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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Dodgers’ Recent Moves Seem Entirely Public Relations Based.

As Chad Moriyama noted a while back, it’s not just the oddity of the collection of moves that could lead one to believe the new ownership group is looking at things more so from a PR perspective than from an on-the-field, performance-based one.

The humongous trade with the Red Sox is a prime example. The Dodgers took on a quarter of a billion dollars in contracts – let that sink in for a moment – while also giving up a prime prospect (De La Rosa), a pretty good one (Webster), and another solid one (Sands). Even for a team flush with cash after a long period of operating under a broke and crooked owner, the combination of giving up prospects and taking on so much money is absurd and not smart business in the least.

Where it becomes a PR move, in appearance, is two-fold. First, Dodgers’ owner Peter Guber said as much in early September:

“You can’t tell nine days later. Look at it for a season. Not over three weeks. We did it to send signals, to the fans, to the media. You have to recognize that it’s a business proposition. The biggest risk in business is taking no risk.”

The bolded emphasis is mine. Why would any of your moves be predicated on impressing the media? And while I'm a fan at heart, no move made by one of my favorite teams should in the least involve pleasing me. Make moves you think will improve the team and lead you to a championship; that would impress me, particularly when the Dodgers are the team up for discussion.

Oh, and the best teams build from within and continually replenish their farm system through the draft, trades, and not depleting said farm system year after year. That method, it could be said, is taking no risk.

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I get maybe the last man on a roster being there if he's a fan favorite and sells merchandise, but Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez are not roster filler, and were not acquired to be roster filler or simply sell tickets and gin up good press.

The second aspect that makes it seem largely PR-based is the fact that the principle piece coming over in the Sox deal, Gonzalez, is a Southern California kid with familial roots down South now playing in an area that is largely Hispanic and for an organization with a heavy and loyal Hispanic fanbase. Gonzalez was having his worst year ever since becoming a full-time player, so investing that much in a guy who could easily be on the downside of his career doesn’t lend itself to being a strictly baseball move on the surface, particularly with how much his heritage has been a focus of fans and the organization.

Yes, he's better than James Loney. However, that does not inherently equate to the level of necessary production the Dodgers desperately have been and are in need of from a litany of positions.

Add to all of that the fact that the Blue Crew – in taking on so many contracts – went with the “big name and good years ago” approach in bringing aboard Beckett and Carl Crawford, and the new regime seems to believe big names are all that really matter in placating a starving fanbase. Sadly, this seems to be true much of the time.

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That brings us to the Dodgers latest cash-rich expenditure, as the club recently won the rights to Korean southpaw Hyun Jin Ryu for an astonishing $25.7 million. I say astonishing because nobody estimated his posting fee would reach such heights.

Opinions on him are mixed, and even the most optimistic see him as a 3/4 starter. Important to note is his velocity is Barry Zito-esque and he already has a ton of mileage on his arm. The Dodgers have partnerships with Korean businesses, and the move reeks to me of PR and trying to placate every segment of the fanbase.

A final piece of evidence is the Dodgers’ reported interest in EVERYBODY and anybody with a pulse and, more importantly, a name. Torii Hunter, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez; the list goes on. Some of these guys may have been the ones to express interest, as has been reported in Hunter's case, but the Dodgers don't have to seriously consider every single free agent with a reputation. Attack the areas of your club that need improvement.

Some of these guys could definitely help, and many are probably just rumors concocted by their agents to increase bidding amongst the legitimate suitors, but if it’s true Ned Colletti is looking at most if not all of these guys, it further underscores the point that the ownership group is just throwing money around like they have a private printing press in Ned’s suite and PR is playing far too large of a role in the future of this team.

Oh, and the obvious point that Colletti does not understand value, building a farm system, and being a competent General Manager.

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So, to sum it all up, I don't doubt that some of these guys could help and would be upgrades, but it seems as if the new ownership group is just looking to spend money because they can.

Just because you spend a lot of money does not inherently mean that you spent it well.

