The Los Angeles Dodgers, despite Major League Baseball’s highest payroll at $240 million, its best pitcher in Clayton Kershaw and a boatload of high-priced talent including Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford, crashed out of the National League Division Series Tuesday — immediately igniting rumors that Dodgers ownership will tear the team down and start over, beginning at the top.
“Ned Colletti is absorbing the heat for the Dodgers’ October fizzle,” wrote longtime Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke on Thursday, adding that Colletti, the Dodgers general manager since November of 2005, “could soon lose his job as general manager” thanks to the team’s 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series — ending the season of the 94-game winning NL West Division champs who were among the favorites to get to the World Series this year.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have won five World Series championships, and appeared in nine altogether, since moving west from Brooklyn after the 1957 season. But the Dodgers have not made an appearance in the Fall Classic since 1988, a drought now extended to 27 years.
Incredibly, that dry spell is the team’s longest run without a World Series appearance since the first modern World Series was played in 1903.
From ownership on down, the Dodgers failed their fans and themselves…changes, big changes, are surely coming…
— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) October 8, 2014
According to Plaschke, Colletti’s likely replacement would be the second-youngest current general manager in baseball, Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays — at age 37 one of baseball’s true young hotshots.
Promoted to GM after the 2005 campaign when the Rays, then still known as the Devil Rays, had yet to post a winning season since their inception in 1998, Friedman turned the franchise’s fortunes around almost immediately, with an innovative “Wall Street” style of management.
By 2008, the Rays won 98 games to top the American League East, and defeated the then-defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. Though they lost the World Series 4-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies, the season established the Rays as a permanent contender.
Friedman is accustomed to getting the most from a tight payroll, and with the Dodgers expected to cut player salary costs to about $185 million next year, Friedman appears to be a perfect fit for Los Angeles.
But while Friedman may be on the way in, another young hotshot could be on the way out of Chavez Ravine. Yasiel Puig may well be a “generational talent,” but his behavior both on and off the field has given the Dodgers a generational pain in the neck.
With a salary of just $6.2 million in 2015 and a contract that keeps him under team control until 2020, the 23-year-old Cuban phenom would come as a bargain by any team’s standards. Plus, he would certainly net the Dodgers a valuable package of young prospects in return.
There was no clearer sign that the Dodgers are at the end of their rope with Puig’s antics than the fact that Los Angeles Manager Don Mattingly left his dynamic outfielder on the bench throughout Game 4 of the NLDS Tuesday. Though the Dodgers lost the elimination game by just one run, 3-2, Puig never even saw a pinch-hitting appearance, with Mattingly simply saying he felt Matt Kemp “gives us the best chance to win.”
The possibility that Los Angeles may be looking to unload Puig was reported by a Chicago sports radio host, who said that the Cubs could be talking to the Dodgers about a deal for Puig.
Are the Dodgers shopping Puig? You bet and the Cubs are one of several teams interested.
— George Ofman (@georgeofman) October 9, 2014