Why you don’t understand the Dodgers, Red Sox deal

Adrian GonzalezThe Los Angeles Dodgers still have every reason to believe that they can catch the San Francisco Giants and make the playoffs, despite pulling into the final month of the season four and half games back in the National League West. The 2012 season for the Dodgers is not about making the playoffs, it’s about making a statement. The mammoth trade with the floundering, sputtering, why-aren’t-we-winning-a-championship-every-year Boston Red Sox was a warning shot for the rest of the league: the Dodgers have the money to buy anyone for any price and are hell-bent on being a perennial World Series contender.

Sports analysts and writers looked at the contracts and the players involved, Crawford, Beckett, Gonzalez, someone named Nick Punto, and immediately tore the Dodgers front office apart for over spending for one superstar, Gonzalez, while acquiring two highly overpaid players in Crawford and Beckett whose best days may be behind them. News flash sports pundits: THE DODGERS DO NOT CARE IF BECKETT AND CRAWFORD ARE GARBAGE BECAUSE MONEY DOES NOT MATTER ANYMORE.

The trade was a salary dump for Boston and a fantastic deal by the Dodgers for several reasons:

Reason #1: Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez provides the Dodgers with Gold Glove defense and Silver Slugger offense, not to mention he’s finished in the top twenty for league MVP each of the last five years. He’s a major upgrade over James Loney and unlike Los Angeles’ other lefty slugger, Andre Ethier, he can hit left-handed pitching. Yes, his decreasing power numbers over the last three years are a bit of a concern, but his RBI has consistently been north of a 100 and that’s what the Dodgers need him for, to create offense when Kemp, Ethier, and Hanley, can’t.

Gonzo pulls down a healthy $21M a year, but it will be well worth it for ownership from a baseball standpoint, as well as an economic one due to a Mexican star’s marketability in Los Angeles. Team president Stan Kasten and majority owner Mark Walter know that the soon-to-be four billion dollar cable deal(courtesy of Fox Sports), coupled with merchandise revenue from their newly minted Mexican superstar, will pay for the purchasing of the Dodgers and their player contracts for years to come. Tell me, how’d that last Mexican superstar do on the Dodgers? That Fernando Valenzuela guy? Oh yea, he set the whole city on fire, mobilized the Hispanic fan-base, and won two championships with the Blue Crew. Thanks Red Sox, we’ll take Beckett and Crawford too!

Reason #2: Money doesn’t matter

When the Guggenheim ownership group purchased the Dodgers franchise for $2.2B, the question was if they would still have money to field a competitive team. I think that question has been answered in standard long-essay format with a slew of big name, big wallet deals: Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and they even made a run at Cliff Lee. When luxury tax collecting time comes, Walter will casually chuckle and gather some pocket change to send to Bud Selig as compensation for his creation of a multi-billion dollar baseball juggernaut.

General Manager Ned Colletti and Kasten have made it very clear that the Dodgers do not have a budget, nor are under any pressure from the new ownership group to turn a profit until Year Eleven or so. Kasten and Walter have repeated that this purchase was not about making money just yet, first they need to recast the Dodgers as the “West Coast Yankees”, win a couple titles, and then worry about their profit margin. The Dodgers always set attendance records and this year should be no different, excited and hopeful Dodger faithful have already begun flooding the seats once more. The product that the franchise is providing will only get better in the coming years as the blockbuster deals and some wins, keep coming.

The Guggenheim Partners have over $125B in assets so I doubt they are too concerned about spending half of a billion on three players. Not to mention that investing in a sports franchise like the Dodgers is a fairly safe bet in these turbulent economic times, where sports franchises only increase in value (just ask Frank McCourt).

Reason #3: Red Sox fan base pressure > Los Angeles fan base pressure

Playing in Los Angeles is much different from playing in Boston. Every game, every clubhouse issue, and every piece of fried chicken consumed, are not put under the microscope by Southland media types. At Chavez Ravine, fans happily show up in the third inning and typically leave in the seventh, regardless of the score.

Nobody is expecting Beckett to win a Cy Young nor Crawford the MVP, they just need to contribute on a consistent basis along the lines of a Jeff Kent or a Brad Penny. Boston needed the two to play up to their contracts, the Dodgers don’t. The only pressure is on Gonzo to be his MVP-caliber self and, as he proved with the San Diego Padres, he’s more than comfortable playing baseball in Southern California.

With these thoughts in mind, Beckett and Crawford will play a much more relaxed brand of baseball, as they did for their respective Florida teams, before the Boston days. Playing in the pressure cooker that is Boston takes a certain type of player, but anyone can play for a team that has only won two playoff series in the last twenty years. Put on the bleach-white jersey, play hard, and the fans will embrace you.

