It’s been just over two weeks since the Dodgers completed their stunning blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox, in which they received pitcher Josh Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, and utility player Nick Punto. In return, the Red Sox received first basemen James Loney and four prospects in an effort to begin their rebuilding process, having had a disastrous season and the magic of the 2004 and 2007 Championships faded into the past. The Dodgers on the other hand have unabashedly been on a mission to build a Championship team, even if it means spending upwards of $55 million, the total combined salaries of Gonzalez, Beckett, Punto, and Crawford for this year. But money can’t buy championships (despite what those Yankees haters might say) and with only a couple more weeks of regular season baseball left, the Dodgers are five and a half games behind the first place San Francisco Giants in what is easily the weakest division of the National League. So do the Dodgers have what it takes to make it to the playoffs and has that trade been beneficial in their efforts to do so?
The problem all year long for the Dodgers has been a struggling offense. 18th in MLB in batting average, 25th in runs, and 29th in slugging percentage, matters certainly weren’t helped when they lost practically the only power hitter on the team, Matt Kemp, to a two month long hamstring injury. Such a lack of run support must be frustrating for a dynamite pitching staff that has a combined 3.48 ERA (fifth in MLB) and the third lowest BAA (.241). Because of this, the Dodgers and their pitchers should have more wins than they do, but they don’t and so they now sit in the position they are in. Moreover, this is a team that enters long slumps where the offense just cannot score, which in turn causes the pitchers to fall apart and give up an unacceptable amount of runs for a team with playoff dreams.
If the Blockbuster trade was meant to help the above-mentioned issue, I don’t believe it truly did although it certainly didn’t hurt. Carl Crawford for one is a non-entity, being out for the rest of the season as of August 20th due to an elbow injury, although he will certainly add something to the lineup next year. Nick Punto has also been a waste, batting .154 after 13 at bats and two measly singles to show for it. Adrian Gonzalez, though not adding the power I believe the Dodgers desperately need, has knocked in 15 hits and 10 RBIs since joining the men in blue. Not only does he hit, but he makes the hits when they count, and having Gonzalez, Kemp, H. Ramirez, and Ethier making up the middle of your lineup isn’t too shabby, if of course they are all hitting. And then there’s my personal favorite, if by personal favorite one means my least favorite, pitcher Josh Beckett. I’m pretty sure the Red Sox trade of him was more beneficial for them than for the Dodgers, after all, the days of 20 wins is but a distant memory.
OK, if I put my biases in check, he hasn’t been completely terrible. Not that an experienced pitcher with two championships under his belt has any excuse to be worse in the National League, and the National League West at that, than in the most difficult division in MLB. But he hasn’t been great. Josh Beckett is not the answer to the Dodgers prayers, and it makes me nervous to have him pitch against any team that is over .500.
But the inconsistent offense is not the Dodgers only problem. They have been plagued by injuries the whole season. Losing Kemp for two months was a big blow, and even today Kemp is listed as day-to-day since September 8th for a separate left shoulder strain. The second biggest injury setback has been the loss of Chad Billingsley, the #2 pitcher, for the rest of the season because of right elbow pain. It hasn’t stopped there. Jerry Hairston Jr. has been on the 60-day DL since August 12 th, and surprisingly his absence from the lineup is greatly noticed. Fan favorite Dee Gordon has also been on the 60-day DL and is still not back in the lineup. And hardworking Ted Lilly, who was 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA before being placed on the 60-day DL at the end of May, has also not returned.
But the Dodgers are a scrappy bunch and you shouldn’t give up on them yet. Even with the injuries, the Dodgers still have a strong rotation and a team that can come up with the big hits, just don’t expect too many grand slams. And despite going 1-2 this past weekend in a pivotal matchup with the Giants, that of course wasn’t helped by the last minute scratching of Kershaw from his scheduled Sunday start due to hip pain, they have 21 games left and while being 5.5 games behind the Giants isn’t ideal, it’s not impossible. After all, they went 17-7 last September. Though in another stroke of bad luck, the remainder of the Giants schedule is a hell of a lot easier than that of the Dodgers, but what can you do? If they don’t make the playoffs, some might see the trade and acquisition of the big money players as a waste, but they will still have them next year plus hopefully more healthy players. And if Dodger’s fans still feel bad about the season, at least parking was reduced by $5.
Author Bio: Michelle Rubin is an avid sports lover, who’s favorite sport is baseball. She also writes for the sports blog The League Insiders.