When Frank McCourt got his walking papers, Dodger fans rejoiced. The clown prince of Los Angeles tabloids was finally relegated to what he does best, managing parking lots. The opportunities were fresh and Dodger fans wound themselves into knots. What tack would Magic Johnson and the small army of owners who stepped in to deliver Los Angeles take to put together a respectable and winning baseball team?
The answer came in spades and followed a trend that has permeated all professional sports in the last 10 years. If you’re a big market team and you have it, throw money at the problem. They quickly acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford in a blockbuster trade with the Red Sox where they agreed to take of the salaries of Crawford and Beckett for the privilege of Gonzalez’s bat. The money train kept barreling into the off-season when they picked up Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and most recently JP Howell. Plug in the numbers and stats into a baseball simulator and you have a team with very little weakness and tons of upside.
They finally have some power at first base with Gonzalez. Carl Crawford should hope to find a place in left field and may still have the skills and talent to play up to his salary level. Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke and JP Howell give them bonaroo strength in a rotation that desperately needed some reliable action beyond Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lily. In fact, on paper, The Dodgers might have the most formidable rotation in the major leagues. The Dodgers are ready to leave no stone unturned in their attempt to buy success in 2013. Add a lineup that includes Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Hanley Ramirez and some are ready to break out the champagne and start celebrating.
In their rush to buy a championship, Magic Johnson et al. forgot one thing: Dodger Soul. I see a lot of major league talent on this team but I see no soul. I’m looking hard and I hardly see a team that deserves to be called the Dodgers. The Yankees West might be more fitting. Just ask the manager in the dugout and some of his staff.
The 1988 Dodgers had soul, the '81 Dodgers had soul, shoot when the Dodgers were busy losing to the Yankees in just about every World Series in the ‘40’s and 50's, they had soul. Soul is difficult to define, but I can spot it when I see it. It's when players come up through the farm system and scratch and scrape for everything they got to play in The Show. It's when a core unit of players gel together year after year after year and play like a baseball version of Voltron where each element forms together to create one indomitable force. It’s when a player would give the first two fingers on his pitching to hand to win a championship.
Steve Garvey was soul. Kirk Gibson was soul. Orel Hershiser was soul. Jackie Robinson was soul. Those championship teams cursed and spit and clawed to achieve their place in our memory. More than any other team in the league, the Dodgers proved that heart and soul trumped superior talent. They won in spite of the prognosticators and when you cut them they bled Dodger blue. I think if you cut some of these guys today, sawdust might spill out.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not going to root against The Dodgers. We are due, and we are due right now. But I don't see these guys and this team attitude accomplishing anything more than an early exit in the postseason. They don't have what it takes. They have the talent, but they certainly don't have the soul.