The Dodgers Were Flawed To Begin With

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Injuries have been a significant factor for the Dodgers. Their starting rotation “depth” with which they entered spring training holding eight starters has seen one after another eliminated. Aaron Harang was traded to the Rockies who subsequently sent him to the Mariners where he’s pitched poorly. Chris Capuano is on the disabled list with a strained calf. Chad Billingsley is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly is out with a ribcage strain. Zack Greinke has a broken collarbone. All of a sudden they’re down to three bona fide starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Hyun-jin Ryu.

As for the lineup, Hanley Ramirez was on the disabled list with a thumb injury, came back sooner than expected and strained a hamstring. Mark Ellis has a strained quadriceps, Adrian Gonzalez has a strained neck. On the bright side, Carl Crawford is enjoying a renaissance now that he’s healthy and out of Boston, not necessarily in that order.

Don Mattingly’s job status as manager is being called into question because he’s in the final guaranteed year of his contract.

There are plenty of excuses but none approach an explanation for the crux of the problem: they were overrated by those with stars in their eyes. The injuries have affected them to be sure, but at the start of the season they didn’t have a legitimate starting third baseman and have been playing Luis Cruz who has a pitcher-like 6 hits in 71 plate appearances; they overspent to keep Brandon League as their closer and he hasn’t been good because—here’s a flash—he isn’t good. They did a lot of “stuff” over the past year since the new ownership took over almost as a set of diametrically opposed maneuverings to what Frank McCourt did in his decried time as the owner. The key difference is that the new ownership received accolades for “restoring” the Dodgers’ star power and McCourt was reviled for his apparent graft and selfishness, but McCourt’s teams were competitive and made the playoffs four times in his nine years of ownership. A break here and a break there and they win a World Series or two.

This Dodgers team was thought to be better than it was because of star/spending power. Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, moneymoneymoney. The 13-20 record is a result of injuries. They’re not this bad. But if they were completely healthy, they’re still not a championship team which, given the amount of cash they’ve laid out, is what should’ve been and apparently was expected judging by the reaction their slow start is receiving. The season is still salvageable. It’s only May, but their ceiling wasn’t that high to start and now with the stars they acquired to fill the seats instead filling the disabled list, there’s not much they can do other than wait and hope for health and the backs of the bubblegum cards to hold true. They have no other choice.

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Off Season Winners In Retrospect

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Let’s look at the teams whose off-season moves are paying off so far in 2012.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Acquired:  Jose Molina, Hideki Matsui, Luke Scott, Carlos Pena, Fernando Rodney

Subtracted: Johnny Damon, Kelly Shoppach, Casey Kotchman, Juan Cruz, John Jaso

The Rays did what the Rays always do. They cut out the players that were getting too expensive or had been signed as a short-term veteran stopgaps and replaced them with youngsters or other veteran stopgaps.

Molina hasn’t hit; Pena is doing what Pena does with a low batting average, good on base percentage and power; Rodney has been brilliant. None of the players they dispatched—Damon, Shoppach, Kotchman, Cruz, Jaso—have been missed or are doing much with their new teams.

Baltimore Orioles

Acquired: GM Dan Duquette, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Matt Lindstrom, Wilson Betemit

Subtracted: GM Andy MacPhail, Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott, Vladimir Guerrero

The Orioles have played over their heads but Dan Duquette got rid of Guthrie and acquired Hammel and Lindstrom who are under team control and have pitched well. Chen has been very good.

Chicago White Sox

Acquired: Manager Robin Ventura, Kosuke Fukudome

Subtracted: Manager Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre

Getting rid of the volcanic and tiresome personality of Guillen and replacing it with the laid back Ventura has been exactly what the White Sox needed. They cleared salary by getting rid of veterans Buehrle, Quentin and Pierre. They’re not as good as they look right now, but the AL Central is wide open and they have enough starting pitching to stay in the hunt. They underachieved horribly in recent years under Guillen and are overachieving now under Ventura.

Texas Rangers

Acquired Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan

Subtracted: C.J. Wilson, Darren Oliver, Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor

Darvish has been as brilliant as I expected. Nathan is having a good season. They haven’t missed Wilson on or off the field.

