fences – the more pull hitting, the better. For the majority of 2015 you saw very little going with the pitch, hitting strategically with runners on base, etc. Friedman, like other Moneyballers before him, wanted a lot of homeruns and to his credit, and Big Mac’s excitement to preach this principle, it worked. The Dodgers hit a lot of homeruns with at face value a not very homerun-friendly lineup. Needless to say it didn’t impress me because swinging for the fences isn’t a great hitting philosophy for an entire team.
The offense worked, except when it didn’t. It didn’t, for example, against good teams, in any month, let alone October. If you look at the 2015 Dodgers record vs. each team, they fattened up against patsies in the West – San Diego, Colorado and Arizona, and had a losing record vs. most good teams – for example, EVERY team that played in this year’s post-season. For good measure, the hated Giants even beat the crap out of the Dodgers.
If you can’t beat good teams, you shouldn’t consider yourself a serious threat to win the World Series. Fans believe with their heart, and are drunk half the game anyway, so to truly feel the Dodgers were a good team this year was ignoring the truth. I’m sure Friedman, a man who relishes data, had to be concerned with the fact his team only could beat bad teams. I think that became apparent with desperate lineup switches in September and October and suddenly leaning heavily on Corey Seager, who wasn’t even deemed promotion-worthy till late in the year.
Friedman needs to stop being Al Davis and hire the right people on the field to make the moves. His baseball philosophy isn’t based in reality. Perhaps he subscribes to Billy Beane’s idea that it’s his job to get the team to October based on statistical probability of what players reasonably should do over the course of the year – once there, it’s impossible to predict. That works fine in Oakland, perhaps, but with a $300M payroll and ability to absorb any amount of contracts or luxury tax penalty? Does. Not. Compute.
While Friedman should be held most responsible for this year’s team, I am not giving a pass to Donnie and his staff. I think, as I said earlier, top to bottom there are problems with the team – from deficiencies to bloat, poor philosophy and unfounded ego.
Donnie is not the great thinker you’d want to manage a top ball club. Luckily for the Dodgers, this isn’t a top ball club. Donnie got the job by being a good soldier under Joe Torre and was a good hitting coach. He apparently is in demand for some reason in Miami, so likely Friedman will toss him out as his scapegoat and Donnie will bask in the Florida sun. That’s okay with me because while a great former player and a decent guy, he’s not a terrific X’s and O’s kind of guy.
I’m not sure who should manage the Dodgers next and it really doesn’t matter what you or I think anyway. Friedman will do what Friedman does and do what he wants. Personally, I’d love to see Friedman sent packing and Dan Evans brought back to construct the team, and Alex Cora hired to manage. The team needs an influx of smarts and not the kind data loving pundits fantasize about either, but actual baseball IQ.
So Donnie will go, the fans will be happy, and neglect the fact that the house is rotten from the inside out. Moving Donnie out will NOT make the Dodgers suddenly a great team, maybe not even a really good team. Donnie and his coaches – all could go in my opinion, especially useless Mac – are all tired and had difficulty getting the most out of the botched collection of players Friedman handed them. I really can’t blame them. When Justin Turner, a former waiver wire bench player, is your big threat, you have trouble. When Kike Hernandez is the best thing you got in a trade for NL batting champ and stolen base leader Dee Gordon, you have trouble. When you’re leaning on journeymen outfielders in a pennant race, guys who weren’t even in the big leagues until they arrived in LA, you have trouble. THIS is a $300M team? Friedman spends as much and as inefficiently as George W. Bush.
Turn over the entire coaching staff and perhaps with Friedman letting HIS staff (he inherited the current group) handle the on-field action, things will improve. It couldn’t get much worse.
The Dodgers won the West in a down year for the Giants and with three other dogs in the race. Beating up on bad teams and losing to anyone with a pulse isn’t “winning” – not with a payroll and expectations the Dodgers had going into this season.
Let’s face it; it’s been over three decades since the Dodgers were a dominating team so humility should be practiced by everyone. When I read tweets from Dodgers fans talking shit to the Giants fans, I chuckle. The Giants have won 3 titles recently, so winning the West – with triple the payroll of the enemies from up north, should not be setting you off into a victory lap.
