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2003-10-08 09:30
by Jon Weisman

More thoughts about the Dodgers being at risk of becoming the Cubs of the 21st century, courtesy of reader Rick Todd:

Going to have to disagree with you on us becoming the Cubs. First of all, making predictions of a team's future 60 years in the future, is silly, and tenuous at best. (Jon's note: It's not a prediction; it's a fear. Big difference.) There are no stats in this past season that can determine something so far into the future. Literally anything can happen. The Red Sox were bad for so long because they were consistently a racist team for so long, being the last team to assimilate, and had a vastly white roster well into the 80s (even today's roster is pretty white, clumsy big guys who are bad on defense). The Dodgers are just the opposite, and are the second-most minority team after the Expos. And this is with a white GM picking the players.

You have stated that Dan Evans and Tracy are actually a good team, and should stay on. I agree. With it becoming more and more evident that the Dodgers will stay unsold, Evans and Tracy's jobs are safe. That means some things are guaranteed to happen.
First, Evans, whose eye for pitching talent is impeccable, will be able to maintain a great staff. Our starters are magnificent, our bullpen the same, and almost all are re-signed through next year. Gagne will probably be re-signed as well, for less than Mariano since Gagne has no post-season experience, which will be a blessing. Mota will walk since he doesn't sell cool t-shirts like Gagne does. That means we can expect largely the same results from our bullpen this year. Injuries? No problem, our farm system has one thing going for it: pitching.

The next problem we come to is position players. We need offense. Evans isn't an idiot, he knows not sign old guys like McGriff any more, even if they have good stats. They're ticking time bombs. Expect someone like Palmeiro to NOT be signed. Sexson is the big rumor, and if we get him there's one bat. Shawn Green should make a great recovery; it's not unheard of in this day and age for a player to have a bad year, have surgery, and come back. Then, we have some money left over from the dumping of Jordan, Ashby, McGriff etc., and we sign one other person, perhaps Juan Gonzalez or someone who's been spotty but capable the last few years. Tada, we have an offense.

The Dodgers have two large factors going for them: One, they play in a weak division, and two they play in a city where players want to play. Most players grew up in SoCal because of the warm weather which promotes high school talent and all-season playing. And most free agents want to play here, because to play here means to hobnob with the stars. Remember, when this team does well, that means Hollywood takes notice (remember when Karros and Piazza were in Pert Plus commercials, and had huge beach parties in Manhattan Beach). Talent comes here because it is born here, and wants to live here.

Finally, we have the budget. It's large, and getting more wieldy with every passing year, as Malone detritus washes off. The Cubs historically have never had that, with smaller revenues from a smaller park. This team's future is bright, so bright that I would say the one thing that ran against it these ten years was MERELY an insane front office. That has been removed, and winning can be achieved. I really think this team can win the division next year. It has the biggest budget in the division, and there's no guarantee Bonds wants another year on a choke team. Expect him in red next year as the Angel's DH. And expect the Dodgers getting a playoff berth.

I might disagree with some of the details, but Rick and I are in essential agreement about the future of the Dodgers. But to be clear, my point has been that if the Dodgers aren't careful, they could become the Cubs of the 2000s. Again, it's not a prediction. Call it, if you will, an alternative reality to consider.

In my opinion, Dan Evans has led a movement to be careful, and that's why I'm cautiously optimistic. But clearly, that movement to be careful is what's tenuous. Radical or impatient decisions by ownership, old or new, could scuttle this carefully honed direction.

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