LA Kings palace coup mostly makes sense

General manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter were fired after the Los Angeles Kings failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday afternoon. The moves from parent company AEG startled the teams’ fans who hadn’t had the chance to finish grieving over the retirement of broadcaster Bob Miller one day earlier.

By the way, that’s not meant as an insult on Kings fans. Miller’s words-eye view introduced millions on the west coast to the NHL for 44 years. And he was a good man, to boot. He should be missed.

Having said that, replacing Miller now becomes an afterthought instead of a priority for the team.

I mostly agree with the decision from AEG on Lombardi and Sutter, despite the two Stanley Cup titles won on their watch. Particularly with Sutter, it was time to go. Very few coaches and managers have lengthy runs with their respective teams for a reason, even with winning championships. No, Sutter didn’t forget how to coach. I would even argue he didn’t do anything particularly wrong, other than not give playing time to Kings prospects.

Over time, players tune out the message. Don’t be too hard on the players. That’s human nature. Fans claim to love coaches who are taskmasters, screaming and throwing tantrums. Players can live with it, but after a while the messsge becomes stale. Hell, in the 1980s, the Lakers won four titles with Pat Riley as the coach. At the very end, even Riley could tell Magic and the rest were tuning him out.

They didn’t hate him. They didn’t even disagree with him. They’ve just heard it all before.

When the Kings play a primal, physical game for six seasons under Sutter, how long before the players subconsciously think “OK, hit the other guy harder. I got it” before stifling a yawn?

Lombardi was a tougher call to me. I think he should have had the chance to find that new coach. Having said that, it’s possible he stood by Sutter. If that happened, you have no choice but to fire them both.

There is a case to be made against Lombardi. The Kings are in a financial mess — not in terms of profitability, but the salary cap. Marian Gaborik is still owed $15.9 million. Dustin Brown is still owed $25.5 million. Jonathan Quick is still owed $27 million. Anne Kopitar has 7 more years on his contract at an average of $10 million per year.

Even worse, Lombardi erred by keeping the floundering Mike Richards on the payroll when he could have cut him and saved money before a salary cap deadline. He didn’t, and Richards — who is no longer with the Kings, anyway — will get paid until 2032.

Former defenseman Rob Blake takes over as GM. I have no idea what his plan for the future is. I’m not going to fool myself and claim he can solve these problems.

But for the Kings to have reached the pinnacle of hockey twice, they simultaneously dug themselves a massive crater.

It only makes sense that the people responsible for the benefits be held accountable for the aftermath.

The Lakers are winning and I’m overjoyed

Let’s take a moment to make sure I understand the point of the Lakers losing at this time of year.

It’s to make sure they keep a draft pick in the top three. If they fall out of the top three, the pick goes to Philadelphia — as if the Sixers could do any better with it.

Keeping that top three pick by continuing to lose means, according to most mock drafts, the Lakers will get to choose an elite point guard in UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or a small forward in Josh Jackson of Kansas.

Didn’t the Lakers already draft to fill those needs? Didn’t the guard they drafted hit a three-point field goal as time expired to lift LA to a victory over Minnesota on Sunday? Wasn’t small forward addressed in the last draft with Brandon Ingram? Or Julius Randle three years prior?

Keeping a top three pick is no panacea for the Lakers. What fans haven’t noticed is this so-called disastrous four-game winning streak indicates the team — indeed, the franchise — is trying to cure itself. You should applaud that.

The Lakers are perilously close to becoming what the Sixers have been for far too long — a storied franchise obsessed with “the process” of getting better instead of simply getting better. The Sixers stocked up on picks for years and are still nose deep in the swamp.

Instead, Jeanie Buss — bless our little purple-and-gold nudist — willingly asserted herself in a family dispute when it became apparent the franchise with 16 NBA titles was nowhere near catching the Celtics. The franchise has clearly been scrubbing off the stench of ineptitude left by her brother, Jim. Remember, the only reason the Lakers are forced to tank to keep a draft pick was because of his foolhardy trade that brought a broken-down Steve Nash in the first place.

Under Jim Buss, the Lakers reputation had been so sullied they couldn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant when he was a free agent last year.

Not that I’m convinced everything new grand poobah Magic Johnson will find a miracle cure (please insert your own HIV joke here). Put it this way: The Sixers motto for years was “trust the process.” It seems that Magic’s motto to this roster is “trust in yourselves.”