The moves that were made this season set the tone for years to come and has put the rest of the league on notice: the Dodgers will take your overpaid stars,throw them into their kiddie-pool of a fan base, and let it ride. The Red Sox trade was not a win now move, it was a let’s make a run at it this September, and we’ll work out the kinks next season. More moves will be made this winter by a general manager and team president who possess a bottomless checking account, a carefree ownership group, and an ecstatic fanbase. Making the playoffs this year would be a positive step, but not a necessary one for the Blue Crew. Winning their first pennant and World Series since 1988 in this decade however, will be more than needed.

This week in sports: What you missed

If you were out doing something important with your life, here’s what you missed this week in sports:

  • The Los Angeles Lakers announced that they are constructing a statue outside of Staples Center for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  No word yet on when the statue of Kobe Bryant yelling at Smush Parker and the jersey retirement of Cedric Ceballos will be made, but Mark Madsen, Slava Medvedenko (I spelled that right the first time! I’m a nerd.) and Luke Walton did get permission to re-enter Staples Center after a ban of terrible white players was instituted by Jeannie Buss.
  • The NFL resumed contract negotiations with the locked out referees on Friday.  As the NFL and the Ref’s were walking to the negotiation table, the replacement refs called pass interference, holding, traveling, dropped third strike, and made up a rule of ‘Illegal Biceps” when referee Ed Hochuli made an appearance.
  • The Boston Red Sox agreed to a trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers that saved the Sox a quarter of a billion dollars.  Beckett celebrated by sprinting (yes, this is the first time he’s sprinted since 2007) to the nearest Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and chugged a 40 oz of Mickey’s.  Carl Crawford celebrated by getting Tommy John Surgery (no punch line there), and Adrian Gonzalez celebrated by being allowed to speak Spanish for the first time since he was a San Diego Padre.
  • At the tender age of 30, Andy Roddick is retiring from competitive tennis after the U.S. Open.  Roddick, now old and decrepit, leaves the game a beaten man with only 20 million dollars in career earnings, and he must go home to this.  Retirement is tough for everyone, and I, for one, feel absolutely terrible for him. Read more…

MLB best bets of the day: August 24, 2012

corey kluberOur MLB Best Bets of the Day continue with three match-ups that are sure to excite.

NY Yankees at Cleveland 7:05 PM Sabathia vs Kluber

The White Sox swept the Yankees and left them grasping for air earlier in the week. Well today, the Yankees get Sabathia back and will receive a helping hand from Corey Kluber. If the Yankees are going to get back on track today is going to be the day against Mr. Kluber.

In just four starts this year Kluber has a 1.77 WHIP and a 6.27 ERA…and a .329 BAA! The Yankees are going to win, and probably win big today, but that’s not where the money’s at. Take the over and hope for fireworks.

Pick: Over 9 (-110)

Kansas City at Boston 7:10 PM Chen vs Lester

The Red Sox have a few things going for them in tonight’s game; their offense has been picking it up lately, Jon Lester has a 2.93 ERA in August, and they get to face lefthander Bruce Chen. The Red Sox are the fourth best hitting team when facing lefties, have a .307 team BAA Chen and face the Royals pitcher at home (Chen has a 6.32 ERA on the road this season).

Get Cody Ross, Dustin Pedroia and a handful of other Boston players in your fantasy baseball lineups today as I suspect there will be an offensive explosion. Read more…

Fenway farewell for Red Sox

Bobby Valentine

Huey Lewis once sang “If this is it….Please let me know.” To all those in Red Sox Nation I’m letting you know that this week at Fenway is surely “it” for the 2012 season. Look at this week as a “Fenway Farewell” to relevant baseball for Boston for the year. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to the real hardcore BoSox fans. This season has been a complete nightmare. A massive failure. Nothing has gone right for this team since around this time last year. From last September’s collapse to Bobby Valentine’s signing to the mishandling of players like Daniel Bard(comma) Carl Crawford & Jacoby Ellsbury the Red Sox have come out like Alicia Silverstone(comma) Stacey Dash & Brittany Murphy all rolled into one…CLUELESS.

Here’s why this week is “it” for the 2012 Red Sox and possibly for the entire organization as we know it.

The hometown team returns to the “friendly confines” with a 6-12 record so far in August after showing a brief glimmer of life at the end of July highlighted by grabbing 2 out of 3 in the Bronx.  That “glimmer” turned into a complete gaffe once they re-took the field in Fenway by dropping 3 of 4 to the lowly Twins and that pretty much set the tone for the month.  August has seen the “Sahhhx” drop 5 of 8 games to losing/non-playoff teams while fairing just as poorly to teams they’ve been battling for playoff spots with going 3-7 against them.  They’re 2-6 at home this month bringing their season home record to 29-34.  Shocking for a team whose home field advantage most thought rivaled that of their neighbors down Route 1(comma) the New England Patriots.

