The Los Angeles Dodgers (70-61) and the Boston Red Sox (62-68) officially completed a monstrous 9-player deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez (.297 AVG., 90 RBIs), Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to L.A last week. The Dodgers have sent first baseman James Loney, outfielder Jerry Sands, pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, and prospects Allen Webster and Ivan De Jesus to Boston. The deal spells extreme desperation for the embattled Dodgers who stand 2 games behind the first place San Francisco Giants (73-57), and marks another major acquisition that Los Angeles has made in attempt to overtake the orange and black.
The trade boosts a Dodgers’ lineup that ranks 24th in baseball, averaging just barely 4.0 runs per game. The Dodgers are so desperate that they essentially acquired two bad contracts just to attain “A-Gone.” Carl Crawford (.282 AVG. in 31 games) is owed over $100 through 2017 and is on the shelf for the remainder of the season. Then there’s the famous fried chicken right-hander Josh Beckett (5-12, 5.21 ERA), who has pathetically surrendered more hits than innings pitched. Beckett will replace Chad Billingsly (10-9, 3.55 ERA), who was placed on the disabled list on Saturday, in a relatively consistent pitching staff that boasts a 3.37 ERA, anchored by 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (12-7, 2.84 ERA).
More importantly, the Dodgers now feature a middle-of-the-order that is stacked with talent: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez. Gonzalez is undoubtedly the most intriguing element of the Dodgers’ revamped offense. A-Gone has accumulated a .325 AVG. in the second half, compiling a .949 OPS while maintaining a whopping .393 AVG. with runners-in-scoring position. Los Angeles has struggled in clutch situations (.195 AVG with 2 outs and RISP) and Gonzalez is surely to change that. Gonzalez launched a three run bomb and struck out twice in his Dodgers’ debut last Saturday, aiding his new team to an 8-2 win over the Miami Marlins.
Los Angeles now features a deep lineup that looks fantastic on paper, but the most crucial component of their immediate success, or lack thereof, will depend on how efficiently this band of problem-laden personalities will blend. Gonzalez has a history of faulty attitude while openly contemplating his future to the media as a member of the San Diego Padres in the midst of the 2010 pennant race. At the time, the Padres had a sizeable division lead over the eventual World Series Champion Giants. Ramirez is essentially famous for his on-field antics, and Josh Beckett has been the brunt of the blame for the Red Sox’ plummet into baseball irrelevancy.
Baseball is the most individual team sport known to man, and the Dodgers now have the pieces in place to make a hard push for the NL West title. But, never underestimate the supreme power of team synergy in professional sports. There are just 35 games left in the 2012 baseball marathon, and it remains to be seen whether or not the Dodgers are in fact good enough to win a division that San Francisco is currently in control of. General Manager Ned Colletti certainly improved his team for the future, but it’s unclear if that future is now.
In consideration of the Giants’ weak schedule down the stretch (18 games against ChC., Hou., Col., and SD), it will be difficult for the Dodgers to overtake San Francisco, despite their extraordinary offensive upgrades. The Giants own both season tiebreakers because they’ve won more head-to-head match-ups against LA and also have a tremendously better in-division record. If the Giants win 18 of their final 32 games, then the Dodgers will have to finish the season 22-10 to win the NL West. That’s not an impossible feat, but it doesn’t help that the Dodgers have a 10 game stretch in the middle of September where they’ll play St. Louis, Washington, and Cincinnati. The Giants and Dodgers still have 6 head-to-head games left, but the Giants need to win just 2 of those games to clinch the tiebreaker and win the season series.
The egotistical Dodgers have added over $250 million to their team payroll spanning the next 6 seasons, but money can’t buy a championship in the modern era of professional baseball. Just ask the Boston Red Sox.