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Dodgers become a team the NL can love to hate

A franchise changes its (pin) stripes — the Dodgers are now Yankees West, and that won't sit well with the opposition.

August 25, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • With the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez and company, the Dodgers will become Yankees West.
With the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez and company, the Dodgers will become… (Jim Rogash / Getty Images )

The Dodgers have been respected and admired through most of their years, mocked and pitied for the last couple of years.

Now they will be hated.

This is not hate from San Francisco, the hate born from a rivalry. This is hate from every other city in the National League, the hate born from the rich new kids on the block trying to buy a championship.

The Dodgers are on the verge of paying about $140 million for three players — just to secure the chance to pay about $120 million more for the one player they really want. Ladies and gentlemen, your New York Yankees of Los Angeles.

Not that the Dodgers care.

"Are you playing within the rules? That's what I always looked at," said Dodgers manager and former Yankees star Don Mattingly. "They used to say all that about the Yankees. If you don't like it, change the rules."

Here's the scorecard on the Dodgers' new owners, all without benefit of an off-season: a contract extension for Andre Ethier, the signing of Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig, trades for Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Brandon League and Randy Choate, and the pending trade with the Boston Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

Total cost: $432 million. Sale price in 2004, when Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers: $421 million.

"The L.A. Dodgers are doing what the L.A. Dodgers should do," said Miami Marlins reliever Heath Bell, who grew up in Southern California.

"They should be the New York of the West Coast. They're putting L.A. back on the map."

Under the O'Malley reign, the Dodgers won with smarts. They even wrote a book about it: "The Dodger Way to Play Baseball."

Under Fox, the Dodgers tried to win with money. They failed miserably.

Under the new Guggenheim Baseball ownership, the Dodgers are trying to win with money, at least until the minor league pipeline can be revitalized. That day was delayed when the Dodgers agreed to send Boston three of their top prospects — pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and outfielder Jerry Sands.

Mark Walter, the Dodgers' chairman, offers neither guarantees nor apologies.

"It's not like we're going to win 162 games. It's no sure thing," Walter said Friday. "But I told people we were going to try to make this team the best team we could make it."

Even with Gonzalez, the Dodgers' lineup might not be as good as the Cincinnati Reds'. Even with Beckett, the Dodgers' pitching staff might not be as good as the Washington Nationals' — yes, even after the Stephen Strasburg shutdown.

None of that matters if the Dodgers do not make the playoffs. As of Saturday, they would not.

And, if money equaled success, the Red Sox would be printing playoff tickets, not blowing up their roster to get a quarter-billion bucks off the books.

The Dodgers can afford this, with curious thanks to McCourt. He pitched bidders on financial flexibility, and he left behind a roster that included just $33 million in guaranteed salary for 2014.

Guggenheim paid $2.15 billion for the team. They're not about to stop spending now, no matter how many stars they assemble for their cast or how much ire they draw from owners or fans around the league.

You either love the Yankees, or you love to hate them.

"It was kind of a little rock show," Mattingly said. "Everywhere you went, you caused that little buzz.

"That's the way the Dodgers should be. I'll be honest with you: to me, when the Dodgers come to town, it should be THE DODGERS."

Mattingly is not without sympathy, or admiration, for those teams that do more with less.

"There is a beauty in doing what the Twins do," he said. "You have to be really good at what the Twins do. You build your minor league system. You do everything right.

"That's the way we should be. Our system should be great. We should teach our guys to play the game right. But right now . . . to me, it's the best of both worlds."

The Dodgers had fallen so far that the Twins outspent them last year, and the year before that. The Dodgers have corrected that much, at least, no matter how much hatred they might have inspired from sea to shining sea.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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