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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Ease Her Pain

One of my West Coast buddies is really hurting. She's a Cal alum, suffering from the double whammy of Cal's taking the gas pipe in the Holiday Bowl and the success of USC (which is basically ipecac for UCLA, Stanford and Cal alums, none of whom have any professed love for one another in the first place, but all of whom unite in their dislike of the Trojans), and she's a Dodger fan to boot (an long-time Orange County-ite, she still hasn't adopted the now more successful Angels at the expense of her longtime favorites, the Dodgers). And while the whole Cal situation stung, the Dodger situation hurts more.

First, she's wondering aloud whether Dodger GM Paul DePodesta is the dumbest Harvard alum of his generation, or whether Dodger owner Frank McCourt is the true El Cheapo of Dodger ownership lore (an NY writer once gave that nickname to Branch Rickey, who, while he had many admirable qualities, was somewhat worthy of the moniker). Why, you ask?

Because, in her opinion, the beloved Dodgers are crumbling. Paul LoDuca? Gone. Adrian Beltre? Gone. (And why this is especially troubling is that through her SoCal grapevine she heard from a very reputable source that all the Trolley Dodgers had to do was pony up an additional $6 million over 5 years to ink the 27 year-old (or is Beltre only 25?) third baseman). Shawn Green? Traded to the D-Backs for a promising catcher from the Yankees farm system (which is irksome in its own right, since the Yanks' farm system has been more barren than your average Siberian wheat field since Derek Jeter came up), a bucket of baseballs and the home DVD set of the first season of "Growing up Gotti." Guillermo Mota? Long-time gone. Able lefty Odalis Perez? Soon to be somewhere else.

And in their place? J.D. Drew, inked to a 5-year, $55 million contract, despite the fact that he usually ends up on the disabled list because of a strained oblique muscle or an aggravated big toe (the latter potentially incurrable while dodging golf balls and D batteries hurled by Phillies' fans still angry over his snub of them years ago). Jeff Kent, the statue of a second baseman (yes, statue, not statue-esque) who at 37 still can hit but renders the once-vaunted Dodger defense a liability at one of the key positions on the diamond. And, of course, once-heralded Yankeed prospect Ricky Ledee, who is basically a fourth outfielder.

Yes, the pitching staff is promising, but then again, they do have Elmer Dessens, who was perhaps the ace of the D-Backs staff last year, which is like being the best cricket player in Cooperstown (the D-Backs weren't the '62 Mets last year, but they came pretty close). Anyway, check out the whole Dodger roster and decide for yourself. What the heck is going on in Chavez Ravine?

DePodesta was Billy Beane's right-hand man for years in Oakland, where the A's had to do more with less. Here it's not clear whether DePodesta is so stuck on Moneyball tactics that he is trying to spend less because he doesn't feel a need to spend more (as they never had more to spend in Oakland) or whether he's unable to adapt his Moneyball background to a monied environment. Put in shopping terms, is he still looking for bargains at Nordstrom's Rack when he can shop at Nordstrom's, or is he happy to hunt for bargains at Nordstrom's Rack even if he can afford to shop at Nordstrom's?

Put another way, is Moneyball still a viable strategy when now at least four teams are believers -- the BoSox, the Blue Jays, the A's and the Dodgers? Remember, Buddy Ryan's heralded "46" defense was the rage in the NFL in the mid-1980's, but then offensive coordinators figured it out and you don't hear about that defense any more. My guess is that the "Cover 2" may suffer the same fate, if only because change is inevitable. Which means that somewhere in baseball world someone has figured out the next best way to evaluate baseball talent that might even involve Wonderlic tests and computer analysis of bat speed and physiology, which, along with some numbers crunching, will give an enterprising GM an edge. The point? If you have the big bucks, spend it. Remember, even Billy Beane said he might do things differently if he had more money to spend. Naturally, if the Dodgers sign Carlos Beltran, then perhaps all will be forgiven. But if they don't, well, there isn't much relief in sight.

I think you'd agree that my pal in Orange County is hurting, and you sense the suffering beginning now. But wait, because it will be much worse come mid-August.

So let's ease her pain, but how? There's no pro football in Los Angeles or Orange County, her beloved Lakers are a bunch of swingmen waiting for a first-round playoff exit, the Clippers are, well, the Clippers, star QB Aaron Rodgers is leaving Cal and will be one of the top picks in the NFL Draft this spring, and she's probably too much of an old-line SoCal native to switch her allegiance from Walter O'Malley's Dodgers to the now-Los Angeles Angels.

There's always the beach.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see the Dodgers did re-sign the talented famous troublemaker Milton Bradley. That should have some kind of entertainment value, but who knows what kind?


8:48 AM  

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