PR is important when running any business, and keeping your fanbase happy is essential, but winning and smart business, above all, will suffice to keep fans coming back for more and ponying up dollar after dollar. Building a PR type of team is a recipe for failure, both in the short-term and the long-term. The Dodgers' recent moves don't seem to have any flow or plan behind them, beyond the club now having money after years of not having it. And apparently, you must spend all of your money, and spend it on anything that has a pulse and moves.

The increased international spending is great, the fact that ownership actually has money to spend is a welcome change, and the seeming desire to interact with fans and improve the in-game experience at Dodger Stadium is a commendable and long-time coming proactive endeavor.

All that said, there does not appear to be any method to the recent madness in Los Angeles. Time may prove me wrong, but at the moment, I'm seriously questioning what Ned Colletti is doing – though I always question him – and what this post-Frank McCourt ownership group is attempting to accomplish with this recent string of player personnel moves.

18 comments:

Carlos said...

Hi, you are probably going to just read my entire comment as trolling but I truly hope you read it as thoughtful analysis that could help you increase your work as a writer. Cause this work and thought process was pretty bad and annoying, and is part of an entire problem with a lot of Dodger bloggers in having an Anti-Fan attitude. Here we go.


"The humongous trade with the Red Sox is a prime example. The Dodgers took on a quarter of a billion dollars in contracts – let that sink in for a moment – while also giving up a prime prospect (De La Rosa), a pretty good one (Webster), and another solid one (Sands). Even for a team flush with cash after a long period of operating under a broke and crooked owner, the combination of giving up prospects and taking on so much money is absurd and not smart business in the least."

Well, it was regarded as a good trade for the Dodgers by many people, bloggers/mainstream alike. The Blue Jays just did something similar, gave up prospects ranked higher than Rubby/Webster, took on similar money (relative to payroll/market size), and got less impact in return.

"Where it becomes a PR move, in appearance, is two-fold. First, Dodgers’ owner Peter Guber said as much in early September:

“You can’t tell nine days later. Look at it for a season. Not over three weeks. We did it to send signals, to the fans, to the media. You have to recognize that it’s a business proposition. The biggest risk in business is taking no risk.”

The bolded emphasis is mine. Why would any of your moves be predicated on impressing the media? And while I'm a fan at heart, no move made by one of my favorite teams should in the least involve pleasing me."

He is the owner who has nothing to do with baseball relations, talking to the media. You are taking everything from face value that an owner of a baseball team is saying the exact reasons a trade happened to the media? You are saying that Stan Kasten/Ned (the guys INVOLVED with the move from the baseball side) did those just for PR? Maybe the signal to the fans was that they are going to put the best team out there and not let money be an issue, like when McCourt let money get in the way of big trades. It has NOTHING to do with PR being more important than actual baseball moves. You are using the words to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

"Make moves you think will improve the team and lead you to a championship; that would impress me, particularly when the Dodgers are the team up for discussion."

The moves did improve the team, an incredible amount.

"Oh, and the best teams build from within and continually replenish their farm system through the draft, trades, and not depleting said farm system year after year. That method, it could be said, is taking no risk."

And the Dodgers aren't doing this? They have basically used there outrageous money to buy some of the best scouting minds and increase there scouting internationally. At this point in time, the farm is weak and you can't do much since a draft only comes once a year and you can only sign so many players. But they are doing as much as you can, getting a lot of great scouting minds and sending them everywhere to help the farm. Maybe they fail, but you are making it seem as if nothing is being done in the scouting department to help create a great farm. The Dodgers have a window right now with Kemp/Ethier/Kershaw, and they are adding to it meanwhile hoping the extra scouting help they get does enough work to get players to take over when there prime is done. You make it seem as if they are not caring at all about a farm system and just want to buy everything forever and always.

Carlos said...

"I get maybe the last man on a roster being there if he's a fan favorite and sells merchandise, but Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez are not roster filler, and were not acquired to be roster filler or simply sell tickets and gin up good press."