This week Boston hosts playoff contender Los Angeles and perennial AL doormat Kansas City.  The Angels have found their own struggles of late as they come in losers of 4 in a row and are the first of five teams Boston would need to leapfrog  for a playoff spot.  As for Kansas City(comma) the Red Sox wish they were playing like the Royals.  KC is 10-6 vs playoff contenders this month and just swept the White Sox(comma) they’ve also split with Baltimore and took 2 of 3 from the A’s while going 4-3 on the road.  For the 2012 Red Sox KC’s August would be a dream sequence.

The pitcher’s scheduled to pitch for Boston during this one week six game home stand are a combined 6-10 this month(comma) 15-21 since the All-Star break.  Although Clay Buccholz and John Lester have pitched well of late(comma) the 5 guys going this week have a combined 4.68 ERA for August with ace/outcast Josh Beckett weighing down the staff and entire team with his 9.93 ERA over the past few weeks.

The Red Sox would be fortunate to tread water this week(comma) but even if they pull that off the teams they’re chasing for a playoff spot could drown them from a far.  Tampa Bay hosts both the Royals & Oakland looking to build on their 33-27 home record while the Tigers(34-25 at home) get Toronto & LA in Detroit.  Oakland gets a few games at home against the Twins and Baltimore also gets to play AL East cellar dweller Toronto.

So far this week Carl Crawford is slated for Tommy John surgery on Thursday and pitching coach Bob McClure has been fired and the Sox haven’t even taken the field yet.  The ongoing soap opera continues.  The bickering continues.  The losing goes on.  The end is here.  The good times that have felt so good on Yawkey way for the last 10 years are over.  By the time the Red Sox get back to Fenway in September after the road trip they leave for on Sunday it will all be over.

Red Sox Nation…This Is It.

Stick a fork in the Red Sox, they are done

The Boston Red Sox ‘fall from grace’ has been extended for a third consecutive year; only this year will end up being the worst of the three. Bad decisions, poor leadership, complacency, and irresponsible signings, have all played a part in the storied franchise’s demise.

After losing to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim back in 2009 in a 3-0 ALDS sweep, the Red sox have been in some what of a free fall ever since with 3rd place finishes in the A.L. East over the next two years. And this season, sitting in 4th place with a 59-62 record, 12.5 games out of first place with just 40 more to play, they have entered baseball’s abyss which could conceivably see them finish in the 5th spot for the first time in 19 years; 1993, the year that Butch Hobson was their manager and their best player was Danny Darwin…

Ex-G.M. Theo Epstein had been responsible for some pretty bad signings since coming to the Red Sox; Mike Cameron, Matt Clement, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, and one of his worst, John Lackey. However in the off-season of 2004 he did make one move that was instrumental in turning the team around and ending the famous ‘Curse’ that had been hanging over the team ever since Babe Ruth was traded to the hated Yankees in 1918. And that was the signing of a quiet, non-assuming, relatively unknown manager, Terry Francona. In his seven years at the helm, Francona took the Sox to the Post Season 5 times, winning two World Series in the process. Read more here…

Fantasy Baseball sleeper team for the remainder of 2012

josh rutledge

With all of the trading, promotions, demotions, players being place on waivers, and whatever else has been going on to shake up MLB lineup cards, we’ve decided to put together the All-Sleeper Fantasy Baseball Team for the remainder of the season.

This lineup doesn’t feature players that we all know, but rather the players that you should know! Use these players as you need, but just know, they will be producing and at very low costs.

Starting Pitcher – Matt Harvey – New York Mets

Since making his Major League debut on July 26, Harvey has been nothing less than brilliant. After breaking the Mets record for strikeouts in a debut, Harvey has since pitched 6.0 innings and has struck out 7 more. His current totals are at 11.1 IP, 18 Ks, and just two earned, giving the phenom a 1.59 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

According to ESPN, Harvey is on an innings limit (duh) and has about 50 innings left. He should be good for about 8-10 more starts, thus giving fantasy owners plenty to be excited about in 2012.

Closer – Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals

Since the trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Reds, Holland has taken over the closer role. He’s only had one save opportunity but he nailed it down. The new closer has lowered his ERA in his last five appearances (0 runs) and I think that trend will continue.

Catcher – Ryan Lavarnway – Boston Red Sox

Lavarnway made his season debut yesterday and while it wasn’t all that impressive, he did bat sixth and was walked once. I know, so what? Well, in 2011 the catcher hit two home runs and drove in four in his season debut. This young backstop has plenty of upside and for next to nothing.

