Major League Baseball held their annual Winter Meetings in San Diego last week. It's a gathering of General Managers and other executives who can talk face to face with other GMs and agents, and ultimately acquire new players. Close to 80 players actually changed teams during the meetings, but the Los Angeles Dodgers waited until the last day to do anything, and then they went nuts.
All General Managers these days want their teams to get younger. The Dodgers, in the short-term, did not do that. Most executives now want to trade players a full year before they become free agents, rather than go one more year and possibly lose them for nothing. It's all about how long a player is 'under control'. The Dodgers had a second baseman who is only 25 and under control for several more seasons. They traded him away, ultimately for a guy who will be a free agent after this coming season. Under the way things work today, the move defies 2015 logic.
Dee Gordon stole a major-league leading 64 bases last year, and led the Dodgers with 12 triples. He also scored 92 runs—tied for the team lead. He hit .289, and admittedly has no power—hitting only two home runs. The Dodgers dealt him along with pitcher Dan Haren and infielder Miguel Rojas to the Miami Marlins for lefty Andrew Heaney, and three minor leaguers. Heaney was then traded to the Los Angeles Angels for second baseman Howie Kendrick.
Kendrick is older than Gordon, and at 31 will become a free agent after the upcoming season. He did hit .293 this season with seven home runs and 75 RBIs. He is right handed, and the Dodgers were looking for that. He is supposedly better defensively than Gordon, but the Dodgers have very little speed in their lineup.
If you missed the flurry of other activity, the Dodgers have had plenty of it. You knew they were going to trade an outfielder, but they didn't during the meetings, and actually acquired one in Chris Heisey before heading to San Diego. On the same day they dealt Gordon for Kendrick, they also signed free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins and pitcher Brandon McCarthy. When they got home, they traded Matt Kemp, about 36 million dollars of his salary, and catcher Tim Federowicz for catcher Yasmani Grandal, and two minor league pitchers. Grandal, incidentally, although he has power, was suspended for the first 50 games of 2013 for performance enhancing drugs. This was really all the Dodgers could get for Matt Kemp?
Today, the Dodgers signed free agent pitcher Brett Anderson, who is only 27, but has had Tommy John surgery and a broken foot. It's a one-year, 10 million dollar gamble for a fifth starter. As of this writing, Andre Ethier is still a Dodger, but likely not for long, leaving Carl Crawford in left, Yasiel Puig in right, and either Heisey or rookie Joc Peterson in center. The infield, from first to third, will be Adrian Gonzalez, Kendrick, Rollins, and Juan Uribe. The latter three will all be free agents at the end of the season. The starting rotation appears to be set now, with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke (who could opt out after 2015), Hyun-Jin Ryu, McCarthy, and Anderson. The Dodgers did get some help in their bull pen with Joel Peralta, Juan Nicasio, and Mike Bolsinger to set up for Kenley Jansen, but still have Brandon League and Brian Wilson.
And, oh yeah, several new names mentioned here, but almost forgotten were a couple more. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi—the new President of Baseball Operations and General Manager respectively. Without these guys at the helm, the Dodgers won 94 games and the National League West last year. They won only one playoff game, and the season was declared (and deservedly so) a disappointment. So they kicked the GM into a closet for an office, and hired these two guys. Yes, there's plenty of time to wheel and deal before spring training opens in February, but does this roster sound like a World Series champion to you? That's what they are trying to do, right?
Fricking fantastic: One note out of the Winter Meetings was this year's winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, otherwise known as the broadcaster who goes into the Hall of Fame. Vin Scully was a recipient of course, but the problem with the award is that someone wins it every year, and it was starting to seem like they had run out of deserving candidates. Duane Kuiper was nominated, for crying out loud, but not a finalist. The voters came up with a gem, though, and selected Dick Enberg, who will be inducted in Cooperstown this summer. Enberg retired from network announcing in 2010, and joined the San Diego Padres as their TV play-by-play man. Enberg broadcast Angels games from 1968 to 1978.
Gold Sox release schedule: The Marysville Gold Sox have announced their 2015 schedule, and it appears to be the easiest in recent memory. Neither the Seattle Studs nor the Humboldt Crabs are on the calendar next season—the two toughest teams they have faced in the recent past. Seattle has come to town every year since 2008, and has a 13-8 all time record. Studs manager Barry Aden says his team was offered an almost all-expenses paid trip to Alaska for a seven game series, and the annual 'Midnight Sun' game on June 21.He says they'll be back in 2016. The Gold Sox are 7-8 all time against Humboldt, and had gone to Arcata three straight seasons. Despite those two tough teams on their 2014 schedule, the Gold Sox won the Horizon Air Summer Series McCullough Division title, and had a best-ever 40-7 overall record. The 46-game schedule for 2015 includes two road games—June 30 and July 1 at the Redding Colt .45s. Opening Night is May 21 against the Sacramento Legends, a team the Gold Sox have never lost to in 11 years.
Football follies: I guess it may depend on your point of view as to whether or not 'cross-flexing' is a good idea. Cincinnati and Cleveland, two AFC teams, were shown on Fox so that more of the country could see the Johnny Manziel debut. Manziel was awful and his team lost 30-0. If Fox had gone with it's normal NFC game, northern California likely would have gotten Green Bay at Buffalo, where Aaron Rodgers also had a bad game, but the score was closer at 21-13. Rodgers is also from Chico and played at Cal—another reason for that game to be shown here. Fox's other options in the morning time slot were Washington at the New York Giants, or Tampa Bay at Carolina... I know I'm not a Forty Niner fan by any stretch of the imagination, but firing coach Jim Harbaugh after a down season is wrong. San Francisco had gotten to the NFC Championship Game three years in a row before this year, including a three-point Super Bowl loss to Baltimore just two years ago. San Francisco was officially eliminated from the playoffs yesterday after losing 17-7 at Seattle. There's definitely something wrong in Ninerland, but I don't think Harbaugh forgot how to coach.
Hooping it up: Most sports fans are still in football mode, but Saturdays in December provide some high quality college basketball matchups. This weekend had North Carolina at Kentucky and Gonzaga at UCLA among others. UCLA plays Kentucky in Chicago next week, and Kentucky is also featured against hated in-state rival Louisville the following week. Utah-Kansas was another good one this week, with Ohio State-North Carolina, Butler-Indiana, and UNLV-Utah next Saturday...Dick Vitale was the analyst on ESPN2's Gonzaga-UCLA broadcast Saturday night from Pauley Pavilion, and if you think it's odd to see Dickie V. on the west coast, you are right. Vitale said it had been 15 years since he did a UCLA game at Pauley.