A Cautionary Tale

On July 25, Los Angeles Dodgers’ owners began what seemed like a two-headed process.  First, they seemed to desire to distance the franchise from the chaotic ownership of Frank McCourt.  Second, they appeared to want to make a run at the playoffs this year.

It’s hard to fault them on the first point.  They need to deal decisively with the bad taste left by the McCourts.  Television deals, then no television deals, a messy divorce carried out on the public stage, then there was a sharp decline in team fortunes.  A once-proud franchise declared bankruptcy and was in disarray.

The second point stands as a beacon in a dark period for a flagship franchise of the National League.  After all, who wouldn’t want to make a run at the playoffs if given the chance?  LA has a good manager in Don Mattingly.  They have two bona fide young superstars in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.  There’s also good support staff in Andre Ethier, Kenley Jansen, and A.J. Ellis.

They decided to go for it.  Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate were acquired from the struggling Miami Marlins.  Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton were acquired from the struggling Philadelphia Phillies.  Then a trade on August 28 was the coup de gràce.  The Dodgers acquired Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto from the Red Sox.  Minority owner Magic Johnson said publicly that they needed to spend to win in this league.

But the Dodgers have played poorly.  They’re record is 22-24 since the trade with MIA and 6-12 since the trade with BOS.  Compounding LA’s struggles the Giants have played well, stretching their lead in the NL West and relegating the Dodgers to wild-card hopefuls.

The Dodgers weren’t really ready to make these moves.  They didn’t have enough depth on the major league roster to catch the Giants unless the Giants stumbled badly.  The also gave up a number of the organizations’ higher-ranked prospects to make these deals, but received no youth in return.  They’ve risked their future on a return to form by several under-performing or injured veterans (Victorino, Beckett, Crawford).   The season isn’t finished yet, and they might make a successful run at the playoffs but this can’t be what they expected.

The same sort of tale can be told about the Miami Marlins, who tried to capitalize on several good young players and a new stadium by spending like a trophy wife last off season.  Their season started poorly and they’re more than two dozen games behind the Nationals.

The Toronto Blue Jays are in a position somewhat similar to the Dodgers and Marlins.  A young manager, some good young players on the major league roster, and a farm system that’s been re-stocked have fans champing at the bit.  But General Manager Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t made a decisive move to fill obvious holes despite the availability of some very good players.  Looking at the Dodgers and Marlins, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

 

Wes Kepstro

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6 Responses to “A Cautionary Tale”


  1. 1 budyzer13 September 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

    While there are some valid points in this piece I don’t think what fans are asking of AA is to blow the farm up on a bunch of malcontents and injured veterans. What the fans are asking for is the jays to spend some money on their team and stop with the cries of poverty when many in this country along with supporting the jays are soaked every month by Rogers communication at every turn of the tv dial and every cell phone call that they make! To have a massive billionaire owner and to be told that you have budget constraints is a slap in the face

    • 2 Wes Kepstro September 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Agreed. That said, I don’t advocate a deal that mirrors what’s been done by the LAD. What was in mind was the several good players last season and shortly before the non-waiver deadline that were available but not acquired. This makes people–including me; I’m not immune–a little impatient.

      Compounding the problem of impatience is, of course, the multi-billion dollar tech giant crying poor. A week or two ago Rogers intro’d a new “bundle” for its customers. The whole scenario, with the Jays/FA/poverty in the back of my mind, made me chuckle.

      I don’t figure they’ll lose any money on the new “bundle”, but I wouldn’t be surprised if no substantial offseason moves were made. Cynical? Maybe. It’s just consistent with the non-moves made to this point since AA was hired. Are we being sold a ‘bill of goods’? Who knows.

      It’s likely that AA is going to have to shelve his stance on FAs and players acquired by other means. As a the old saying goes, ‘rules are made to be broken’. Eventually he might need to overpay, too. He did with Happ. Is that a sign of things to come? I hope so…

      • 3 budyzer13 September 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm

        Ya I’m of two thoughts on the non moves made by AA. Either rogers has a strict budget for the jays and are simply not willing to spend on players even though it could improve a average team. And obviously are not going to come out and say as much and incur the wrath of fans and customers alike. Or AA is sticking stubbornly to a plan he laid out and is not going to waver from it no matter the standings or what pressure fans and media exude on him to do something.
        It’s most likely a combo of both. AA sets a value on players and sticks to it albeit in my opinion more often then not on the cheap side. After all he is a bean counter by trade. But he is probably forced somewhat to adopt this tact by the fact that he has no money to spend or very little of it ! Which takes us back to the tech giant and their billions.

      • 4 Wes Kepstro September 18, 2012 at 12:16 am

        Sorry budyzer13, I couldn’t reply directly under your comment.

        There’s are other scenarios to consider. The one I alluded to was the timing of the moves by the Dodgers and Marlins. In both cases it seemed as if they jumped the gun, although for different reasons. Both teams have excellent young players (Kershaw, Kemp, Giancarlo, Johnson, etc.), but little depth and significant under-production at key positions. The depth issue will rear its ugly head with Kershaw hurt.

        MIA seemed to be fueled by the new stadium, while the LAD seem fueled by new ownership out to prove something. Whatever the case may be, they weren’t ready in my opinion. This is almost as bad as waiting too long. I expect it’s an art to figure out when the time is right, and some GMs are better at it than others.

        On the one hand if AA is waiting for the ‘right time’ and gets it, he’ll look brilliant. On the other hand if he’s just another corporate stooge, it’ll show pretty soon. I figure this offseason is pretty important in this regard.

        Thanks for the ongoing discussion. It’s stimulating the grey cells.

        PS: Isn’t Paul Beeston the ‘bean counter’?

  2. 5 @ALEastbound September 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    +1

    Although it would’ve been nice to take a run this year (if healthy) there are no guarantees in baseball, obviously.

    • 6 Wes Kepstro September 16, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      I think that if the Jays had remained healthy, it would have been fun to see whom they picked up to take the next step or two.

      I’m looking forward to the rumours that’ll begin on October 4.


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