The price tag for the Los Angeles Dodgers? $2.15 billion.
The price tag for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ soul? $260 million.
The new owners of the Dodgers showed last week that they committed to winning and committed to winning now, by acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto for James Loney and a handful of prospects.
I went looking for some insight on this deal, and the reaction was almost uniformly this: The deal makes the Dodgers better.
We’ll not argue that point. Adding Adrian Gonzalez at first base instead of the platoon of James Loney/Juan Rivera make the Dodgers better … RIGHT NOW.
But will it make the Dodgers better than the Giants? Will it be enough to erase the three-game deficit the Dodgers had in the NL West when they made this deal? Will it be enough to overcome a tougher schedule than the Giants?
The Dodgers have 16 of their remaining 33 games against teams that currently have a winning records — the Giants, Reds, Cardinals and Nationals.
The Giants have six of their remaining 34 games against teams with a winning record — the Dodgers.
But the real question is how long will it make the Dodgers better and what will be the impact on the franchise in years to come?
Consider this. Before the deal was made, the Dodgers were locked into more than $123 million in guaranteed contracts for the 2013 season.
After this deal, that number skyrocketed to $181.3 million. And that only covers 17 players. They still need to pay another eight players to fill out a 25-man roster, meaning their payroll likely will approach $200 million in 2013.
By comparison, the Yankees — THE YANKEES — are only committed to $117 million in guaranteed contracts for 2013. Baseball-reference.com projects the Yankees payroll at $187.8 in 2013.
The Dodgers’ projected 2013 payroll? $197.7 million.
That means that next season, for the first time since God knows when, it’s likely the team with the largest payroll in baseball won’t wear pinstripes and live in the Bronx.
Nobody told us that one of the Dodgers’ new silent partners was the ghost of George Steinbrenner.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Dodgers are now locked into $128.7 million in guaranteed contracts in 2014, paying only seven players. And in 2014, Clayton Kershaw will be eligible for his final year in arbitration, and likely will command a salary of more than $20 million.
The folks in Dodgertown are giddy about this deal. But if this were such a great deal, why is it that EVERY American League team, plus a majority of NL teams passed on these contracts?
That’s how the waiver claim process works. Every American League team, plus any NL team with a record worse than the Dodgers had to say “No thank you. We don’t want these contracts, even if it means we have to give up nothing in return.”
It’s clear that in order get Gonzalez, the Dodgers had to pick up the contracts of Beckett (2 years, $31.5 million after 2012), Crawford (5 years, $102.5 million) and Punto (1 year, $1.5 million).
In Beckett, they get a pitcher with a career ERA that sits at almost 4.00 and was at 5.23 this season.
In Crawford, they get a player whose made more news with his injuries than his bat the past two years in Boston.
If there’s an added positive impact of the deal on the Giants, it’s this: with the Dodgers outfield set with Kemp, Ethier and Crawford, it will take the Dodgers out of the market for an outfielder this offseason.
That’s good news for the Giants, who likely will be looking for a couple of outfielders, as they look to replace Melky Cabrera and possibly re-sign Angel Pagan.
We have to admit, when we saw the Giants’ lineup Wednesday that included Joaquin Arias in the No. 5 hole, MoreSplashHits was hoping the Giants could find a run or two somewhere and hope Matt Cain could do the rest.
It turns out the No. 5 spot was the wrong place for Arias. He should have been batting in the No. 4 hole.
Arias went 3 for 5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI as the Giants beat the Dodgers to complete a three-game sweep in Chavez Ravine.
Is it too early to talk about magic numbers? If not, the Giants’ magic number to clinch the NL West is 36.
The win pushed the Giants’ record to 5-2 in the post-Melky days, even though production from left field in the past few days has been very limited.
Justin Christian got the start Wednesday, going 0 for 3 with a bases-loaded walk. Christian is batting .125 this season and does not have a hit in his last 18 at-bats dating back to July 22. He is in a 1-for-33 skid.
He is not the answer — or part of the answer — in left field, even though he had a sensational catch Wednesday, which you can see here:
Gregor Blanco looked like he might be ready to contribute again, going 4 for 8 in his first two games after Cabrera’s suspension. But he has gone 1 for 11 since four games since, including five strikeouts (which is most troubling).
If Christian is not the answer and Blanco is not the answer, then who is?
The Giants had Ryan Theriot take some fly balls in left field recently. Theriot has played six games in the outfielder in his eight-year big league career.
If Theriot is being considered, then what about Arias?
When Pablo Sandoval was on the DL last month, Bruce Bochy was asked who was his emergency catcher, with Emmanuel Burriss in Fresno.
Bochy said it was Arias, even though he’s never played the position as a professional.
Arias has played three games at second base, 24 at shortstop and 55 at third base this season. He’s a possible option at first, where he’s played five games in his five-year big-league career.
Why not give him a look in left field? He has only played one game in left field in 180 big-league games over five season. In fact, it was only one inning.
Arias’ game Wednesday was a career game. He managed five extra base hits and five RBI in June and July. He had three extra base hits and five RBI on Wednesday.
