Zach Greinke, left, with co-owner Magic Johnson, is one of the many free-agents… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
With spring training starting this week, it's time to look at some of the most intriguing story lines across Major League Baseball. After discussing the American League on Monday, writers from the Tribune Co. turn their attention to the National League. Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment of your own.
Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
No team in baseball history spent more money in less time than the Dodgers, who invested about a bazillion dollars during the last seven months to compile a roster that will feature All-Stars at six positions. But money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, especially in a clubhouse that is now full of personalities but appears to be short on leadership.
It wasn’t exactly a congenial place to be last summer, when management was just starting to bring the pieces together. This spring gives everyone a chance to start over.
If they all just get along, the Dodgers will wreak havoc on the National League West. If not, the spring could give way to a long, hot summer of temper tantrums and bickering. And by not giving Don Mattingly a contract extension, the front office may have already set the manager to become the fall guy should the team implode.
Mandy Housenick, Allentown Morning Call
The Braves’ acquisitions of the Upton brothers have some people believing that’s enough to bring a World Series back to Atlanta.
Another impressive year from the Nationals, anchored by their young pitching staff, upgraded bullpen and versatile lineup, could be the steppingstone for a National League dynasty.
Although those teams’ story lines bring interest to the NL East, I can’t see how all eyes won’t be on the Dodgers. Los Angeles spent a boatload of money and resources at the deadline last year and this offseason with the hope of winning a World Series in 2013.
But will the recent additions of Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Brandon League, J.P. Howell and Skip Schumaker be enough to get past the San Francisco Giants in their own division?
I don’t think so.
Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun Sentinel
With all due respect to the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants and Tim Lincecum’s preppy new hairdo, the National League’s most intriguing team is in Southern California. The Dodgers last season made big-time trade acquisitions in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett from the Red Sox, and Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins.
Yet their offense still sputtered in the second half (12th among NL teams in runs), leaving them well short of the playoffs. This winter they added starter Zack Greinke on a six-year, $147-million contract, pushing their short- and long-term payroll obligations further into orbit. The Dodgers arguably have the circuit’s best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) and position player (Matt Kemp), but will all those high-priced pieces mesh into a postseason force?
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
Will the Dodgers play like a $213-million team? The Mark Walter/Magic Johnson/Guggenheim Partners ownership, behind club President Stan Kasten, has made all the right moves off the field. But the signing of Zack Greinke and last year’s trades for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Brandon League hardly guarantee a playoff spot.
Beckett and Ramirez need strong springs (and Ramirez is likely to spend much of his as a DH for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic). Ownership is going to expect results, and Magic doesn’t strike me as a particularly patient boss.
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