Thursday, December 2, 2021

What is the true cost of the Dodgers’ failed World Series bid?

Atlanta erupted closer to midnight Saturday. The sale has started. Fireworks broke out. Players exploded, throwing off their caps and jumping madly around the infield. The mascot rushed out onto the field, waving a huge red flag that read NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS.

But since the Dodgers left the field for the last time this season, I didn’t think about the Braves. I thought about the New York Yankees. I couldn’t help but think about what Aaron Boone, manager of the Yankees, said after his team dropped out of the playoffs this year.

“The league has closed the gap with us,” Boone said.

The Yankees didn’t fire Boone for that. They just signed it for another three years.

This is where the Yankees are, in a sport where financial strength alone no longer guarantees success. Perhaps this is where the Dodgers are at the end of the most glorious race in the proud franchise’s history.

After seven years of division championship victories and a rebuilding of the organization, the Dodgers and their owners have gone all-in in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, investing half a billion dollars in Muki Betts last year and Trevor Bauer this year combined.

The Dodgers won the World Series last year. Flags fly forever.

They didn’t even make it to the World Series this year – and, no, it’s not Bauer’s fault. The Dodgers replaced him with someone even better: Max Scherzer.

And they came pretty close: within two games after reappearing in the World Series, even though they lost Max Muncie to injury on the last day of the regular season, it’s too late to get a replacement and they lost a player in a day. before injury at the NLCS three days in a row: Justin Turner, Joe Kelly and Scherzer.

Now you have to pay the bills.

The major players the Dodgers traded for Betts and Scherzer – pitcher Josia Gray, catcher Keibert Ruiz, infielder Jeter Downs and outfielder Alex Verdugo – are no longer here.

Still Here: David Price, who the Dodgers took as part of the deal to get the Betts, and who wasn’t among the 13 pitchers the Dodgers used in the playoffs. Also still here: Bauer, at least until the commissioner’s office allegedly removes him from office following the completion of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against him. Until that unpaid suspension is agreed or upheld on appeal, Price and Bauer’s contracts amount to $ 80 million in the Dodgers’ ledgers.

Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seeger and Chris Taylor can all be free agents. Everyone in their 30s, except Seeger, for whom the bidding for a new contract could start at $ 300 million.

The league has slashed unlimited spending on international amateurs, which the Dodgers’ owners have skillfully used to rebuild the minor league system. The Dodgers’ farming system, deprived of major and deep perspectives after years of bidding to support the Major League squad, is currently ranked 15th out of 30 teams, according to Baseball America.

It remains to be seen if the Dodgers’ owners are willing to continue to spend a quarter billion dollars on player salaries each year. Whatever the level of spending, staffing decisions must be smart.

For the Dodgers, so many decisions have been right in this success streak that it’s very frustrating to realize how many of them went wrong this year.

It is a testament to how solid the foundation Andrew Friedman and his baseball team is, the Dodgers have won 106 games this year, with their weaknesses largely hidden until the postseason.

Gavin Lux trained in midfield in September and October because he couldn’t hold second base in April and May. Matt Beaty, Zach McKinstree and Edwin Rios were unable to replace Kike Hernandez and Jock Pederson on the bench. Pinch hitter Saturday in the seventh inning representing the draw: Steven Sousa Jr., 32, who has made nine major league hits in the past three years.

The Dodgers launched Corey Knebel in the first game of the NLCS and Kelly in the elimination game, partly because Kershaw and Dustin May were injured, but also because Tony Gonsolin was not developing as expected, and because the Dodgers got an injury replacement – Danny Duffy and Cole Hamels were hurt themselves.

The Dodgers used Scherzer as a door closer and Julio Urias as an auxiliary playoff pitcher, which made them less effective in their primary starter role. The team, which boasted eight starting players in April, tried to make it through the postseason with three. The front office tried unsuccessfully to mask the lack of weapons by over-thinking, and the team ended the postseason with two healthy starters.

All of this, of course, pales in comparison to the Bauer fiasco – not because it prevented the Dodgers from repeating, but because it seriously damaged the reputation of the team and its management.

“Hopefully over the past six plus years,” Friedman said when the Dodgers signed with Bauer, “there has been some trust and trust in terms of the research we do on the players and the verification process we go through.”

That trust and trust was sacrificed – by front office and property – to be able to sign an outstanding short-term pitcher.

More broadly, the Dodgers play in an increasingly crowded league of Moneyball with Money teams. The two AL finalists, the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros, are run by Tampa Bay Rays alumni, as is Friedman.

The Braves is run by Alex Antopoulos, who worked under Friedman in Los Angeles. The San Francisco Giants are run by Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, both of whom worked under Friedman in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers analyst guru left to start his own firm. The Dodgers income guru left to help the Fanatics try to dominate the sports business.

Perhaps the league has closed the gap with the Dodgers, as Boone said of the Yankees. Probably no. The Yankees have not competed in the World Series since 2009. The Dodgers have done this three times in the past five years.

Dodgers are still blessed with great intelligence and money. The rise in streaming means viewers no longer have to pay for channels they don’t watch, which is why cable companies could afford to spend millions on teams for local broadcasting rights. As the league and many of the Dodgers’ rivals try to tweak their money-making patterns on the fly, the Dodgers have struck a record $ 8 billion deal that will last until 2038. They must continue to thrive.

But you never know in advance when the golden era might end. The Angels have won one World Series and five divisional championships from 2002 to 2009. The good times seemed to go on. Since then, they haven’t won a game in the post-season.

For the Dodgers, it is now and too early to wait until next year.

Nation World News Desk
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