To get back – if even possible – to the Dodgers way, the Dodgers – Guggenheim – need to get smarter. Hiring “smart guys” (walking around referring to yourselves as smart makes me wonder how smart you are anyway) isn’t enough. The smart guys may ultimately “get it” and create a winning formula, but let’s face it, Friedman’s whirlwind of suspect trades and bad signings were his attempt to “get it” for 2015. The end result, as noted, is less satisfying than Ned Colletti teams under evil Frank McCourt, which at least made it to the NLCS.
I think A LOT of work needs to be done. It’s frightening to think how poorly the team played, how bad the hitting philosophy is, the station to station base running, lack of team speed, strikeouts, 3/5 of a bad rotation, soon to perhaps be 4/5, a terrible bullpen, and now no Nancy Bea Hefley and soon, no Vin Scully. Not to mention no TV for the majority of people living in Los Angeles.
While thugs beating the crap out of fans aren’t happening as much, the dark embarrassment of the Dodgers is still alive and well. I would love to say, sign Zack Greinke, that will fix everything, or hire this guy, sign this FA, etc. The truth is there are many, many issues here and it starts with the ownership group, the front office and as they say, the shit rolls downhill. Simply blaming Don Mattingly would be oversimplifying the problem. Mattingly didn’t deal Dee Gordon, didn’t sign Brandon McCarthy, admire Yasmani Grandal for his pitch framing or Kike Hernandez for his tight fitting pants. The team played as well as they could given what they are. Losing a 5 game series to the Mets when you have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke going 4 of the 5 is pretty god awful. All that was missing was Scott Van Slyke trying to out freeze Joe Kelly in a human statue standoff.
The Dodgers need to get A LOT better. It’s up to Guggenheim to figure out how to do that. Calling Dan Evans. Dan Evans to the Dodgers front office please.
The Dodgers will win the West. This will cause many to celebrate and talk shit to Giants fans who can take the high road and just point to the only scoreboard that matters – three WS rings while the Dodgers have chased their tail for three decades.
Winning the division means something if you’re a good team, but the Dodgers are a Jekyll and Hyde team that is only good when their two other-worldly aces start, or if they’re playing incredibly bad clubs. When the other three starters go, or they play teams that are actually good, they convulse and collapse in a heap.
The Dodgers have a few things to consider as they wrap up this relatively easy Sept and head to the post-season. The knee-jerk dreamers in #DodgerFam will curse and throw tantrums at the ideas but here they are…
– The Dodgers post-season success will depend entirely on Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke continuing their Cy Young/MVP pace. Any slip up will cost the Dodgers dearly. Even with the team’s anemic offense and terrible approach to scoring runs, a 1-0 victory is possible any time the two aces take the hill.
– That said, the post-season success really depends on Kershaw. Greinke’s less likely to fold when it counts but let’s face it, after two embarrassing Octobers, if Kershaw makes it three, the Dodgers division win won’t mean much as they’ll all be back home on the couch listening to FOX blowhards call the action when it should be Vin Scully. Kershaw needs to dig deep and win meaningful games, not regular season games that look nice on the stat sheet but ultimately are less pressure-packed. Get that monkey off your back, Clayton or the Dodgers are done. It will especially be interesting if/when Greinke opts out and decides to go to a real team. Then what? Kershaw and Mat Latos vs. the world? 😮
– Is winning the West all that Dodgers fans – and the organization – care about? After last year’s drubbing, many Dodgers fans were laughing at the Giants as they didn’t win the West. No, they just won the WS. In this day and age of baseball, winning the division isn’t that terribly important. If you’re a great team like the Royals or Cardinals, it’s a nice thing to hang your hat on. The Dodgers? Not so much. Let’s see what 2015’s team is all about and what a division win amounts to.
I could go into the offense, the pen, the on field coaches, the front office, etc., but why bother? I’ve had my say about that. All of it is bad, but true. We can reconvene when the Dodgers season ends to see if two incredible aces were enough to win the team a title. If so, it’s $300M+ well spent. I just believe you could get two aces for 1/3 that price and probably a better offensive approach, coaches, front office and of course bullpen. Oh, that bullpen. Rocking gently as if I’ve seen a ghost.
