As I attempt to catch up on the baseball world after the whirlwind last few weeks of wedding and honeymoon, what I’m noticing is that there’s a pretty great narrative going on about how the big Dodgers/Red Sox trade, and Adrian Gonzalez specifically, was “a bust” for LA, since Gonzalez got off to a slow start and the team is unlikely to make the playoffs. (You can see examples here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And probably dozens more.)
While that’s kind of silly – we talked about how the trade was made with far more than just 2012 in mind and anyone who quotes the entire $250m+ figure without pointing out that it was hardly a secret that Carl Crawford was known to be injured when the trade was made is willfully distorting the facts – I will at least acknowledge that Gonzalez hasn’t exactly been the instantaneous boost we all hoped he’d be.
Then again, he is hitting .311/.357/.459 over his last 22 games, dating back to September 2, while James Loney, somewhat remarkably, has been even worse in Boston than he was as a Dodger. So with Crawford irrelevant and Josh Beckett adequate, it’s hard for me to pin too much blame on this team (likely) missing October on some perceived story about how the big-spending Dodgers swung and missed with their big deal, especially when first base was upgraded and the rotation was reinforced.
Besides, there’s no shortage of real reasons why this team isn’t going to make the playoffs, and Gonzalez being “good but not great” barely sniffs the list for me. Even just over the last two months, you can see a variety of causes why the Dodgers are probably going to be sitting and watching from home:
1) The Giants have somehow become one of baseball’s most surprising teams, even after losing Melky Cabrera, and might win 95 games. (You know I don’t care about PEDs nearly as much as most other people, but someone tell me how Marco Scutaro is really hitting .361/.384/.476 as a Giant, please.)
2) Clayton Kershaw got hurt and has been semi-available
3) Matt Kemp has been constantly banged-up and unproductive while trying to play through injury
4) Chad Billingsley was lost for the season, which combined with Kershaw’s woes prompted Don Mattingly to admit that Beckett might be his best starter without a trace of irony
5) A.J. Ellis has run out of gas in his first season as a starter, hitting only .187/.271/.267 over the last month
6) Kenley Jansen missed more time with concerns over his heart condition
7) Shane Victorino, someone we liked only in the small sense that he wasn’t Bobby Abreu, has been absolutely atrocious
8) After a good start to his Dodger career, Hanley Ramirez has slumped badly, hitting .234/.274/.378 over the last month
9) Finally, and perhaps more relevant to the season as a whole, the miraculous April start unreasonably inflated expectations. Remember April, when a healthy Kemp was destroying the world and every Ivan De Jesus or Matt Treanor or Tony Gwynn was somehow chipping in with a game-winning hit? That was never going to keep up, and it didn’t. The Dodgers were 24-11 on May 14; held back by a slew of injuries and inevitable regression, they are 57-64 since, and that’s a lot closer to what we expected at the start of te year.
Those are just nine reasons; there’s certainly many others, and while Gonzalez’ failure to hit like Miguel Cabrera times Mike Trout plus Josh Hamilton certainly contributed, any of these hysteric reactions you see to the “failed” trade being the main reason why a flawed, injury-destroyed team missing its best starting pitchers probably not making the playoffs is just completely missing the mark.