The Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are a combined 39-53 this season. They also have a combined $358,468,159 payroll. That’s $216,302,909 for the Dodgers and $142,165,250 for the Angels, who rank second and seventh in the majors respectively.
The sad thing is, nobody is really surprised. Even the disgruntled fans of these “teams” aren’t digging up the traffic filled streets of their city looking for answers. After all, it’s happened before.
Let’s start with the Angels.
On December 13, 2012, Josh Hamilton signed a five year, $125-million dollar deal with the club. Hamilton was far and away the best free-agent hitter on the market, coming off a year in which he hit .285 with 43 homeruns and 128 RBI. He was going to be the centerpiece of an already stacked Angels line up. Pitchers were going to have nightmares days, no, weeks before they had to unwillingly inject their ERA’s with a healthy serving of bombs and a side of more runs.
Rewind to the previous offseason and we have an almost identical scenario, this time in the form of a guy, no, a machine named Albert Pujols. December 9, 2011. 10 years, $254-million. It was the second biggest contract in major league history and it made Pujols only the second player ever to break the $200 million barrier.
On the same day, the Angels also snagged the top available arm in C.J. Wilson for five years and $77.5-million. The best free agent pitcher and hitter? Pujols was going to hit .300 with 30-plus homeruns and over 100 RBI like always. Wilson was going to anchor an already loaded staff, make the all-star team and catapult the Angels rotation to the top of the majors for best hair.
Heck, they were never going to lose. But they did. A lot.
On May 22, 2012, the all-star laden Angels were 19-25 and a full eight games back of the first place Texas Rangers. Pujols was hitting .213 with four home runs and 20 RBI. They were going to turn it around though. There was no way a team with this much money and this much star power wasn’t going to make the playoffs. There was no way that big Albert, who isn’t even human, was going to keep struggling like one.
Fast forward a year later and the Angels find themselves in the same position. The Halos are 18-27 and 10-and-a-half games out. The only reason they’re not in last place is because the baseball gods put the quadruple-A Houston Astros in their division for some reason. (Seriously can you name a single player on that team? I was going to say Rick Ankiel, but I just found out today that he’s on the Mets.)
Superstar Josh Hamilton, who was in the running for the Triple Crown at this time last year, drives away from Angel Stadium blasting Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day” when he strikes out less than two times. Through 45 games, the smooth swinging (and flailing) lefty is hitting .222 with six homeruns and 14 RBI.
Keep your heads up though Angels fans. It’s a long season. Things will turn around. There’s no way a team with this much money and this much star power isn’t going to make the playoffs. There’s no way that “Hammer,” “Hambone,” “The Natural,” there’s no way that a guy with that many nicknames can be that bad.
But wait, these were all the same things that we were saying last year, and look what happened. The Angels certainly turned it around finishing 89-73, but it was too little, too late. The Athletics and Rangers were really good, had more wins, and are really good again this year. Third place didn’t make the playoffs last year, and it won’t make it this year either.
Money can’t buy playoff appearances. But it does buy a Head & Shoulders commercial starring Josh and C.J. So they still have that best hair thing going for them.
As for Los Angeles’ boys in blue, the situation is even more embarrassing. Remember when I said they have the second highest payroll in Major League Baseball? Well, the Dodgers paid their players more than any other team until March 26, when the Yankees traded a couple of minor leaguers whom you’ve never heard of (and probably never will) to the Angels for Vernon Wells because half of their team was rehabbing from injuries that resulted from all their “experience” (not old age).
The crazy thing is, at the beginning of the 2012 season, the Dodgers payroll was $95,143, 575. So from opening day 2012 to opening day 2013, L.A.’s payroll increased by more than 125-percent. All that money didn’t make them 125-percent better though.
The Yankees of the west began their transformation on July 26, 2012, when they acquired Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from Miami for two pitchers whose names you wouldn’t remember even if you made flashcards. At that point, they were 53-47 and only three games out of first in the NL West.
One month later, on August 25, the Dodgers made another blockbuster deal, acquiring All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in a nine-player trade in which they took on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary. 69-58 and only two games back with the best team in the national league on paper. Better start getting your playoff tickets Dodgers fans.
But we all know how the old saying goes: Games aren’t won on paper. No matter how green the paper is, games are won on the field.
Two weeks after their spending spree, L.A. had gone 5-8 and lost two and a half more games in the standings. They still had a chance, but they were heading in the wrong direction. A month after the trade, the Trolley Dodgers were 79-75, 10 games back of the NL West champion Giants, and completely out of the playoff picture.
You’re telling me that they just doubled their payroll for 10 wins and.... 17 losses?! Heck, the Padres went 16-10 in that span with Clayton Richard and Chase Headley leading the $55-million dollar charge.
If they didn’t turn it around, Don Mattingly and his troops would have to dodge more than just trolleys (do they even have those in Los Angeles?).
They were going to turn it around though. They had to. Beckett’s 2.93 ERA in seven starts with his new club made it look like a change in scenery was all he needed to return to his once-dominating self. Crawford was slated to return from Tommy John surgery and run around the bases like he was playing duck-duck-goose. And then there’s Matt Kemp. The Matt Kemp that was the runner-up to Ryan Braun for the 2011 National League MVP. The Matt Kemp that was mentioned before Miguel Cabrera at the beginning of the 2012 season when talking about the possibility of a Triple Crown. The Matt Kemp with those light green eyes and tantalizing smile.... yeah, he was gonna be good.
Then the Dodgers signed the number one free agent pitcher, Zack Greinke, to a six-year, $147-million dollar deal in December. The very next day, they convinced Hyun-Jin Ryu to leave South Korea and come play at Chavez Ravine for six years and $36-million. Who’s that? Just the top international arm who won the triple crown of pitching and was named the rookie of year and most valuable player of the Korean Baseball Organization at age 19. Oh, okay.
And don’t forget Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Andre Ethier. This wasn’t even going to be fair. Move over Giants, there’s a new sheriff in town.
But wait, here we are close to a third of the way into the season, and the Dodgers aren’t in first place. They’re not even in second place. They’re in last place. Behind the San Diego Padres, the team whose biggest offseason move was acquiring Tyson Ross from the Oakland A’s because his brother is in the Friars’ farm system. Okay they really got him because they think he has electric stuff and they hope that playing in San Diego can help him reach his ceiling. But how high can that ceiling really be after he went 2-11 with a 6.50 ERA last season?
Any way you shake it, the Padres have more wins than both of L.A.’s big spenders. So do 19 other teams, almost all of which have less money.
They’re all probably a little happier too.
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