A quick thought for the day… over the last two weeks or so, as the Dodgers have occasionally looked terrible, I’ve heard many variations on the following theme:
“If the Dodgers spent all that money and made all those trades and don’t even get into the playoffs in 2012, they’ll have wasted it all for nothing!”
To which I say, wait, what now? Sure, if you go out and assume more than a quarter-billion dollars in future commitments, deal about a dozen prospects, and make one of the most controversial trades in the history of the sport, expectations are going to rise – and rightfully so. Some of the moves were made to help the Dodgers win right now, and if 2012 ends with the Dodgers on the outside looking in, it’ll be a big disappointment.
But to suggest that all of that effort was expended with 2012 in mind as the sole and singular goal… well, that’s just foolish. Yes, Hanley Ramirez was a big immediate upgrade over Dee Gordon and/or Juan Uribe, but he’s also going to be that for the next two seasons in a market devoid of left side help. Sure, Adrian Gonzalez required a massive outlay, but it wasn’t just to replace James Loney for six weeks, it was to fill a hole for the next six years when there’s no immediate help coming from the farm system or the free agent market at the position. Josh Beckett‘s contract was a requirement in acquiring Gonzalez, and while he’s needed right now to help reinforce a rotation weakened by injuries to Chad Billingsley & Ted Lilly, he’s also around for the next two years to hopefully help fill out the back end. You can argue about whether this is a good thing, but Nick Punto is signed up through next season too. Hell, Carl Crawford is already out for the year, so any value he provides – if there is any – will come in 2013 or later.
Sure, Shane Victorino, Brandon League, & Joe Blanton are all free agents and are around strictly to help in 2012. Fine. Every team in contention makes moves like that, and while Victorino has been generally awful and League & Blanton each struggled early before turning it around lately, I don’t think any of the prospects dealt for them are really going to be anyone we miss, unless you’re the world’s biggest Logan Bawcom fan.
A 2012 stretch run was absolutely part of what the Dodgers were going for, but it’s far from the only thing these moves accomplished. This club was built on a tight budget over the last few seasons, and there’s only so much you can do in-season to change that, especially when the sale wasn’t even completed a month into the year. The fact that the Dodgers are even in position right now is incredible, considering where our expectations were to start 2012, and what these moves have done is taken a very flawed team and improved them greatly. But there’s still holes to be fixed – a questionable starting rotation, the continued existence of Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy, Juan Rivera, a sometimes patchwork bullpen, a limited prospect pool in the minors – and it’s going to take more than three or four months to handle all that.
What the new ownership has done is set this team up well for the future, with a core offensive group of Gonzalez, Ramirez, Matt Kemp, & Andre Ethier that’s locked down for years. If you want to argue they overpaid to do so, then you’re absolutely going to have an argument to do so. But it’s not all about 2012. Whether they make the playoffs or fizz out in September (and this is a separate conversation, but it’s worth arguing whether making that one-game wild card bout and then going home even matters), the Dodger team that ends 2012 is going to be far, far, stronger than the one that started it. It’s prepared to make some real noise in the NL for years, and if things play out the way we hope they will, I doubt anyone will say, “well, yeah, but they should have done more in 2012.”
2012 is important, and we’ve seen what impact the new owners have had already in just the perception of this team around baseball. It’s not the only thing, and no matter what the next four weeks of baseball brings, it’s not going to change what we expect could be a very bright future.