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.

We’ve seen this act from the Dodgers before

Earlier in the season, when the Dodgers were under threat of getting buried by the San Francisco Giants — L.A. was behind by 7 1/2 games at one point — some dude kept trying to troll. According to him, I should be satisfied that the Dodgers have won the National West Division three years in a row. According to his words, I’m spoiled by success.

At risk of sounding like a brat — I’m not, I’m not, I’m not.

But seriously folks. Sports fans need a quick reminder of what the point is for all those tickets, caps, parking, hot dogs, beer, kids toys, nights in front of the flatscreen while your wife fumes over putting her shows on DVR. You want your team to win the championship, to hoist the trophy, to have that silly parade through your town.

There is no such thing as a division champion, no matter what that T-shirt says. That’s MLBshop.com trying to pull another $25 out of your credit card. Winning the division three consecutive years doesn’t constitute a dynasty.

There is no such thing as a league champ. You win a pennant for winning the league. Your team is not a champion for reaching the World Series.

The only championship comes from winning the World Series. The Dodgers haven’t won it, or for that matter been in one, since 1988.

The Giants have won three championships since the Dodgers last went to the Series. Arizona won one. The Padres and Rockies have been to one since. Only six teams have not reached the World Series since L.A. last went.

The Dodgers get ready for six uncomfortable hours flying across the continent — through that hurricane-generator known as the Gulf of Mexico — for a series in Miami this weekend. They’re in a good place, otherwise. They’re five games up on San Francisco, with a magic number of 19 to qualify for the playoffs. Number crunchers a fivethirtyeight.com estimate the Dodgers have a better than 99 percent chance to reach the playoffs. (Although they are the same guys who give Donald Trump a 20 percent chance to win the presidential election and current polls don’t seem to indicate that to me.)

As to the Dodgers reaching the playoffs, so what? We’ve seen this before.

Can anyone give me a rationale that the Dodgers will win the World Series that doesn’t involve blind hope? From where I see it, the current roster is the weakest of the last four Dodgers seasons. The last three included Zack Grienke, who they let go in a cost-cutting move. This is the year L.A. finally put its foot down on an immature Yasiel Puig, because his production slipped drastically. We still have no idea if Clayton Kershaw can pitch again.

The only position where anyone can argue the Dodgers have upgraded significantly is at shortstop. Corey Seager is that good.

But the way I see the NL West, the Dodgers good fortune stems primarily from a fantastic Giants collapse. San Francisco had the best record in baseball going into the All-Star break. For reasons I do not know, since then the Giants are the worst team in baseball at 16-33.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a tad skeptical about L.A. Oh, I’m watching. I’m even going to Miami to watch the Dodgers play.

But my skepticism will end when the Dodgers finally stop settling for mediocrity and win the World Series.

Then I’ll consider myself spoiled.

The week in L.A. sports (6/16/16-6/22/16)

I post this every Thursday. It’s not Thursday in LA. Kinda don’t care about that. It’s Thursday here…

Dodgers: Here’s the problem with LA’s current winning streak, which stands at six games. The Giants have maintained a lead of six games as I type. Only one Dodgers team has ever rallied from more than seven games back to reach the playoffs. The team remains on life support and we still haven’t hit the halfway point of the season.

The Dodgers are so boring that while playing the Washington Nationals, broadcaster Vin Scully is talking at length about Jayson Werth being 37 years old. And that is a shame, because Werth is desperately trying to look like a hipster looking for Portland Timbers soccer tickets to scalp. Seriously, playa, the world has enough unemployed slackers disguised as garden gnomes.

Here’s a subtle indication of how idiotic the Dodgers’ “smartest front office in baseball” has been. The Dodgers traded one of their top pitching prospects, Zach Lee, to Seattle. For a shortstop. You think that scrub is going to replace Corey Seager, who hit his 16th home run of the season an hour ago? Good going, “smart guys.”

Lakers and Clippers: Reports circulated on major sports news outlets — reputable ones — that the 76ers will take Ben Simmons with the first pick of tonight’s NBA draft. Those reports were followed with the Lakers having allegedly decided on forward Brandon Ingram of Duke. Not that I’m a genius because I’ve told you that for a month or so. The internet loves a good conspiracy theory. Part of my life’s mission is to wipe that flotsam away.

As for who the Clippers will take? Who cares? Their lineup is set. The guess here is for an outside shooter to eventually replace the aging J.J. Reddick.

Kings: It’s been an awkward week, to say the least. On the plus side, Drew Doughty earned his first Norris Trophy, which goes to the best defenseman in the league. The minus side was everything else. The Venezuelan soccer team has a brighter future when it returns home.

The team has a new captain in Anze Kopitar, which is nice except that former captain Dustin Brown is still on the roster. Kopitar has played here too long to pretend he can’t understand English, while on his OK Cupid profile, Brown lists “likes to hit people for no reason” under hobbies.

Even worse, Milan Lucic, the big trade acquisition from last offseason, is likely to leave the team as an unrestricted free agent. It’ll hurt. Lucic can do a lot of things well, but the Kings only had about $7 million of salary cap space and had to sign five players for the roster.

Galaxy: The team has played twice since last week’s blog post and has yet to score. 

Come to think of it, I’m looking back over the teams I’ve written about so far tonight and if I could put a layer of frosting on this failure cake, it would spell out “All My Favorite Teams Stink.”

Rams: Somebody posted a meme tonight on Facebook that read “Less than two months until football season!”

Screw you, dude. Preseason football is even more unwatchable than the WNBA.

Other than that, the Rams literally had no news in the last week. See you Friday! 🙂