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.