The dichotomy leaves more anticipation about the impending ownership change than for Opening Day — both of which will occur about the same time.
Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the in-limbo Los Angeles Dodgers.
You want to talk about a heavyweight lineup entering spring training? It's definitely off the field when it comes to this team. Frank McCourt is going away soon, and it will take a billion-five or so to take his place. And they're lining up to do so because this is a once-in-a-generation sports franchise opportunity.
Mark Cuban is out, but Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is in.
Dennis Gilbert's group is out, but others headed by Magic Johnson and Joe Torre remain in.
Los Angeles-area billionaire Tom Barrack is in, and the latest name to surface is Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley.
But in the meantime, here's general manager Ned Colletti's off-season roster shuffle:
In: Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, John Grabow, Todd Coffey, Jamey Wright, Matt Treanor, Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston Jr.
Out: Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, Vicente Padilla, Hong-Chih-Kuo, Jonathan Broxton, Rod Barajas, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Jamie Hoffman.
Not a season-changer in either bunch — much movement, but not much difference.
Yes, this is a franchise-on-hold like no other. And not just any franchise, but one that could be — should be?, will be? — the west coast version of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.
Plug in the right well-heeled ownership group, negotiate one of those mega-television rights deals that are changing the MLB landscape, properly manage a significantly enhanced payroll that includes another superstar or two, and it's eminently possible. And the turnaround can come quickly, especially in an evenly balanced National League West.
A new television rights deal should kick in with the 2014 season. And if you need a model as to what can happen as a result, look just south to Orange County. Arte Moreno's Angels could add Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and not blink, knowing that $3 billion over 20 years will be coming their way thanks to a new deal with Fox Sports. And rest assured, the Dodgers' deal will be worth more than the Angels'.
But in the meantime, the Dodgers may have trouble improving much upon their last two seasons of mediocrity — 82-79 last season and 80-82 in 2010 — that followed back-to-back National League Championship Series defeats.
You can attach a glimmer of hope to the fact that the Dodgers went 34-20 down the stretch for Don Mattingly, whose managerial stock is rising. That's when exciting young shortstop Dee Gordon — Flash's kid — and late-inning relievers Javy Guerra and Kenley Jensen began to emerge. In fact, the bullpen is full of quality young arms, and there are more on the way in the farm system.
But the position-player/run production side of things isn't nearly as promising. This projected lineup should scare nobody: SS Dee Gordon, 3B Juan Uribe, CF Matt Kemp, RF Andre Ethier, 1B James Loney, LF Juan Rivera, 2B Mark Ellis, C A.J. Ellis.
So you have to think that reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will be pitching in a lot of low-scoring games against opposing aces again, and that MVP runner-up Kemp still won't get the protection he needs.
It's too late for Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder — and most likely, even Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who reportedly is negotiating with six other teams and expected to sign and be in camp later this month. But the Dodgers positioned themselves well for a big 2013 free-agent expense or two.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
But it's telling that Andre Ethier ($10.95 million) and James Loney ($6.375 million) didn't get multi-year deals, and will enter their free-agent walk years in 2012.
Ethier is Kemp's best hope for a middle-of-the-order threat, coming off knee surgery. But he'll turn 32 in April, and if you remove his breakout 2009 season, he hasn't hit more than 23 homers or driven in more than 82 runs.
Loney is 27, so the power — between 10 and 15 homers in each of the last five seasons — probably isn't going to make a major jump at his point, unless he moves to a more-favorable home park.
So it's regrettable that the Dodgers didn't capitalize on shots at Pujols or Fielder, because the potential 2013 free-agent class isn't overwhelming offensively: Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino, Torii Hunter, Carlos Quentin, B.J. Upton, Howard Kendrick and Ichiro Suzuki are the best of the group.
Meanwhile, the potential top three starting pitchers are headed for huge payouts — Cole Hamels, Zach Greinke and Matt Cain.
But before all of that, the next chapter in Dodgers' history is an ownership-change headline away.
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