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article imageThe Los Angeles Dodgers: Baseball's new 'Evil Empire?'

By Brett Wilkins     Dec 10, 2012 in Sports
Los Angeles - The Los Angeles Dodgers have gone on a six-month acquisition and spending spree the likes of which has rarely, if ever, been seen in the history of Major League Baseball.
After signing plum free agent pitcher Zack Greinke and South Korean southpaw Ryu Hyun-jin, the Dodgers will now hold the record for highest opening-day payroll in baseball history. The Dodgers' 2013 payroll now stands at more than $220 million, topping the previous record of $209.1 million set by the 2008 New York Yankees.
And the boys in blue might not even be done with their free-spending frenzy yet.
The National League West, and all of baseball, have taken notice of the Dodgers' aggressive pursuit of the championship that's eluded them for a quarter century. The last time the Dodgers won a World Series they were led by the brilliantly bellicose Tommy Lasorda, who skippered Orel Hershisher and a stellar pitching staff, with a little magic from Kirk Gibson and Mickey Hatcher, to a five-game victory over the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics and the vaunted "Bash Brothers." That was back in 1988, when Ronald Reagan was still president and current Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw couldn't even crawl yet.
By taking on a staggering $600 million in new payroll since the team was purchased by Guggenheim Baseball Management from the beleaguered Frank McCourt for $2 billion in May, the Dodgers have shown that they are serious about winning. With co-owner and NBA legend Magic Johnson adding flash, and the Guggenheim group adding cash-- lots and lots of cash-- into the mix, the Dodgers wasted little time in making a big splash. In June, they locked up All-Star outfielder Andre Ethier with a five-year, $85 million contract extension. Next came the acquisition of three-time All-Star and former batting champion Hanley Ramirez from the Florida Marlins, a move that sent shivers down the spines of many a San Francisco Giants fan.
The Dodgers were far from done. They proceeded to shore up their bullpen by trading for Brandon League at the trade deadline. They've since re-signed their new closer for $22.5 million for three years. They also landed All-Star outfielder and World Series ring holder Shane Victorino in a trade deadline deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
On August 25, the Dodgers and the Red Sox completed the biggest blockbuster trade in years, with All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, along with Nick Punto, joining the boys in blue in exchange for an underwhelming handful of players led by James Loney.
It was widely believed that the Dodgers, who trailed the San Francisco Giants by three games in the NL West on the day of the blockbuster deal, would catch and surpass the 2010 World Champs. But as longtime Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow observed, "you can't buy chemistry." As the Giants surged on their way to their second World Series title in three years, the Dodgers faded into oblivion and finished the season eight games behind the Giants and well out of playoff contention.
Instead of heeding Krukow's sage wisdom, the Dodgers went into the offseason determined to spend their way to success. There's no denying that they're the odds-on favorites to unseat the Giants as NL West champs come 2013. The much-ballyhooed chemistry that teams covet takes time to build, and the new-look Dodgers have all season to do so. They'll also benefit greatly from having a healthy Carl Crawford at the top of their order for the entire season.
Meanwhile, the team that the Dodgers just passed in payroll has struggled mightily to retain old talent and sign new players in the offseason. How bad have things gotten in the Bronx? Let's just put it this way-- the Yankees couldn't even muster the will or resources to land Nate Schierholtz, an underrated yet hardly unobtainable outfielder who ended up signing with the Cubs for $2.25 million. That would normally be chump change for the Yanks, but these are strange days up on 161st Street. On paper, the once-lowly Toronto Blue Jays would probably win the AL East if the 2013 season started tomorrow.
Having out-Yankeed the Yankees at their own game, the Dodgers may very well be establishing themselves as baseball's new 'Evil Empire.' And having done little nothing but keep most of their 2012 World Championship team together, the Giants should be very, very worried. It's going to take a whole lot more than Bruce Bochy's managerial genius, Hunter Pence's inspirational speeches or the electric energy provided by sellout crowds at every home game for the G-men to repeat in 2013. Word on the street is that the Giants have maxed out their payroll. Perhaps it's time for their ownership to take a page out of the Dodgers playbook and give whoever's representing Josh Hamilton, Adam LaRoche or Anibal Sanchez a call. Ichiro would fit right in in San Francisco too, come to think of it...
Disclaimer: Brett Wilkins is a die-hard Giants fan who would rather his yet-to-be-born, hypothetical children vote Republican than become Dodgers fans.
More about Los angeles dodgers, dodgers free agent signings, zack greinke, San francisco giants
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