Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times talked to owner Magic Johnson about his expectations for the Dodgers this season:
We want to go to the World Series. If we don’t accomplish that, yes, it is not a good season for us. Guys should be saying that. As the ownership group, that is what we are saying.
That makes sense in that the Dodgers have added a ton of star players and now boast the largest payroll in baseball history, but as the playoffs constantly prove being the best team–or at least having the best record–doesn’t always mean winning the World Series. It’s much different than the NBA that way.
And if they don’t win the World Series, what happens to manager Don Mattingly when his contract expires after the season?
Don has been in this game. He understands how these things work. He knows, if he does his job, he will get rewarded. Look, everybody likes Don a lot. Nobody wants to put Don in a situation where he is going to be the fall guy. We’re not that type of guys. What we’re trying to do is give Don all the resources necessary to be a winner, be effective and be a champion.
If it’s truly “World Series or bust” for the Dodgers this season Mattingly ought to be very nervous.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.