Wait, we’re judging the Dodgers-Red Sox trade now? Really?

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Dancing on the Dodgers’ grave, from the San Francisco Business Times:

The Dodgers’ Big Trade has been a bust — and that is good news for the Giants and baseball in general.  The Big Trade that the Dodgers pulled off Aug. 26 loaded that team with hot shot players Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford and $260 million in additional salary.

It was designed to propel the Dodgers to win the National League West and, ultimately, the World Series. “We want to win now,” said Dodger co-owner Magic Johnson. But since that Saturday in August the Dodgers have played worse, winning 10 of 26 games for a .384 winning percentage. That compares to the club’s pre-trade .543 winning percentage.

The lesson, according to the writer, is that sometimes money just doesn’t buy wins.

Which, sure, I’ll grant that. Just ask the Marlins as they cry and the Athletics as they laugh.  But is it not way too early to say anything super intelligent in that regard about the Dodgers-Red Sox trade?

Part of that trade is Carl Crawford, who has not played a game this season. A fact which was known would be the case at the time of the trade. Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez is under contract through 2018 and Josh Beckett through 2014.

I’ll grant that this will be a bust of a trade if Gonzalez doesn’t rediscover his mojo, if Beckett turns into a tomato can and if Crawford comes back a shell of his former self.  But no matter what Magic Johnson says, this was not solely a “win in 2012” kind of deal. This was a deal for both the short and the long term.

As such, declaring it a bust for the Dodgers and drawing any larger conclusions from it about whether one can buy wins is way premature. And, from a writer for a San Francisco publication, a somewhat curious angle to take at the moment.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.