Greinke’s loveable candor, if that’s the term for it, resurfaced again at Saturday’s FanFest, when he offered a far-from-fawning analysis of the team’s offseason moves. Under a new front office headed by Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have churned up a roster that won 94 games, changing starters at shortstop, second basemen, right field and catcher and adding two new starting pitchers and a few relievers.
“Well, I guess the best way I can answer that question is that, in the playoffs last year, I thought our team was the best team in baseball,” Greinke said. “To say we’re better than that, I don’t know if you could say that, especially without seeing us play.”
Friedman’s primary rationales for letting Hanley Ramirez go, trading Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon and Dan Haren and bringing in Yamani Grandal, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon McCarthy and Howie Kendrick, among other moves, was to streamline future salary obligations, improve the fielding and try a different mix of personalities. The term he favors is “functionality,” which suggests a level of dysfunction last season, a premise Greinke also quarreled with. He suggested it could take “a couple months,” for the Dodgers’ new pieces to gel.
“The first thing, I guess, is I don’t think we got rid of anyone who was an issue in our clubhouse,” Greinke said. “Anyone who says anything along those lines, I don’t agree with. I wouldn’t say everyone got along with everyone that is gone, but I would say there were definitely more positives than negatives with everyone we got rid of.”
Greinke also refused to acknowledge that the defensive upgrades are significant. That seems surprising since Ramirez might have been the worst shortstop in baseball last year and Gordon didn’t rate particularly well in advanced defensive metrics either. Rollins and Kendrick were both well above-average defenders last year.
“Another argument I have with that, how much better is [Clayton] Kershaw going to be with a different shortstop? He had a 1.7-something ERA,” Greinke said. “Obviously, it couldn’t hurt too much, but if you’re actually pitching good and doing your job, you’re still going to get outs. Defense helps, but the most important person on defense is the pitcher still.”
While no one is going to accuse Greinke of keeping his true feelings bottled up, he also doesn’t speak for all of his teammates. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who jokingly asked Friedman at his introductory news conference whether he was looking for a better first baseman, agrees that the Dodgers are a more functional team in 2015, at least on paper.
“We went into the playoffs with a really good team, but it’s a different type of baseball, I guess, when you get into the playoffs,” Gonzalez said. "'On paper,' doesn’t really play out and, for us, I think we’re going to be better suited for the playoffs now.”
I asked Gonzalez to elaborate on that thought. He mentioned the addition of switch-hitters Rollins and Grandal and the improved defense. Then, he made it sound like moving Kemp might have been part of the solution, a sort of addition by subtraction since it eased the logjam of fabulously well-paid outfielders.
“Everybody needs to know their role and that’s when a team functions,” Gonzalez said. “Look at the Giants. The relievers knew when they were going to come in. They knew their role. The bench players knew their roles. [Bruce] Bochy didn’t have to say anything. They already knew when they were going to come in.
“You need a team that has great functionality. If you just have a bunch of guys who have great talent, everybody wants to play at the same time and they might be mad if they don’t. When you put them in, they might not be suited for that situation. Even though we had a great team on paper, I don’t think it functioned the way it should have functioned.”