Seattle Mariners

Acquired: Jesus Montero, Hector Noesi, John Jaso

Subtracted: Michael Pineda, Josh Lueke, David Aardsma, Jose Campos

For Michael Pineda (disabled list), Jose Campos (hot prospect and on the disabled list), the Mariners got a top hitting prospect in Jesus Montero who’s still finding his way and showing flashes of immense power and a young starting pitcher who’s also learning his craft in the big leagues in Noesi. They got rid of the troublesome Lueke for Jaso who’s been contributing big hits of late.

Oakland Athletics

Acquired: Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, Bartolo Colon, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Cook, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, Seth Smith, Kila Ka’aihue, Manny Ramirez

Subtracted: Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, Ryan Sweeney

Reddick has 14 home runs and is heading for the All Star Game. Cespedes was a silly signing for a team like the A’s, but there’s no denying his talent. We’ll see what Manny does and the young pitchers Millone and Parker are high-end arms.

Washington Nationals

Acquired: Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Perry, Mark DeRosa, Brad Lidge

Subtracted: Ivan Rodriguez, Todd Coffey, Jonny Gomes

Gonzalez has been terrific across the board and might deserve to start the All Star Game. Jackson has been consistent despite not accumulating wins.

Miami Marlins

Acquired: Manager Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Zambrano, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle

Subtracted: Javier Vazquez, Chris Volstad, Clay Hensley, Burke Badenhop

Zambrano showed up in shape, has kept his temper in check and is showing why the Cubs gave him that contract in the first place (the majority of which they’re paying for him to pitch for the Marlins). Reyes is getting hot and Buehrle is a leader off the field and innings-eater on it. Bell’s been a disaster, but it pitching better lately.

Guillen was hired to draw attention and he did so negatively when he started trouble almost immediately with his idiotic comments praising Fidel Castro. Jeffrey Loria is under investigation for the stadium deal and looked silly using Muhammad Ali as a human shield to protect himself from getting booed at the regular season opener of the new stadium, but apart from Bell they’re getting what they paid for for the most part.

San Francisco Giants

Acquired: Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Clay Hensley, Gregor Blanco

Subtracted: Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Sanchez, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross

Cabrera’s not going to maintain this pace, but he’s still a good player and they got him for Sanchez who’s been hurt and had worn out his welcome with the Giants. Pagan is batting .314 with 10 stolen bases and has contributed several big hits to go along with his usual array of space cadet maneuvers. Blanco and Hensley have been solid, cheap pickups off the scrapheap.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Acquired: Trevor Cahill, Jason Kubel, Craig Breslow

Subtracted: Micah Owings, Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill, Jarrod Parker

The Diamondbacks are struggling because they’re not getting the same above-and-beyond performances from the players that carried them to a stunning division title in 2011. That doesn’t diminish the work that Cahill, Kubel and Breslow have done. If the Diamondbacks don’t right the ship, it won’t be because of the players they acquired over the winter.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquired: Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mark Ellis, Aaron Harang, Matt Treanor

Subtracted: Jon Garland, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Hiroki Kuroda, Casey Blake, Rod Barajas, Vicente Padilla

Capuano is pitching about 20 miles over his head; Hairston is hitting about 20 miles over his head; Ellis and Harang are respected, under-the-radar veterans.

The Dodgers didn’t spend a lot of money this past winter, but are getting far more than they paid for.

Off season losers and incompletes will be in forthcoming postings.

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The Dodgers Spending and the Market for Hiroki Kuroda

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There are things to admire about Ned Colletti. He’s decisive and unapologetic as to what he believes in building a team; he’s acquitted himself as a professional during the Frank McCourt vs Everyone legal inferno; and he doesn’t play games.

But it’s difficult to find justification in signing Chris Capuano to a 2-year, $10 million contract to replace Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda is durable; Capuano is not.

Kuroda has great stuff and can get away with not being at the top of his game; Capuano is a fastball/changeup pitcher who has to have his control to be effective.

Capuano is an intelligent man and intense competitor; Kuroda is mean.

