Welcome to Los Angeles, baseball paradise, where the weather is warm, the money flows like Niagara Falls, and where the sport has been given a shot of life.
When Magic Johnson, Mark R. Walter, Todd Boehly, Bobby Patton, Boston native Peter Gruber, and Stan Kasten bought the team from Frank McCourt for $2.2 billion, the outlay of money didn’t stop there.
They took on some $260 million in contracts by acquiring Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez from the Red Sox. They had previously traded for Miami’s Hanley Ramirez and Seattle’s Brandon League. The Dodgers didn’t make the playoffs, but they thought they faced an uphill fight even with all the moves.
They are investing big time in Latin America. In the future, they will be huge players in the Japanese and Cuban markets. They will be big free agent players this offseason. They are hiring good baseball people, such as Gerry Hunsicker, the former Astros general manager who had been one of the Rays’ top talent evaluators.
Kasten, the new team president, who has built teams in Atlanta and Washington, feels like he’s died and gone to heaven. General manager Ned Colletti has a new contract, and available resources that would make Theo Epstein jealous.
The Dodgers have the opportunity and the brainpower to build the greatest baseball organization ever.
Now, they can build their scouting departments and major league depth. Prior to this, Colletti couldn’t go after top free agents. He had to be careful of the budget and bottom line. Now, if there’s something he needs to have, he gets it.
He told the new owners when they took over that they needed to start going strong in Latin America because he needed to build his inventory of players. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
For the first time in Colletti’s eight-year tenure, he doesn’t have to worry about which prospects he can deal. When he needed to make the deal with the Red Sox, he didn’t hesitate to give up pitching talent such as Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to do it.
“It’s always tough giving up young players,” Colletti said. “For many years here we weren’t in a spot to go after the top free agents. You can build it two ways. In this market, this fan base and this franchise, we needed to fast-forward it some. You can wait on prospects forever, and you might wait forever, and that’s just a general comment. The Red Sox deal was one of those deals we thought we could get better.
“We did it with an eye on 2013, 2014 more than we did for 2012. We knew 2012 was going to be a battle, and it was. And we knew we were going to have a battle when we lost the players we lost in midseason. It’s not like we traded prospects for rentals for two months. We traded a lot of good players who could end up in the big leagues. How well they do, the game will tell. This organization needed to restart with players we feel, in every case, are in the midst of their prime. They’re not at the end of their careers but in the midst of their prime.
“It gives our system a chance to catch up a little bit. We had to rush guys, and when you rush guys, 1, they’re not ready to play every day or start every fifth day; and 2, with some guys, you give them a sense of entitlement that they’re already done. You keep your club strong when you have kids in the system who have to earn their way and not come up because someone got hurt and you can’t fill it from outside.”
And so Colletti was comfortable trading for Crawford, who then had Tommy John surgery but is scheduled to be ready for Opening Day, or close to it.
“He’s still a dynamic player,” Colletti said. “A couple of years ago, he was one of the most sought-after free agents in the game for good reason. People in Tampa saw it a lot. People in the AL East saw it a lot — a combination of abilities not many players have. In this league, the ability to hit and steal, doubles and triples — this is a tough park for home runs sometimes — his ability to create things offensively with speed and ability to hit.”
Colletti loves his lineup, which will include Crawford, Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Ramirez, and Andre Ethier.
“It’s the best lineup we’ve put out since I’ve been here,” he said.
But Colletti has more to do. He needs another starter. He is also “trying to keep our bullpen strong. In this league and in this division, the bullpens are strong and have good depths to them. You have to continue to have depth and inventory in some ways. So, the bullpen is one of our strengths and we have to maintain.”
He has to settle on his shortstop and third baseman. Either Ramirez is the shortstop, or he’s the third baseman and Dee Gordon takes over at short. Never rule out another move, either. Some have hinted the Dodgers could be a landing spot for Alex Rodriguez.
But the question marks are dwindling.
The Dodgers weren’t able to land Ryan Dempster from the Cubs at the deadline, but may be able to in the offseason. They could also be in on Zack Greinke and Jake Peavy. They could make a big play for Tampa Bay’s James Shields.
Right now, there’s really not much this franchise can’t do.
The Dodgers are back. And the rest of baseball may soon be blue.
Apropos of something
The last three Red Sox managers certainly had their issues with the team.
Terry Francona’s book with the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, which will be out in January, won’t paint Red Sox ownership in a positive light. Bobby Valentine also has been firing away recently, though his beef is more with coaches and some players than with the owners. Obviously, Grady Little left on poor terms, fired because he left Pedro Martinez in too long in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
Valentine, the latest casualty, responded to recent criticism on comments made about David Ortiz, and letters he said he wrote to incoming manager John Farrell.
On Ortiz: “What I said was a statement of fact. At that point, there was nothing for David to play for or to risk his career. I merely said what was true, that David stopped playing. Don’t know how that can be construed as throwing David under the bus. I never did that. If there was something at stake I knew he would push through, but after the trade, it was clearly a lost season, so why risk it?”
On the letters: “It was a joke. It’s one of the oldest jokes in baseball. Dick Williams used to say it. I said it when I got fired in Texas, when I got fired in New York. It’s too bad that no one has enough experience to understand old-time baseball jokes. I obviously didn’t leave letters.”
Valentine said of the media, “A lot of media is fake outrage . . . big deals made out of little things or nothing at all.”
There are managerial openings in Colorado, Miami, and Toronto, but Valentine was mum on whether he would like to be considered. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria came close to hiring Valentine a few years ago, but it appears he’s now looking for a cheaper, younger manager since he owes Ozzie Guillen $7.5 million.