Exactly, they are great players that help on the baseball field a lot more than they help on PR. It's funny you mention Beckett/Ramirez cause if anything that RUINS P.R. being that they were labeled as bad chemistry type players. If these guys were making moves based mostly off PR, why would they acquire two players that have terrible teammate labels on them? Doesn't add up to your story, and again, you are reaching with this crazy argument.

"The second aspect that makes it seem largely PR-based is the fact that the principle piece coming over in the Sox deal, Gonzalez, is a Southern California kid with familial roots down South now playing in an area that is largely Hispanic and for an organization with a heavy and loyal Hispanic fanbase. Gonzalez was having his worst year ever since becoming a full-time player, so investing that much in a guy who could easily be on the downside of his career doesn’t lend itself to being a strictly baseball move on the surface, particularly with how much his heritage has been a focus of fans and the organization."

You think a lot of this trade had to do with Adrian Gonzalez being a Mexican from San Diego? If that were true, the Dodgers would acquire SO MANY MORE people from SD/LA. And in case you didn't know, the SD/LA region is a hot bed for MLB prospects/players, including those with mexican heritage. Of course, the PR runs with it cause that's the JOB OF THE PR. The Front Office gets players and the PR works off that, it's not the Front Office getting players so the PR has great material to work with. That's pretty crazy, and you really need to look at how many people from SD/LA play to realize that it's not the case.

"Yes, he's better than James Loney. However, that does not inherently equate to the level of necessary production the Dodgers desperately have been and are in need of from a litany of positions."

So now you are arguing that the upgrade from Loney to Adrian is not significant enough to label this trade good? What? It's a huge upgrade at a position that was one of, if not the, weakest for the Dodgers. Anti-Fan attitude man.

"Add to all of that the fact that the Blue Crew – in taking on so many contracts – went with the “big name and good years ago” approach in bringing aboard Beckett and Carl Crawford, and the new regime seems to believe big names are all that really matter in placating a starving fanbase. Sadly, this seems to be true much of the time."

Big names is all that matters? Yeah, they truly believe that as long as you were a big name it doesn't matter what you are now that you will make people happy! Again, beckett/Hanley got run out of the place, how would that make people happy and go in line with your argument? It wouldn't! Cause talent is what matters, and regardless if you think that the Dodgers made this trade to get a Mexican from San Diego, and two guys who were big names (but then not so big names cause of the fried chicken/beer thing.. wait, is that good PR? Are the Dodgers just bad at PR?!)

Carlos said...

"That brings us to the Dodgers latest cash-rich expenditure, as the club recently won the rights to Korean southpaw Hyun Jin Ryu for an astonishing $25.7 million. I say astonishing because nobody estimated his posting fee would reach such heights."

Someone else put up a 20+ mil posting fee for him. I fail to see how it's astonishing. We don't know what he is. if he is a #3, I hope you'd understand that the 50 mil in the end paid for him is reasonable for a #3.

"Opinions on him are mixed, and even the most optimistic see him as a 3/4 starter. Important to note is his velocity is Barry Zito-esque and he already has a ton of mileage on his arm. The Dodgers have partnerships with Korean businesses, and the move reeks to me of PR and trying to placate every segment of the fanbase."

If the Dodgers just wanted to have partnerships with Korean business and you are saying that the 25 million is for that, they could just give those business 20 million dollars and cut off a middle man. That's ridiculous and a mega-reach. You are saying that the Dodgers are just trying to be diverse for the sake of getting every race in the world to be a Dodger fan? Hmm, maybe the Dodgers next move will be to go to the Middle East, drop 50 million for players, just to get them to add to there PR!

"A final piece of evidence is the Dodgers’ reported interest in EVERYBODY and anybody with a pulse and, more importantly, a name. Torii Hunter, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez; the list goes on. Some of these guys may have been the ones to express interest, as has been reported in Hunter's case, but the Dodgers don't have to seriously consider every single free agent with a reputation. Attack the areas of your club that need improvement."

