|(AP photo by Charles Rex Arbogast)|
I gave it a few days, knowing full well that it's best not to write with the mind skewed by a ton of emotion. It could come off as too raw, irrational maybe, or overly magnifying the negative. "Give it a few days," I thought. "I can then cool down and give an introspective assessment of the 2014 season."
I have done that now. More than five days have passed and I've accepted the Dodger's plight. It's not as if there is any other option. A couple of ribbing emails from Giant fans have come and gone. The condolences from co- workers also. The 2014 season is done for us and I must say, I have not calmed down.
In the last 100+ hours I have seriously considered dropping my baseball fandom altogether. I know it can be done. I did it before with another sport, distancing myself from football with the Rams departure. Why not again? I spend an inordinate amount of time following the Dodgers and for what? Twenty-six years of ineptitude? Heartbreak after heartbreak? From Aase to Zachary. These guys break my heart every year. The fact that I can think of players from A to Z without having to look them up is proof positive of that.
So without further ado, here are some critical off-season moves that I believe should be made. Some radical, others not so much, but each having received a lot of thought over the past few days.
GONE. It's time. He's had 9 years and about a billion dollars in payroll to spend. Add up the contracts, there was about a billion doled out, with half of it being wasted money on guys like Schmidt, Manny Ramirez, Ted Lilly, Andruw Jones, Billingsley and Ethier. Don't be fooled by the 5 playoff appearances. Truth is he hasn't produced, and considering the gobs of money he has had to spend, I seriously can't see how he can defend himself. Look at the names: Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Luis Gonzalez, Bill Mueller, Brett Tomko, Nomar Garciaparra, Shea Hillenbrand, Mike Lieberthal, Mark Sweeney, Eseban Loaiza, Vicente Padilla, David Wells, Angel Berroa, Casey Blake, Octavio Dotel, Orlando Hudson, Mark Loretta, Ronnie Belliard, Jim Thome, Eric Milton, Jon Garland, George Sherrill, Ryan Theriot, Garrett Anderson, Scott Podsednik, Ted Lilly, Jack Taschner, Reed Johnson, Skip Schumacher, Juan Rivera, Nick Punto, Eugenio Velez, Tony Gwynn Jr., Dana Eveland, Luis Cruz, Blake Hawksworth, Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston, Bobby Abreu, Shane Victorino, Edinson Volquez, Todd Coffey, Carlso Marmol. That is scrap heap heaven, and the money spent on those names could have paid for the franchise and maybe a second one about 5 or 6 years ago.
Don Mattingly has been given his chance. His talented roster got him to the post season twice. I'll argue that the Dodger have won overcoming his mistakes. He isn't a man that is able to take them to the next level. If his roster was head over heels better than the rest of the league, he could probably do that, (as Torre did with the Yankees in the late 90s), but the L.A. roster isn't that good. Don's a good man and he works hard, but he's a stubborn manager who ignores his past mistakes...committing them over and over. He probably should be a hitting coach and that's it.
It could go either way. I'm indifferent. When he was on the field and giving a full effort, he performed, but he could hardly be counted on for anything. Giving this China doll a $15.3 million qualifying offer is only a good idea if the Dodgers are certain that he'll leave and they'll get a draft pick as compensation. Otherwise, it might be $15,000,000 thrown away because Hanley cannot stay healthy for a month, let alone an entire season. Defensively he is a complete liability.
GONE (unless he agrees to a backup role). However, if the Dodgers will consider a player/coach position, I say they do it. That could be a difficult proposition, but truth is I see Ellis as a potential future manager in the organization. If Ellis agrees to a back-up catcher/bench coach job, I think it could be a good fit. He does his homework and he's about as cerebral a player that the Dodgers have. Physically though, Ellis wasn't getting it done. Poor pitch framing, too many lazy passed balls, (possibly caused by his knee problems), a poor throw out of stealers ratio and a .191 batting average. He raked in the 4 playoff games, but it was too little too late. The season was a disaster for him, both offensively and defensively.
|A possible player/manager? (Getty Images)|
Let me throw this out there. Player/manager A.J. Ellis? Radical thought but maybe he is ideal for it. Nobody studies the game harder. Let Zack Greinke take on pitching coach chores as well. We may not win, but it would certainly be interesting. Ellis is managerial material and it may not be wise to toss him out there without any minor league managerial experience, but Ellis might be in the Ausmus mold and not be the type of person that needs to grind things out in the minors.