What would happen should the Lakers keep the pick? You really want them to take Ball with his megalomaniac/racial provocateur father? How does that play in the locker room of a young team still finding an identity? How long before there’s infighting between Ball and D’Angelo Russell? How long before that idiot father of his claims Luke Walton can’t coach because he’s white?

If the Lakers keep the pick, great. If not, they either have a foundation with the three lottery picks they’ve already utilized or the Lakers need to look to free agency and trades.

Each win thus far suggests there might be hope with Russell, Randle and Ingram. Putting wins together makes a streak that is more than a sign of hope.

Winning streaks are a sign of what made the Lakers the franchise that it was.

Rapid reactions from the Lakers front office upheaval

About an hour ago, the Lakers announced that general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Vice President Jim Buss were both relieved of their duties. They were replaced, at least in the interim, by franchise legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. I could repeat gripes that I’ve had about the team under Buss’ stewardship. Instead, I’d like to focus on what this means for one of the most recognizable brand names in sports.

All of what follows is filtered through the following prism: The good news for Lakers fans is not that Johnson is in, but that Buss is out. Why?

1) Magic would likely make a horrible GM, so the future of the franchise rests on his pick to run player personnel decisions.

It is an educated guess that Johnson would not be ideal to build a Lakers roster for two reasons. One, often in the NBA, successful coaches have significant say in building good rosters. Johnson served rather poorly as an interim coach.

Two, the greatest players in the game are often lacking in scouting talent. For every Larry Bird success story in Indiana, there is Michael Jordan’s mismanagement of the Charlotte Bobcats, and pretty much everything Isaiah Thomas has run in retirement.

Magic has a hit-and-miss record in his post-playing career. His hits have been incredible, such as owning the Dodgers. How terrifying are his mistakes? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

2) Please, Magic, do not make your first phone call to Kobe Bryant, which was suggested in news reports. See above. Because Bryant has been known to miss the mark badly, too. How terrifying? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

3) It does not matter that this move came two days before the NBA trading deadline. The NBA trading deadline features very few blockbusters. Baseball’s deadline does. Besides, unless the Lakers want to break up their alleged “future talent,” they have scant pieces to trade away. Reserve guard Lou Williams is pretty much it.

So what could Magic Johnson do to restore the Lakers?

1) Remind the players and management of their identity. No, I don’t mean wave a purple and gold flag around like a male cheerleader. The Lakers had a formula that worked for decades, only it was abandoned because Jim Buss made a series of impulsive, foolhardy decisions. First, they were going to be a defensive power under coach Mike Brown. Then they were going to return to the 1980s Showtime era with Mike D’Antoni. Now, they want to be a version of the Golden State Warriors and none of it worked because they simply can’t shoot.

This is a team without an identity. Fortunately, it had one for decades — the inside/out game. In the 1960s, inside to Wilt Chamberlain, out to Jerry West. In the 1980s, inside to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, out to Johnson. In the 2000s, in to Shaquille O’Neal, out to Bryant.

Maybe the team has the “out” in D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers need to do whatever it takes to find the inside game.

2) If that means trading Julius Randle or Brandon Ingram, so be it.

3) Support coach Luke Walton publicly, but privately inform him that this roster needs to follow a specific growth plan. For far too often this season, Walton has believed that in order for the Lakers to grow somebody in the younger core needs to step up. Be the leader. Demand the ball. That sort of thing.

At this point, Russell, Randle or Ingram have not answered that call.

That leaves it up to you, coach. You have to pick. Pick wisely. Pick now.

The Dodgers hopes rest on Joc Pederson

The reviews from computer simulators matched the forecast from the number crunchers in the Dodgers front office. Both think the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Why, our algorithms match your algorithms! Let’s watch “Big Bang Theory” and imagine Mayim Bialik in a purple teddy!

They’re not the best team in baseball. Oh, the Dodgers are a pretty darn good baseball team, but they’re not the best.

The defending champion Chicago Cubs are better. They didn’t lose talent during the offseason with a young roster that only figures to improve. The Cubs knocked out the Dodgers 4-2 in the National League Championship Series and that divide was larger than two baseball games if you watched it. The Cubs exposed the holes in the Dodgers roster, so it was incumbent on LA to upgrade.

Which the Dodgers did — albeit incrementally by improving their infield. The Dodgers traded for second baseman Logan Forsythe in what could be a genius move. LA has an elite infield to go along with the best starting pitcher in the game, possibly its best closer and depth that is the envy of virtually every front office in baseball.

But its outfield is suspect at best, which is why the Dodgers hopes for ending a World Series drought at 29 years fall on center fielder Joc Pederson.