It's a bad thing that the Dodgers are interested in a lot of people? What? I mean, it'd be a bad thing if the Dodgers just signed everybody and had a lot of logjams, but you are seriously arguing that the Dodgers being very open in there pursuit of a lot of people is a negative. We have NO idea what the seriousness of the interest is and being interested in a lot of players, trying to actively get better, is not a bad thing. It is crazy to think they are just going after players just to say they are for PR purposes. The Torii Hunter thing was overblown, Anibal hardly is a huge name, Youkilis has bad chemistry attached to him, Dempster has barely been talked about, Kuroda/Grienke is more about talent. So no, they aren't showing support for PR, it's simply trying to be negative about anything.

Again, I know what you are trying to get at. And I know you "contrarians" try to simply say "Oh, I'm just looking at a different point of view and you need my opinion to make sure you realize isn't everything all jolly" But the Anti-Fan attitude is such an annoying/mockable attitude amongst some Dodger bloggers, and this article is one that I hope is not repeated in the future. You can see it as trolling, but I'm truly hoping you read it and realize that this thought process was borderline crazy.

Greg Zakwin said...

I wouldn't have thought it to be trolling.

But you couldn't possibly improve my writing either or my workload, as I write at one of the most prestigious Dodgers' blogs, ChadMoriyama.com

We differ in opinion, fair enough.

But you assume A LOT about my predisposition as well.

Stealing Home said...

"I write at one of the most prestigious Dodgers' blogs..."

dang! i thought you were gonna mention ATBATT !

Chad Moriyama said...

For the record, I don't consider myself important.

:o

Chad Moriyama said...

The argument of "the team is better than it was before" is a given, or at least it should be considering the payroll is now double, but how that payroll has been used is the issue for most "bloggers", I think.

I don't agree with Greg in the sense that I don't necessarily care what their motivations are. I only care about that in the realm of whether their attitude to money will change after the TV deal gets done, but that is all speculation at best at this point.

Greg is harsher on Ned Colletti than I am, in general, but I will say that it's not "bloggers" who question Colletti the most now. It used to be when I did it, but it's since switched to fans, probably because of the lack of results. I started out my writing "career" by basically disagreeing with Colletti's moves, but I've come to the center in regards to him over time, not because I've changed a lot, but because a lot more fans have moved to the "Ned Colletti sucks and should be fired" side. I've been told as much as well, even to the point where people say I'm too lenient with his strengths and weaknesses. So maybe Carlos should consider that before railing against "bloggers"?

Anyway, I think the general point is that it seems as if they're rushing the process a bit for whatever reason. PR or urgency to win or whatever, it's a bit concerning from a baseball perspective. For this type of payroll, the team should really be a lot better and less unstable going forward.

I don't think anybody can dispute that this will be a better team for the next two or three years, but there are very real questions. Will it lead to a World Series? What happens in a few years when the team starts to age? What happens after the television contract gets done? I don't know. It's all fair game.

My complaints are not necessarily with the ownership, but I do feel that the team simply could have been constructed better going forward. Maybe they will spend enough money in the coming months to make that a moot point, but as of right now, I stick by that solidly.

Chad Moriyama said...

Also, I know people are comparing the Blue Jays to the Dodgers, but taking on 100 million less in salary is a huge deal, and the players they are getting in return contributed almost twice as much in 2012 (12.0 WAR) than the Dodgers players did (6.5 WAR).

The talent they gave up were also in advanced leagues, so even though the Blue Jays gave up some of their best prospects, they were, after all, still in A-ball.

It's not unreasonable to compare them, but it's pretty clear why the Blue Jays trade would be looked at as better for the team.

Greg Zakwin said...

Oscar- Haha, prestigious ANALYTICAL blogs. If we're talking cards, YES YOU.

Chad- And that is why you're important, because my writing pales in comparison with yours.

Anonymous said...

I think the article as well as Carlos make good points. I do think there was a PR factor, to bring the fans back and to increase the popularity of the brand name, and get the most money out of the new tv deal. Similar to McCourt, the new owners goal is cash, which is not a bad thing as it is a business.

However, the new owners are smarter businessmen and know they can do much more with the brand globally by having a good team, and having good PR, as the more fans, and the more viewers means more cash. That's a win for the fans and a win for the owners.

