Saturday, December 15, 2012

LA Baseball in a New York State of Mind

Just as the New York Yankees made both winning and spending fashionable in Major League Baseball, nothing proves the two go hand in hand during any given season. Nevertheless, common sense wants us to believe, the team with the best players has the best chance of winning a World Series title in the American Pastime. It’s no secret in any sport, the best players command the highest salaries and so the game begins. To spend or not to spend, that is the question? Neither Chavez Ravine nor Anaheim looks much like the Bronx. You won’t find any subways near Dodger Stadium and the George Washington Bridge doesn’t lead you anywhere near The Big A. The closest body of water to Yankee Stadium is the Harlem River not the Pacific Ocean. While Southern California and New York City may be 2,800 miles apart, the Dodgers, Angels and Yankees are now on the same fiscal playing field. Ever since the Steinbrenner family bought the Bronx Bombers in 1973, the Yankees have set the precedent for baseball team salaries. Excessive spending has without a doubt been successful to a certain degree. Over the last 39 seasons during the Steinbrenner ownership, New York has captured seven World Series titles and 11 pennants. For the last 14 consecutive seasons, the payroll of the Pinstrippers has been the largest in the game and during that time, the result has been five of the franchises record 27 world championships. That’s equates to a lot of winning and it’s caught the eye of both the Dodgers and Angels ownership groups. When the 2013 season throws out its first pitch in April, for the first time in 15 years the Yankees won’t be baseball’s biggest spender, it will be the Los Angeles Dodgers. Under the new ownership of the Guggenheim Group, the Dodgers will be just the second team in big league history to break the 200-million mark in terms of the annual team payroll. With 21 players already signed, the Blue Crew sits at 214. 8 million and they’re not even finished yet! After the bankruptcy of the Frank McCourt era cost the franchise a shot to win its first world title since 1988, the new ownership group has taken Dodger fans on a spending spree that started late last season, hit a high point two days ago and now has expectations on the field at an all-time high! Like the late George Steinbrenner, the Guggenheim Group showed it wasn’t afraid to take chances with star players from other teams through trades, despite their hefty price tags. First there was the trade deadline pick-up of Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate, Shane Victorino and Brandon League with Ramirez’s 37.5 million in salary the big pick-up of the deal. Since then, League has signed a new three-year contract for a guaranteed 22.5 million. Then came the waiver wire deal acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto, all picked up from a failing Boston team along with their 260 million in salaries. Last week, Dodgers ownership reached a contract with unproven South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin for 36 million over six years. The splurge continued two days later with the signing of pitcher Zack Greinke for another six-year contract at 147 million, the highest in the history of the game for a right-handed pitcher! Not to be outdone, almost in a domino effect, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and owner Arte Moreno picked up where they left off, last off-season. The Halos first stunned the baseball world by signing away Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals back in January for 10 years at 240 million dollars! Adding to their star-power and payroll that now sits at 99, 7442,857 with only nine players signed, outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was inked for five years at a total of 125 million dollars on Wednesday. So in the image of the Yankees and “The Boss”, both the Dodgers and Angels have gone all in. Both teams are stacked with all-star line-ups and pitching staffs. Both teams boost the advantages of big market clubs like receiving huge revenues from television deals and now neither club has any excuse to come up short. Of course, with high spending come lofty expectations that can only be satisfied with at least an appearance in the fall classic. As the Yankees have also proven, heavy cash flow for salaries doesn’t guarantee a thing in any sport especially baseball. While New York has won five titles during their 14 year reign as the game’s top spender, what about the other nine seasons the Yanks came up short? While “The Boss” was still alive, those failures were never ignored by him or the New York media. Baseball is such a fickle game where all it takes is a team to get hot at the right time or a club to cool off at the wrong time. You only have to go back to last post-season for a proper example as the Yankee bats went cold against the Detroit Tigers, while the San Francisco Giants who trailed in both of their National League playoff series found a way to win both before meeting that same Tigers team that cooled off after defeating New York. In other words, World Series titles are not captured on paper in the winter, they are won on the field in the fall. While having a high payroll gets the best players, keeps the fan base happy and shows commitment from a management standpoint it still only puts a franchise in the conversation, doesn’t hand over the Commissioner’s Trophy. But as fans, knowing you have a chance is really all you can ask for. Yankee fans are not only proud of their franchise’s rich history and success but also its desire to make it happen year-in and year-out. Now, both Dodgers and Angels’ fans can enjoy that same mindset only on a different coast.

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