So what makes a team go from contender to pretender? You guessed right. It's BAD signings by a GM. Ned Colletti, the Dodgers GM, was brought in after the firing of Paul DePodesta, who gutted the Dodger team of 2004 to a sub-par 2005 season. Colletti has Giant roots and I guess when you become a GM you have to make a name for yourself by "big" signings. Let's take a look at some of the bad signings
The Free Agent market is a great way to bring new names to a new team. However if you're a Dodger fan you have absolutely no idea WHY some of these signings or trades are occurring.
First case: Juan Pierre for 5 years and 44 million dollars! He is a speedster and will steal a bunch of bases. Will he gun down any runners? No way! Luckily this year his arm has kind of improved, where last year runners could take that extra base. Some Dodger fans even call his arm the "noodle" arm. Pierre reminds me of a slightly better version of Kenny Lofton. The real reason Pierre was signed was because J.D. Drew bolted for Boston, leaving a void in the outfield. Pierre has no power (hence the no home runs), so Dodger fans, if Pierre hits one home run, don't jump for joy.
Second Case: Nomar Garciaparra. He did help the Dodgers to the 2006 playoff appearance but there was a reason why he was only signed for a one year deal. He played hurt all the way to the playoffs where everything just fell apart from him. How about this season? He started on the disabled list, then started a couple of games and where did he end up? Right back on the DL. The training staff can't figure out what's wrong with him. So there goes more salary wasted for the payroll.
Third Case: Jason Schmidt for 3 years (which is not too bad), 47 million dollars (very bad). When he was signed his velocity was down by a lot and that should've brought some red flags up. After making a couple of starts, he went on the DL and has been there since the start of last season. It also doesn't help that everything he starts to recover, something else sets him back. He recently began his rehab assignment to only be nailed in the leg with a line drive, thus putting him back on the DL once again.
Fourth case: Back up catchers. Russell Martin is an All-Star but he's human. He can't possibly play all 162 games for the whole season. Last season was Mike Lieberthal, the former Phillies fixture in the backstop. This season is Gary Bennett, who is also on the disabled list. Bennett has shown more pop than Lieberthal, but he was also implicated in the Mitchell Report for use of performance enhancing drugs (HGH). Right now, because of Bennett's injury, the Dodgers have Danny Arodin, a former Rockies catcher who is great with the glove but sub-par with the bat.
Fifth Case: Andruw Jones for two years 36.2 million dollars. He's supposed to be the feared bat in the lineup but has turned out to be the easiest out in the Dodger lineup. It doesn't settle well when you report to camp fat, out of shape and overall lazy. How about that smirking when he's at the plate? How about not hitting with runners in scoring position? What happened to the man who could hit 50 home runs? So if we follow the trend of signings, where is he now? You guessed it. He's back on the disabled list and is supposed to be back hopefully by the All-Star Break. I'm not holding my breath. I wish someone would pay me 36.2 million dollars to be injured.
Sixth Case: Esteban Loiaza. He was picked up off of waivers for 7 million dollars. Everything he threw for the Dodgers was pretty much batting practice for the other team. Every time he was pitching he would pitch up in the zone and hitters would adjust with no problem. Loiaza hit the DL and was designated for assignment. He was picked up by the White Sox and the Dodgers are on the books for about 6 million of his salary with the White Sox having to only pay the league minimum.
Seventh Case: Brett Tomko. This guy was a former Giant who seemed like he could not win. No matter how hard he tried, he would always give up a few runs here and there. By the time the Dodgers got to the end of the game, we couldn't come back. He was released last year, signed by the Padres and now is with Kansas City.
Eighth Case: Rudy Seanez and Olmedo Saenz. Don't worry your eyes are not playing tricks on you but many people would get the two names confused. Every time I was at Dodger Stadium and saw Seanez was coming in to pitch, I knew the lead would be lost. Even with a close game, he would give up the lead. His numbers were relatively normal, but they didn't tell the real story. Saenz was supposed to the Dodgers pinch hitting specialist (which he was great at a few years back) but once age catches up to you, then it's pretty much game over. He didn't hit that many big hits and it was always interesting seeing the Killer Tomato try to run out a ground ball. Too much eating? You betcha. They're both with new teams with Seanez signing with the Phillies and Saenz with the Mets.
Ninth Case: Angel Berroa to replace Rafael Furcal. Furcal has been plagued with injuries and Hu is not doing anything with the bat. Angel Berroa was recently traded to the Dodgers but he's been declining every year after winning the Rookie of the Year award. Hopefully he is not a bust.
Tenth Case: Mark Sweeney is supposed to be the Dodgers left handed specialist for pinch hitting. He has very few hits this season. He's basically just taking up roster space which can be used for a player with more talent. He is on the decline of his career. Don't be amazed if you see him on another team by the end of the season.
Let's look at some trades why don't we?
The Dodgers trade for Mark Henderickson, Julio Lugo, Wilson Betemit.
These guys were major busts and the only one out of the three that is doing well so far is Henderickson. I guess when you're a former NBA player baseball comes easy. Betemit had the power but he was a switch hitter. From the left side he could generate power and contact. The right side was an automatic out. Julio Lugo was a total bust for the Dodgers.
The ironic thing is that the bad signings end up with teams like the Mets, Padres, Red Sox and the Marlins. They seem to love our busts.
So where does the blame go? Ned Colletti. He wasn't even for the signing of Joe Torre, with the owner of the Dodgers, Frank McCourt, pushing to sign Torre. If the Dodgers endure another losing season (which is what it looks like right now), Colletti may be on the chopping block. Injuries are part of the game. However when you bring in the old training staff from the Giants (aka Stan Conte, not to be confused with that other Conte that involves performance enhancing drugs) and let them evaluate players, you get bad signings (ie Jason Schmidt). It also does not help that the fans get to pay for these guys to sit on the bench and collect paychecks! Ticket prices for Dodger fans keep going up and parking prices are ridiculous! I want to see a contender, not a pretender. Dodgers are currently in second place and I hope we make it to the playoffs this year.
Can anyone say Logan White for GM?