Will Dodgers, Angels Both Miss Playoffs?
The Dodgers’ 2013 payroll is the highest in the history of baseball. The Dodgers are in last place.
The Angels spent heavily on players last summer too, but now they are 12 games out of first place, trailing Texas, Oakland and Seattle in their division.
Is it too early to declare both teams out of playoff contention? Yes. Only a small portion of the 162-game schedule has been played.
Is it too early for Dodger and Angel fans to worry? Not at all.
Let’s start with the Dodgers. Certainly they’ve had injuries. Certainly they have a lot of talent. The disturbing thing is there hasn’t been a spark – an indication that things will improve soon.
Matt Kemp has hit only one home run. Even his recent 14-game hitting streak left doubts about his health. He isn’t showing much power.
Andre Ethier isn’t hitting with authority either. With Hanley Ramirez out, the shortstop and third base positions are weak. And, finally, the bullpen has been awful, ranking last in the National League.
Did the Dodgers spend their money wisely? Not in terms of finding a closer who could hold late inning leads. In Atlanta last weekend Kenley Jansen blew leads in all three losses. And Brandon League, who received a hefty contact last summer, was only a little better.
In all three games, the Atlanta closer, Craig Kimbrell, did his job, retiring all nine batters he faced in the series – three up and three down in the ninth inning of each game.
There are other problems. An Atlanta runner scored easily, coming home from second on a single to left. The play should have been close but Carl Crawford’s throw was terrible. Is his arm that bad? Will scouting reports encourage baserunners to expose his weakness all season?
As for the Angels, there also are significant problems that invite second guessing.
Was it wise to give huge contracts to Albert Pujols last year and Josh Hamilton this year, resulting in the departure of Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells?
Hunter was not only an outstanding player but a terrific influence on teammates. Wells was left out when the Angels decided to play Mike Trout in left and Peter Bourges in center.
They were happy to get rid of Wells’ big contract, so they traded him to the Yankees, where he’s thriving.
The Angels’ pitching has been worse than the Dodgers. Neither the starters nor relievers put fear into the opposition.
Unfortunately, Jered Weaver is injured. But other subtractions came not as a result of injuries. Zach Grienke joined the Dodgers as a free agent. Dan Haren now pitches for Washington.
There’s been a revolving door in the bullpen. While the Dodgers have some chance of getting straightened out the Angels have less chance.
Sure it will help when Weaver can pitch. And Hamilton can recover from his slow start and get real hot.
But the bullpen problem assures more losses and it won’t be easy for the Angels to pass three teams. When those teams play each other, as they do 19 times, one of them has to win.
I know Angels owner Arte Moreno was frustrated when a team in the Angels’ division, Texas, went to the World Series two straight years. His answer was to pay heavily for big-name free agents.
What he’s done is add sluggers but, sadly, pitching is vital and the Angels are deficient there.
Some experts predicted a Dodger-Angel World Series this season. That doesn’t seem possible now.