Francona has moved on to manage the Indians after a year at ESPN. When the book hits, it’s probably going to be a little awkward with a manager of another team being critical of the Red Sox. Little is retired after managing the Dodgers following his departure from Boston.
Apropos of nothing
1. As the Red Sox give the godfather of sabermetrics, Bill James, more authority on baseball decisions, one veteran scribe pointed out, and it’s true, “You have two teams in the World Series who are the least sabermetrics-oriented teams in baseball.”
2. A partial list of recently retired or nearly retired players who could manage: Luis Gonzalez, Jorge Posada, Mark DeRosa, Brad Ausmus, Bill Mueller, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, Jason Giambi, Kevin Cash, Ellis Burks, and Omar Vizquel.
3. AT&T Park could be the best ballpark in baseball, and that’s a lot for me to acknowledge after being a longtime admirer of Camden Yards.
4. Must say, Giants female PA announcer Renel Brooks-Moon is outstanding.
5. While longtime scouts are losing jobs at an alarming rate, it’s great to see the Nationals have hired veteran Bob Johnson as their advance scout.
6. One of the reasons Tim Bogar turned down the job as Astros bench coach is because the team was making candidates commit through 2015, not being able to interview for managerial openings.
7. Wonder if the Red Sox will go with the recent trend of having two hitting and pitching coaches? The Giants have been successful using Dave Righetti/Mark Gardner for pitching and Hensley Meulens/Joe Lefebvre for hitting. The Cardinals also do it. The Phillies are adopting it. The Sox once tried two hitting coaches with Ron Jackson and Mike Barnett, but it didn’t work.
8. The Red Sox need to promote more from within. Never understood why, if you hire someone to coach your prospects and Triple A players, he isn’t good enough to instruct your major league hitters and pitchers.
9. Heard Terry Francona also talked to the Marlins about their job, but wanted the Indians all along.
10. As I sit here at Dodger Stadium, it reminds me that Frank McCourt owns 300 acres around this stadium. Is there a possible NFL stadium in his sights?
Updates on 9
1. Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants — As long as Scutaro accepts a reasonable salary, the 36-year-old will have a job with the Giants next season. He has sold himself to management, which may opt for the tough Scutaro over the injury-prone Freddy Sanchez. Scutaro earned $6 million this season, but likely would have to sign for less to stay, which he may be willing to do considering his age and the fact he enjoys the Bay Area, where he spent four seasons with the A’s. Second base is clearly Scutaro’s best position.
2. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, free agent — According to the Japanese media, who know him well, the 38-year-old is content signing a one-year deal at this stage in his career. The Yankees were able to sign him to a one-year, $10 million deal, and Kuroda could opt for a similar deal to stay in New York, or even return to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers could surely use him. Kuroda wants to maintain flexibility in case he wants to return to Japan after next season. He also is of the mind-set that he doesn’t want to become complacent as the result of a long-term deal. Management’s dream.
3. Josh Hamilton, OF, free agent — There’s mounting evidence that Milwaukee could be one of the teams that emerges in the market. Being in the Midwest would cater to Hamilton’s needs, and the Brewers, who led the National League in runs, have nonetheless not replaced Prince Fielder. A Hamilton-Ryan Braun duo would be devastating. The Brewers are at least looking into the possibility, though their top priorities remain a starting pitcher and a revamped bullpen.
4. Shane Farrell, amateur scouting assistant, Cubs — The son of Red Sox manager John Farrell will be learning the ropes from former Sox scouting director Jason McLeod. He’s 23 and was in demand after spending the summer watching players in the Cape Cod League.
5. Shohei Otani, RHP, Japan — The 18-year-old phenom has the usual suspects after him, the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, and Rangers among the most notable. Given the Dodgers’ resources, don’t be surprised if they beat out the competition. Otani’s fastball has been clocked at 100 miles per hour. The Red Sox are said to very interested, hoping this won’t turn out like Daisuke Matsuzaka. While the Cubs appear to be big players, Theo Epstein recently expressed trepidation about plunging into the Japanese market again.
6. Larry Bowa, MLB Network — Bowa has interviewed for two managerial jobs this offseason, the Astros and Marlins. Would love to see Bowa get back in. Loved his fiery style, but he’s also learned to incorporate sabermetrics into his approach, which gives him a nice combination of old school and new school.
7. Nomar Garciaparra, ESPN — Garciaparra has made it known that he’d like to get back on the field as a coach or manager.
8. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays — Bautista said he’s ahead of schedule in recuperating from wrist surgery, which saw him miss the final 70 games. “I’m in the strengthening stage right now,” he said. “I expect to be ready in spring training. Anxious to get back.”
9. Brad Ausmus, special assistant to the GM, Padres — The one managerial job Ausmus wanted was with the Red Sox. He turned down a chance to go further in the interview process with the Astros, and turned down a chance to interview in Miami. It may be unlikely that Ausmus agrees to manage any team but the Red Sox, but teams will try to lure him.
From the Bill Chuck Files: “There were 79 players who hit 20-plus homers this season, the same number as did it in 1987. The high point was in 1999, when 103 batters hit 20-plus dingers.” Also, “Miguel Cabrera and Derek Jeter were the only two this season with 200-plus hits, down from the five (Melky Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and Michael Young) who did it last season.” And, “Shin-Soo Choo may be a natural for Fenway Park. This season, the lefty went to the opposite field 143 times and hit .364 with four homers and 20 doubles.” . . . Happy birthday Tim Bogar (46), Bob Melvin (51), Sammy Stewart (58), and Bob Veale (77).Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.