The Dodgers relied on the depth of their roster to plug outfield holes throughout 2016. Andre Ethier was injured at the start of that season. Ethier was by no means a superior talent but the drop off in performance — from Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson, Will Venable, Enrique Hernandez and Scott Van Slyke — was stark. A midseason trade for Josh Reddick wasn’t fruitful, and he’s gone.

It’s also time for even the most ardent Yasiel Puig supporter to admit he’s not the Cuban Mike Trout. Relying on Puig to figure out breaking pitches, baserunning and throwing to the right cutoff man is not a reliable wager.

Pederson improving is a bet with the odds more in your favor. Here’s why:

“Young Joc” arrived in Los Angeles two seasons ago with the fanfare befitting a can’t-miss prospect. Only after the All-Star Break of his rookie season, he missed a lot. He struck out 170 times in his rookie year and he average plummeted to a cringe-worthy .210.

Under the radar last season, Pederson’s performance spiked. Believe me, I recognize a .246 average with 130 strikeouts is no reason to crack open a bottle of champagne, but that’s 40 fewer strikeouts and an uptick of about 40 points in batting average. Anything approaching that level of improvement this year will put the 24-year-old on the fringes of being an All-Star because he slugged 51 home runs in his first two seasons. Consistent contact plus power is a frightening combination.

Simply put, Pederson is the only Dodgers outfielder with the potential to help close the gap on the Chicago Cubs. Ethier can’t do it. Puig won’t do it.

And that matters, because winning the National League West again simply won’t cut it.

Belichick’s best attribute: Making you think twice

I want to make this brief for all who claim the NFL is a pass-until-you-shred-your-rotator-cuff game.

Much like Super Bowl XLIX two years ago, when the Patriots edged Seattle 28-24, yesterday’s New England title came about because an offensive coordinator goofed and tried to outfox Bill Belichick instead of simply running the ball.

You might recall the Seahawks were about a yard away from victory on the final play of the game that year and instead of having an angry and lethal Marshawn Lynch seal the win by smashing into the end zone, Seattle elected to pass. Russell Wilson’s ill-advised lob was intercepted in the end zone and millions of people were in shock.

The Atlanta Falcons stormed out to their massive lead in Super Bowl LI yesterday due to the running game and damn sure lost it with the pass. How do I know? Davonta Freeman averaged more than six yards per carry, primarily with runs off-tackle to lessen the burden on center Alex Mack, who was playing the game with a broken fibula. Moreover, the team averaged 5.8 yards per carry. 

This, in turn, forced the Patriots to respect the run and opened up the passing game. In other words, a traditional football game plan instead of this stupid Madden video game throw-deep every play mindset.

The Falcons wound up losing that 25-point advantage, in part, with a fourth-quarter fumble by quarterback Matt Ryan who had no business passing in the first place. It’s the fourth quarter and they still led by 16 points. That turnover in Falcons territory led to a swift New England TD. Had the Falcons ran and failed to pick up the first down, the clock would have kept ticking and the resulting punt would have forced the Patriots to mount a much longer scoring drive.

Later, with the Falcons still clinging to an eight-point lead, Julio Jones nabbed an iconic reception that — had Atlanta held on — would have replaced Dwight Clark’s touchdown decades ago as “The Catch.” That play set up the Falcons at the New England 22. Run the ball three times. Kick a field goal for an 11-point lead. Game over.

Only the Falcons channeled their inner Seahawk. Somewhere Pete Carroll was grimacing at what he watched.

This is not to suggest that Ryan or Jones should be jettisoned and outgoing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should be replaced with a high-school coach who loves the double-wing.

This is to insist that the reputation of Mssrs. Belichick and Brady — their aura — makes people forget their damn common sense when you need it the most.

Common sense dictates you run the ball. It worked in the first half because it kept the Patriots on their toes. It would have worked in the second because it would have killed off most of the clock.

Run to set up the pass. Run to protect your quarterback. Run to protect the guy playing with a broken leg and for the love of the Lombardi Trophy, run to protect the lead.

Here ends the lesson. You should have learned it back in 2015.

61 but still counting

There used to be a commercial where a cartoon owl answered how many slurps it took to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop sucker. The answer was three because the owl got bored and bit through the thing. Can’t say I blame him. When you get asked a stupid question, you pretty much want to brush off the curious guttersnipe.

