Our panelists take a closer look at the Dodgers as they enter a critical three-game series against the NL West-leading Giants.
1. The Dodgers are 20-20 since trading for Hanley Ramirez, the first of their big moves. Do you think they are regretting any of those moves yet?
Mark Saxon (@markasaxon), ESPN LA: No, because most of the players they acquired are signed beyond 2012 and this move was equal parts about the now and the next couple of
years. It's an astronomical price, of course, and if next season
doesn't go well, they'll have plenty of regrets -- especially when
they're paying the luxury tax to their rivals. What people may not realize
is how much TV money they're looking at, which is fueling all of this
spending. It may seem reckless to some, but not to these owners, or most of their fans.
Logan Burdine (@Logan_Burdine), Blake Street Bulletin: I doubt they are particularly excited about Joe Blanton, but beyond that, what's there to regret? Ramirez has been great. Shane Victorino hasn't been what they hoped, but he's still an upgrade over what they had and they don't have anything committed to him beyond this year. And it's still way too soon to tell on the deal with the Red Sox, but so far so good there.
Molly Knight (@jlwoj), ESPN The Magazine: No. First off, Hanley's been their best player since that trade (10 homers in 40 games with a .343/.532/.875 slash line) and I don't imagine the Dodgers' front office wants to consider a world where Juan Uribe starts right now. Secondly, the Guggenheim Group controls something like $170 billion in assets. The money they spent on these new players is a drop in the bucket. Truly. They don't care. And Adrian Gonzalez will hit in September because the laws of science say so.
2. Which Dodgers player will they most need to come up big in order to catch the Giants?
Saxon: I started to say Josh Beckett, because in this rotation he's slotted as the Dodgers' No. 2 starter (OK, stop snickering). But who am I kidding?
It's still about Matt Kemp. Even though Gonzalez was the centerpiece of this massive trade, the Dodgers are still heavily
reliant on their best player. He won't win the MVP after missing 53 games with injuries, but he needs to play like an MVP for this team to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Burdine: Matt Kemp has one home run since Aug. 8. He's the Dodgers' best offensive player, but has been struggling for the past month. If he gets hot, it would be a huge boost.
Knight: Adrian Gonzalez. Hanley is ripping the ball and Kemp is still hurt. If A-Gone gets going, that's two guys who are likely to tie a game with one swing -- and in this case two seems exponentially greater than one. Actually, it might be Beckett. With the injuries to Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly and the regression of Chris Capuano, the Dodgers need Beckett to hold it down, badly. I listed Adrian first because I think it's a bit unfair to everyone to pin everything on JB.
3. True or false: The Giants will lock up the division by winning this weekend's series
Saxon: False. If last year taught us anything, it's not to make grand proclamations about races in early September. They usually wind up
sounding stupid a couple of weeks later. Though recent history in this rivalry suggests otherwise, I don't anticipate a sweep.
Burdine: False. If the Giants take two out of three, they only gain a game. If they sweep the Dodgers, that might end it, but I don't see that happening. Also, they play each other the last three games of the season, so if the Dodgers are in striking distance, anything can happen.
Knight: If they sweep, yes. If it's two games to one, not so much. And if the Dodgers sweep they will still be a game and a half out, but they will win the division. Just a hunch.