A brief, longer than tweet-length Dodgers commentary…
The natives are restless. They want blood. LA baseball fans, ripe from another quick exit in Oct (read my words and you’ll know this was what should have been expected); want to see someone pay for this latest Dodgers playoff debacle. In my last entry, I labeled three primary goats: Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly and Stan Kasten. So, to no great surprise, just as the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq following Egyptian and Saudi Arabian terrorists attacking on 9/11, the focus is on somebody different. Ned Colletti, he of Oscar appearances without product in his hair, cool retro mustache and more legit testosterone than pretty boys Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, is the publicized scapegoat whose job hangs by a thread.
I am not here to defend and beg for Ned’s GM life, though I have gone to bat for him many times over the years when ill-informed dipshits attacked him. I did so because they were either wrong or devoid of facts. The Dodgers, as I’ve said time and time again, alienating many Twitter nitwits and short-tempered “fans” whose idea of devotion is hand jobs for the players, are a poorly constructed baseball team. They are in fact the anti-Kansas City Royals. The Royals have balance, which is what wins in the post-season. The Dodgers have none of that. The Royals could have been assembled by former Dodgers GM Dan Evans, a guy who understood both Moneyball statistics (even before Billy Beane heard of them) and flesh and blood factors, such as human chemistry, heart, etc. But leave it to Bud Selig to allow a fake rich guy like Frank McCourt to be handed the Dodgers. He then hired “his Theo” – ultra geek and doofus Paul DePodesta – and Evans was sent packing. And now it’s Ned’s turn.
Ned is no Dan Evans. He doesn’t have Evans understanding and smarts. What Ned has (and why he earned my respect years ago) is baseball knowledge. DePodesta relied on Excel spreadsheets and his massive ego, tearing down Dan Evans’ team just because he could. He destroyed a Dodgers team that had just had a 21-7 July record, selling off parts for scraps. His Dodgers roster was a collection of AAAA characters that were overmatched and easily manhandled. Sure, a few good players were mixed in, notably Jayson Werth, who at the time was always hurt and wouldn’t blossom (as usually is the case in LA) until he left town. By and large the roster was – in delicate terms, an embarrassing piece of shit. DePodesta had to be fired to keep the then-hungry villagers from focusing on McCourt, who was busy using the Dodgers as a personal ATM machine and vehicle for real estate transactions. The difference between DePodesta’s ouster and Dan Evans’ and Ned’s is DePo deserved it – Evans not at all, Ned not very much.
I don’t want to go into an exhausting defense of Ned and his mustache. All I will say is you can point to the “bad deals” and I could point to the good – and more, explain the rationale of the bad deals. I also can defend – and have – Fred Claire dealing Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields. I cannot defend Tommy for trading Paul Konerko.
Ned, in my opinion, quickly righted the shit show that was DePodesta’s team, turned the Dodgers into a fairly smart and well-functioning baseball team, and eventually a back-to-back NLCS team. Ned’s teams have won more than they’ve lost and one could argue (I do) that Ned’s two NLCS teams were certainly World Series type clubs, had the owner not been busy looting the pharaoh’s tomb and actually given Ned a bit more support (money) to get the last piece or two needed. This was the case under Dan Evans as well. Evans’ Dodgers were genius teams that played amazing defense, had speed, pitched, pitched in relief and didn’t lose games due to mistakes (again, the anti-2014 Dodgers). Evans though was a victim of Fox, who had tired of baseball and had seen village moron Kevin Malone squander their money on poor player acquisitions. By the time Evans took over, he was working with Confederate money and when a key pieces was needed down the stretch, he had to dumpster dive for old guys like Robin Ventura, Greg Maddux and Jeromy Burnitz. The old guys were game, but their best days had passed. Evans’ Dodgers, with those slick fielding and baseball smart guys like Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora, Dave Roberts, etc., were left at the altar.
My feeling on Ned’s eventual departure is – why? Ned, since Stan Kasten came aboard, is a glorified caddy. It would appear (at least to me) his chief function is finishing up the details after Kasten makes a decision. Ned may have come to the table with some ideas, but as “architect” of those Braves teams, and chief guy in charge of player personnel with the Dodgers, Kasten wasn’t allowing anyone to make deals without his fingerprints all over them. Ned served some purpose to Kasten – perhaps as human shield he could later execute in ISIS fashion, or just an assistant who could finish up the contracts and busy work Kasten didn’t want to.
