The 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.