But it’s more than one big game. Arias has been swinging the bat pretty well of late.
Arias has hit safely in 13 consecutive games in which he has had at least three plate appearances, dating back to July 24. He was hitting .246 on July 24. He’s hitting .280 now.
He’s hitting .426 in the month of August. He’s 9 for 15 over the past five games. He’s got a hot bat. Ride it while it’s hot.
There has been a lot of talk about players who need to be huge since Melky Cabrera was suspended.
But the biggest player in the post-Melky days has been Angel Pagan.
In the first five games of the Giants’ current road trip, Pagan is 11 for 23 with five runs, three doubles, a triple and three RBI.
And in Tuesday’s win over the Dodgers, he turned in the biggest play on defense with help from catcher Hector Sanchez.
After Tim Lincecum sailed through the first five innings by giving up no runs on two hits and no walks.
Then it looked like Lincecum was headed to his dreaded blow-up inning.
A.J. Ellis opened the inning with a walk, which was followed by a single by Juan Rivera.
Then Shane Victorino singled to center which almost surely appeared would score Ellis from second.
Pagan came up throwing to home. First baseman Buster Posey did not cut off the throw, which was on the mark and Sanchez blocked the plate to get Ellis out.
So instead of it being 4-1 Giants with no outs and runners on first and second, the score remained 4-0 with one out and runners on first and second.
Adam Kennedy followed with another single, which loaded bases.
So the Dodgers had produced a walk and three singles, but had no runs to show for it. But they also had Matt Kemp coming up.
Kemp drove a Lincecum pitch to deep right field, which Hunter Pence caught on the warning track for a sacrifice fly.
Bruce Bochy then did what he would not have done in previous years with Lincecum. He pulled him before things exploded on him. Jose Mijares came in and struck out Andre Ethier to end the inning.
Santiago Casilla pitched two perfect innings, then Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez teamed up to get the final three outs in the ninth, with Lopez getting Ethier to ground into a game-ending double play for his third save of the year and his second in two nights.
Now, the Giants lead the Dodgers by 1.5 games in the NL West. At the very least, the Giants are now guaranteed of leaving L.A. in first place in the NL West. With Matt Cain throwing Wednesday, they have a chance to sweep the Dodgers and leave with 2.5-game lead.
In baseball, it’s often said not to read too much into one win. It’s a 162-game season. The Giants still have eight more games against the Dodgers. And it’s only August 20.
All that is true. And I heard someone say that the Giants fans may not think Monday’s win was that big win two days from now.
But MoreSplashHits disagrees. So here are 10 reasons why Monday’s victory over the Dodgers was a big win.
NO. 1: THEY AVOID A SWEEP — The worst thing that could have happened to the Giants is being swept again by the Dodgers and leave L.A. 3.5 games out of first place. Now, at worst, the Giants will leave 1.5 games back. Or they will leave a half-game ahead. Or they will leave 2.5 games up. Monday’s win makes all that possible.
NO. 2: THEY BEAT KERSHAW — Last year, Clayton Kershaw owned the Giants, going 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA in six starts against them. This season, Kershaw has a 1.74 ERA in four starts against the Giants. Very good. But he is also now 1-3 against the Giants. Hard to imagine the Giants have beaten the Dodgers five times this season, and three have come against Kershaw. The Giants beat him 2-1 on May 8, 2-0 on June 26 and 2-1 on Monday. Kershaw’s lone win was a 4-0 win on July 29.
NO. 3: BACK IN FIRST — The victory moved the Giants back into first place, one day after giving the Dodgers back the lead in the NL West.
NO. 4: LINCECUM STARTS TUESDAY — Tim Lincecum has been better since the All-Star break, but the Giants still can’t count on their former ace to deliver a quality start every time out. So coming into his start off a win — instead of back-to-back losses — will allow Lincecum to relax a bit. Plus, he’s facing Joe Blanton, who has given up 14 runs in 15.1 innings since joining the Dodgers.
NO. 5: CAN’T WASTE A GOOD START — After having two starters (Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong) failing to pitch into the fifth innings in their last two games, it was imperative that the Giants get a quality outing from Madison Bumgarner. They got that, as MadBum threw eight shutout innings. And the Giants cannot afford to get solid pitching outings and waste them.
NO. 6: IT WAS ON NATIONAL TV — Scribes across the country have been writing off the Giants in the wake of the Melky Cabrera suspension. It was a perfect time to show that the Giants are here to stay in the NL West, as the game was aired live by ESPN.
NO. 7: THEY BEAT AN NL WEST RIVAL — The Giants came into Monday with an 8-10 record this season against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. They have a 24-9 record against the other teams they will face the rest of the season. Given that schedule and coupled with the Dodgers’ tough schedule and the Diamondbacks’ 4.5 game deficit, the Giants can win the NL West by simply playing .500 baseball in the remaining 18 games against L.A. and Arizona. Now, they are 1-0 in those final 18.
