Since Magic and Co. took over the bank, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent more money than the Gross National Product of some countries on talent. They have talent oozing out of Dodger Stadium. Last season they had so many past and present all-stars, you couldn’t fit the awards these guys have accumulated in one locker room. With all those awards come even bigger-sized egos and a complicated task of achieving a balanced and harmonious clubhouse
What the Dodgers have lacked is leadership.
I’m not talking about a loud-talking baller who thinks he's bigger than the game. I’m talking about a veteran who has actually been in the trenches and led his team to a World Series before.
A guy who can check the BS and teach the youngins how to conduct themselves in the office.
The Dodgers didn’t need to make any wholesale changes in the offseason. In fact, they were relieved of some emotional baggage when Hanley Ramirez signed with Boston.
They need to tweak a few things within their mental makeup. The way they are internally wired isn't conducive to playing up to standards in the postseason. Nobody on the squad—not even Mr. Cy Young/MVP Clayton Kershaw –has that next killer gear. The blonde bombshell spit the bit twice in the playoffs in huge situations.
That’s why the Dodgers, having had their fill of fluff piece performers and now desiring a chiseled baseball veteran, traded for a former MVP (2007) and WS champ (2008) like Jimmy Rollins .
In his prime, Rollins was considered a Top Five player in the game and is easily one of the most multi-faceted second baseman to ever play the game. The trade will be a breath of fresh air for “J-Roll” who has been wasting away in Philly like a rabid dog waiting to be shot and put out of its misery.
As reported earlier today, Rollins waived his 10-and-5 rights to accept the trade. He will make $11 million next season in 2015 -- the final year of his contract. That’s short chips for a guy that can make or break your postseason chances.
After Ramirez bounced, the Dodgers signed Rollins to be a one year stop-gap until top prospect, shortstop Cory Seager is ready to assume the position. They’ll find that Rollins will be far more valuable than that to a desperate franchise in need of his style of gangsta.
Rollins actually generated more fWAR (3.6 to 3.4) than Ramirez in 2014. While Ramirez delivered more at the plate, Rollins far outpaced Ramirez defensively. In his prime, Rollins was a 30-30 guy and also did 20-20-20 (homers, doubles and triples). A dynamic base runner and fielder, the 5-foot-8 shortstop won four Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams with Philly.
The switch-hitting Rollins ranks first in Phillies history in doubles (479), at-bats (8,628) and hits (2,306). He's also second in stolen bases (453 which is also fourth-most among active players) and total bases (3,655). He’s comfortably in the top 10 of nearly every offensive category in club history and holds the distinction of being one of 19 players in major league history with at least 400 doubles, 100 triples and 200 home runs. He is also fourth all-time with 46 leadoff homers.
Rollins is no longer an omnipotent offensive weapon, but he still posted a serviceable line of .243/.323/.394 with 17 homers and 28 steals over 609 plate appearances in 2014. In addition, LA has enough bombers to carry Rollins’ diminishing 36-year-old stick. His defense is still solid and his intangibles are off the charts. He just might be the guy to bring the proper kind of championship leadership to an underachieving Dodgers team. Yeah...A solid, on-field extension for Don Mattingly's principles, because sometimes it seems like there's a real disconnect between Donnie Baseball and the players on his team.
It’s an ideal fit because Rollins’ swag and flair fits with LA's Hollywood Squares roster. The difference is, Rollins is the consummate pro and knows how to back up his tough talk. Maybe he can teach Yasiel Puig a thing or two about playing with class, respecting the game and being a silent assassin when necessary.
The Dodgers are coached by a Yankees living legend in Mattingly and owned by a world icon in Magic Johnson. They’ve been the fashionable pick to win it all for years. The franchise hasn't won a World Series since you could find crack vials on the streets of local urban parks and schoolyards. They've had chances, but despite playing in three NLCS since 2008, an Autumn Classic appearance has eluded them.
Rollins was the ying to Ryan Howard’s yang as a young, African-American shortstop for the Phillies. Together with second baseman Chase Utley and a wicked pitching staff, the Phillies returned to the top of the MLB mountain after years of gutter-dwelling.
Every aging superstar faces this moment. When the franchise that he helped make a winner cuts ties and looks towards the future. The Phillies drafted 19-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford (Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford's cousin) with the 16th-overall pick in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Clearwater, Fla. product is progressing at Otis Nixon speeds. In two minor league seasons, he's hitting .292 and slugging .404. He's also shown speed, swiping 38 bases in 176 games. He is the heir apparent to that Phillies shortstop position and the organization is high on him. The shoes he will eventually be filling, however, are a colossal fit. .
Check the stats. Rollins is a special player. He may be in his twilight years, but LA is the perfect final resting place for a fringe Hall of Famer who plays baseball like a rapper spitting 100 bars in a battle for $100,000 greenbacks.
With all of the mega contracts being thrown around to guys like Giancarlo Stanton ($325 million) this offseason, I maintain that by October 2015, the Dodgers decision to bring the Cali-bred J-Roll back home for one last run will be considered the move of the summer.