Millions of us have this annual resolution to lose weight, add muscle, whatever. Many of us chronicle that on social media with before/after pics, photos of us drenched in sweat, or video clips executing reps. I don’t have a problem with people who do. If getting random “likes” is encouragement you need to reach your goals, then have at it. As a side note, I want to encourage girls posting clips of squats, leg curls on your stomach and deadlifts. Yum.

But it begged the question: If somebody didn’t post to social media, how long before anyone noticed? If you keep at it, your body will surely change. If you are driven and go to the gym every single day, it would theoretically change faster. So how many days before somebody who doesn’t know you’ve made the decision to improve your health will ask if you’ve changed for the better?

It sure isn’t three.

It’s 61.

I hit the gym every single day — including Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day — for 61 days before somebody asked if I’ve lost weight. I did, in fact, lose more than 25 pounds, add muscle and have to buy new clothes.

I don’t say any of that to impress you.

I say it because that’s a lot of f-cking work and you better have a maniacal resolve if you don’t post to social media for instant approval.

I began in early December because I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution guy. I have hit the weights often in the past. I have always been able to run for distance. A doctor didn’t order me to change. I simply didn’t like the way I felt. I also know your odds improve with women if you’re in better condition.

The regimen was somewhat strict: Shoulders and triceps on Sunday and Wednesday; biceps and chest on Monday; chest and back on Thursday; cardio Tuesday and Friday; legs and core on Saturday. Every session included a warmup run of a mile and a cool down of a half-mile. Every four weeks, I changed the workout for something called muscle confusion.

My goal wasn’t necessarily to burst out of my shirt. Monthly muscle magazines show a shirtless spray-tanned Steroid Lad wearing a banana hammock downstairs flaunting arms that have a bigger circumference than his head. These periodicals all claim to make your arms two inches bigger in about a month. I avoided those tips, because what’s the point of having massive arms if your face looks like Joe Piscopo?

I took my smartphone with me for that first session. Somewhere during the lateral dumbbell raise, I noticed it looked like I took a swim in my T-shirt. This made me happy. Progress, I figured. Then I reached for the phone, but it hit me: I was surrounded by dudes screaming bloody murder with every rep, tossing weights around, flexing in the mirrors. In other words, desperately needing the approval of the people — hopefully, the women — around them.

I’ve often believed you should be the type of man that impresses people simply by existing. Sure, you should constantly improve yourself, but it helps to limit the number of times you scream “be impressed!” If I can’t impress you by having performed as a comic, authored novels, written for newspapers, volunteering and helping the sick, why would it impress you if I screamed during a workout?

So I put the phone away, a conscious attempt to break the cycle of begging for attention.

Only after three weeks of going every day, I was hoping for attention that never came — not from friends, neighbors or coworkers. So I kept going back to the gym. And nobody noticed. So I kept going back. And nobody n… you get the idea.

This cycle — which was rather painful on a spiritual level as much as physical — ended last Thursday night at a coffee shop near an Orlando college. I was waiting for an open mic to begin and to my surprise, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time showed up.

“You look great. Have you lost weight?”

Mentally, the bell went off. Stop the clock! Somebody noticed!

Only it was a dude.

So technically the clock stopped, but the regimen continues. I’m guessing it won’t stop until I do look like Joe Piscopo. For all I know, muscle-bound senior citizen guidos are what women want in the first place.

Raider World — London makes sense

The story broke late last night. Two likely investors in a major stadium planned for Las Vegas retreated because they weren’t sure the Raiders were a good fit. Without going into too much detail, the first guy owns the Sands hotel. He was allegedly miffed at team owner Mark Davis, possibly because of a lowball lease offer of $1 per year.

The second investor, Goldman Sachs, presumably got weary of being demonized in the press during an election year and chose to take a refreshing nap on its mountain of cash.

Now I don’t want to overreact, because these could all be negotiating ploys, but let’s assume for the moment that the Las Vegas Raiders aren’t going to happen. Because the usual suspects are lining up to court the Silver and Black. 

Most of these suitors are comically ill-prepared. For instance, a columnist in San Diego thinks the Raiders should occupy the same roach motel the Chargers abandoned last month. Hey fathead, if you’re going to appeal to an NFL team, an excellent first step is not to insult the owner in the first paragraph, especially when you look like an assistant manager at a Circle K. And judging the way print news is going, you might want to dust off the resume because the graveyard shift is calling. Now get a mop and clean up the mess in front of the Icee machine.

For that matter, you might want to scratch off Oakland. It’s not impossible, but I was a season ticket holder up there. I completely understand why the Raiders want new digs and building new arenas in California is damn near impossible.

