The Giants have the Dodgers exactly where the Giants want them: chasing a championship with money.
We learn much from history. And what we learn from baseball's past is that yes, sometimes you can indeed buy a World Series title. But nine out of 10 times, you can't.
Last week, the Dodgers made the most amazing late August baseball deal that I can remember. However, that is no guarantee of an amazing October. I checked my calendar. September comes first. And my hunch is, September will make certain that the Dodgers spend late October watching Lakers' exhibition games with one of their new owners, Magic Johnson.
Johnson and his fellow Dodger proprietors clearly believe otherwise. Otherwise, they would not have blown a hole in their previous payroll ceiling to acquire first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett and (next season when he's back from Tommy John surgery) outfielder Carl Crawford as well as infielder Nick Punto.
The trade accomplished many things. It panicked the rest of the National League -- at least the fan bases of other teams. It gave the Dodgers a better starting first baseman in Gonzalez and a decent starter in Beckett. And it .... well, that's really all that it did. Nothing much else has happened yet.
The Giants continue to lead the National League West. It turns out that according to baseball rules, they will continue to lead the division as long as they keep winning games, no matter what
You might notice that Giants general manager Brian Sabean has not melted into a puddle of dread since the news of last weekend. In fact, I would bet his first reaction when he heard about the Dodgers' deal was to grin.
Never forget, Sabean once worked for the New York Yankees. He understands what happens when an owner decides to spend basically unlimited funds trying to win a ring. It raises expectations. It puts a whole lot of pressure on the players, every inning of every game. And every loss is a disaster. For the rest of this season, the pressure is going to be more on L.A. than the Giants. How can Sabean not like that?
Gonzalez is a fine player. Is he a deadlock future Hall of Famer? Definitely not yet. His career numbers are very good. But his power numbers are down this season, and his on-base percentage is not as good as Brandon Belt's.
Beckett is a decent pitcher. But in the Giants rotation, he might be the No. 5 starter.
Yet the Giants, who swept the Dodgers last week in Los Angeles, are now supposed to be afraid of them because ... uh, why, again?
My view of roster makeup -- and this applies to any team sport at nearly every level -- is a principle I call the "Forrest Gump Indigestion Corollary."
Here's how it works: When teams go out and look to improve, they are like little kids who want to get as many delicious pieces of candy as possible and stick them in one box. Yet as Mr. Gump taught us, when you open that box, you never know what you're going to get. My added corollary is, if your only desire is to assemble the richest candy and eat it, you are probably going to get an upset stomach.
This principle holds particularly true in college basketball, when certain coaches (Steve Lavin at UCLA was the best example) will use their resources (school reputation, facilities, whatever) to go out and sign three or four of the top 20 high school players in the nation every season without regard for how they might coalesce as a team.
Baseball is a different sport. But if you don't believe that the right clubhouse mixture is important, look what happened when Barry Bonds finally left the Giants. A more palatable soup of personalities moved into the room.
The Dodgers' roster soup does not merely include the most recent acquisitions. Given the new owners' mandate since last spring to spend as much as it takes, L.A. general manager Ned Colletti has also traded for infielder Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Shane Victorino and pitchers Brandon League and Joe Blanton.
Now, those gentlemen might all be wonderful human beings. But my gut, after many seasons of observing group dynamics, tells me that with such turnover there is bound to be resentment, jealousy, puzzlement and angst.
To be sure, talent can override all that stuff. But once more, look at those names. Do you see any sure-thing Hall of Famers in that group?
I know, I know. What about next year? And the years to come? The Dodgers now have salary obligations for $192.6 million for the 2013 season and aren't blinking. This has spawned paranoia that the Dodgers might become the Yankees of the West Coast -- or the LAnkees, for lack of a better shorthand term.
All right, pretend that happens. Why is that such a ghastly and unspeakable prospect?
Let's play a game of four questions:
Q. How many World Series appearances have the Yankees made since 2002?
Q. How many World Series appearances have the Giants made over that same 10-year period?
Q. How many World Series have the Yankees won in the last 10 seasons?
Q. How many World Series have the Giants won in that same time window?
In other words, if the Dodgers do indeed become the LAnkees, the worst case result is likely that the Giants will find just as much success on the field as they have over the last decade compared with their Southern California rivals.
That is, unless you think Nick Punto is going to be the difference-maker for the next 10 years.
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com or 408-920-5092.