If you’re a Ned hater – and there are many – ask yourself…
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, the team’s payroll was always in check?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, Ned’s teams seemed to have more balance – defense, pitching, bullpen, especially?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, very frequently Ned would pull off sometimes stunning trades in July and even after?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, Ned always seemed to be busy? Even when he was coy about it (i.e. lots of rumors)?
So if you consider some of these things, either one of two conclusions could be drawn…
– With a massive influx of cash under Guggenheim, “GM” Ned went hog wild spending – a la Kevin Malone – and bought a bunch of crap – a la Kevin Malone.
– Ned just reaffirmed what suspicious fans long thought – that he’s an idiot and time finally caught up to him.
You know my theory. I think Kasten came in, had a plan – bought time by literally buying bloated contracts teams wanted to unload – and let his superstar big money team go as far as they could (first series ouster this year, as it turned out). With this plan, Kasten bought some International talent, refused to deal any kids, and looks at 2013-2015 as placeholder teams that will put butts in the seats, but the “real” Dodgers team will show itself more likely in 2016 (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, etc.).
I’m actually a fan of this plan but always thought if you were going to sink $235M into the current team, why not spend a little more to address the glaring needs – most importantly, the bullpen? The problem with a $235M team, whether it’s a placeholder or not, fans and the baseball world expect something from that investment. So, go all out – go up to $255M and add the relievers needed to win a World Series or two – and then, with all the kids falling into place, bloated fat cats sent packing, etc. – really have a dynasty situation that could linger into 2020. I guess my point is – if your only purpose for acquiring a lot of faded/fading superstars is to sell tickets, eventually you may have to answer for not winning more.
The average Dodgers (and baseball in general) fan isn’t exactly a Rhodes Scholar. They buy their tickets, wear expensive jerseys and hats, buy expensive beer and wilted hot dogs, pay too much for parking, etc., etc. When average people – and even some with more money than average – see a lot of big names dancing and taking selfies on and off the field, they assume this is THE team. They feel this is the team they have to live and die with, and therefore the team that should win. They don’t get it’s a placeholder, and that there really wasn’t THAT big of an intention for the current group to win. Ownership believed, but not that much.
So when Cinderella turns into a pumpkin, I saw it coming and wasn’t upset. I predicted it! I was agreed with by some, vilified by others, but the majority of fans of “the Azul” or “Doyers” just aren’t either smart enough to get it, or haven’t invested enough time to really study it. There was NO WAY the Dodgers were going to advance in Oct without a bullpen and with poor defense. It was a point of contention all season long, so much so I stopped sharing my thoughts via tweets. Just not worth the drama. How can you argue rationally with people who either want to fuck the players or think bubble parties are cool?
So it is what it is, and the Dodgers lost (no surprise). Someone has to be fired. Everyone wants Donnie fired, and again, refer to my last column for thoughts on old sawdust head. The easiest guy to can though is Ned, since most don’t like him anyway, and he wasn’t just handed a big extension.
Does anyone beside me think it’s funny that Donnie only gets aggressive when it comes to himself? He lets the inmates run the blue asylum and shows no emotion when the Cardinals (last year) are throwing at Puig’s head and breaking Hanley’s ribs, but if his contract is under fire – press conference!!!!
After the Dodgers humiliating defeat this time against the Cardinals, rather that discuss intelligently his thoughts on Kershaw’s collapse, the bullpen he was too afraid to use, Puig’s continued stupid play, Kershaw over Haren in Game 4, etc., Donnie speaks up on his job and even Ned’s. Donnie is an interesting cat. A guy who got the job due to being a good soldier under Joe Torre, not due to managerial experience, expertise of any kind, or having ties to Dodgers tradition. The fact he was extended, and likely will be the manager in 2015, is kind of interesting considering you could poke around and find a lot more “deserving” candidates, yet cockroach Donnie keeps living to see another day. He hasn’t mastered knowing when to change pitchers, how to use a bullpen, get creative with his lineup, etc., but he sure has proven excellent press conference skills. Donnie is a survivor!
