Dodgers building foundation for a stronger house
But in the present, injuries and more are making life difficult for Los Angeles
DENVER -- While the Los Angeles Dodgers were making headlines with a series of moves in the past year that boosted their big league payroll to the second-highest in the game, club president Stan Kasten never lost sight that the focus of the front office was on rebuilding a farm system and scouting department that had fallen into disarray.
"That was just a start," Kasten said during the spring. "Success comes with a solid foundation."
And that's why the Dodgers have made a major investment into reviving a player-development system that once was the envy of baseball. The most significant move was to get the Dodgers back into the role of being a player in an intentional market they once dominated.
In the past year, the Dodgers have added 10 international scouts, headed by Bob Engle, a former lieutenant of Pat Gillick in Toronto, where Engle oversaw the scouting departments both domestically and internationally. Engle's crew has already signed 42 players, more than a handful of whom other scouts say will be impact players.
"Every team that has had sustained success has done it through player development, and we are looking for sustained success," Kasten said. "People can say it's the Atlanta blueprint or Tampa Bay or whoever, but truth of the matter is it's the Dodger way. It goes back to Branch Rickey. It's what this franchise has been noted for over time."
It's what got away from the franchise during the troubled times of Frank McCourt's ownership. Recent Drafts have produced one dominant pitcher -- Clayton Kershaw -- and one All-Star-caliber regular -- Matt Kemp.
Yes, the new owners swung deals that landed the high-priced talent of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett. But be serious about looking at the problems the current big league team is facing.
Gonzalez and Crawford have been the two most consistent offensive players on the team, but Ramirez is on the disabled list, and so is Beckett, who may be facing a premature end to his career because of numbness problems. Greinke was out for a month with a fractured collarbone and came back quicker than expected but is still searching for consistency. Kemp is on the disabled list with more hamstring problems, and the Dodgers may be forced to disable catcher A.J. Ellis, who is sidelined with soreness in his ribcage. In Saturday's game against the Rockies, Crawford left in the third inning when he appeared to strain his left hamstring on a third-inning double.
And there is no arsenal of impact reinforcements waiting for call-ups to fill the voids.
On Friday night, the Dodgers had a lineup in which only three positions were manned by the same players who were on the card manager Don Mattingly filled out on Opening Day -- right fielder Andre Ethier, first baseman Gonzalez, and second baseman Mark Ellis.
Short on talent? There are only two players listed on the active roster as outfielders -- Ethier and Crawford. Friday's lineup featured Skip Schumaker, primarily a second baseman, in center field, and Scott Van Slyke, a first baseman, in left field. Backup catcher Ramon Hernandez, a .200 hitter, hit cleanup and .116-hitting Luis Cruz played shortstop.
• George Brett has toyed with the idea of getting back in uniform, even before the Royals made him their interim hitting coach this week. Prior to the 2000 season, he was ready to accept an offer from Rockies owners Dick and Charlie Monfort to manage the Rockies, but Dan O'Dowd, who had just been hired to be the team's general manager, was committed to Buddy Bell, and the owners allowed O'Dowd to make the final decision.
• At the age of 39, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton can still deliver big hits. Called on to pinch-hit Friday night against Dodgers closer Brandon League, Helton turned a 1-2 count into an 11-pitch at-bat that ended with a game-tying, two-run home run into the second deck at Coors Field. Not a real surprise for long-time Helton watchers. In his career, Helton has had 86 plate appearances of 10 or more pitches, and according to STATS Inc., he has hit .413 with a .535 on-base percentage and .889 slugging percentage in those appearances. He has also drawn 20 walks, struck out 14 times, driven in 24 runs and hit eight home runs.
• Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, 20, went into Saturday with 79 hits, the most by June 1 for a player under 21 since at least 1921, according to STATS Inc. The previous high for a player so young was 66 by 20-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. in 1990.
• Matt Harvey has the attention of his fellow pitchers on the New York Mets. The other starters are known to go to the bullpen to watch Harvey's sessions between starts.
• The Cubs don't need a designated hitter when they play in American League ballparks. In the month of May, Cubs pitchers were a combined 15-for-33 with four home runs, six doubles and 19 RBIs, one shy of the Major League record for pitchers in a month set by the 1940 Detroit Tigers, a team that included Hal Newhouser, Bobo Newsome and Schoolboy Rowe.
Out of left field factoid of the week
Safeco Field in Seattle became the 34th ballpark in which Texas DH Lance Berkman has homered during his 15-year career. One of eight active players to have homered in at least 34 ballparks, Berkman has a shot to add Fenway Park, Progressive Field, O.co Coliseum and Rogers Centre to his list, according to historian Bill Arnold.
Texas teammate Adrian Beltre leads active big leagues with home runs in 39 different parks. Current parks in which Beltre has not homered are Marlins Park, Citi Field, the new Busch Stadium and Nationals Park, and Interleague Play does have Beltre and the Rangers visiting St. Louis on June 21-23.
Sammy Sosa holds the record with long balls at 45 different fields, one more than Griffey. Third on the all-time list is Fred McGriff with 43, followed by Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield with 42 apiece.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.