GONE. Please, do we even need to discuss this guy? He's terrible. Was Tim Fedeowicz thought of so negatively that Butera surpassed him on the depth chart? Since that's the case, Fedex needs to go too.
GONE. Old, unrelieable. Each given a chance to prove themselves and they all failed.
GONE. Buy out the contract and give him his $3 million to walk. Billingsley might recover, but he's not worth another contract. Too bad because he could have been a great one. Truth is though, he's on the wrong side of 30 and there's too many question marks here. If he agrees to come back at an incentive laden contract, well then that would be okay, but you know a team like Cincinnati near his Defiance, Ohio home will get a preferential nod from him.
GONE. Forty year old unreliable relievers have no business on a team that needs to get younger.
GONE if he decides to not take the guaranteed $10 million. If he doesn't take that, he's nuts. Haren came back and was solid in the last month, but he's going to be 34 years old next year and his fastball rarely reaches 90 MPH now. As a number 5 pitcher, he's serviceable, but again, this team needs to get younger. Why not let Zach Lee or Chris Reed try out being the number 5 guy? You only have to pay him the major league minimum.
I think Haren comes to his senses and realizes that the Dodger deal is the best one he'll find out there. I'm sure his agent is looking into what the market will fetch for him. Perhaps a team in need of pitching will offer him over $10 million, but I highly doubt it.
Starting pitching: After Greinke and Kershaw there are concerns. Ryu was shut down twice with injuries and required a cortisone shot and three weeks rest to pitch game three of the NLDS. That is a concern. This may be thte beginning of the end for Hyung-Jin Ryu. I hope I'm wrong. Haren would be a fool not to return, but he's a number five guy. In the minors, nobody is really emerging to be thrust in the starting pitcher role. Whoever is sitting in the GM chair will have to deal with this problem. Jon Lester would be ideal, but are they cutting payroll? If so, he won't be an option. If he is available. They should break the bank and have the top three starters in the game on their staff.
|Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's 37 year old General Manager|
Management: There is talk of Tampa Bay's Andrew Friedman. He'd be a sabermetrician's dream. And if Joe Maddon accompanied him to L.A., it would be a perfect fit. I know that's a pipe dream, but what a change that would be. So significant that I'm fairly sure they could lead the ball club into dynasty status for years to come. Friedman has a long-term vision that will keep the team competitive for years to come. Maddon is a great strategical manner and he lives in Southern California. They are too perfect of a fit.
Kim Ng is a name that is surfacing. The Dodgers are pioneers in so many areas of the game. I wouldn't put it past them to hire the first female G.M. in the game and she'd be an excellent choice. From within there's Logan White, and he is certainly worthy of the General Manager reigns, but there would be a learning curve with him as he has always been leading scouting. He certainly knows the game and I think we'd all be ecstatic with him at the helm. The loss of DeJon Watson is making the scouting department in need of an urgent hire now. Bob Engle is already in house. Maybe he's the replacement there.
So What do we do now?
That's a tough one. Trying to stomach the NLCS is about as hard as it gets. The thought of a third Giants championship in five years is enough to make me gag, and it's real probable because Kansas City or Baltimore in the series will be just happy to get there, whereas the Gnats fully understand the process and won't stop until the World Series is through.
It's a long off-season and this one might be the longest of all. If there ever was a real chance for the Dodgers to win the whole thing, this was the opportunity and it was full out blown. We've been around long enough to know that these opportunities don't come very often. And now Kershaw will have to hear over and over again that he's not a big game pitcher and that he fails under the big spotlight. You'd think that last year's failure would have been enough motivation to get him past that, but it didn't happen.
The next few weeks are crucial to the Dodgers future. If changes are put in place in the top managerial levels, I say they're on the right track. If not, we'll probably see more of the same and a team that simply gets older that will fall out of contention in the coming years. It's a critical juncture in the future of the franchise. Hopefully the Guggenheim group sees the light and makes the correct moves to get this ball club to the next level.