By Mitch Chortkoff
Exactly one year after they made one of the biggest trades in baseball history, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a three-game series Sunday night at Dodger Stadium.
Both teams remained mediocre last season following the nine-player trade but this season both have emerged as division leaders and World Series hopefuls.
The teams had completely different reasons for getting together for the deal but, remarkably, making the dramatic moves allowed both to significantly upgrade their championship hopes.
“We wanted to build credibility,” said Dodger general manager Ned Colletti.
“We showed the fans the new ownership is for real.”
The Dodgers became the first team in baseball history to acquire two players in a trade who had more than $100 million remaining on their contracts.
Adrian Gonzalez had around $160 million remaining and Carl Crawford $102 million. The Dodgers also acquired Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.
Suddenly the Dodgers emerged from the Frank McCourt era into a new life under the direction of Mark Walter, Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten.
The Dodgers also signed Zack Greinke as a free agent and Yasiel Puig as a newcomer to United States baseball, both receiving millions.
“In baseball you have to spend a lot to be successful,” said Johnson.
So they’re a serious contender now, entering September 10 games ahead of second place Arizona and further ahead of San Francisco, which won the World Series twice recently.
The Red Sox had an opposite goal, dumping expensive salaries of players not performing well in a losing season.
They spent a great deal of the money saved on new players. They signed Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster and gave Dustin Pedroia a new $100 million contract.
I was impressed with Pedroia over the weekend when the Red Sox took two out of three games from the Dodgers. It was the Dodgers’ first series in the last 19, spanning two months, when they lost. They had either won or broken even in every series since June.
We have now identified the five National League teams who are going to be in the playoffs. The Dodgers and Atlanta Braves will win their divisions. Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati are dueling for supremacy in the Central Division and all three will make the playoffs.
What will happen next? The team playing the best will get to the World Series against a suitable opponent from the American League.
The Dodgers are drawing around 50,000 for each game these days. It’s pretty cool.