Right before I sat down (or stood up as it were, as I’m one of those brain geniuses who works standing up. I’m ever so svelte!), news broke that the San Diego Padres had signed Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal. Bogaerts kicks Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield or DH spot for a season, and then the Padres wait to see if Manny Machado opts out and they have to move Bogaerts to third.
The Padres going big-game hunting is nothing surprising. It’s become their thing as they try to chase down the holy emperor of the West, the Dodgers. It’s what you have to do (more on the Dodgers in a sec). The thing about this offseason so far is that it is the usual cast of characters. The Padres sign Xander. The Phillies are accustomed to cutting big checks, too. It was something of a surprise the new-age Yankees went old school to keep Aaron Judge, but they had no choice. We saw the Rangers bring in big free agents last year, and so they did again. The Mets acted in accordance. No shock there, as they’re the Mets and are bankrolled by Steve Cohen.
Even the teams we know missed out are still some of the same cast, such as the Giants. It’s not totally fair to base this off one offseason, as last season the Jays and Mariners made some splashes but have remained inert so far this time.
But where is anyone new to reinvigorate their fanbases? To tell their fans that things are different? No team could have used Aaron Judge more than the Guardians, Never heard their name. When do the Marlins become serious, if ever? Couldn’t the Twins stand to be more than just a holding pen for a free agent for a season before he gets his actual real contract (Carlos Correa)? Let’s not even get started on the Pirates.
Rob Manfred will make the same argument that Bud Selig did to justify the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. The league is made up of haves and have-nots, and the latter has no path to becoming the former.
We know that’s horseshit. The revenue streams are so different now that any team could hand out these contracts if they wanted to. But the way baseball is structured now is that you have your teams that are trying and your teams that are not, and the latter group is so unpresentable that they can convince their fans there’s no point in them jumping into the sandbox. That it’s not part of the plan. We’re not there in our cycle, they’ll say. Too far away, but just you wait two years!
And yet that gap grows. The Padres will be better than they were. So will the Phillies, likely. Are the Rockies or Diamondbacks in pursuit? Are the Red Sox in pursuit of the Yankees at all? Do the Marlins play the same sport as the Mets or Braves? There’s one team in the NL Central trying, and they just ganked a catcher from one of the four that isn’t.
What team so far has made an attempt to leap from the bottom group to the top? The Rangers. And that’s about it. And it’s not a structural problem, as it might have been in the mid-90s. It’s a problem of choice.
-A new trick for the Dodgers is attempting to throw their fans under the bus to explain why they aren’t making a chase for Carlos Correa, even though they A). just lost their starting shortstop from last season and B). we know they have the money.
Again, more horseshit. Dodgers fans may have held their nose when the team signed Trevor Bauer, but it certainly didn’t keep them from the gates or the TV. Bauer was already rumored to be a much worse person than Correa is for the 2017 World Series cheating scandal. Dodgers fans will probably forgive just about anyone if it’s a player who finally gets them an actual World Series title instead of the bubble one. This is a fanbase that’s become accustomed to only having the best, and downright expects it, and Correa fits into that.
They didn’t seem to mind when the Dodgers brought in Max Scherzer, even though he was part of the Nationals team that kneecapped them in the Divisional Series once upon a time. So was Trea Turner, in fact. Mookie Betts kicked their ass in 2018, and the Red Sox have hardly ever been clear of cheating accusations.
No, what the Dodgers are really worried about is Bauer’s suspension being reduced, and being on the hook for his salary again, whatever portion that might end up being. But they can’t say that, so they’ll blame their fans. Fans that have helped them become the richest team in the game, fans that couldn’t see them on TV for the longest time, fans that brave the torture that it can be getting in and out of Dodger Stadium 81 times a year. It’s not the best look.