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Thursday, December 11, 2003

Dodgers to Ship Brown to Yanks

Imagine my surprise when I found out -- via Hugh Hewitt -- that the Dodgers were about to close a deal with the Yankees to trade ace starting pitcher Kevin Brown:

The Dodgers agreed to trade pitcher Kevin Brown and his $15-million salary for next season to the New York Yankees for pitcher Jeff Weaver, two minor leaguers and $3 million in cash, major league baseball sources said today. ... The deal would give the Dodgers the financial flexibility they lacked the last few seasons. Hamstrung by Brown's salary, the Dodgers were unable to upgrade a punchless offense last season and failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

Fox made Kevin Brown baseball's first $100 million man, a label he never really lived down in five seasons with the Dodgers. When he was healthy, Brown was brilliant in his surly, intense way. However, he only stayed healthy for most of a season last year, and his brilliance wasn't enough to offset the Dodgers' chronically anemic offense. His $15 million annual salary in years 6 and 7 shadowed their attempts to bring high-powered free agents to Los Angeles.

Somehow, though I think that trading Brown at this point and freeing up the money isn't a bad idea, I doubt that the Dodgers will greatly improve their offense. For some reason, the Dodgers have a perpetual problem generating runs. Even during their last championship in 1988, they were the Improbables, with an offense that may have had trouble with AAA clubs. They won on a combination of brilliant pitching, good defense, thin but timely hitting, and the will of three legendary men: Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser, and Tommy Lasorda. After watching the Dodgers the last couple of seasons, the only one with that kind of legendary will on the team was Brown, and now he's gone.

If the Dodgers go shopping in the free-agent bazaar this off-season, they need to find more than just a good batting average; they need to find a clubhouse firebrand, maybe more than one, who can ignite and inspire a team to play above their abilities, to scratch out runs where none exist, and to throw down no matter who they're facing. 25 varieties of LA laid-back will get them exactly where they've been the last few seasons: watching the Giants and the Diamondbacks on TV in October.

UPDATE: I corrected a line to read "good defense" rather than "good offense" in the 4th paragraph. Mea culpa.

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08:10 PM in Sports | Permalink


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