First Base – Gaby Sanchez – Pittsburgh Pirates

Sanchez was acquired by the Pirates (from the Marlins) back at the trade deadline and the new change of scenery could help the 2011 All-Star get back on track. He didn’t have a great debut for the Pirates, per say, but he did bat cleanup for the bucs. Read the rest of the team here…

 

MLB best bets of the day: July 30, 2012

MLB Best bets

It’s funny, I hear people say “leave the emotion out of it” all the time, and yet when I take their advice it’s always as if it comes back to haunt me. Yesterday, I kept my emotions out of it when selection the Miami Marlins to beat the Padres by 1 ½ runs. My emotions, were telling me “you must be f$%@king crazy to bet on Josh Johnson!” Well, at least a part of me was right.

Josh Johnson, who I warned could be traded, did nothing to increase his trade value on Sunday. Going 5.0 innings Johnson walked six, and while he did only give up one earned, he allowed far too many Padres to reach base. It just goes to show, always follow your instincts!

Detroit at Boston 7:10 PM Scherzer vs Buchholz

Today my instincts are telling me to take the Red Sox at home, and their .344 career team batting average (.313 without David Ortiz) when facing Max Scherzer. That said, Scherzer has been hot lately and if the kooky Red Sox manager decides to send out a lineup card without Ellsbury and Crawford, my instincts could have been misled.

As hot as Scherzer has been (four-straight wins without a loss) Clay Buchholz has been equally as hot. The Red Sox starter has put his team in a great position to win in six of his last seven outings as Boston has won six of those games and Buchholz has received four wins in that time.

Picks: Red Sox -112 and Under 9 ½ (-115)

Read more picks here…

Boston Red Sox fall from grace

David OrtizGood day sports fans, waking up you’re reading this and saying, “Yeah I know the Boston Red Sox lost in extra innings, what does it matter?” For those of you unaware, spoiler alert, the Red Sox lost in the 10th to the Orioles 8-6. In recent history and this isn’t the beginning. Just barely keeping themselves above an abysmal .500 (.509 actually) and in the cellar as the All Star break is nearing the horizon.  Read More…

Never too early to worry about a bullpen for the Red Sox

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan PapelbonIt’s not news that the fans in Beantown live and die with every loss. If the boys in white and red (and sometimes blue and red) finish the season anything less than 162-0, then the season is a disaster. This so-called closer controversy is nothing new either. The main reason Jonathan Papelbon was able to secure $50 million this off-season was because of his permanent transition to closer for the Boston Red Sox in 2006. That spring he was being stretched out to return to the starting rotation which is where he was installed upon being drafted in 2003.

Fast forward to 2012. There wasn’t supposed to be a closer controversy. Papelbon went to the City of Brotherly love with virtually no fan fare and the heir to his 9th inning throne was picked up from the Oakland Athletics. Andrew Bailey is a somewhat doughy, baby-faced right hander, just like Papelbon and his fun-loving demeanor would (and will) have been a nice change-up from Papelbon’s Southern-frat-boy demeanor. But a freak thumb injury in Spring Training, as we’ve all heard 25 times a day since the incidence occurred, will sideline Bailey until at least the All-Star break.

The clear favorite to replace the replacement, was the other former closer in the bullpen, also acquired through trade this off-season, Mark Melancon. Melancon has both experience closing, and experience pitching in the AL East from his early days with the Yankees. Instead, the closer job was given to Alfredo Aceves, who has been a swing man for most of his career, by Bobby Valentine. It’s hard for me not to think this was the saline-solution to remove the salt from Aceves’ not-winning-a-rotation-spot wound. He spoke out after Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront won the final two spots in the rotation, citing that he never had a chance because of Bard’s conversion being a winter long project that the team wasn’t going to abolish. Placing Aceves into the 9th inning role sounded good in principle, he’s gutsy and has a rubber arm. But statistically? My head is still shaking side-to-side. Aceves is effectively wild. He walks a fair share of batters and hits his fair share of batters. He can work his way out of self-imposed jams, but there is no particularly good explanation on how. He doesn’t strikeout too many guys, 6.27/9 over his career. He also isn’t a ground ball inducer, which to be quite honest, surprised me. His career ground ball rate is 39.3%, which is about what he did last year (39.6%). He is getting outs though, as evident by his .238 batting average on balls in play. But with only 241 career innings and as any starting pitcher will tell you, that number can fluctuate 100 points in either direction without warning if you’re not striking guys out at an above average rate.

Prone to free passes, both base-on-balls and hitting batters, and not fooling anyone or inducing grounders does not a closer make. Reversing the starting pitching conversion from Daniel Bard or giving Melancon the shot he deserves seem like options in the pipeline. However, the season is in its infancy, and to make knee-jerk reactions this early would be foolish. Small sample caveats always apply for relievers, but it seems like feelings may have been in play when instilling Aceves as closer. It will be a long road to the All-Star break if the league catches up to Aceves and his bag of tricks and to paraphrase Rick Petino, Jonathan Papelbon ain’t walking through that door.

Andrew E. Irons is an MLB writer for TSB and can be contacted at AIrons@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com