I came across a very well-written story a few days ago reflecting a somewhat pessimistic opinion about the Dodgers organization by some fans.
In a nutshell, the story was written by Alden Gonzalez of ESPN, and it highlighted the belief by boss Andrew Friedman that Los Angeles has a chance to be “an elite team,” despite management’s decision not to pursue any of the big-name players on the free agent or trade markets over the winter.
“I feel like we have a chance to be an elite team, and I think we have a very well-rounded roster,” Friedman told Gonzalez on Wednesday, one day after the reporting date for pitchers and catchers.
In his column, Gonzalez noted how the Dodgers passed over many of the offseason’s headline players like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Corey Kluber. Instead, Gonzalez pointed out, Los Angeles opted to snag much more economical options in the forms of A.J. Pollock, Russell Martin and Joe Kelly.
Indeed, many fans of professional sports teams will almost always be critics, yet as the spring workouts at Camelback Ranch will soon be in full gear, it just seems like there isn’t as much enthusiasm towards the Dodgers as normal from the fan base.
It’s not like the fans are jumping ship or being disloyal, but it just feels like there’s no excitement. Maybe it’s because one of the league’s most storied franchises has made it the whole way to the World Series the past two years, but management still isn’t committing to that “one big splash” that will seemingly put the team over the top during its upcoming campaign.
At the end of the 2019 season, the Dodgers should walk away with a seventh-consecutive NL West title, and by many accounts are favored to win their third pennant in a row. Yet, when compared to AL powerhouses like the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros, the Boys in Blue pale in comparison.
I think the biggest thing that stands out is the fact that many fans thought the Dodgers would be spending heavily this offseason after finally resetting their penalties to MLB when they were able to structure their 2018 payroll beneath the luxury tax threshold.
Many felt that an aggressive pursuit of Harper was imminent.
Moreover, countless fans and critics believed the Dodgers should have made stronger pushes for Realmuto and Kluber to put the club on an even keel with their AL rivals.
Team president Stan Kasten added fuel to the fire when he spoke at Fanfest, telling fans that “there are a lot of advantages to being under” the threshold. When asked about the specifics of his comment, Kasten replied, “I’m not going to go into that because that’s real inside baseball economic stuff.”
Regardless of opinion, though, Friedman said that the criticism is expected, and he did so in an analogical fashion.
“You can go to Starbucks and get a coffee and your barista will tell you that you need more pitching,” Friedman added. “Everyone has an opinion, and a strong opinion, which is great, because it speaks to their involvement and how much they care. But I think with that comes a lot of people who want certain things in that moment.”
As far as where I stand personally, I happen to agree with Friedman’s sentiments about the club having a formidable roster. However, I am very much concerned about the organization’s hesitancy to exceed the threshold, especially when they are among the largest markets in the MLB. For all intents and purposes, the club should be able to blow past the cap and afford any penalties that are accrued, especially in light of the fact that the tax is reset.
And, what’s even more concerning is that “the Dodgers plan to keep their player payroll below the level that would require a luxury tax payment for at least the next four years,” according to a document prepared for potential investors and reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
Despite all that, there’s always the summer trade deadlines that give the team a chance to make adjustments for the stretch run of the season. Plus, there’s the fact the club restructured a deal with staff ace Clayton Kershaw, brought in Kelly to fortify the bullpen, signed veteran David Freese to strengthen the bench, and traded for Martin to bridge the gap to Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith—all moves that are much better than the team sitting on its hands and doing nothing at all.
However, there’s still no excuse for the organization not to be spending heavily. In the end, maybe Friedman will have the last laugh when the team wins its first championship in 31 years. But, if for some reason the Dodgers come up short again this year, the fallout from the fans will be much, much worse next winter.
As it should be.