Dodgers' coowner Stan Kasten in the dugout before the game in Dodger… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
NASHVILLE — Would the Dodgers' 2013 season be a failure if the team did not win the World Series?
Stan Kasten leaned forward in his chair. The Dodgers' president was one of a handful of team executives listening in as General Manager Ned Colletti briefed the media Tuesday.
"I'm waiting for Ned to answer," Kasten said. "I want to know the answer."
The Dodgers arrived at baseball's winter meetings hoping to sign Zack Greinke, and they would not be surprised to leave in the very same position.
Colletti said the Dodgers have yet to make Greinke an offer, though they surely would have if Greinke's agent had told them that time had come. However, it is common for teams and agents to discuss the parameters of an offer before one is formally presented.
The Dodgers have the money to outbid all comers, and that could make other teams think twice before engaging in a bidding process they might have little chance to win.
The Washington Nationals appear out on Greinke after signing Dan Haren on Tuesday — $13 million, for one year, as a fourth starter. The Texas Rangers are talking with Josh Hamilton as well as Greinke, and signing one might preclude securing the other. Casey Close, the agent for Greinke, might well be trying to rustle up suitors beyond the Dodgers and Angels.
As the Dodgers wait for Greinke, their 2013 identity already is set. They are baseball's moneyed elite, the role formerly played by the New York Yankees.
"I think sometimes people assume that the New York Yankees are the New York Yankees and there's no budget constraints," Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday, "but there are."
The Yankees used to be those New York Yankees. The Dodgers are what the Yankees used to be.
"I'm sure just about every article that's written will have some kind of note on our payroll," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said.
Our $200-million payroll, he could have said.
Mattingly could gauge how the perception of the Dodgers changed last season by the quantity and quality of the hecklers around the league.
Well, maybe just the quantity. In April, the Dodgers were in bankruptcy.
"You'd hear one comment," Mattingly said.
In July, the Dodgers took on Hanley Ramirez and the $36 million left on his contract. In August, they took on Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, and the $260 million left on their contracts.
"As we started getting the payroll changed and got all the guys, the comments were totally different," Mattingly said. "You hear people yelling. All of a sudden, it was like these overpaid, spoiled — I'm like, wow, really, in like a month's time.
"That's part of the expectation. That's part of reality. So we might as well be ready for it, be ready to take it head on. That's the way it's going to be. We're not going to change it."
Mattingly knows. In the Yankees' world, a season that does not end in a parade is a season of failure.
"We haven't been in the postseason in three years," Colletti said. "I think you have to start to play in October."
Yes, with a $200-million payroll you'd better.
"Payroll has never been the sole measure of a team getting into late October," Colletti said, "or even early October."
But would the season be a failure if the Dodgers did not win the World Series?
As the guy responsible for putting together the team, Colletti knew better than to answer a question his boss would not touch.