The Dodgers still have to play games yada yada they’re not the National League West favorites bababooey and you don’t build through free agency and so forth.
But man, what an off-season. After having to scrape the bottom of free agent pools and coming up with retreads like Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, Los Angeles GM Ned Colletti finally has some play money, which is exactly how he’s treating the very real dollars he was commanded to dole out as the Guggenheim Corp. and Magic Johnson attempt to buy, sorry bring, a winner to Chavez Ravine.
After acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett through trade, while assuming 99.99 percent of their contracts, the Dodgers pulled the biggest Hot Stove pie out of the oven.
Zack Greinke was all but going to Texas, no, and reports suggested he wasn’t about the money. And maybe he wasn’t because, well, he could have gotten $160 million. I mean, I know it’s apples to rotten oranges, but if Jeremy Guthrie got a multi-year deal, then there’s no reason why Greinke couldn’t top the largest contract ever given to the pitcher.
Hey, the Dodgers have done this before, less than 15 seasons ago, when it made Kevin Brown the first $100 million man. The surly then-34-year-old wasn’t just the highest paid pitcher of all time. Back then he was the highest paid Major Leaguer. Of all time.
And then cascading salaries, a detached Fox ownership, and yes, even market forces and the inherent risks of paying a pitcher THAT MUCH MONEY over THAT PERIOD OF TIME has led the Dodgers fans to witnessing the debasing of a beloved franchise with a history of excellence.
Mike Piazza got traded (to the Florida Marlins, if you can even believe that happened, before ending up in New York); Fox said fuck it and sold to the McCourts, and the social climbing power couple said fuck you to the fans. Yeah, awful times preceded the honeymoon period spending spree. For the longest time, before Manny Ramirez was imported from the Red Sox, the greatest thing to have happened to L.A. was the one playoff victory by Jose Lima Time, may God grant him eternal disco rest.
Before that 2004 5-hit shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals, the eventual NL champs, the Dodgers had not won a playoff game since 1988. That’s the last time they won the World Series.
It’s been too long, and the Dodgers have lost all goodwill, and was close to being forever known as the team that kept taking. They took Chavez Ravine from the middle-class Latino families, just booted them out, quite violently back in the 1950s, when being brown meant You Can Own Land and House But We Can Take It From You Especially When You Accidentally Have the Best Sunset View east of the Pacific Ocean.
Maybe this time, Magic knows best.
Greinke may be locked for the next six seasons at $24.5 million per year, the highest annual value given to a pitcher, beating CC Sabathia’s by like $100,000. He’ll be 29, is one of the most durable aces in the league, and is only three seasons away from one of the greatest (Statistical) seasons by a starter. Too bad he did it in Kansas City, so you and I never saw it.
The numbers are there, however, even though it’s sometimes hard to match his statistics with the pitcher you’re watching on TV. And here’s what sabermetrics won’t tell you — watching Greinke, especially while cheering for him, could be one of the most maddening experiences in your life.
Yeah, but then over the course of a season, he’ll get you enough wins by himself, an average of about four to five a season. And then you get the good enough ace the rest of the way.
If you’re asking for a $25 million a year ace, well, you just might have to look elsewhere, even though by wins per dollar amount, he’s playing exactly what he’s worth. But that also depends on what you think is worth $25 million. After all, it’s not your money, at least not yet anyway. If the parking prices remain where they are, and the concessions and ticket prices stay the same even after Greinke, then what the hell, right.
He’s pitched 200 or more innings four times. Aside from a freak off-season basketball injury that began his career in Milwaukee, he’s been physically healthy. Word of advice to Magic — keep him the hell away from Kobe least he gets the urge to play some more hoops. He’s had sub 4.00 ERAs the past four of five seasons. Problem is, that one 4.00 ERA plus season wasn’t the result of any injuries. He just didn’t care, and rationalized it by saying what’s the point, it’s not like we’re gonna contend.
Well, buddy, you better pitch well because this is it. No excuses.
On paper, and there’s that term again, the Dodgers have the best 1-2 top of the rotation, a precarious hold on a theoretical if Tim Lincecum recovers, or hell, if Madison Bumgarner continues evolving. But still. You got Clayton Kershaw Koufax pitching in front of you, and Josh Beckett behind you. The team even imported insurance in the form of pudgy lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who agreed Sunday to a $36 million six-year deal, excluding the $25 million posting fee the Dodgers paid the Hanwha Eagles. In exchange for the investment, the Dodgers agreed not to send Ryu to the minors without his written consent, and that’s not good when you’ve got the makings of the next Kei Igawa.
But whatever. Money’s flush in La La Land. The Dodgers are spending like the Yankees, and for all we know, they might even go after Josh Hamilton. Money’s no object. Let the good times roll. Now to see if it lasts.
The past several seasons have not been kind to big spenders, with the 2009 Yankees the only exception after it spent money like it was shredded confetti to acquire Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia. That’s the kind of shit the Dodgers want to happen, not the September collapse that still haunts the Boston Red Sox, or the massive sell-off following a last place finish for the Miami Marlins. The Angels won 90 some games, but lost out to a team that spent money wisely (Texas), and to another, which had no money at all.
Baseball’s a funny game. Fucking unpredictable, too. But this hasn’t happened in forever. Dodgers fans deserve a mulligan after cheering on a team that couldn’t maximize what little resources it had under the McCourts.
Fair warning. The makeup of this team isn’t good. Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter, no doubt. Never been known as a winner. Crawford won’t be available to start the season, will be 32 when he finally suits up, and is awfully smelling like Vernon Smells. Beckett has already said baseball’s not his priority (his family and child is). Kershaw’s been electric, but one pitcher doesn’t a playoff team make. Hell, three wasn’t enough for Philly (who even without Roy Halladay for much of the season, still couldn’t get past the first round with him, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee all healthy and spry. You almost forget Roy Oswalt is part of that equation, or that once, Roy Oswalt was a mini-version of Zack Greinke.
There’s reason to be optimistic. Greinke, unlike C.J. Wilson, is under 30. Neither the Marlins or the Red Sox, without apologies to Jon Lester and Mark Buerhle, had Kershaw Koufax. None of them got anyone as good as Greinke to pair up with an already stellar ace. The bullpen could be a strength. The offense, again on paper, looks freakin’ amazin’.
The pressure to win will be enormous, and aside from Kershaw, maybe Beckett, and possibly Greinke, the team is surrounded by talented guys with questionable makeups. If only there were a losers leave town stipulation. For better or worse, this is who you’ve got. And three years or more of Brandon League. Check’s in the mail. Now we’ll see if these guys can reverse a haunting Winter’s tale of excess leading to an autumn of regret.