So now we have the Dodgers and Angels taking their game of one-upsmanship to absurd levels even the Yankees and Red Sox never went to. Should we all just book our hotels now for a Freeway World Series next October or are these two crazy-spending ownership groups setting everyone up for the 21st-century version of “Waterworld?”
(Remember that one? It was the Kevin Costner flick that cost nearly $175 million, a record at the time for Hollywood, and never came close to recouping its money.)
You wonder if these two teams are headed for a similar fate. Sure, the Angels have an amazing lineup now with Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. But where's their starting pitching after Jared Weaver and maybe C.J. Wilson? The Dodgers still have to figure out their chemistry issues after last year's big deal with the Red Sox. At least they have pitching but even that has questions.
Clayton Kershaw remains the Dodgers' ace but Korean signee Hyun-Jin Ryu better be worth the $62 million they just spent on him. Zack Greinke one of the highest-paid pitchers ever at $147 million? Good luck with that. He's dealt with anxiety issues during his career and the prevailing wisdom was that he needed a smaller market so he wasn't in a fish bowl.
Los Angeles is not the media firestorm of Boston and New York, but Greinke is about to be in the biggest pressure-cooker of his career. He's 31-11 the last two years with Milwaukee and the Angels but now he really has to produce or the questions will start firing.
The Dodgers were in bankruptcy a year ago, the franchise tied up in the divorce courts amid the ongoing squabble of the McCourt family. Now, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten & Co. have a team that will set the all-time record by opening next season with a payroll of more than $220 million — more than double last year's figure. Luxury taxes, be damned.
Various accounting figures of the new ownership show it has spent more than $600 million in its first six months at the helm, roughly the same amount the McCourt family spent in the previous six years combined.
On top of that, the Dodgers are also spending $100 million on renovations to Dodger Stadium (and they're not being provincial about that, as a doubling of the visitors clubhouse is on that list).
Angels owner Arte Moreno clearly couldn't stand being left out of the crowd and made another stealth free agent move. Remember, Pujols was expected to go to Miami last year before the Angels swooped in and no one had Hamilton going West this year either.
“I started off with the Devil Rays and now I'm an Angel,” said the five-time All-Star at Saturday's news conference. He was drafted by Tampa Bay before making his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2007.
Is it a risk? Absolutely. Hamilton's addiction history is widely known and most scouts say he's got more years than the average 32-year-old body because of it. And certainly temptation is going to be much greater in Southern California.
“I have a past history of making mistakes with drugs and alcohol, drinking twice in seven years, which is not good for me,” Hamilton said. “They're going to help me with my support system to put things in place that I had with the Rangers.”
First home series in the year for Texas? April 5-7 against the Angels. That should be interesting. So should the four Dodgers-Angels games the last week of May. Will they have rematches come October?
Ownership is banking on that, so that means managers Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia just entered a real pressure-cooker. But the Yankees have proven time after time that money doesn't guarantee a World Series title (they have one in the last 12 years). And the Angels were clearly the winners of last winter. Got them nothing.
Meanwhile, teams like the Rays, Athletics and Orioles prove winning can happen without big budgets. You have to pitch, you have to draft and you have to develop. The Angels and Dodgers are going for the quick-fix short cuts. Good luck to them.
Halos boot media
One outgrowth of the Angels' big payroll is that they've announced they're converting the press box into premium seating and moving the media from behind home plate to an area down the right-field line. I would imagine the Baseball Writers' Association of America (full disclosure: I'm a member) will take this issue directly to Bud Selig.
When the White Sox did this in 2006, Selig instructed teams to keep their press boxes behind the home plate area. The Royals and Astros both moved the media — but simply higher up in the stadium and behind the plate. The Yankees and Mets certainly would have gone for the revenue in their new parks had Selig not made his decree, but instead kept the press behind the plate.
It remains to be seen if other teams will test Selig's mettle on this issue. In the NFL, writers have been powerless on the issue, as most teams have moved press boxes to corners and end zones (the Bills have long been rumored to be pondering a similar move).
R.A. to TO?
One of the most bizarre negotiations that's been going on in recent weeks has been between the Mets and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, who is in the unusual spot of looking for an extension at age 38. Dickey will make $5 million this year and wants two more years at a total of $26-$28 million.