So fire Ned, if you must. I don’t see how that will affect anything since Kasten is still running the show. You essentially make a middle-management guy the patsy and keep everything else the same. Names are being bandied about, but in honesty, super smart Dan Evans is still available and like the wise Dodger Oracle (@TheDodgerOracle) said in a recent post, why not just bring him back? It will never happen of course, but it would make the most sense. The Royals are a thing of beauty and I hope they don’t choke on the bigger stage in Baltimore, whose fans are almost equally as hungry for Oct superiority as those in KC, but if it’s balance, defense, pitching, relief pitching, chemistry, fundamentals and high baseball IQ you want, nobody does it better than Dan Evans. My two cents.
Enjoy the ALCS (if you’re watching the NLCS, you shouldn’t call yourself a Dodgers fan). If you squint, you can make believe the Royals are the Dodgers and the black and orange clad Orioles are the Giants – baseball in Oct continues! I just think that if you truly believe Ned is to blame for the 2014 situation, you’re misguided and probably not a very bright Dodgers fan. If that’s the case, and my blog here offended, please unfollow. There’s a Kardashian or other vapid moron you can have more enjoyment reading. Ned’s a pretty good GM; he proved it with fairly competitive Dodgers teams. He’s no Dan Evans, but then neither is Stan Kasten.
Well, sometimes it hurts to always be right…
As I predicted from the off-season, through spring training, and every step leading to the playoffs, the 2014 Dodgers were not built for Oct baseball. As a wise friend said, it’s like Billy Beane admitting his team is good enough to get there, but once in the post-season, anything can happen and he has no control over it. The $235M payroll Dodgers turned out to be an expensive Moneyball collection of individuals, not a “team.” The pieces were cobbled together by Stan Kasten to win over Angelenos who had grown weary of McCourt’s antics and parking lot mayhem. Stars – pretty stars – guys who could be counted on X amount of home runs, RBI, wins, etc., etc. were assembled without thought of old baseball truisms like timely hitting, defense and leadership. A bullpen? Who needs a bullpen? Certainly Kasten didn’t think so, and he did nothing to alter the path as the season progressed. Suddenly it became a surprise to pundits and fans that lo and behold, the Dodgers didn’t have one.
Well, it didn’t matter, since the Dodgers did have starting pitching. Forget Ryu was coming off a month long break due to a shoulder surgery and all world Cy Young/MVP candidate Kershaw came off a beat down in Game 6 last year vs. the same St. Louis Cardinals. Surely this year would be different. Just hope and pray the starters all went 8, to get the ball to mostly reliable closer Kenley Jansen. Expensive starters pitch late into games, right?
Fans too easily point to Don Mattingly, who is a simpleton to be sure. He’s not a good manager, too safe, too unimaginative and not cut out for playoff action when the managerial guide book is thrown out the window. As bad as Donnie is, it’s not his fault – or not all of it. There is plenty of blame to go around for why the Dodgers again have been eliminated and will have to watch the Fall Classic on TV, and here are some of the goats and reasons why they are…
Clayton Kershaw – as good as Kershaw is in the regular season, he’s as bad in the playoffs. Blame Mattingly if you wish, but Kershaw is paid a ton of money to get the ball and win important ballgames. Kershaw had to win Game 6 last year and got crushed. He had to win the other night at Chavez Ravine and sailed along nicely until he got pulverized. He had to win today and gave up the huge homer that buried the Dodgers. Donnie makes mistakes, as Donnie isn’t a good manager, but when you make as much as Kershaw does and are called not only the ace, but the best pitcher in baseball, you have to deliver. Like them or not, but Curt Schilling wouldn’t have lost these games. He wouldn’t have made that costly pitch today. Roger Clemens. Greg Maddux. Tom Glavine. Randy Johnson. And the list goes on. When you accept a lot of money, you accept responsibility. Donnie is a moron for continuing to bat Puig in the 2 hole when he’s striking out as much as you or I would, but Kershaw was given leads and all he had to do was be Kershaw – and he couldn’t. I said it in the winter and again during the season – everyone loves him, and for good reason, but Kershaw is NOT a big game pitcher. He’s young, he may be at some point (if his confidence isn’t shattered much like another talented farm product – Ismael Valdes – was), but last year and this, he hasn’t manned up when it mattered most. Donnie is a dunce, can’t think outside the box, but Kershaw lost 2 of the 3 games the team dropped and only has himself to blame. Disagree if you want, but its fact. Let’s hope it’s a Cardinals thing and not a post-season thing. Let’s hope the young man learns from this and wins a ring or two down the road. He’s young enough that it would make a great story – remember how he couldn’t win the big games, and now he can? He’d be the John Elway of baseball. Right now, he’s an MVP candidate who should feel sick holding the award (should he get it).