Regarding Carlos' comment on the Dodgers getting Adrian Gonzalez party due his ethinicity, Stan Kasten said as much when I heard him speak at the LA Times forum. He said he long thought that would be the perfect marketing draw. From a baseball point of view, a replacement value player would have been an improvement over Loney. But that was a big consideration and it appeared that the whole Boston deal was to get Gonzalez for marketing, although the spare parts were a baseball upgrade too.

I don't think this is necessarily bad. Consider that Jerry Buss orders that the Lakers design their play around offense first which draws fans, even though defense wins championships. But Buss is a businessman and knows that offense fills the expensive seats. Surely Magic learned something about this from Buss.

I think Colletti wasted a lot of money, and a good GM could have better utilized even what McCourt gave him to field a better team. Yet he can't be replaced until there is a clearly better replacement, otherwise the risk of the failed DePosdesta experiment, which would set the team back even more. I suspect that Colletti will eventually be replaced by one of these new guys they bring in.

But the current roster is just a quick fix to get the good tv deal now. By hiring the best worldwide scouts and what seems like the whole Seattle Mariners scouting department, the Dodgers appear to be putting the framework in place for long term winning.

So moves partially motivated by PR are not necessarily a bad thing as long as the team wins.

Anonymous said...

When analyzing the trades with the Marlins and Red Sox, it's important to look at what the available options are in the free agent market.

There are NO impact 1B, SS or 3B available in free agency this winter.

Hamilton is available in the OF, but he will be more expensive than Crawford and he comes with a significant injury history, in addition to his well-documented off the field issues. I think Crawford will bounce back and play a solid LF with the Dodgers and comes at a total price tag of AT LEAST $30-50 million less than Hamilton.

Adrian Gonzalez is one of the top 1Bs in the game and fills an enormous hole that existed for several years with Loney.

At SS/3B, Uribe and Dee Gordon are not adequate everyday players. Hanley is a huge upgrade over either one.

Beckett was not exactly a great pick up, but he's only got 2 years left on his deal, so the REAL long-term commitments and they majority of the infamous "quarter of a billion dollars" that they took on was from AGon and Crawford.

Plus, Beckett gives the rotation some depth and together with Ryu makes Harang and/or Capuano ideal trade candidates (both have another year at a club-frinedly rate plus a team or mutual option for 2014). If Lilly and or Bills come out healthy, they'll have 7 SPs: Kershaw, Billingsley, Ryu, Lilly, Beckett, Capuano and Harang. I would trade either Cap or Harang together with Dee Gordon and perhaps a low-level high end prospect like Joc Pederson (where there is a logjam in the OF) for a top SS prospect that is major league ready or at least a viable September call-up candidate.

I'm not a GM and don't pretend to be, so I don't know what's possible. BUT, what I DO know is that by adding Hanley, Crawford, Beckett and Ryu, they are filling holes and creating logjams at positions that enable them to make trades--whatever those trades turn out to be.

The point is -- PR aside, the Dodgers have improved the club at the major league level in a way that nobody would have imagined possible 8 months ago. In the process, at the prospect level they lost IMO one potential star player (RDLR) and a couple of potential mediocre everyday players. But they're already restocking the farm (e.g., Puig) and the scouting department. Honestly, I think this has been one of the most radical and comprehensive makeovers of a team in less than 1 year in the history of professional sports. They have left no stone unturned.

They may have increased their "risk" but they took a borderline playoff team and made it into a legitimate WS contender.

I generally don't like Colletti, but I think he's done a good job under the new ownership. I'm actually scratching my head more over the Brandon League contract than the Red Sox deal.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy said...

What's his face said "pitchers break" and i thought "oh oh, they're not going to sign Greinke!" so we'll see....If they don't sign um then i will agree, you've got one pitcher for October and that's it, making all those trades pointless and if they continue to flop with the new players? Ouch! Not exactly time to be plunking down on season tickets IMO. If they don't win and extended Uncle Ned, it certainly looks like they have more money than brains! As much as people want to erase it from their memory but the team up north just won another World Series!

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