Ceci N'est Pas Les Dodgers
The newest Dodger Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate with runners on first and third and no outs in the first inning, the score tied 1-1. "Mariachi Loco" filled the ballpark as the crowd of 40,284 got to their feet. (Or, at least what was there of the 40,284 announced crowd.)
"A lot of adrenalin," Gonzalez recounted after the game. "Getting warmed up in the on-deck circle, walking up to the plate, the guys made it easier for me with first-and-third with no outs. My mentality was just to get the guy on third in."
Gonzalez stood in to face Marlins starter Josh Johnson against whom he is batting lifetime .308 yet without a home run. He fouled the first pitch off but didn't miss the second pitch. It went 381 feet into the right field box seats, a three-run homer giving the Dodgers the 4-1 lead.
"First pitch curveball, I stayed on it and fouled it off," Gonzalez said. "The second pitch was a fastball in. It was all adrenalin. I was really excited. When I saw the ball halfway in its trajectory, that was a great feeling."
The feeling also extended to the crowd who went crazy, and Gonzalez gave a curtain call. Gonzalez became the sixth Los Angeles Dodger to hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Dodger.
So went a surreal day at Dodger Stadium.
Even with the sounds of the bands playing at Echo Park Rising climbing up the hill towards Dodger Stadium, none of them could mute the resounding boom the Dodgers sent to the baseball world on Saturday.
In what can be termed the biggest salary dump in baseball history the Boston Red Sox sent $260 million worth of player contracts to the Dodgers in a blockbuster nine-player deal, the largest trade in Los Angeles Dodger history.
According to the official press release:
The Los Angeles Dodgers today acquired four-time All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, former 20-game winner and World Series MVP Josh Beckett, infielder Nick Punto and cash from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for first baseman James Loney, pitcher Allen Webster, infielder Ivan De Jesus and two players to be named later. Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement.
Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands will be the two players to be named later presumably because they did not clear waivers. They will be sent to the Red Sox after the World Series.
What's immediately striking about the deal was how the farm system was getting more and more depleted.
"It hasn't necessarily gotten stronger," Colletti admitted. But the relative youth of Crawford and Gonzalez and the length of their contracts allows the Dodgers to stall for some time. "It gives us some time to continue to grow the system and invest in Latin America," Colletti remarked.
This is a marked departure from the spendthrift days of the Frank McCourt era.
"In these positions you have to think about today, tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now, five years from now," Colletti mused. "I think you have to be aggressive. You can't be reckless and you can't be without a thought process. But you have to be relentless, and you have to be able to think creatively and think outside of the box. You have to be able to think bold things and think big things and do them.
"For a while we weren't really able to do that. It's engaged our thought process to a much deeper level."
As deep as the thoughts might be, there is an inherent gamble. The Dodgers are relying on Gonzalez to return to his San Diego form. The Dodgers are hoping Crawford will pick up where he left off in Tampa Bay after he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers are hoping that Beckett will not be the 7.11 ERA pitcher that he has been since the All Star break.
"We're making a gamble, but that will all come back to us to the good if we do our job right first," co-owner Stan Kasten said.
The first two seem possible especially with the way Dodger Talk co-host Kevin Kennedy has been raving about Crawford since the trade was first rumored. However Beckett seems to be the wild card in all of this.
"I know he's had some issues," Mattingly said. "You just count on who he's been and what his track record has been and know what he's capable of."
Even though Beckett's velocity has been down this season, Mattingly still had a good outlook.
"If he's healthy he's going to be solid. I've seen he's not quite the same as before. I still see location. I still see the breaking ball. I know he knows how to pitch. I've seen it way too many times."
Beckett said he's working on getting his arm over his pitches, trying to keep the ball down in the zone. "I'm just worried about getting my mechanics straight and pitching like I did last year.
"The balls are up, the ball is getting hit hard. Even the ground balls are hit hard and finding holes."
Mattingly also noted that coming over the NL West from the AL East might help Beckett out a little.
"Just being in the National League, you're going to get the pitcher. There's a lot of rallies, many times I'm wishing for the DH even though I don't like it anymore. The seven gets on, the eight gets on, then the damned pitcher is up. It's a little different over here since the pitcher gives you an out. It's just different."
Beckett though doesn't have a lot of memories pitching in the ballparks in the NL West.
"I don't remember pitching out here that much. I don't if it's just been that long or if I actually didn't pitch out here that much. I'm looking forward to pitching anywhere. That's what I told Don. I'm looking forward to helping in any way I can."
Through his fatigue, Beckett seemed eager to be dressed in Dodger blue. "Who doesn't want to go to Hollywood and play baseball?"
After the Dodgers pounded the Marlins 8-2 behind their season-high 16 hits and Andre Ethier tying Edward Konetchy's franchise record of 10 consecutive hits that was set in 1919, the Dodgers had the three healthy players do a press conference behind home plate after the game. The press shouted, the crowded shouted louder.
Even Nick Punto got in a word to the crowd.
"I'm home. Southern California. Excited to be here. Want to win a world championship with you guys. As you guys know I am a world champion, and I'd like to do it again."
The crowd ate it up.
With the Giants loss, the Dodgers are now two games back in the division. As hot-and-cold as this club has been throughout the season, who knows if this is a playoff team? Just because they acted like the Yankees on the field and in the front office doesn't mean they start acting like the Cubs tomorrow.
And it's hard to ignore the fact that this team is comprised of other teams' castoffs.
Who knows if the players the Dodgers traded away will have great careers? We all just need to sit and see it play out.
And if Saturday night is any indication of things to come, this will probably be the most interesting couple of months the Dodgers have seen in decades.