Be happy Dodgers fans, but Magic Johnson is no panacea

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I understand that enthusiasm about Magic Johnson’s ownership group buying the Dodgers. Frank McCourt is leaving. Magic is awesome. L.A. loves him. The Dodgers are in the pits. He shall save them.  Woo-ha!

But I think it’s possible to blow this up a bit too much.

For one thing, Magic is not the controlling owner. That’s a man named Mark R. Walter and a company called Guggenheim Baseball Management. Magic is pretty rich himself and likely has a lot of his own money in the game, but let’s remember how quickly the nominal head of the Texas Rangers ownership group — Chuck Greenberg — was cast off after that team was sold.  No, I’m not saying the same thing will happen to Magic, but let’s not pretend that he is totally in control here. There are a lot of chefs, and if they don’t want to do what Magic Johnson wants to do, they’re gonna win.

For another thing, this is a huge amount of money being invested in the Dodgers. So much so that, no matter how optimistic the projections are regarding a TV deal and future revenues are, there are likely to be some financial restraints in play, aren’t there?  I mean, you can’t spend $2 billion on a team and then expect to have no limit on payroll, can you?  The current Yankees ownership group invested something like $10 million originally, they have higher revenues and even they have a budget.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here. It’s great that Magic Johnson is buying the Dodgers.  He’s the perfect man to invigorate the fan base. And of course, it’s great that Frank McCourt is leaving.

But this is still a business. Thanks to McCourt, it’s still a franchise that has to do a lot to bring the people back to the stadium and fix the product on the field.  So hold off on the champagne and wait and watch what the new owners do before popping the corks.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.