Sunday, August 26, 2012

The New Dodgers: Will the Desire Keep Pace with the Deep Pockets?

When Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and the Guggenheim Group purchased the Dodgers from the empty pockets of Frank McCourt they made a commitment to the lost City of Angels fans, that they would do whatever it takes to put a winner on the field. After all, the Dodgers did make back to back NLCS appearances in 2008 and 2009 only to come up short against the Philadelphia Phillies, a more talented team. But under McCourt’s financial mismanagement, his team, only two or three players away from possibly winning the franchise’s first World Series Title since 1988, did not spend money to attain the necessary additions and the team fell into mediocrity. Los Angeles fans then were forced to watch the 2010 version of the San Francisco Giants, arch-enemy number one, catch fire and somehow win the franchise’s first title ever while in the city of San Francisco, with very few big name players. Talk about an extra salty Dodger Dog to digest! Fed up Angelinos then took to the only form of action to get their frustrations across, boycotting their beloved team and stadium. The low attendance not only got the attention of the owner and media but also Major League Baseball. Eventually Commissioner Bud Selig stepped in and that brings us up to date. Not only did the new owners keep their promises at the trade deadline picking up what has been a very well behaved and productive Hanley Ramirez and his 46.5 million dollar salary over the next three years but they also traded for outfielder Shane Victorino and pitchers Joe Blanton, Randy Choate and Brandon League. When the Dodgers continued to appear to be coming up a little short with just over 35 games left in the season, the win at all cost now mindset was taken to another level! The new owners blew the minds of the entire baseball world by picking up first baseman Adrian Gonzalez off waivers from the Boston Red Sox along with embattled pitcher Josh Beckett. Then via trade, brought both players along with injured and unhappy outfielder Carl Crawford and utility player Nick Punto to the Dodgers, in a move unheard of in the new age of billion dollar franchises with multimillion dollar contracts. In return the Dodgers sent away struggling first baseman James Loney along with infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., outfielder Jerry Sands and pitching prospects Rubby DeLaRosa and Allen Webster. On the field the Dodgers clearly got the better end of the deal on the field right away. What they proved to not only their fans but the rest of the 29 teams competing for the Commissioner’s Trophy though, not only are the serious about winning now but they were also willing to take any chance to reach that goal! What Dodgers ownership really took from Boston was the first baseman they needed to win the National League West and two really bad contracts that might not pan out in Dodger Blue. All together Los Angeles picked up 260 million dollars in salary! An unheard of amount of money taken over in a trade! Now, Gonzalez’s 127 million over the next six seasons is what the Dodgers really needed and were more than willing to take on. Crawford, who is a former all-star but coming off a wrist surgery and Tommy John surgery is due 102.5 million over the next five years. Beckett, who has struggled during his discontent in Boston, will earn 31 million over the next two seasons while Punto is still due 1.5 million. Besides just the sheer numbers of the money now taken on by the fat pockets of the new ownership group there is also the risk of ruining what has been great chemistry in the Chavez Ravine home locker room this season. Despite Loney’s struggles he was a favorite among teammates. Beckett has been called a cancer in the Red Sox clubhouse along with an earned run average that has skyrocketed to 5.23 with a record of just 5-11 this season. However, he is just a season removed from an ERA of under 3.00 and of course has one huge post-season games during his career. Crawford won’t even be on the field until next season and the Dodgers believe he’ll be able to regain his all-star form with the change of scenery. One thing you know Dodgers management is banking on however with Beckett and Crawford is their past performance and reputation. If either player doesn’t act like a team guy and earn his money as a Dodger, all of the bad press they’ve received will come across as just due and the grief they’ve endured will not be about the things simply not working out at 4 Yawkey Way. In other words, neither player has any choice other than to revert back to their earlier days of positive attitudes and production. The two usually come hand in hand especially for high profile pitchers when they switch leagues like Beckett is about to do with his first start against the Colorado Rockies next week. Full recovery from Tommy John surgery is now the norm in baseball and the bounce back time frame for position players is shorter than that of pitchers. Crawford is expected to be ready for opening day of 2013. If both of these players return to the form that made them forces in the American League, than the Dodgers Ownership Group has pulled off the trade of the century in baseball! As for Gonzalez, all he did was crush a three-run homer in his very first at bat on Sunday in an 8-2 Los Angeles win over the Florida Marlins on Sunday. His immediate impact on the National League West race is already being felt. There are no guarantees when making trades in professional baseball. Just hunches, stats and gut feelings to go by. There is also the task of taking chances, spending money to make money in an attempt to win. After what Dodgers fans went thru in The McCourt era, The Guggenheim Group has already hit a home run!

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