Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's much easier to build a winning
baseball team when you have a huge payroll at your disposal.
Still, money can't buy everything. It can't buy chemistry. It can't buy
immunity to significant injuries.
Those are just some of the reasons the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles
Angels and Toronto Blue Jays are off to extremely slow starts this season.
While a number of major-league teams are underperforming relative to their
expectations, those three clubs stand out as colossal disappointments.
Let's examine the three and try to predict what the rest of 2013 holds for
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (15-22): The biggest payroll in the major leagues hasn't
prevented the Dodgers from dropping into the National League West basement.
How many times has it been said that a team could never have too much pitching?
The 2013 Dodgers have delivered the best evidence yet to prove that statement
Going into spring training, the Dodgers had eight solid starting pitching
options, including former Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack
Greinke and former World Series Most Valuable Player Josh Beckett. They also
had South Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris
Capuano and Ted Lilly.
With such depth in the rotation, how could anything go wrong? Greinke suffered
a broken collarbone when San Diego's Carlos Quentin charged the mound after
being hit by a pitch on April 11. He should be back soon.
Billingsley, who tried during the offseason to avoid Tommy John surgery, broke
down after just two starts and had to undergo the surgery anyway. He's out for
Perennially injured Lilly predictably is hurt again. This time, it's his rib
cage, but he might return soon. Capuano is back in the rotation now, but he had
spent time on the disabled list with a strained calf.
It would have been nice to be able to turn to the veteran Harang after all
these pitchers had gone down, but the Dodgers traded him on April 6 before any
of the other injuries had hit the pitching staff. The Dodgers have already used
nine different starting pitchers this year.
Offensively, the Dodgers have struggled mightily. It hasn't helped that two
separate DL stints have limited shortstop Hanley Ramirez to just four games. He
is expected to remain sidelined until mid-June with a hamstring injury.
Matt Kemp, the team's best all-around hitter, has just one home run in his
first 141 at-bats. The team also has gotten a sub-.200 average and virtually no
run production from the third base position.
As a result, the Dodgers rank 14th in the NL in runs scored with 129. Only the
Miami Marlins, who have the NL's lowest payroll, have scored fewer runs.
It's hard to imagine getting less "bang for the buck" than the Dodgers have.
Their saving grace is that first-place San Francisco hasn't opened up a huge
lead in the division, leaving the disappointing Dodgers 7 1/2 games behind -
not a great position, but not an insurmountable deficit, either.
Even when everyone is healthy, though, the L.A. offense has some holes in it,
and this team just seems devoid of chemistry. The best bet is the Dodgers won't
finish much better than .500.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (14-24): A case could be made by the end of last regular
season that the Angels were the best team in baseball.
They boasted a dangerous offense that featured American League Rookie of the
Year Mike Trout and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols as well as Torii Hunter
and Mike Trumbo. They had a pitching staff that featured C.J. Wilson, Jered
Weaver and trade-deadline acquisition Greinke.
Still, somehow, the 2012 Angels started the season 6-14 and ended April at
8-15, nine games out of first place in the AL West. They never fully recovered,
as their final 89-73 record left them just on the outside looking in during the
In the offseason, the Angels lost Hunter to the Detroit Tigers but replaced him
with an even bigger bat - free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. They lost
starting pitchers Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Greinke, but replaced them with
Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas.
It was a pitching downgrade to a degree, but the thought was that Los Angeles'
offense would improve enough to become possibly the most potent in the majors.
The bullpen also was theoretically strengthened with the addition of free-agent
closer Ryan Madson.
A balky elbow has prevented Madson from making his Angels debut, although he is
expected back soon, possibly this week.
The pitching drop-off has been worse than expected; the Angels rank 13th in the
AL in team ERA (4.73). Offensively, the star-studded lineup ranks just 10th in
the AL with 156 runs scored.
Weaver went down with a fractured left elbow in his second start, but he should
be back later this month. Otherwise, the biggest problem with the team's
pitching has been Blanton's struggles. In his first eight starts, he's 0-7 with
a 6.46 ERA.
Offensively, Pujols (.234, 5 HR, 21 RBI) is off to a slow start for the second
consecutive year. Prized newcomer Hamilton (.212, 4 HR, 11 RBI) has been even
less productive. Los Angeles is a terrible 7-15 against AL West teams.
One would have to expect the likes of Pujols and Hamilton to eventually
produce. When Weaver and Madson return, that should greatly enhance the
However, the Angels would have to go 76-48 the rest of the way just to get to
90 wins, and 90 wins are no guarantee to qualify for the playoffs in a loaded
AL. Expect another second-half bounceback, but not a big enough one to get the
Angels into the postseason.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS (15-24): The Blue Jays went just 73-89 last year, but they
were considered by many to be the favorite to win the AL East this year because
of a busy offseason that brought numerous stars to Toronto.
The Blue Jays were in dire need of pitching, so trades brought in Josh Johnson
and Mark Buehrle from Miami and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey
from the New York Mets.
Toronto needed a dynamic leadoff hitter, so shortstop Jose Reyes came aboard in
the trade with Miami.
Reyes was off to a great start, hitting .395 through his first 38 at-bats, but
then he suffered an ankle injury which will likely sideline him into June.
Pitching has been a bigger disappointment. Dickey (2-5, 5.06 ERA) has badly
underperformed, and Buehrle (1-2, 6.19 ERA) has been even worse. Johnson was
0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts before heading to the DL with a triceps
injury. He is expected back by late this month or early June, but the early
season DL stint was just further reminder that he is always an injury risk.
Toronto tried to become a contender overnight, but it instead became the latest
organization to demonstrate that building a winner usually takes more than just
throwing together a bunch of all-stars. Chemistry is usually a factor and it
seems to be missing in Toronto.
The biggest disappointment, though, was that the investment in Dickey, Johnson
and Buehrle hasn't even improved what was a dreadful pitching staff. The Jays'
4.74 team ERA is next-to-last in the AL, better only than that of rebuilding
The Jays' pitching can't help but improve the rest of the way, and that will
make Toronto more competitive. Any chance of winning a deep AL East, however,
has been lost already.
The Sports Network