Sunday, December 9, 2012

Like the Lakers, Greinke brings the Dodgers high expectations

With reports of the newest big free agent signing by the Dodgers, I can't help but take a look at another LA team for comparison's sake.

No, not the Angels.  The Lakers.

Yes, my Lakers brought in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this past offseason to team with Kobe, Pau, and Metta, and expectations were immediately through the roof.

How's that going so far?  Nash got hurt in the second game, Howard shoots free throws like a third grader, Pau can't find his way around in any offense, Metta is inconsistent from the outside, the coach has already been fired, and the Lakers are stinking it up at 9-11.  And that's with Kobe playing out of his mind.

So, bringing in superstars doesn't automatically equal success.  It may eventually (look at the Heat), but it could take some time.  The Lakers are finding that out in some painful ways.

Now the Dodgers are trying a similar approach, as they are close to locking up Zach Greinke to a six-year, $147 million deal that would be the largest for a right-handed pitcher in baseball history.  Only CC Sabathia can claim to have topped this one.

Right away, opposing teams have to worry about the 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Greinke.  They are both legitimate #1 starters, and to have them go on consecutive days will be awesome to watch.  Throw in a revived Josh Beckett (let's hope it stays that way), a hopefully injury-free Chad Billingsley and potentially Ted Lilly, a possibly signed Ryu Hyun-jin, and veterans Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, and the Dodgers clearly have lots of solid options in the starting rotation.  And, options to trade as well.

There's also talk of Ned Colletti not being done yet.  Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez, and Ryan Dempster are still out there in the free agent bin, and there's talk of trading for James Shields or R.A. Dickey.  With the way the Dodgers are operating now, it's safe to assume that one of the above mentioned names could be in Dodger blue this April.

Let's not forget the other big contracts already in LA.  Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford are still owed a boatload of cash.  Andre Ethier extended last season, and Clayton Kershaw can expect a hefty raise coming soon.  More superstars = more cash commitments.

If you thought the expectations were high last August when the boys from Miami and Boston came over (and Shane Victorino from Philly), then you ain't seen nothing yet.  The Dodgers are clearly going to have a huge target on their backs, as other teams are going to be out to prove that big money deals does not equal championship rings.

The thing that's concerning to me is how the Dodgers responded after making those trades last season.  Simply put, they flat out stunk for a little while, coming up short time and time again in the playoff push.  When they did figure things out the last couple of weeks, the margin of error was so slim that they eventually ran out of time the last couple of days.

Make no mistake, though, I'm glad the Dodgers got Greinke.  He's not worth the monster contract (who is?), but that's what it was going to take to land him, and they made sure to make it happen.  He's also proven he can handle pitching in a big market by going 6-2 in 13 starts with the Angels last year, along with a 3.53 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  Sure he's regressed some since winning the Cy Young Award with the Royals in 2009, but who the heck would be able to top a 2.16 ERA and 1.07 WHIP?  Those numbers are just crazy.

I'm sure Don Mattingly is pumped about this upcoming season, but he naturally can't help but be somewhat worried about making this all work, and fast.  Over at Staples Center, the boys in purple and gold are showing that even the biggest names might not automatically mesh and run over the rest of the league.  It takes a complete team effort to make that happen, and not just a guy here and there.

While the names are undoubtedly big and have absolutely been stars in this league, as the Hot Stove season ticks by and Spring Training starts to approach, the Dodgers will face scrutiny they haven't seen in a long time.  How those 25 men in the locker room come together, and not the amount of dollars on their paychecks, will ultimately show how far they will go.

That's something the Lakers have yet to figure out.  Let's hope the Dodgers are paying close attention.

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