Has the Dodgers’ Grace Period Expired?

Dec 1, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, talk to the media during a press conference today at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, talk to the media during a press conference today at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

An LA Times writer believes the Dodgers’ front office has lost their grace period. Nah.

Apparently the new theme of this website is “rebut the things Dylan Hernandez writes”.

Last week, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times wrote that the Dodgers were wasting Clayton Kershaw‘s prime, and Chris wrote a rebuttal to that. Today, Hernandez wrote a piece titled “These are Andrew Friedman’s Dodgers, and his philosophy will be up for evaluation”. Well, this time I’m gonna write the rebuttal to that.

Hernandez’s lede was eye-popping, as he proclaimed the grace period for Andrew Friedman has expired. Because as we all know, we should judge a front office by what they do in their first two years. Which is why when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the Cubs in 2011, they were fired following the 2013 season in which the Cubs went 66-96. Or were they fired in 2014, after the Cubs went 73-89? The Dodgers were absolutely starting in a better place than the Cubs did when they took over, but expecting a team to win a championship in a two year bubble is extremely shortsighted.

Hernandez points to Friedman finally having the coaching staff and manager of his choice. This should also work against his “Friedman’s grace period is over” opinion, as it’s a bit much to expect a rookie manager and completely revamped coaching staff to succeed out of the gate. With normal teams, succeed would be defined as a playoff berth, but a fourth straight division title won’t be enough to calm the fans and some daily publications.

Hernandez errs in saying that the team is entirely theirs. It’s not like this team features a completely different roster from the Ned Colletti era. Looking at the Dodgers 2014 roster (Colletti’s final year at the helm), the roster isn’t all that different position-player wise. Baseball Reference lists players based on how much they played that season, and four of the Dodgers that are likely to start on opening day were players that played the most games in 2014 (A.J. Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig). Andre Ethier would have made it five if he wasn’t hurt.

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Looking at the departures, Dee Gordon is gone and there will never be 100 percent agreement on whether that is good or bad. Hanley Ramirez is gone, and that’s probably a good thing considering he’s playing first base for the Red Sox (and Corey Seager is pretty cool). Juan Uribe is gone, but Justin Turner (who was on the roster in 2014 just not an everyday starter) has outperformed him. The starting 2014 outfield of Crawford, Ethier and Puig are all still around, and essentially Matt Kemp was replaced by Joc Pederson, who took a starting spot in the outfield (normally from Crawford, but with Ethier’s injury he’s the odd one out).

The pitching staff is where a lot of changes happened, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Nobody is happy about losing Zack Greinke. Dan Haren and Greinke tied for the most Dodger starts in 2014 (Kershaw missed about six weeks because of a back injury and still won the MVP, LOL). Hyun-jin Ryu is still around, but he’s hurt. Those Dodgers were lucky with health, as five starters made 20 or more starts. After that, Roberto Hernandez (9), Paul Maholm (8) and Kevin Correia (3) all made multiple starts and are no longer with the team. I’m sure Dodger fans are missing them heavily.

While Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have made a lot of moves, the team is hardly their vision. They’re still weighed down by a few bad contracts that weren’t their fault (Andre Ethier, Alex Guerrero, and Carl Crawford) and a bad contract given out themselves (Brandon McCarthy, but there’s going to be two and a half years for that one to be salvaged). While they’ve made plenty of moves, their moves have focused on the long term. There’s no guaranteed formula to winning a World Series, the best you can really plan for is to get to the playoffs. In a best of five series, one guy left on base or one guy forgetting to cover third can mean the difference between a series win and loss.

Hernandez poses a fair question, as he asks if the Dodgers should feel comfortable with their pitching depth when it’s made up of injury-prone pitchers. Which is a solid point until he cites Brett Anderson as his example, who the Dodgers probably weren’t expecting back. They offered him a qualifying offer as every other team would have, and he accepted it, which was a shock as no player before this offseason had ever accepted one. Regardless, a one year contract is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and that $15.8 million definitely wasn’t the difference between them being able to retain Greinke or bring in David Price or Johnny Cueto.

The Dodgers went for strength in numbers and assumed that if they had seven pitchers for five spots, they all couldn’t get hurt. A lot of them did, and now they have a competition brewing for the fifth starter spot. Where the Dodgers differ from many other teams is in their depth, which has allowed them to face five pitching injuries and still not be desperate enough to rush Julio Urias or Jose De Leon, both of whom factor heavily into the Dodgers’ future plans and shouldn’t be counted on so soon. While they won’t open the season with a star-studded 1-5, they should have an ace, two very quality arms (Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood) and the unknown in Kenta Maeda, who has looked stellar in the spring. Their fifth spot could be a revolving door, but it belongs to Ross Stripling for now. If Stripling was a rotation-guy before his surgery, it would have been exciting. It still excited me to see him get a shot, and he should be able to keep the Dodgers in the game more often than not at least until May, when Ryu is scheduled to return.

Next: Ross Stripling Wins Fifth Starter Spot

Hernandez pointed to the front office taking an increasingly analytical approach to their signings, but nobody really knows how they come to their decisions. He ends this portion of his piece by stating that they will be judged by results and results only. This isn’t news, as pretty much every front office in sports gets judged by their results. However, deciding the fate of management two seasons into their tenure is pretty harsh, especially considering how well this team is set up for the long term. It’s not what fans want to hear and it won’t sell tickets, but the Dodgers not only have one of the better major league rosters in baseball, but their farm system is either the best or second best in all of baseball. If the only way to measure success is winning a World Series, the front office failed in their first year. So did 28 other front offices. While that should always be the ultimate goal, it shouldn’t be the only tool used to judge a front office, especially after one or two years.

Hernandez ends his post with a series of predictions. The first one claims that the Dodgers will settle for a wild card slot. This prediction would be easy enough to shrug off, but Hernandez fails to pick the team that will dethrone the Dodgers. But he’s certain it’s gonna happen.

Fans and writers are growing impatient at the Dodgers’ lack of championships, made even worse by the fact that the Giants have three in the last five years. It makes sense to be angsty, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Dodgers have as good a shot as any team to win the World Series this season, and their “grace period” should probably last a little longer than a typical community college tenure.