Donnie Baseball – he’s the popular patsy for the pedestrian Dodger fan and he is as bad as all that. His skill is being Joe Torre, and keeping the clubhouse content. I see it that he lets the inmates run the asylum and is an enabler. Donnie is either too stubborn or too dumb to make obvious changes. For quite some time he penciled Kemp and Ethier into the heart of the lineup while they were dead in the water. This post-season he batted Puig second when he couldn’t make contact. When he had to make a pitching change, he goes to Scott Elbert, a guy Kasten never should have included on the playoff roster. He pinch hit Van Slyke for Ryu when Ryu was sailing along. His lineups are thoughtless and he has no game calling skills. Al Campanis meant him when he said something about “lacking the necessities to manage.” When Kershaw was imploding the other night, he didn’t believe his eyes – he listened to Kershaw say he was fine. After he actually got up to investigate. A smarter manager would know the team was bleeding out and perhaps you throw convention out the window and do something radical like bring in your closer – have Jansen pitch two innings, stop the bleeding and restore order. Also, Kershaw could have left without being humiliated, which would have been a plus. But what if you used Jansen, you say, and then he wasn’t around for the ninth? Who gives a shit? There would be no call for Jansen if you were to bleed out. If the situation came up, you let Howell, Wilson, Haren, anybody throw the ninth. The playoffs are unlike the regular season. You don’t have to put together the same lineup you would vs. San Diego in July. Every man is available, anytime, because every out is important. Each game is a must-win game. If you have guys cold as ice, bench them. Move them around. With AJ and Crawford hitting the ball, why is Puig batting second? AJ bat second? Sure, Scioscia did it. A contact hitter – more, a smart hitter – can do damage up there, as opposed to the bottom of the lineup. The point is, Donnie can’t manage and enables his players to goof off as he prefers a happy clubhouse to a gritty, smart, focused one. I hope to god he’s not allowed to manage the “real Dodgers” – the team coming after this selfie taking, bubble dancing monstrosity. I don’t want him turning Joc and Seager into pretty boys who dance to pre-game concerts and pose for clothing store catalogs. I don’t want him to manage the Dodgers period. Getting a real baseball manager in there who smashes the bubble machine and tells these party boys it’s time to play baseball, and isn’t afraid to be creative with his lineup and thinking, would do wonders for the Dodgers. One wonders if Farty Arte will fire Scioscia. I would say he’s probably safe due to winning the most games in baseball’s regular season, but Donnie, while finishing first, didn’t do so in as impressive fashion as the Anaheim skipper. Donnie should go. Kasten would be sacrificing him and no one in LA would balk. Fans don’t care about Donnie, and they don’t think he’s a good manager. Nice guy, former star, but not a good or tactical manager. The Dodgers can do better. Then can some coaches. Donnie’s a dunce, but he’s not the only one responsible for this. He played the hand dealt to him by Kasten.
