As I am sitting in my Friday office chair at Starbucks, waiting for my two former Giant clients and our regular Friday coffee business/baseball chat, I just cannot stop smiling. A lot of the regulars came up and congratulated me knowing how faithfully I have worn my Dodgers jerseys win or lose. Today it is Kershaw, on back to back days. It’s been raining all night in NorCal, so I broke out my heavy Dodger jacket as well. Even those wearing Giants gear are telling me Good Luck to the Dodgers in the WS (even though I know they do not mean it). But I remind them that no matter how happy I am at this moment, the job is not done…they do have 4 more wins in them. The goal was to WIN the WS.
On July 18, I wrote an article… Andrew Friedman and His 3 Year Plan. I went back to read it again, and it just reminded me how he built the 2008 Tama Bay WS team in three years and how similar the process was for the 2017 Dodgers, and again in 3 years. Anyone can see talent in Kershaw, Harper, Bryant, Scherzer, Verlander, and all of the others that have made their superstar status (including Darvish). But how many saw the talent in Chris Turner, or Brandon Morrow, or Alex Wood, or Andrew Toles, or Yasmani Grandal, or complimentary pieces like Kike’ Hernandez and Charlie Culberson. How many would have given up on Yasiel Puig (including me)? Doc said the Dodgers made a conscious investment in Yasiel Puig, and that investment is now paying huge dividends.
It’s not just acquiring the talent, but finding them with character and an unselfish attitude, and melding them into a family. Maybe the Nationals or Cubs have accumulated better players, but they do not have better TEAMS. After the 2016 season, how easy would it have been to move past Kike’ Hernandez. Not the Dodgers. They recognized the magnitude of his family concerns, and anyone who has followed Hernandez even for a minute knows that he wears his emotions on his sleeves, and they treated Kike’ accordingly. In one game, that loyalty was repaid big time. Or how about Charlie Culberson. He hits a walk off HR in the final 2016 home game to clinch the NL West, but more importantly on Vin Scully’s last home game, and becomes a cult hero (quoting Hawkeye). I was not a part of the negotiations, but in my conspiratorial mind, that HR was rewarded with a ML contract even though there was not a place for him on the ML roster, and Charlie obviously felt as if he were home. He wanted to be a Dodger. Dodger catalyst All Star SS Corey Seager goes down with a back issue…no problem, we’ll put Charlie Culberson on the NLCS roster, and he can start at SS in Game 1 backing up Clayton Kershaw. No pressure. He gets a game tying Sac Fly in Game 1, and then goes on to hit 5 for 11 in the NLCS including 2 doubles and a triple. Doc said he wanted Charlie in for his defense. Well, we saw that in his 3 games, but none better than Game 5.
While CT3 was Andrew’s and his front office’s find, it was Ned Colletti’s team that uncovered the JT gem. Now those two are 2017 NLCS co-MVP’s. Not the superstar can’t miss talent, but two players that were not given anything but a chance, and seized it. They are both now fully entrenched in the Dodgers’ lineup, but it took a while for both to make it. Again loyalty has paid off.
Money is important to us all, but some recognize that when playing with monopoly money that most can never spend in a lifetime, that playing where you are happy is also a MAJOR consideration. A great example is the last two years FA seasons. Two years ago, the Dodgers made what they believed was a more than fair offer to Zack Greinke. The offer was not in the Andrew Freidman comfort zone, but he was willing to spend $150M to bring back Greinke. However, the mercenary wanted the most money he could make and was not willing to take less to stay with a team that many thought was a good home for him. He would not have the pressure of being the Ace, could thrive as a #2, and make $150 million. How do you spend $150 million, even in LA? FAZ realized that Greinke was more interested in $$$ than being a part of the family that was being built, and said no to 6 years and $200+ million. Okay, Zack got his extra $50 million (and yes that is a lot to turn down), but he is sitting at home after the Dodgers spanked him in the NLDS.
Compare the Greinke scenario with what transpired last offseason. Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and Rich Hill were then FA about to get a lot of $$$$, and most thought the Dodgers would be able to sign only one of them. There were countless discussions on the various blog sites as to who that one player should be. Instead all three signed for less than they could have received elsewhere. Hill loved teaming up with Kershaw to combine their competitive warrior mentalities. Jansen and Turner just loved being Dodgers. Did Jansen’s wedding help that happen? Undoubtedly. While they could have signed for more elsewhere, they also recognized that they had more than enough money to set their family (and several generations) up for life, and cemented the point that family is what is important. And of course, as this story book season unfolds, all three were crucial to a NLCS Game 2 victory.
I am sure Greinke is happy clipping bond coupons, and there is nothing wrong with that. Good for him. I wish I could experience that lifestyle. He is a good person, great family man, but he is not a Dodger. He is wired differently than Jansen/Turner/Hill with different priorities, and Andrew Friedman knows the difference. Yu Darvish will become even wealthier than he already is, but will he be willing to take less to stay with the Dodgers? How about Brandon Morrow who is going to get a very big payday? But that discussion is for another day. Now we have to turn our attention and focus on WINNING 4 MORE GAMES. Bring on the Yankstros.