Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Hamilton and Greinke's new teams are a combined 36-53 right now
A lot has been made of the Dodgers and Angels big moves the last couple of seasons. Despite big spending by these teams, both have failed to make the postseason since 2009. Magic Johnson's ownership group took over the Dodgers last season and made a splash immeadiately. They locked up Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, traded for Hanley Ramirez, and then made a megadeal with Boston to acquire Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. Then in the offseason they signed Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, and spent nearly $150 million to sign Zack Greinke. Arte Moreno's Angels just missed the playoffs last year after giving out big contracts to Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. They acquired Greinke at the trading deadline last year, but lost him to crosstown Dodgers. To compensate, they signed Josh Hamilton to a five year, $100 million contract from the division rival Rangers.
Both teams are off to slow starts this year. Managers Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia are on the hot seat, especially Mattingly. Mattingly's deal runs out at the season's end, and he will have to win to stay on as manager. Magic Johnson has said he expected the Dodgers to contend for a championship this year. Scioscia's deal runs through 2018 and he has a longer leash. Scioscia has had plenty of success with the Angels, making 6 playoff appearances and winning the 2002 World Series. Still, he is under pressure to win with such a high payroll. Moreno has said that Scioscia is safe this season, but Mattingly might not make it that long if the Dodgers don't improve.
Managers often take the blame for poor performance and underachievement, but is it all their fault? Moves like signing Pujols, Hamilton, or Greinke come from ownership, but their is some questionable moves by both teams in other areas. Another reason why these teams aren't living up to expectations could be the egos of some of the star players. Injuries have also played a role in their struggles. The Dodgers had to deal with injuries to Greinke, Ramirez and Chad Billingsley, and the Angels have been without ace Jered Weaver. That been said, both teams have some flaws that are hampering them.
Angels GM Jerry DiPoto deserves some blame for making some poor decisions. He traded away Jean Segura in the Greinke deal, traded Kendrys Morales for Jason Vargas, traded Ervin Santana for next to nothing, and signed Joe Blanton, who has been terrible. The bullpen is still shaky and newly signed Ryan Madson has yet to pitch for them. Losing Weaver has really hurt the Angels, they can't wait to get him back. The trio of Pujols, Hamilton, and Mike Trout hasn't lived up to expectations as of right now. Pujols and Hamilton are both off to slow starts this season. Pujols has been hampered by his plantar fasciitis and has played half his games as a DH. Hamilton is off to a even slower start and still has some lingering questions about his mental makeup.
The Dodgers moves haven't paid off, either. The pitching staff hasn't been as strong as it was thought to be. That's none of Clayton Kershaw's fault, though. Kershaw is off to another dominant year and even draws comparisons to Sandy Koufax. Greinke was injured in a brawl with Carlos Quentin and missed some time. Chad Billingsley had to have Tommy John surgery, and Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly have also been hurt. Beckett has been awful this year. Closer Brandon League has a ERA north of 5. On the offensive side, Kemp and Ethier haven't produced like in years past. The left side of the infield hasn't produced, either. Ramirez has been limited to 4 games due to injury.
Can these two teams turn it around? Already a quarter into the season, both teams are a combined 17 games under .500. There is still plenty of talent on these teams despite some weaknesses on both of them. There is still plenty of time for both teams to turn it around and make a run at the postseason. Still, both teams have dug themselves into a hole that is going to be hard to get out of. The Dodgers are in last place in the NL West and the Angels are in fourth in the AL West. The Angels are lucky to have the Astros in their division, otherwise they might be in last as well. I think these two teams were overrated coming into the seasn, and the Giants and Rangers were underrated. A team can throw money around to improve, but that doesn't always buy good team chemistry. Both the Angels and Dodgers seem to lack the killer instict to claw back into games. Maybe that changes later in the year, and I also think some of their star players will improve. Still, there is plenty of concerns for both the Dodgers and Angels.