It’s hard to flip on the radio these days without hearing the Los Angeles Dodgers being called the “Yankees of the West.”
I get it. With new ownership, the Dodgers are spending like Michael Jackson in an antique shop. But why are we so quick to compare Magic Johnson’s new pet project to the most successful franchise in the history of American professional sports?
Down the road, if the Dodgers’ front office is smart, I can see how they could become a Yankees-like franchise. They have the market, the brand name, the legacy; a new TV contract that could be worth as much as $4 billion is on the way, too.
But if last week’s blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox is any indication of what’s to come, the Dodgers will look more like the New York Mets than the Yankees in the long run.
The Dodgers should take a quick glance down Interstate 5. They’ll see what can happen when teams start spending money like drunken sailors. The Los Angeles Angels bought the best player (Albert Pujols) and pitcher (C.J. Wilson) on the free-agent market last winter for nearly $330 million, but they’re trailing four teams with lower payrolls in the AL wild-card race right now.
The Miami Marlins threw down $193 million on Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle, but currently find themselves in last place in the NL East.
The Yankees didn’t win five World Series championships, seven American League pennants and 12 American East Division titles in 17 seasons by simply outspending the competition. For every Jason Giambi or Roger Clemens that the front office brings in, there’s a Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Alfonso Soriano or Robinson Cano who is developed within the team’s farm system.
The advantage the Yankees have is that when they need a piece to complete the puzzle, they can push everyone else out of the market. But the franchise is most successful when it spends with precision.
Look at the guys the team picked up en route to four World Series titles in five years: Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, Wade Boggs, David Cone, David Wells, Chuck Knoblauch and Clemens. They’re clutch players, but not the stat monsters (other than Clemens) that you’d build your fantasy baseball team around.
Adrian Gonzalez is the kind of ballplayer the Dodgers should build around, along with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. But what kind of clubhouse are you getting when you bring in notorious team cancers such as Hanley Ramirez and Josh Beckett? And why spend hundreds of millions without addressing your most glaring need: reliable starting pitching?
Of course, this group could always get hot for the remaining 31 games and win the NL West. But can we wait until they actually bring home their first World Series trophy since 1988 before we bestow them with a title like “Yankees of the West”?
Paul Gackle is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @PGackle.