Fried­man and Zaidi are the real MVPs on this big day

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL PLASCHKE

Yu Baby!

An en­chanted sea­son just be­came more mag­i­cal. A sum­mer of hope is now burst­ing at the seams. The march to­ward his­tory has be­come a fu­ri­ous sprint. Yu-Haw! The Dodgers ac­quired Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish on Mon­day, and now all things seem pos­si­ble.

A great team looks like a cham­pi­onship team. The ti­tans of July are dressed and ready for Oc­to­ber. A World Se­ries drought of 28 sea­sons feels like it could end in three short months.

Is there such a thing as a walk-off trade? The Dodgers made one, ad­ding Darvish to their loaded ro­ta­tion in the fi­nal min­utes

be­fore Mon­day’s trade dead­line, hit­ting a two-out homer that could sail into au­tumn.

Is it pos­si­ble to cel­e­brate one of the sea­son’s big­gest vic­to­ries on a day when the team doesn’t even play? The Dodgers did just that, also ad­ding two left-handed re­liev­ers — Pitts­burgh’s Tony Wat­son and Cincin­nati’s Tony Cin­grani — to com­plete a pitch­ing staff with­out trad­ing any of their three most cov­eted prospects.

Can MVP can­di­dates be guys who don’t wear uni­forms? An­drew Fried­man and Farhan Zaidi now qual­ify, the Dodgers ex­ec­u­tives per­form­ing with the same bold bril­liance in the front of­fice that their team has shown on the field.

The club­house wanted another start­ing pitcher in the wake of Clayton Ker­shaw’s in­jury and past Oc­to­ber ro­ta­tion melt­downs, with man­ager Dave Roberts even pub­licly lob­by­ing for Darvish. The front of­fice gave it to them.

The club­house knew it would need left-handed re­lief help with sev­eral pow­er­ful op­pos­ing left­handed hit­ters — guys such as Bryce Harper and An­thony Rizzo — wait­ing for them in the post­sea­son. The front of­fice gave it to them.

The play­ers have per­formed beyond be­lief, with a 74-31 record that puts them on a pace to have one of the best reg­u­lar sea­sons in base­ball his­tory. Man­age­ment has re­warded them for it, an­swer­ing their ques­tions, fill­ing their needs, and re­mov­ing their ex­cuses.

From this mo­ment for­ward, the Dodgers’ hopes are en­tirely in the hands of the play­ers, which is ex­actly what they want, and pre­cisely where they be­long. These play­ers have earned the best pos­si­ble chance to win a cham­pi­onship, and man­age­ment has pow­er­fully given them that chance.

“I think it will def­i­nitely be an emo­tional boost for the team,” gen­eral man­ager Zaidi said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call Mon­day af­ter­noon, chuck­ling and then ad­ding, “It’s hard to say they needed it.”

Oh, for sev­eral rea­sons, they needed this.

Ker­shaw may miss a month be­cause of a back strain, and once the play­offs ar­rive he might not be in shape to pitch on three days’ rest as he has done in the past.

With Darvish, that is no longer a worry; the Dodgers, with Alex Wood and Rich Hill, are now able to run out four po­ten­tially strong arms.

“Hav­ing four is cer­tainly bet­ter than hav­ing three,” Zaidi said.

On many other staffs, Darvish would be the ace; he has a record of 52-39 with a 3.42 earned-run av­er­age dur­ing five sea­sons with the Rangers. In that span, he leads the Amer­i­can League in hold­ing op­po­nents to a .218 bat­ting av­er­age while also ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a league­lead­ing 11.04 strike­outs per nine in­nings.

Darvish has strug­gled this year, go­ing 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA, in­clud­ing a 7.20 ERA in his last five starts. Another strike against him is that he is a free agent af­ter this sea­son, mean­ing the Dodgers might have just traded three prospects — in­clud­ing highly re­garded sec­ond base­man Wil­lie Cal­houn — for a three­month rental.

Smartly for the Dodgers’ front of­fice, they ig­nored the re­cent trade-dis­tracted num­bers, ig­nored the longterm im­pli­ca­tions, and went for it. The re­sult is not only a win for the play­ers, but a vic­tory for the fans, and re­demp­tion for two years ago.

Re­mem­ber the first sum­mer of the Fried­manZaidi regime, when they failed to ac­quire Philadel­phia’s Cole Hamels at the trade dead­line, los­ing him to the Rangers?

Re­mem­ber who started Game 3 of that Na­tional League divi­sion se­ries against the New York Mets? It was Brett An­der­son, who gave up six runs in three in­nings and put the Dodgers in a hole from which they never re­cov­ered.

Those Dodgers had the his­toric one-two punch of Ker­shaw and Zack Greinke and blew it. These Dodgers could be on the verge of mak­ing his­tory again, only now they are set up to com­plete a long-awaited mis­sion.

“This is just go­ing to make this a bet­ter base­ball team,” Zaidi said.

Bet­ter, em­pow­ered, in­spired, and pushed to­ward Oc­to­ber by one of the long­est blasts in a sum­mer filled with them. On the last day in July there was no game but big fire­works.

It was a day when An­drew Fried­man and Farhan Zaidi went deep.

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