Stan “Baldy” Kasten – he may have been the genius behind the Braves teams or perhaps he was a bit lucky with good scouts and amazing fortune. He may have a grand scheme and showed smarts not dealing the main prospects mid-season… but… his inability or unwillingness to make adjustments, especially in the pen, crippled the Dodgers. Giving a dull tool like Donnie the option to use Elbert in a must-win playoff game makes him every bit as responsible as his manager. Insisting Elbert, Wilson, Perez, etc. were good during the regular season and after and not considering Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia and other kids was foolish. Believing his $235M team could get by with a bad pen was idiotic. Thinking defense wasn’t important was ridiculous. I argued with people on Twitter until I finally decided it wasn’t worth it and stopped posting – they too said I was wrong to assume defense and relief pitching didn’t matter in Oct. It’s pretty much everything, not a luxury. Look at Kansas City. Why are the Royals so good? Defense, pitching, relief pitching, timely hitting, chemistry, leadership, and enough power to get the job done. The Royals also have a dumb manager, but that team is so well constructed it’s hard for Yost to screw it up. With the Dodgers, a team missing a lot of those components, mistakes are magnified. The Dodgers never would have survived the one game play-in with Oakland. Kasten may have tricks up his sleeve, but I fully believe today’s loss is a good thing ultimately for the Dodgers and their fans. It stings, but it will force Kasten to address the bullpen, perhaps Donnie and the coaches, and maybe even move some celebrity millionaires. Would it be so bad to turn some hot shot into a gamer in the Royals mode? If the Dodgers won and advanced deeper into Oct, fans, and Kasten himself, likely would feel all was well and not want any changes. The rude awakening for the second year in a row shows changes need to be made – if only a real bullpen acquired. Kasten has annoyed me all season because he’s had a lot of the pieces, but ignores them, banishes them and insists on guys he brought in who proved they weren’t up to the task. Try as I might, I can’t understand why Paco spent the entire season in AAA and more, why he was left off the post-season roster after showing he was performing well in Sept. I hope Kasten gets busy and improves the team. Bullpen, defense, leadership, toughness. Trade away a few celebrities. The female fans will moan but they’ll get over it. The blueprint should be the current Royals team – a group that resembles something former Dodgers GM Dan Evans put together. There’s a reason that team feels magical, why they make crazy defensive plays, come back from behind, mow down opponents in late innings, etc. They’re a good team, a well-constructed team – the 2014 Dodgers are not a team, but a collection of parts. It bought some time, but when Kasten had other options on hand, he dismissed them. Is it some scheme we’re not aware of, arrogance, stubbornness, or a mix of the three? Kasten is the guy who created the current Dodgers, and re-signed Donnie, so he’s very much to blame for this season. $235M should buy more. Oh, and if you’re also working under the assumption Donnie is the problem for everything, you must also believe Ned is the problem. I don’t mind if you blame Ned, but he’s just a figurehead – Kasten runs the team. Getting rid of Ned would be like dealing with your Obama hatred by removing Biden. In the case of who makes actual decisions for the Dodgers, follow the shine off the bald head.
I won’t go into individual players any more than I have because it’s unnecessary. The players are what they are, and were never going to be much more than that. I choose to look at the ace/best pitcher in all of baseball, the manager and architect of the team. I think the buck stops there. Frankly I’m annoyed the National League representative in the World Series will be some team that makes me ill. I’m going for Kansas City, and if they lose in the ALCS or big dance, it will still have been an impressive season for them. It’s easy to like the Royals because they play baseball the right way. They’re a cohesive unit and a fun team that plays fundamentally sound and with a ton of energy. The Dodgers need to get some of that back. The 1988 team had it, Dan Evans’ teams had it, but it’s not been around since perhaps the back to back NLCS teams McCourt underfunded. It’s time for change. It’s time to get back to playing baseball smartly, and not worrying about bubbles, dancing, walk up music and who has more groupies. Old fashioned? You bet! But it’s the way you win in Oct – and as I said, the current Dodgers’ brand of baseball was never going to fare well in the post-season. And look where they are now.
Playoff edition long form therapy session…
Well, Oct baseball is in the air and already there have been some remarkable games. The Dodgers, of course, have huge issues after Game One’s surprise collapse of Kershaw. I have said – and gotten a lot of heat for it – that while Kershaw owns the regular season, the last feather in his very young cap is showing he can carry that domination over to the post-season. Now whether it’s the Cardinals (I think it is) or just being psyched out from last year’s Game Six flop (also a factor, but coupled with the Cardinals, an even larger one, no doubt), something has made Kershaw an average post-season starter.
Of course his career – albeit with a lot of innings logged already – is just starting, and there’s plenty of time to find his way, it is troubling that a guy who is compared routinely to Koufax and other greats is so shaky when it counts most. What went wrong? Well, the Cardinals just know how to get into the shaggy haired head of his, and they’re also a smart and somewhat dirty team. The good news is the Dodgers showed fight last night (they didn’t last year) when Puig got beaned. And they also scraped and fought back to make it interesting in the last few innings (something they hadn’t done all season). Don’t panic yet, but Greinke is also sporting a post-season ERA over 4, so which Dodgers team comes out today in Game Two? The pussies from last year, the ones who understandably could be demoralized from last night’s drubbing or the team that showed fight vs. Molina? Just a spark of life they showed gives me faith.
