Who would have thought the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are coming off of a 95 win season, 2 straight NLCS births, 2 straight NLDS sweeps of NL Central Champions, who have a collection of some of the best young talent in baseball and a farm system that's getting better after getting pretty dry from the graduates of the last 4 years, would be ranked the 14th best franchise in baseball.
Certainly not me.
Fangraphs, on the other hand, has different ideas.
Here is the section that talks about our future talent:
Here is the section that talks about our current talent:
Here is the section that encompasses everything:
They go on to talk about how good the team really is, and then go on to list some of the weaknesses, which we all know the team has. I believe they discount the rotation, much like the rest of the country, so that's no shock. But they do praise a lot of this team, like the entire outfield, saying it's one of the best hitting outfields (a bit of an understatement, IMO), and it's got 2 studs in the rotation with Bills and Kershaw. They write a small paragraph on the bullpen, but nothing more on what most of us believe (when healthy) to be the team's biggest strength.
They even go on to praise the talent as being top 10 level. So what's with the low ranking?
On talent, the Dodgers may be top ten. They’re the favorites in the NL West this year (or at least co-favorites with Colorado) with a club built around mostly young talent, including several of the best under-27 players in the game. The core trio of Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley are tough to beat, and they’re surrounded by quality or upside at most spots.
So, why are they 14th? The Divorce. The uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the Dodgers is a big problem. Frank McCourt can talk about how it will be business as usual once everything gets settled and the court gives him control of the team, but that’s not the only possible outcome, and he knows it. There’s a reason they didn’t really spend any money this winter.
Yes, this team, which has reached the NLCS each of the last two years, led the NL in wins last year, and swept through the NLDS each of those last two years, while being the underdog both series, are ranked 14th out of 30 teams because of the owner's divorce. Yes, I am baffled as well.
What has the divorce done to cost the Dodgers so far? Let's see if we can list them:
1. Added Carlos Santana, our top catching prospect, with Jonathan Meloan in the trade for Casey Blake in order to save 2 million dollars to pay for the rest of Blake's contract.
Counter-argument: Not much of one can be made here, it was a terrible decision.
Counter-argument: This trade would have likely included Matt Kemp or Chad Billingsley as the top player in the trade. Also, as implied by Ken Rosenthal, Andy Laroche, James Mcdonald, and Chin Lung Hu would have presumably been involved as well. This would have robbed us of one of the studs of Billingsley or Kemp, and then it would have cost us at least the three of Mcdonald, Hu, and Laroche, and the real loss of that would have been Mcdonald. Even still, it would have cost those prospects and then we would have had to resigned him to a gigantic contract and the Yankees might just have stolen him away like they did to the Brewers. If that had happened our rotation would look EVEN 'worse' than it does now or the lineup would be looking much worse without Kemp in the middle of it.
Oh yeah, we wouldn't have traded for Manny Ramirez, which was a key in leading the Dodgers to the 2008 NLCS, and still a big factor in 2/3 of the 2009 season.
3. Did not make the trade for Halladay or Cliff Lee.
Counter-argument: It would have cost 6 of the Dodger's top 10 prospects to get Halladay, and he didn't even want to be here. The Dodgers put together a good offer for Cliff Lee reportedly, but the Indians took the Phillies inferior offer for whatever reason, and the Dodgers were left without an ace to trade for without giving up the farm.
4. Did not offer arbitration to Wolf or Hudson.
Counter-argument: There is nothing to say that can lessen the sting of this, because it's brutal; It was a giant mistake not to offer either of them arbitration. Everyone knows it was dumb. The thing is, though, that those draft picks have not even affected the team yet because the draft has not happened, and with the way the team drafts there's no way those draft picks would have effected the team for at least another 3 seasons, when things may be drastically different anyway. Should the Dodgers have offered arbitration? Yes. Will that affect the team's ability to win in the next few seasons? No.
5. The Dodgers were too cheap this off-season and settled for the likes of Jamey Carroll, Vicente Padilla, and other NRI scrubs.
Counter-argument: What else was there? Should the Dodgers have overspent on solid but not great pitchers like John Lackey and Randy Wolf? I do not believe so. This off-season there were no big time free agent pitchers who would have been worth it to get involved in a bidding war over, and resigning Padilla is honestly one of the best moves the team could have made.
As for the lineup, the only open spot was 2B, but they signed Jamey Carroll to back up, had Dewitt ready to fight for the spot, and resigned Belliard who did a very good job in the limited time with the Dodgers in 09, but is a usually solid bat who could start in 2010, and got him for cheap.
Then there are all the NRI's. They have made the Dodgers somewhat of a joke to the more uneducated fans, but the last two years it has produced Chan Ho Park, Jeff Weaver, and G. Mota, who all did about average or slightly better and for the price of a minor leaguer. If we can strike gold again with Ramon Ortiz, Justin Miller, Luis Ayala, or whoever else, it's definitely worth it.
It's tough to watch what the McCourts are doing to this great franchise, but in all reality, they have not greatly affected the team thus far, and definitely not enough to put them behind these teams in the rankings:
Cleveland, Milwakee, St Louis (their farm is terrible, they are pure win now with no balance), Seattle, and Anaheim. The Dodgers should clearly be ahead of Cleveland and Seattle, and are a good amount ahead of Milwakee, and due to St. Louis' farm system the Cardinals should be down a bit further as well. I believe Anaheim and Los Angeles are neck and neck right now, and should be right in front of or behind the other.
This is just some ranking on a website, and it's not like other big sports websites don't do the same to the Dodgers (Yahoo Sports had them 13th on their team list earlier this Winter), but the reasoning for the low ranking just does not hold any weight. Sad work, Fangraphs.com