Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul…
From the song “The Big Money” by Rush
It appears those lyrics don’t apply to the Los Angeles Dodgers these days. A team that has been spending the big money certainly hasn’t taken control of the division as many thought they would. They haven’t been able to go on any kind of streak, winning or mean. And their 9-11 record in September(thru 9/24) may indicate they have no soul either.
Due to the implementation of the second wild card, the Dodgers still have a slim chance of making the postseason. The problem is Slim is bordering on becoming a full blown anorexic. Even if the Dodgers win all of their remaining nine games, they will have to count on St. Louis and Milwaukee pulling major collapses. It appears that even with a payroll that is growing so huge they may have to redesign calculators with more zeroes, the Dodgers have proven they aren’t the Yankees, or even the Phillies.
I don’t know why but it seems as though the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was the only man capable of pulling together a team of overpriced, and sometimes mediocre, “big names” and getting the most out of them. No matter how much Steinbrenner exemplified “Big Money,” his moves always paid off. I guess you could make a case for the Phillies who sort of did the same thing by using trades to acquire players just before they would become free agents.
The Dodgers will most likely be spending October in the gym rather than the playing field because they couldn’t pull off a Steinbrenner. They may have thought they built a team ready for the stretch run but the fact is they have done quite the opposite. Part of the reason things worked in New York was that the Yankees always had an identity. Apart from being the most historic franchise in baseball, they were also able to take on an image of both good and bad. The good guys were the Derek Jeters and Mariano Riveras. The bad guys had nicknames like A-Rod and, of course, the Boss himself. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are developing more into the ugly than the bad or good.
I mean, sure, Matt Kemp has been the subject of HBO profiles and his small-town-kid-makes-it-in-Hollywood story is the kind of story Bud Selig loves. But the script is running a bit thin. Since running into a wall while chasing a fly ball in Colorado back in August, Kemp is hitting under .200. Some are wondering if he is hurting more than he will admit. Andre Ethier, the man who many thought might develop into a bigger star than Kemp after hitting 31 home runs in 2009, has also struggled of late. Ethier is hitting .256 with only 10 RBI in September.
Beyond the home grown hitters, injuries have crippled the core of the home grown pitching staff. Clayton Kershaw is suffering from an annoying hip injury. Although Kershaw has not given up more than two runs in his last six starts, he is just 1-3 in those starts. He hasn’t been able to duplicate the magic of 2011 when he went 9-1 the last two months of the season. And Chad Billingsley, whose 16-10 season in 2008 saw the Dodgers anoint him the number starter of the future, suffered a season-ending, and possibly career threatening, elbow injury. He might be lost for 2013 as well.
The trade for all the firepower that was going to set up a Dodgers-Yankees World Series hasn’t created much good either. Hanley Ramirez is batting .231 with two home runs in September. Adrian Gonzalez, whose Tijuana roots were supposed to make him the biggest hero among the loyal Hispanic fan base since Fernando Valenzuela, had hit just one home run in his first 26 games as a Dodger. He hit two home runs in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Reds so even if he has gone into overdrive, “Gonzala-mania” looks like it will have to wait until 2013.
About the only good-guy story this season is that of Luis Cruz. Cruz spent 10 years in the minor leagues before blossoming with the Dodgers. He is hitting .300 in 69 games.
So if the image of good isn’t coming from on the field, maybe you have to look at the owner’s box. The problem is Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten appear to be the antithesis of George Steinbrenner-they may blame themselves for the team’s failures before they’ll blame the players.
Maybe this team needs a bad guy. Let Johnson become Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and threaten manager Don Mattingly to “win or else” as Lurie said to coach Andy Reid. Maybe Kemp needs to start dating Katy Perry. Maybe Josh Beckett could use a golf outing to do better than the one win he has garnered in five starts in a Dodger uniform.
Or maybe George Steinbrenner could rise from the dead. After all, about the only personality the Dodgers have taken on of late is that of a zombie.