By Ross Newhan
I do not fault Stan Kasten and the new ownership of the Dodgers for posting a letter to fans in which they claimed that "Dodger Pride Is Back."
Neither do I blame them for boasting of modest and immediate improvements in security, some concession areas and investments in international scouting and signings.
A more telling impact in relation to the new ownership's aggressiveness and financial availability could be determined before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Beyond the health of the returning Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers need a first baseman, third baseman and shortstop, unless you are thinking Ozzie Martinez can be more than just a shadow of Dee Gordon, whose loss for six weeks or so on the eve of the All-Star break was a major setback.
One more reliable starting pitcher also wouldn't hurt if the cracks that began to appear in Manager Don Mattingly's first half mirrors are going to be repaired amid the pressure and reality of the second half.
Of course (and pardon the cliche) it takes two to tango, and no matter how aggressive General Manager Ned Colletti attempts to be with Guggenheim Baseball's wallet, you can't make a trade by yourself.
As I have written previously, the new playoff system provides for two wild card teams in each league.. At the break, almost two thirds of the 30 teams are statistically alive. Are they alive enough to trade a prospect or a significant player in an attempt to improve--and improve the team with which they are negotiating?
Sometimes, more isn't better, and all of these potential wild card teams--as I have noted previously-- may be delude into thinking they are already set, and the trade market could be comparatively quiet.
Whether the return of Kemp and Eithier alone is enough to allow the Dodgers to hold off San Francisco and Arizona in the West and the onslaught of all those other potential wild card teams is a significant risk.
If the new ownership really wants to do some boasting, a major trade is needed, although what the Dodgers can find to give up out of a sadly barren farm system isn't immediatly apparent.
The Angels also face a tell-tale July.
They have the best record in baseball (42-24) since the April 28 arrival of Mike Trout, but they face a murderous schedule starting in New York Friday night, and what once seemed to be the best rotation in baseball has been pretty much reduced to Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson now that Dan Haren is on the disabled list, Ervin Santana is 4-9 with no indication of improvement and the fifth starting spot is pretty much a game of musical chairs.
General manager Jerry DiPoto could trade Peter Bourjos but has voiced reluctance to do that, and no one is anxious to help a team that has been drawing national attention since the signing of Albert Pujols, the arrival of Trout and the continued development of Mark Trumbo. DiPoto also faces a potential roster clouding decision when Vernon Wells comes off the disabled list with two years and $42 million left on his contract.
The immediate hurdle, however, is the schedule.
Starting Friday night the Angels play 13 consecutive games against division leaders New York, Texas and Chicago, plus seven against division contending Detroit and Tampa Bay.
Both the Angels and Dodgers have shots at their division titles, along with wild card entry to the playoffs. It is interesting that what they do--on and off the field--in the first three weeks of the second half could determine their fate.