Los Angeles Dodgers: Can Money Buy Success?

Richard LeivenbergContributor IIISeptember 11, 2012

When the Los Angeles Dodgers secured the lineup of Matt Kemp, Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, it looked like money could buy success.

At least on paper.

Now, after a record of 6-15 since they put this new team together—and with injuries to key players piling up—it looks like success will be much harder to come by.

Kemp has recently been out of action due to a shoulder injury he got when running into a wall in Colorado.  Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw missed a key start against the Giants due to a sore hip.

Both men may return tonight, but it may not matter in the greater scheme of things this season if they keep playing so poorly.

As of now, the Giants have taken a five-game lead in the NL West, and the Dodgers only hope of making the playoffs seems to be to overtake the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild-card spot.  L.A. trails by one and a half games and will host the Cardinals this weekend.

But to claim that second wild card, the Dodgers have to score more runs.

In Sunday's game against the Giants, the Dodgers were 1-for-23 (.043) with men in scoring position, a stat that has become the tale of the tape for L.A. in the past few games. 

Gonzalez has been pretty pathetic, batting.249 since the trade and .202 with RISP.  Kemp, probably due to his injury, has three hits in his last 30 at-bats.

After the trade, the Dodgers are averaging 3.03 runs per game.  Before the trade, they averaged four runs per game.

Numbers don't tell the entire story, though, as the anemic run production has been the result of a variety of factors:  poor managing by Don Mattingly, a lack of chemistry, suspect pitching, injuries and a general lack of hustle.

The lack of hustle was very apparent against the Giants when Juan Rivera hit a ball down the right-field line and watched it as he trotted to first base, eventually making it to second in a leisurely fashion.  Had he taken off fast and not looked at the ball—as he was taught in Little League—he may have had a triple. He eventually got stuck at second.

At shortstop, Ramirez is anything but slick and seems way too nonchalant. We may have been spoiled by the rocket arm of Rafael Furcal, but Ramirez, no matter what the play, just seems to sling the ball over to first base, with the ball, often times, barely beating the runner.

The highly regarded shortstop and one-time NL batting champ came to the Dodgers with a bad rap for being lazy and disinterested.  Is that what the Dodger fans are going to get from him?

Ramirez is batting a meager .254 for the season, and while he has had some timely run-producing hits, he has only two home runs and four RBI in the last 10 games.

In addition to having temporarily lost Kemp and Kershaw, the Dodgers in recent weeks have lost Chad Billingsley, Kenley Jansen and Adam Kennedy for the season. There is no question that Kemp and Kershaw are the spark plugs for the team, and if they should go out again or cannot produce at their normal levels, the team will be in even more dire straits.

The Dodger pitching remains strong (3.48 ERA) thanks to solid recent performances by Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano and Brandon League, who is filling in nicely as the closer.  But is there really a lot of confidence in Joe Blanton, Aaron Harang and the newly assembled bullpen?

The hardest part of putting together a bunch of new players is getting them to gel.  In this case, the Dodgers threw together a bunch of talented individuals who, on paper, should comprise a winning team.

But what about chemistry?  Should we really expect them to unite quickly, give each other high fives and then go out there and beat the competition to death.  They barely know each other, and they barely know each others' tendencies.

Anyone watching the games knows that Ramirez is a pull hitter and a first-ball swinger. In a recent game, Gonzalez was at third base with a sizable lead, and Ramirez hit the first pitch on a hop to the third baseman.

Gonzalez had no chance of getting back to bag.  What was he doing off it in the first place?  Maybe he just didn't know Hanley's tendency to pull the ball. Why didn't third base coach Tim Wallach have him back at the bag?

The upshot was yet another run was left stranded.

Ultimately, it is up to the manager to manage all of these details, psych up his team, get them to hit and run, run and hit, move quickly on the bases, bring the heat at the right time and the curveball at others. For the most part, Mattingly has met those responsibilities quite well.

But he could do a lot better.

As a former player, Mattingly may have given his new players a bit too much leeway as they were getting acclimated to their new surroundings.

Perhaps there was a bit of a honeymoon period in which he wanted to observe how they worked individually and together as a team.

Well, Don, the honeymoon is over, and it is time to kick this team into gear or this will look like one bad marriage.