This leaves a handful of places left across the country. Portland is intriguing, but has never been home to anything bigger than the NBA. San Antonio has a stadium, Texas loves football and Dallas owner Jerry Jones was a longtime friend of the late Al Davis. Houston might not be OK with that, though.

I liked St. Louis, but let’s be real: That city lost two NFL franchises.

Now that I live in Florida, I often think the NFL is curious about Orlando. Problem is, I’m literally two hours by car from the Jaguars and Buccaneers. Both teams aren’t that popular. I can’t see Jacksonville and Tampa letting go of central Florida.

It’s when I started thinking about Oklahoma City when the obvious solution hit me.

London has 8.7 million people, which would make it the league’s largest city (New York is at 8.4 million). There’s a stadium there already put to use by the NFL. The league has worked tirelessly to accommodate teams to play there. Local politicians want the NFL. There are now what, four games in London every year? That’s half a regular season as it is.

In those games, the league often schedules two horrible teams to play. Wembley Stadium is still filled to the brim.

And frankly, it’s significantly safer and less smoggier than another international option: Mexico City.

This is not a prediction as much as it is an argument for a better option. Simply put, there is too much money on the table for the Raiders not to consider moving there. It makes more fiscal sense to expand Raider Nation to Raider World than it would to move from one horrible stadium to another.

LA Galaxy changes focus from stars to comets 

A little more than 20 years ago, when Major League Soccer debuted, its teams carried these fanciful names like the Wiz, MetroStars, Clash and Burn. As you might imagine, the Clash and Burn pretty much crashed and burned.

Only four of the original 10 franchises kept their nicknames, including the LA Galaxy — a moniker chosen because the club wanted to be among the stars of Hollywood. Eventually, the Galaxy backed that up with some of soccer’s biggest names — David Beckham the most glitzy of the lot.

Before training camps in MLS opened last week, the so-called glamour franchise abandoned that idea in a roster purge. It’s a gamble, not just in terms of name recognition. It also might be to the Galaxy’s benefit.

Los Angeles, which opens the season March 4 vs. FC Dallas, reinvented itself over the last two seasons by building its starting 11 from the back line up. In the process, the Galaxy are younger and quicker. Pardon me for overplaying the puns regarding astronomy, but they’ve replaced stars with comets.

There was a time when the Galaxy’s international presence boosted the entire league. The Beckham signing years ago forced the hands of other clubs to lure big names that were past their prime. LA eventually created its own bidding war. After a couple of years, even having Beckham wasn’t enough. So the Galaxy acquired other foreign stars such as Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane. That was a lot of skill. It often led to a lot of goals. It also meant, for a league with a Byzantine salary cap, a drain on defense.

Other franchises across the league eventually took advantage of the Galaxy’s crumbling foundation. The big names — all in their mid 30s — couldn’t play 90 minutes twice a week, or were prone to injuries.

Ultimately, the exodus of talent from the roster at the end of last season — which also included Landon Donovan and coach Bruce Arena — might have been inevitable.

The changeover for LA began in earnest when it rebuilt its defense before the 2016 season. Led by Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, only one team was better in terms of conceding goals last year. The next step this last offseason was to rebuild the midfield. The Galaxy will feature three new starters there this season. The “name” addition is Jermaine Jones from the US national team, who is a bit past his prime at 35. The franchise’s hopes, though, appear to rest on Joao Pedro of Portugal and Romain Alessandrini of France.

Pedro, 23, is known for thinking defense first with quick decisions on where to pass. Alessandrini, who is supposed to join the team this week, is a speedster at 27. Their job is to get the ball to the Galaxy’s one remaining star, Mexican national Giovani Dos Santos.

For those of us oddballs who enjoy MLS and wondered what the hell the LA Galaxy was up to, we now know: These acquisitions substitute international reputation for functional versitility. It will be curious to see how that plays out for a franchise that has won MLS Cup five times. Indeed, it’s a brave new world.

Played right, Orlando City wins Molino deal

It’s been a few weeks — because it seems like the offseason lasts only a few weeks — since we’ve chatted up Major League Soccer. Training camps opened on my birthday, but I was too busy drinking wood grain alcohol and drowning in a pool of my own bitter tears to write then.

Speaking of bitter tears, let’s get to marginally disappointing Orlando City. In my opinion, if the Lions play their cards right, they will win yesterday’s trade that sent attacking midfielder Kevin Molino and a reserve goalkeeper you won’t remember to expansion Minnesota United.

