Monday, December 5, 2016

Wouldn't It Be Nice? How to Take the 2017 Dodgers to the Promised Land


Danville, Kentucky -- Folks, let me tell you about a great American band, hailing from the great American city of Hawthorne, California. Three brothers, their cousin, and a childhood friend, all singing together in perfect harmony. Together they wrote the soundtrack of summer, filling the airwaves with songs of sunny beaches, gentle waves, beautiful girls, sleek cars and never-ending romances. Their vocal arrangements were angelic; with layers and layers of gorgeous, lush harmonies that blended the transcendence of a church choir with all-American rock-and-roll. Folks, if you grew up in the 1960s like I did, you knew that the greatest band in the world came from America, not England.


The ultimate downfall of the Beach Boys was their move away from what made them great. Instead of writing songs about drag-racing, surfing, and drive-in theaters like they did in the good old days, they started to get all "introspective." They began to use the devil's lettuce, and worse, acid. The happy-go-lucky sunshine pop of "California Girls" eventually gave way to the incomprehensible pretension of "Pet Sounds." Their music became too psychedelic for my taste, and their commercial success suffered as a result. But I'll never forget those innocent early days when they mixed barbershop-quartet harmonies with Chuck Berry-style rhythm-and-blues, giving voice to the hopes and anxieties of millions of teenagers around our great nation.

Folks, I can think of another Californian staple in need of a return to its roots: the Los Angeles Dodgers. It's simply stunning that the Dodgers have not managed to win a World Series over the past half-decade or so. The Dodgers have had every advantage. They've won their division four times in a row and get to beat up on the perennially pathetic Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Padres. They regularly have the league's highest payroll. They have the unquestioned greatest pitcher alive, Clayton Kershaw. They even have a supposed genius at the helm, Andrew Friedman (or Fraudman if you are inclined to be skeptical of sabermetrics like myself).

Yet, in spite of all these tailwinds, the Dodgers have not reached the promised land. Folks, here's how I'd reload the team for a run at the World Series in 2017:

1) SIGN MARK TRUMBO


Folks, it's no secret that the Dodgers suck against left handed pitching. You wouldn't believe it, folks. How bad was it? They were DEAD LAST in batting average vs LHP last season:

[source - via ESPN]
How can a team with a budget larger than most Latin American economies fail to find a few guys that can hit southpaws? This was a problem long in the making. A few seasons ago they traded away noted lefty masher Matt Kemp and never had a strategy for replacing his juicy production. The Dodgers could always just try to trade for Matt Kemp, but if they'd rather dip into the well of free agency, they can finally acquire a man to destroy left-handed pitching: Mark Trumbo. Mark Trumbo pummels lefties like Obama has pummeled our pocketbooks over the past 8 years with his sky-rocketing health insurance premiums and over-regulation of made-up liberal conspiracies like "anthropogenic climate change."

Mark Trumbo, who I firmly maintain should've been the AL MVP this past season, could be just the guy the Dodgers need to jump-start their offense. The Dodgers are in desperate need of right-handed power. The Dodgers hit 37 home-runs against lefties all last season; Mr. Trumbo hit 47 home-runs all by himself last season. Get it done, Fraudman.


(all 47 of Trumbo's dingers)

2) BRING BACK A.J. ELLIS



The turning point of the 2016 Dodgers season was the disastrous decision to trade A.J. Ellis, the emotional rock of the team. 
Trading away Kershaw's favorite catcher and telling him to "make do" with Yasmandi Grandal and Carlos Ruiz is a little like sending R2-D2 to the scrap-heap and telling Luke Skywalker to go pilot his X-Wing with some other random astromech droid. Folks, there's a lot more to being a good catcher than your Isolated Power (ISO) or pitch-framing metrics. It's about knowing the pitchers, being their friend, being their anchor, being their comfort in a cold, hard, and cruel game. The Dodgers are a better team with A.J. in the clubhouse and behind the plate. Bring him back, Fraudman.

3) LOCK DOWN THE 9TH INNING



Folks, in a perfect world the Dodgers would bring back Kenley Jansen. That should be their Plan A. Kenley was formidable in the playoffs, proving his mental toughness and fortitude. But what if the Cubs or the Nationals or somebody else go crazy and outbid the Dodgers for Jansen's services? Then things get more complicated. Plan B should be Fernando Rodney.

Folks, Rodney's talents have always been wasted in small markets like Seattle or Miami. It's time to put him under the LA spotlight. Rodney is fresh off of a bounce-back 2016 campaign where he posted a solid 3.44 ERA, 25 saves, and 74 Ks in 65.1 innings pitched. He is without a doubt the best closer in this crop of free agents: Rodney's 261 career saves easily bests Jansen (189), Aroldis Champan (182), and Mark Melancon (168). If the goal is to give skipper Dave Roberts a reliable guy to lock down the 9th inning, there is nobody more qualified than Rodney. Pay the man, Fraudman!


4) KEEP THE PHILADELPHIA BOYS TOGETHER



Folks, if A.J. Ellis was the heart and soul of the 2016 Dodgers, then Joe Blanton and Chase Utley are the team's dirty fingernails. What Blanton and Utley lack in youth they make up for tenfold in their sheer grit, perseverance, effort, and tenacity. Forged in the grease-fires of Philly, Blanton and Utley took the Phillies to the promised land back in 2008, and are just the type of player the Dodgers want to keep around if they're trying to reach the promised land in 2017.

I know there's lots of talk of the Dodgers trading for Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers or Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins. But the asking price will be high, and the Dodgers would be loathe to whittle away their farm system when Utley is more than capable of being a competent second baseman. Give Utley a 4 years/$60 million contract and bring back Blanton no matter what the cost. The Dodgers might consider giving stalwart veterans Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard a phone call too. The 2008 Phillies knew how to win, yet the Dodgers have many green-in-the-gills young guns (Corey Seager, Julio Urias, etc.) who need veteran leadership. Make it so, Fraudman.


CONCLUSION


The Dodgers don't need to break the bank or drain the farm system for an ace like Chris Sale. If they make a move for any starting pitcher, it should be Zack Greinke. But I digress. The Dodgers are already a great team, a brotherhood of ball-players all in perfect harmony with one another. The Dodgers don't need a sabermetric revolution anymore than the Beach Boys needed to experiment with hallucinogens. If the Dodgers return to their roots in 2017 -- by doubling down on right-handed power, lock-down closers, and the 2008 Phillies -- there's no telling how much Fun, Fun, Fun they can have.