Author: Joe Siegal
Just when it briefly seemed that unchecked spending on veteran free agents was out of style in Major League Baseball, L.A.’s teams are bucking the financial trend to attract fans and win right away when they should instead attempt to build a program over time.
With a $225 million payroll, likely the largest in baseball history, it’s win or bust for the 2013 Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly. Meanwhile, down in Orange County, the Angels have added prized outfielder Josh Hamilton to an already loaded lineup. These signings, though intriguing and exciting for fans, don’t guarantee success, but will make for two must-watch teams this season.
Finally free from the economic handcuffs of the stifled and inept Frank McCourt ownership, the Dodgers went on a spending spree at the end of last season and through the winter, picking up stars like shortstop Hanley Ramirez, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and pitchers Zach Greinke, Ryu Hyun-Jin and Josh Beckett. General Manager Ned Colletti has made costly but sound additions to a team that finished a respectable 86-76 last season.
It’s clear that the new Dodgers ownership group, which fueled an historic $7 billion television deal with Time Warner Cable, is out to win back fans alienated over the last few years by putting together a potentially great but financially absurd group of players. Spending of the Dodgers’ caliber would be risky even for the Yankees, and is showing that the new ownership is willing to put it all on the line to rehabilitate the Dodgers’ image.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers, who were 26th in the majors in runs scored last year, will boast one of the National League’s stronger lineups once Ramirez returns, and their deep starting pitching staff, bolstered by the top of the rotation combination of Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, should be equally troubling for opponents. For the Dodgers to challenge the defending champion Giants for the National League West title, a lot of things have to fall into place very quickly. In fact, the team’s veteran signings could draw skepticism if the on-field results are slow to materialize.
The Angels, fresh off an 89-win season that saw the club narrowly miss the playoffs, signed former Texas Rangers’ five-time All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract. Hamilton joins the most fearsome batting order in the game, likely in the cleanup spot right behind Albert Pujols. Following last year’s signings of Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson, it’s clear that the Angels are not afraid of big contracts. Meanwhile, their most prized talent, second-year outfielder Mike Trout, is making the major league minimum salary.
As spring turns into summer and summer into fall, both the Dodgers and Angels should be in the thick of things for their respective division titles, and their big signings have ensured that they will be in the headlines regardless. These two clubs are built to win in the immediate future, making for what will likely be a riveting summer for L.A. baseball fans, but a high-pressure season for each organization.
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