Capuano is willing to pitch inside and knock people off the plate as a correlation to strategy; Kuroda does it because he likes to do it.

If the Dodgers are going to imply that money was a major issue to retaining Kuroda, how do they equate that with signing Mark Ellis for a guaranteed $8.75 million; Juan Rivera for $4.5 million; Adam Kennedy to a guaranteed $800,000; and having given Juan Uribe $21 million last year? They even gave a million dollars to Matt Treanor.

Matt Treanor!

The Dodgers can’t claim that they don’t have the money for Kuroda after extending Matt Kemp with $160 million.

They either have money buried, a big credit limit or the hopes of income from somewhere in the future because they’ve been spending it now.

Colletti prefers to do all his shopping early in the winter before he’s left desperate in January and February, but sometimes it behooves an executive to wait and see with the non-tenders, trade targets and players who are left on the outside looking in; they might grow desperate for work as spring training approaches and be available cheaply.

For a team with multiple issues—both financial and on-field—it made no sense to spend so capriciously on mediocrity and worse.

In addition to his on-field ability, what makes Kuroda so attractive is that he’s not seeking the type of contract a pitcher of his stature normally would on the open market. Like Roy Oswalt, he’s not walking around with dollar signs in his eyes and an overinflated opinion of both himself and the rampant executive stupidity like that which led the Nationals to give Jayson Werth $126 million.

Kuroda could’ve secured a 3-year contract last season, but wanted to stay with the Dodgers and signed for 1-year at $12 million.

Few are truly appreciating how good Hiroki Kuroda is. Are they blinded by his under .500 record? Are they ignoring him?

He’s said to prefer to stay on the West Coast but if his map expands, the Yankees and Red Sox would both be after him; the Angels opened a spot in their rotation when they traded Tyler Chatwood; they’re not getting into a bidding war for Wilson nor are they going to satisfy his stated desire for $120 million—no one is.

Kuroda’s a perfect fit in Anaheim and it would be a brilliant addition to a rotation that is going to be among the best in baseball.

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Precision Strikes 7.1.2011

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Reality.

Unless something major happens, I’ll tone down my Billy Beane/Moneyball rhetoric and save it all up for my book.

But I’ll say this as Beane undertakes yet another teardown of what he built (Mark Ellis is the first to go): without Moneyball, Beane would’ve been fired by now; without Moneyball, he’d be treated in a similar fashion as GMs present and past like Omar Minaya, Dayton Moore and Jim Bowden; without Moneyball propping him up as a demagogue, he’d be judged for what he is.

And what that is has yet to be determined in full—although I have a pretty good idea—but he’s certainly no genius.

Scott Kazmir works out for the Rangers.

I don’t get the impression that Kazmir is all that bothered about how badly his career and stuff has degenerated; that he’s okay with what he is; if he doesn’t find a new team, whatever.

A lack of competitiveness concerns me as much as the injuries and decline.

The Rangers worked him out and sounded non-commital.

Maybe Brandon Webb needs a rehab friend and they thought of Kazmir.

Designated targets of the Mets.

Every poor outing from Mike Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell inspires a new round of “get rid of ’em” from Mets fans.

Okay. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Pelfrey’s not great but such idiocies from the likes of the clueless Evan Roberts and Joe Beningo on WFAN are indicative of non-existent and self-proclaimed expertise. Roberts said something to the tune of Pelfrey, with his 94-mph fastball, has to strike out more batters, blah blah blah.

Yeah. That’s a good idea. Try to throw the ball by big league hitters. Know what’ll happen? He’ll strike out fewer hitters and give up more homers.

He’s not a strikeout pitcher so it makes no sense for him to try and be one.

Pelfrey’s big and durable and on a good team he’ll win 12-16 games and provide 210-220 innings. He’s no ace, but that’s solid, inexpensive production.

As for Parnell, his numbers and Mets performances are eerily similar to another pitcher who Mets fans wanted out of their sight while he was a Met and now complain ad nauseam because the Mets traded him—Heath Bell.

So you’d like to trade Pelfrey and Parnell? Fine. Just don’t scream and whine about it after they’re gone and become contributors elsewhere.

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