I think the Dodgers and underwhelming manager Donnie Baseball have an interesting pickle here. Would you rush Kershaw back on 3 days’ rest, knowing Kershaw has been decimated twice in a row by the Cardinals? Or would you feel safer with another option? That’s a big question, as well as why Donnie and Honeycutt didn’t get out to Kershaw earlier when he was melting down on National television. Donnie said his face looked ok and he said (when he did eventually go out there) that Kershaw claimed he was ok. Note to Donnie and Honeycutt – any sort of competitor is going to say he’s ok – go by what you’re watching. Kershaw’s bombardment and collapse was pretty obvious, so where the Dodgers are in trouble this Oct is having a poor manager at the helm. Of course one could point to Ned Yost, perhaps dumber than Donnie, as someone who lucks by, but I’d say that’s mostly because his team is just so scrappy and fundamentally sound. I don’t think Donnie has that luxury – though he does have “superstar potential.”
Looking around at the other games, I am really impressed with the aforementioned Royals. Hey, squint and you can watch a team in blue and white playing baseball the right away, and think it’s your Dodgers. Defense, speed, pitching, relief pitching, clutch hitting, chemistry, power when needed… is this a Dan Evans designed club? Anyway, I am rooting for the Royals, hope they sweep Anaheim, and give the deserving fans in KC something they haven’t enjoyed in quite a long time. This is the type of team I wish Stan Kasten built. No superstars, no egos, just gamers and baseball players. Take note, baldy Kasten.
I am also impressed with the Orioles, who I’ve long rooted for as another old time team with good fans. Their beating of the Tigers is fun to watch, although somewhat bittersweet knowing how many of their guys have had PED suspicions or busts. Nonetheless, like KC, they play hard and are beating up a powerful Detroit team that thought stars could make up for lack of bullpen. Oct is won with defense and pitching and to skimp on the pen, both in Detroit and LA, is a huge risk. I would prefer a lineup of flame throwing relief pitchers like KC has to mega stars who strike a pose before walking up to home plate to hit. I’m a purist, and if you disagree with my assessment, you’re part of the problem.
I actually hoped the Giants would beat the Nats, which pisses off some of my friends who can’t stand the Giants. Unbiasedly I say the Giants aren’t as good as some of the teams playing now, but they have a track record of winning and Bochy gets a lot out of them when it matters most. The Pittsburgh win isn’t too surprising given the Bucs countered Bumgarner with Volquez (wtf?) but beating the pundits’ darling, Strasburg, was impressive. The reason I want the Giants to win is so the Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Cardinals) don’t have to deal with them. While I am not a fan of Matt Williams and hate Harper, on paper the Nats seem the best team in playoff action. Their 5 starters are crazy good and anyone thinking, well, the Dodgers have Kershaw, Greinke and maybe a healthy Ryu, needs to look at the Nats starters and especially their success since Sept.
Anyway, this is a fun time of year. You can flip from one game to another and tune in to teams you perhaps never watched all year. You can see each pitch matter, each out be meaningful, and you can get swept away in breathtaking baseball. I will leave it that I warned of Kershaw come Oct, and am skeptical he can go back out there on short rest and somehow dominate after getting torched for a bushel full of runs the last two tries against the Cards. I will say the fight and scraping back the blue did was impressive. Where was this fight last year when the Cardinals made a mockery of the Dodgers? I would urge the players to keep up that aggressive approach because the Cardinals will not stop pitching inside. The sign stealing, perhaps, is a problem the coaching staff will have to address, but the dirty shots are something that cannot be tolerated. Pitching inside to power hitters is smart. Sometimes a pitch gets away, and that happens. The Dodgers – not known for being mentally tough – need to take a page from the St. Louis book. Pitch inside to Holliday and Molina. Don’t let the hitters get comfortable in the box. If they balk, fight with them. This is a five game series, each out and each game is huge. The Dodgers have to come out tonight and make the statement they were trying to make last night, before the wheels came off the bus. Make Vin proud, win Game Two.