Springtime Storylines: How long until new ownership puts the magic back in the Los Angeles Dodgers?

13 Comments

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Big Question: How long until new ownership brings back the magic?

Sorry. That was kind of hacky, wasn’t it?  Oh well. I coulda gone with “Showtime,” and I didn’t so consider yourself lucky.

But our hackiness can be forgiven, can it not?  These are heady times for the Dodgers. Frank McCourt’s reign of terror is about to end and in comes the most beloved figure in L.A. sports this side of Vin Scully. And what’s more, Magic Johnson is accompanied by serious money in the form of Guggenheim Partners, and real baseball brains in Stan Kasten.  That stuff has led to a zillion headlines this week, but how long until that translates to success on the field?

Maybe sooner than you think. Here was Magic Johnson early Wednesday morning, when asked if the new ownership group was going to approach things like the Yankees do:

“It’s not just the Yankees. The Angels invested a lot of money into Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. You see what the Tigers just did with Prince Fielder. Teams are investing. That’s what you do when you put a winning team on the field. We’re not going to be any different from those teams.”

Cole Hamles is available next year. So is Matt Cain. So is Josh Hamilton. In not too long Joey Votto will hit the market.  There’s no reason to think that the Dodgers aren’t going to be in on that business.  And if they are, they could start winning a lot of baseball games here pretty soon.

What else is going on?

  • None of that is this year, though. For this year it’s their Cy Young pitcher in Clayton Kershaw, their MVP-caliber center fielder Matt Kemp and … a whole lot of blah. Or, as Jonah Keri put it so succinctly: “2012 could bring the Dodgers another Cy Young, an MVP award, and the league lead for crummy, overpaid starters named Juan.”
  • Dee Gordon is about as exciting as it comes. He hit .304 with a .325 on-base percentage and stole 24 bases in only 56 games.  He may be trouble for the Dodgers at the top of the order given how batting average-heavy that OBP is, but when he does get on base, watch out.
  • Otherwise this is a pretty weak lineup. Outside of Kemp there are very few power threats and the one guy who could maybe turn into one one day — Jerry Sands — was just sent down to the minors. For this lineup to be any kind of respectable, the Dodgers need Andre Ethier, James Loney and Juan Rivera all to remember what they were like when they used to be something. That’s a tall order.
  • Kershaw is less of a lone solider in the rotation, as Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang all look solid. Not spectacular or anything, but solid.

So how are they gonna do?

Not that great. I really don’t like anyone in this lineup not named Matt Kemp.  The cupboard is basically bare here, as the minor league system atrophied under McCourt and Ned Colletti simply doesn’t appear to know how to assemble useful spare parts.  All of that is a recipe for mediocrity at best.  Even if there is excitement on the horizon.

The Baltimore Orioles did not try to get Shohei Ohtani . . . out of principle

Getty Images
10 Comments

Shohei Ohtani made it pretty clear early in the posting process that he was not going to consider east coast teams. As such, it’s understandable if east coast teams didn’t stop all work in order to put together an Ohtani pitch before he signed with the Angels. The Baltimore Orioles, however, didn’t do so for a somewhat different reason than all of the other also-rans.

Their reason, as explained by general manager Dan Duquette on MLB Network Radio yesterday was “because philosophically we don’t participate on the posting part of it.” Suggesting that, as a matter of policy, they will not even attempt to sign Japanese players via the posting system.

Like I said, that probably didn’t make a hill of beans’ difference when it came to Ohtani, who was unlikely to give the O’s the time of day. I find it really weird, though, that the Orioles would totally reject the idea of signing Japanese players via the posting system on policy grounds. None of their opponents are willing to unilaterally disarm in that fashion, I presume.

More than that, though, why would you make that philosophy public? Don’t you want your rivals to think you’re in competition with them in all facets of the game? Don’t you want your fans to think that you’ll stop at nothing to improve the team?

An odd thing to say for Duquette. I don’t know quite why he’d say such a thing.