Dodgers need to upgrade roster, attitude (cont.)
4. Time to spend. The Dodgers led baseball in attendance yet operate almost like a mid-market club under owner Frank McCourt. Their payroll actually went down about $20 million, from about $122 million to just over $100 million (or even slightly less if you count the money saved during Manny's suspension), so it's impressive that they were at least as good a team. Colletti proved two years running he could improve the team without making significant payroll increases; in 2008 they got Ramirez and paid him nothing in a deal that's tough to top but parted with top catching prospect Carlos Santana for Casey Blake in order to get the small-market Indians to pay his salary. This year, Colletti's collection of worthwhile pickups all came on the relative cheap, from Padilla to Jon Garland to Ronnie Belliard to Jim Thome to George Sherrill. As if the lack of spending funds wasn't hindrance enough, there's going to be considerable question whether their newly dicey ownership situation might hamper them this winter. The McCourts are divorcing, both are actively involved in the team, and both want to stay involved (presumably without the other around). They did agree to get Colletti's multiyear extension done the other day. But big free agents might be a tougher thing to agree on. Besides, big free-agent deals change a balance sheet, and that could affect the valuation and potential transfer of the team.
5. Time to figure out what happened to James Loney, Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley, and perhaps consider trading one or all of them. Loney suffered a power shortfall (13 home runs) that had them considering packaging him up with prospects to make a play for Adrian Gonzalez. "They need 25 to 30 home runs there, and I just don't see it from (Loney),'' one scout said. That sort of trade still makes sense if they can pull it off, especially because Gonzalez has proven to be able to homer in a pitchers' park. Martin "seemed to lose confidence'' one Dodger person said. And why not? He hit a weak .250 and struggled to even get there.'' Meanwhile, Billingsley was "like two different pitchers from the first half to the second,'' one Dodger said. His second-half record was 3-7 with a 5.20 ERA after going 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA in the first half, which explains how someone who started the year as the No. 1 starter could pitch his way out of the rotation by the NLCS. One scout said such slippage was a waste, as Billingsley "should be an All-Star."
6. Time to add another veteran presence who's an everyday player. Manny Ramirez is a great guy to loosen up the troops. But these troops don't need any more loosening. They probably need another everyday player who does things right, who goes by the book, who stays out of the shower until the game is over. One Dodger observer wondered aloud whether benching Orlando Hudson (who homered as a pinch hitter in the 10-4 Game 5 defeat) left them lacking inspiration. But folks in the clubhouse denied that the decision to play the hotter hand in Belliard factored significantly into the outcome. They are an awfully young team, with the bulk of the nucleus 20-something (contrast that with the Phillies, whose stars are almost all about 30). "Experience isn't necessarily determinative, but generally speaking it is an important factor,'' Ausmus said. "Experience is very important, especially in the postseason. You start to understand that despite the postseason energy and atmosphere that the game itself doesn't change. (The Phillies) are obviously talented, as well. But I'm willing to bet their experience helped them this year.'' Meanwhile, a couple of the younger Dodgers denied that experience counts. Which only shows you how young they are.
Bobby Valentine goes for his interview in Cleveland today. Valentine made $4 million with Chiba Lotte this year past year, so some small-market teams have shied away. But GM Mark Shapiro said, "I don't think money's going to be a factor.'' The Indians paid Eric Wedge close to $1.5 million, and it may be possible they'd be willing to bump that a bit, perhaps to about $2.5 million. The diverse foursome of Manny Acta, Torey Lovullo, Don Mattingly and Valentine appears to be the final four. Shapiro didn't give a timetable but the elimination of Mattingly's Dodgers might give them a chance to hire someone slightly sooner.
Red Sox executive Jed Hoyer still appears to be the favorite for the Padres GM job. Meanwhile some Dodgers people will be annoyed if their assistant GM Kim Ng is passed over again. They point out she has three rings (Hoyer has two) and has worked for three successful organizations.
Outgoing union chief Don Fehr reportedly got an $11 million parting gift from players, according to ESPN. Money well spent.
MLB people are not at all happy about the awful umpiring in both the Division Series and League Championship Series. It would be a surprise if no action is taken. One thing that needs to go is the sort of favoritism that rewarded some umpires with undeserved playoff assignments.
The possibility of a Yankees-Phillies World Series has some Mets people cringing. It's been some kind of year for them, hasn't it?
MLB Truth & Rumors