Oh sure, former Orlando coach Adrian Heath needs experienced attack-minded players such as Molino. Heath has tended to coach with an offense-first mentality. Local fans loved the cherubic little dude for his unkempt shirt and how the blood pressure turned his face a near lobster red. They loved it because clearly, it showed Heath had passion.

Here’s the flaw: Passion diminishes intellect. Passion makes you overvalue people you like. An over-reliance on passion is a horrible trait in a coach or front office.

Minnesota gave up about $650,000 worth of salary cap relief for Molino, who probably wasn’t even the third-best player on the Orlando roster. The amount of help Heath just gave his former employers is a league record. Now, in the major team leagues across America, $650,000 isn’t a lot of money. In MLS, it’s really helpful.

We know a lot about Heath and passion-driven contracts. Orlando City SC made a splash before playing a single game by signing Brazilian superstar midfielder Kaka, who was the last player not named Messi to be regarded as the best player on the planet. Orlando City overpayed. The Lions have yet to reach MLS playoffs.

It bears repeating: Heath signed one of the best players on the entire planet and it still wasn’t enough to get a team to the playoffs in a league that is inferior to most of Europe, South America and possibly Asia.

You could also suggest the Heath-driven additions last season of Antonio Nocerino and Christian Higuita didn’t help, either.

Orlando City, under Heath, gambled on offense and gave up far too many reckless counterattacks. The Lions last year were third-worst in both goals conceded and yellow cards allowed. It’s a good idea to bring discipline to a team like that. It was s good idea to replace Heath with Jason Kreis.

Moreover, if the Lions use that cap relief and upgrade their defense, they win that trade.

Because they have enough offense-first players.

What the Lions need is some common sense to balance it out.

Forsythe a nice idea, but Dodgers aren’t there yet

Two rites of passage happen for many men every February.

They get optimistic because pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than three weeks. And the ones who don’t own a glove or bat pull out their spreadsheets and micromanage convoluted theories over which teams can win the World Series.

To wit, a group of well-meaning IT guys created a baseball stats think tank called Fangraphs. At this moment, thanks to the trade that brings second baseman Logan Forsythe to Los Angeles, these guys tell us that the Los Angeles Dodgers project as the best team in baseball for 2017.

It’s not true.

To be clear, I like the Forsythe deal enough. The Dodgers sent top pitching prospect Jose De Leon to Tampa Bay to get the guy, who is an above-average second baseman. It sounds like a lot, but De Leon doesn’t project to be a staff ace. After Clayton Kershaw, the current Dodgers pitching staff is overstocked with guys who project as a No.2 or 3. Another No. 2? 

Before the deal, if somebody hit a ball to the right side of the infield, it would roll all the way to wall. So yeah, De Leon can toil before 5,000 people in that nasty concrete pimple the Rays play in.

I’m OK with Forsythe. I realize fans saw 42 home runs from Brian Dozier in Minnesota and wanted that guy no matter what. Baseball history tells us a lot of guys hit close to 50 home runs in a breakout year and follow it up with 15-18 the next. The ones who consistently push for 45-50 HRs? They’ve either sold their souls to Satan or are on ‘roids.

So the Dodgers, once again, project as a so-called deep roster team with lots of options that will make the playoffs and probably have a showdown with the Chicago Cubs. Vengeance is theirs, project the fearsome mighty slide rulers at Fangraphs!

Nah.

First of all, let’s talk about what the Cubs have — which is everyone from the defending championship roster. Their starting pitching was and is superior to the Dodgers. Their lineup is approaching its physical prime, and it’s hard to believe that Jayson Heyward will have another bad year.

The only everyday position where you look at the Dodgers and say they are superior to the Cubs is at shortstop — Corey Seager over Addison Russell. Everywhere else? The Dodgers at best, match or come close to matching. Chicago’s outfield is better. Every  Angelino loves Justin Turner, but Kris Bryant is better at third base. Adrian Gonzalez might be a hall of famer, but right now Anthony Rizzo is better.

Moreover, the Dodgers’ addiction to analytics means a heavy reliance on the bullpen, which has been shortened by letting reliable Joe Blanton and J.P. Howell walk in free agency.

None of this is to imply the Dodgers suck. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see them win the National League West for a fifth consecutive year. But with no World Series titles, or even World Series appearances, since 1988, winning a division is about as big a deal as being the valedictorian at summer school. Nobody cares.

For the Dodgers to be the best team in baseball, the Cubs have to regress — whether by injury or complacency. Those are things that simply can’t be forecast on Microsoft Excel.