Craig Calcaterra

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during a spring training baseball workout Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Associated Press

2016 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

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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 2016 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

There are always so many expectations when it comes to the Dodgers. Expectations attributable primarily to the team’s payroll, but not solely. You could, if you really tried to, put together a bad $200 million team I suppose. The Dodgers have put together a pretty good one for a few years in a row now, and those good teams have won three straight NL West titles. There have been flaws, of course, and their continue to be flaws, but it seems like the Dodgers will continue to be relevant, if not favorites, in the West for some time.

The lineup returns fully intact from the end of last year, and there is talent there, but the Dodgers will need some underachieving players to live up to their potential and some younger players to take a step forward.

The core of veterans — Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner — were solid and at times spectacular last year, but they are all getting up there in years. That means that the younger talent is more significant than ever. If Yasiel Puig isn’t healthy, productive and distraction-free, L.A. is already in a hole. If Joc Pederson doesn’t show that his miserable second half from 2015 was an anomaly there are bigger problems. The biggest change will be Corey Seager replacing Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. He is widely considered to be the top prospect in all of baseball and lived up to the hype in his September call-up last season, hitting.337/.425/.561 with four homers, 17 RBI and a pair of stolen bases in 113 plate appearances. He doesn’t need to be that good for the Dodgers to win the division, but he needs to be solid. He probably will be.

The upside of this lineup is pretty spectacular and there is a lot of depth there in the form of Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, Enrique Hernandez, Chase Utley, and A.J. Ellis. It will give new manager Dave Roberts a lot fewer headaches, however, if he can count on Puig, Pederson, Seager and Gonzalez to carry the load.

Indeed, everyone in that lineup needs to be solid because there are some serious questions in the rotation right now. Best Pitcher on the Planet Clayton Kershaw is not one of them, obviously, nor is closer Kenley Jansen. Losing Zack Greinke, however, was a major blow, as was the rash of injuries suffered by other starters. Brett Anderson is gone for months. One of the guys counted on to be in the rotation, Mike Bolsinger, will start the year on the DL as well. Brandon Beachy has experienced some elbow problems and given is health history that has to be scary. Scott Kazmir was brought in to shore things up, but he was shaky in the second half last year and some have questions about his durability. At some point Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy will return, and newcomer Kenta Maeda is an intriguing addition, but in the meantime it will Kershaw and four days of — wait, it never rains in southern California.

There’s a new attitude in L.A. with Dave Roberts in camp. There is oodles of talent on this roster. But the rotation beyond Kershaw is a concern and betting on all of the Dodgers’ young players to step up while the older guys experience little if any decline is not exactly a sure thing. I think the Dodgers will be a good team this year, and for now I think they’re still the favorites in the division, but they’ll be in a battle with the Giants and the Diamondbacks all year long.

Prediction: First place N.L. West, but expect a dogfight.

Yankees president rips the revenue sharing system, wants the Mets to pay more

Yankee Stadium
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Ken Rosenthal spoke with Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees, about the revenue sharing system and the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations which helps to establish how revenue is shared. You will not be surprised to learn that the president of the team which brings in the most revenue and pays out the most in revenue sharing doesn’t much care for how much his team has to pay.

And he doesn’t much like how little the Mets have to, comparatively speaking:

“What is very burdensome to us — and is unfair — is the amount of money we have to pay in revenue sharing compared, for example, to teams in our market that pay 10 times less than us,” Yankees president Randy Levine told FOX Sports.

As Rosenthal notes, revenue sharing is calculated via a formula related to net local revenue. The Yankees have revenue that is less than twice that of the Mets but pay a proportionally larger amount to revenue sharing than the Mets. Of course, as is the case with anything related to money in baseball, the reason for this all comes down to the many ways — most of which are opaque to those outside of the ownership ranks — income and expenses are characterized. Obviously the Mets don’t do as well as the Yankees do financially, but how much worse is a matter of nuance and accounting. And, in cases like this, angry public statements.

This is an old battle. Revenue sharing scenarios come and go and change over time, but there has always been tension between the richest teams and those which are not so rich. Or claim to not be as rich as they are. The 1994 strike was, in large part, fueled by these tensions. Battles between owners played a role that was as big if not bigger than the battles between owners and players. The tensions were exacerbated by the fact that the lower-revenue owners actually had more power due to Bud Selig leading their caucus.

It’s doubtful that these tensions will lead to a similarly combustable situation this time around. There is simply more money in the game now and everyone is generally doing well. Levine even says that he is sure an agreement will be reached. But it does show that the business dynamics of baseball don’t change as much across eras as do the size of the checks the owners cash.

Major League Baseball told players not to use personalized bat stickers anymore

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You may not have noticed this but some players use little personalized stickers on the handles of their bat. Most notably Matt Duffy, who has a little Duff Man sticker on his, but other guys have them too.

Or should I say “had.” Neither Duffy nor anyone else can sport them this year. Why? Because, reports Alex Pavolovic of CSNBayArea.com, MLB has put its foot down:

 

That is a Goodell move, to be sure. Either way, I can’t see the reason for this. I know Major League Baseball has, in the past, been sensitive about corporate logos and stuff, but bat makers don’t put those on the handle. They’re on the barrel. I can’t see how it could interfere with the use of the bat either, nor how it might serve as some cover for cheating or chicanery of any kind.

Maybe they’re just worried about another Billy Ripken situation? It’s been nearly 30 years. We’re due.