The Mets are said to only be offering $20 million, concerned about Dickey's durability and perhaps distraction levels from his explosion of off-field activities. But then the Red Sox signed Ryan Dempster for two years and $26.5 million on Thursday. No way Dickey will take less now.
“It's hard,” Dickey said last week at Citi Field during a holiday party for children impacted by Hurricane Sandy. “When people say it's business, it's not personal, well that just means it's not personal for them. I'm hoping it ends up in a good place, but also in the back of your mind you think it may not. That's sad.”
The Blue Jays entered the weekend making a serious play for Dickey as a No. 1 starter. The Mets need a catcher and a center fielder, now that Andres Torres has gone back to San Francisco. Dickey for J.P. Arencibia and projected Bisons starter Anthony Gose? Hmmm.
Manto among finalists
Former Bisons slugger Jeff Manto, ex-Buffalo manager Marc Bombard and former Bisons executive Don Labbruzzo are among the 10 finalists for the International League Hall of Fame (Full disclosure dept.: This corner is one of 61 voters).
I voted for those three, along with former Columbus standout Marshall Brant, ex-Rochester Red Wings/Baltimore Orioles star Dennis Martinez and former Durham/Toledo closer Lee Gardner.
Manto, of course, is the most celebrated player in the Bisons' modern era and the only one to have his uniform retired. He just completed his first year as hitting coach of the Chicago White Sox and was excited to learn this week the Sox moved veteran Harold Baines, Manto's former teammate in Baltimore, into the role as an assistant hitting coach for next year. Several big-league teams are moving to a two-coach role with their hitters to alleviate workloads in areas such as video and batting practice.
“We're on the same page with our language and our thoughts,” Manto told CSNChicago.com. “It's not even going to be a transition.”
In addition to his time in Buffalo, Manto had an 88-RBI season for Scranton in 1993 and an MVP season in 1994 with Norfolk and Rochester, combining for 31 homers and 100 RBIs. You have to think he's a lock for induction.
Bombard led the Bisons to an 87-57 record and American Association East Division championship in 1992, but he's on the IL Hall ballot for his franchise-record 607 wins and four playoff berths with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from 1997-2004.
Labbruzzo, who died in 1999, was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He was the Bisons' GM from 1958-60 and again in 1970, when he took heavy personal losses trying to save the team before it was moved to Winnipeg. He also worked in the IL for Columbus (1955-57), Syracuse (1961-69) and Rochester (1977-78).
The new class will be announced in late January and inductees are honored at games around the league all summer.
Pascucci moves up
Bisons PR maven Brad Bisbing issued his annual statistical update last week on Coca-Cola Field's 25 seasons and Mets-era slugger Valentino Pascucci made some big jumps on the leader boards.
Pascucci is tied with Bill Selby for third in home runs downtown with 31, behind only Manto (47) and Alex Ramirez (33). Pascucci is third in RBIs with 106 (Selby had 115 and Jason Cooper had 110), and second in walks with 105 (Manto had 119). He's the leader in strikeouts with 194.
One unusual note was that infielder Josh Satin played 76 games downtown last season, a record almost sure to go unmatched. The Bisons, remember, played six games against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as the road team while the Yankees' ballpark was being renovated.
Around & About
• The Indians couldn't get Shane Victorino despite offering him an absurd $44 million over four years (he took 3/$39M from Boston). They couldn't get Kevin Youkilis to come back to play for Terry Francona for two years (he took one year from the Yankees).
They're still in on former Ohio State player Nick Swisher but at least they did well in trading Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and getting former Arizona top prospect Trevor Bauer as part of the three-team deal. They're said to still be shopping Asdrubal Cabrera too, although the premium on shortstops means they better get a good return if they make a deal.
• Mets first baseman Ike Davis to MLB.com on 2013: “I'm actually super excited. I'm healthy. Hopefully I don't get some crazy disease.” Davis, remember, struggled for the first half of 2012 after contracting Valley Fever in his native Arizona.
• What are the Royals doing? They traded Wil Myers for James Shields and Wade Davis? Myers, remember, was basically the top prospect last year in Triple-A once Bryce Harper went to the majors and was the Pacific Coast League MVP at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Coca-Cola Field. He's exactly the kind of player you build around to snap a 27-year postseason drought. You don't dump him for a mid-level starter. Crazy.