NO. 8: GIANTS WERE COMING OFF A LOSS — If the Giants are to stay in this race, they must avoid long losing streaks. The best way to do that is to not start ANY losing streaks. Having lost Sunday in San Diego, the Giants made a move toward starting a winning streak on Monday.
NO. 9: THE DODGERS WERE COMING OFF TWO WINS — The Giants also have to do what they can to prevent the Dodgers from going on a long winning streak. The Dodgers finished their recent road trip by winning their last two in Atlanta.
NO. 10: IT’S THE FREAKIN’ DODGERS — Any win over the Dodgers is a big win.
Where do we start?
- The Giants beat the Dodgers 3-0 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep. That in itself is cause of celebration. But it doesn’t stop there.
- The three-game sweep allowed the Giants to move into a first-place tie with the Dodgers in the NL West, the first time all season the Giants have been in first place.
- It’s the first time the Giants have posted three consecutive shutouts since 1988.
- It’s the first time the Giants have swept a three-game series all by shutouts since 1954.
- It’s the first time the Giants have ever swept the Dodgers with three shutouts.
- It’s the first time the Los Angeles Dodgers have been swept via three shutouts in their history.
- And maybe most importantly, the Freak is back.
Lincecum posted his first victory since April 28, throwing seven innings, giving up four hits and two walks. He struck out eight in a 115-pitch outing.
Combined with his last start in Oakland, Lincecum has thrown 12 consecutive scoreless innings.
The closest the Dodgers came to scoring was in the third inning, when Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley doubled with one out. Billingsley took third on a wild pitch, the first (and only) time in the series that the Dodgers got a runner to third.
Lincecum bounced another pitch that got away from catcher Hector Sanchez. But Sanchez was able to get to the ball and throw to Lincecum covering home, who tagged out Billingsley trying to score.
Clearly, the Dodgers are scuffling on offense right now. But combined with his previous start, it was the kind of start that Lincecum can give confidence going forward.
Lincecum worked himself out of trouble a few times Wednesday. He got an inning-ending double play in the first inning. There was the Billingsley play in the third.
In the seventh, the Dodgers had runners on first and second and one out. Manager Bruce Bochy came out, and it looked like Lincecum might be done. But Bochy left him in, and the Freak got Tony Gwynn Jr. to fly to center and then he struck out Juan Uribe to end the inning.
A Freaky Finish.
Lincecum’s next start will come on Tuesday in Washington vs. the Nationals. Then he should get another start before the All-Star break in Pittsburgh.
Look for another pitchers’ duel Thursday as the Reds come into town for a four-game series. Madison Bumgarner faces Johnny Cueto for a 7:15 p.m. start Thursday.
Melky Cabrera showed why he should be an All-Star.
Cabrera belted a solo home run in the fourth inning, and that’s all the Giants would need as they shut out the Dodgers for the second consecutive night. It’s the first time since 1987 the Giants have posted back-to-back shutouts against the Dodgers.
Earlier Tuesday, it was announced that Cabrera slipped out of the No. 3 outfield spot in the latest All-Star voting.
Ryan Braun has 3,168,617 votes, just 122,733 votes ahead of Cabrera, the closest margin between two All-Star candidates for a starting spot.
Buster Posey continues to lead at the catcher spot with 3,335,982 votes, 216,452 votes ahead of the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina.
At third base, David Wright (2,687,818) leads the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval by 464,549.
Posey went 2 for 4 with a double in the Giants’ win Tuesday, and Sandoval 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
Cabrera is lock to be selected to the NL All-Star team as a reserve if he doesn’t win the voting. Posey also stands a good chance, given that usually three catchers are picked. And with third base being a bit thin this season in the NL, there’s a chance Sandoval could earn a selection.
The Giants were on the road when in-stadium balloting ended last Friday. They are home now, but all the voting is being done online through 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
But Giant fans have always been electronically savvy, so maybe that can swing the vote. MoreSplashHits has voted 50 times (25 times on two different emails).
Baseball is a funny game.
Fresh off a tough loss Sunday in Oakland — wasting an outstanding performacne from Matt Cain — the Giant fans entered Monday matchup with the Dodgers with low expectations with Barry Zito on the mound.
So what does Zito do? He shut out the Dodgers on three hits over seven innings of work, leading to an 8-0 victory that pulled the Giants within two game of first place.
Even Zito admitted that he wasn’t facing the same Dodgers lineup that led L.A. to a strong start. Yet, these are games the Giants need to win.
“They’re pretty banged up over there, and we’ve got to capitalize on that,” he said.
We mentioned last week that every time the Giants lose a game started by Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, they need to win a game started by Zito and Tim Lincecum.
Giants fans are hoping more wins will come in Freak starts, but they are never sure about Zito.
But the Giants lost to the Angels when Vogelsong started Wednesday, then won a Lincecum start Friday in Oakland. They lost a Cain start Sunday, then won a Zito a start Tuesday.
Now Vogelsong returns to the mound to face off with Clayton Kershaw in what figures to be a low scoring game. The Giants beat Kershaw the last time they faced him in L.A. Let’s see if they can make it two in a row.