LOS ANGELES -- A bucket of fried chicken, some beer, a monumental collapse and a destructive loss on the final day of the 2011 season have potentially turned the Dodgers into a modern-day wrecking crew. All courtesy of the Boston Red Sox.
You're probably saying 'Huh?' right nowbut follow along.
When the Red Sox signed Adrian Gonzalez to a a seven-year, 154-million dollar free agent contract prior to last season, and Carl Crawford to a seven-year, 142-million dollar free agent deal, they thought it guaranteed them a ticket to the playoffs for the next several years. It was supposed to stabilize first base, left field, the leadoff spot and the clubhouse for the better part of the next decade.
They acquired players with 7 All Star appearancesCrawford four and Gonzales threeand three Gold Glovestwo for Gonzo and one for Carl. Coming into last season Crawford won a Silver Slugger Award and was the American League stolen base champ in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. Yeah, they were putting out a ton of money, but they expected commensurate production and an easy 162 game ride into the post-season.
Didn't quite work out that way.
While Adrian had an excellent season after recovering from 2010 shoulder surgery, hitting .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBI, and led the team with 86 RBI so far in 2012, Crawford was another story.
He was hurt all yearlingering into 2012and was the object of derision from Red Sox nation. He batted a meager .255by far the lowest in his career. He collected just 56 RBI and18 stolen bases.
However, even with Crawford's expensive ineffectiveness, Boston had a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay on September 3. But they proceeded to lose 18 of their final 24 games, including a season-ending, bottom of the ninth defeat against Baltimore, which completed one of the worst collapses in baseball history.
And then there was the bizarre case of starting pitcher Josh Beckett, who was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, good enough for ninth place in the Cy Young Award voting. He lost his last two decisions, and it was reported that he'd spend many games he wasn't pitching in the clubhouse eating fried chicken and drinking beer with fellow gourmet, John Lackey. He's been a brutal 5-11 this season, and was the subject of trade rumors since spring training.
Well, on Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox sent Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for highly-regarded pitching prospect Allen Webster, along with first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. and a pair of players to be named later: likely pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and versatile infielderoutfielder Jerry Sands.
"I think we recognized we're not where we want to be," said Sox GM Ben Cherrington, who sees his team with a 60-67 record, 9.5 games out of a wild card spot under new manager Bobby Valentine. "It's been a large enough sample performance going back to last year that we felt...we needed to make more than cosmetic."
So Cherrington and Dodger GM Ned Colletti put together one of baseball's all-time blockbuster trades. And while the Red Sox fade into obscurity for the rest of this season and maybe a few more, the Dodgers are doing everything they possibly can to bring a World Championship to Los Angels for the first time since 1988. And the new Dodgers are all very happy to switch teams and leagues.
"I'm very happy to be here," Gonzalez said in front of media and fans during a news conference. It was held on the field behind home plate following an 8-2 win over Miami in which Gonzalez became the sixth L.A. Dodger to homer in his first at bat for the team. "We're going to make a run at the (division) title. It's a good day for all of us and great to cap the day off with a win."
Puntowho won a World Series with St. Louis in 2011 and like Gonzo is a Southern California nativeprovided the levity during the interview session.
When Adrian was asked to talk about his first at bat, Punto jumped right in. "Me? OK, I..." then he started laughing and tapped Gonzalez on the shoulder while the crowd and the players enjoyed the moment.
Things got serious again quickly, though, as Gonzo intimated a number of times that he had made a mistake in allowing a sign-and-trade deal between the San Diego Padres and the Red Sox following the 2010 season.
"We all make some decisions that you regret later," he said at one point. " I'm not going to get into any specifics, but we all live our lives and do things we wish we could take back sometimes. I know that every day I was there I gave it my all when I was on the field and did my best to win. But I'm really, really happy to be here in Southern California."
Beckett seemed extremely relieved to put the last part of his tenure and all the criticism he received into the history book and turn the page.
"Fair or unfair, that's the way things are sometimes," the 6-5 righthander said. "For me, yeah, I think it was time for me to move on and start this new chapter. I wish everybody (in Boston) the best. I played there for seven years and made some great friendships, but it was time for me to move on. It was time for both sides.
"This was something I wanted. It was tough leaving Boston. I had awesome times there, I had tough times, but there's great people there. I'm looking forward, though, to starting a new chapter and wearing blue."
Finally, Beckettwho will start Monday against Colorado at Coors Fieldwas asked if the team was as good as it looked on paper.
"Yeah, it does," he replied. "But we don't play games on paper. And from what I saw on the filed today, they're very, very good on the field as well."
Which is very good news for the Dodgers. Both in his evaluation and him being in the dugout instead of the clubhouse during the game.
NOTES: Andre Ethier went 4-4, tying a franchise record with his tenth consecutive hit. Ron Cey previously held the Los Angeles with nine consecutive hits. It was Ethier's second straight four-hit game.
Matt Kemp is ecstatic about his new teammates, especially Gonzalez. "It means a lot to have Adrian here because it gives us a lot more confidence," Kemp said. "I mean, this is a guy that can drive in 100-plus runs every year. He's definitely going to help us tremendously."
Catcher A.J. Ellis marveled at his team's willingness to pick up almost 300 million dollars in salary to get the deal done. "Shows these owners aren't playing around," he said.