By get­ting Darvish, the Dodgers are all-in to win

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - DY­LAN HER­NAN­DEZ

AT­LANTA — Ken­ley Jansen was sound asleep on the Dodgers char­ter flight, un­aware of the deal that was struck on the ground.

Nudged awake by rookie Ed­ward Pare­des, Jansen opened his eyes to the sight of a smil­ing David Vassegh, the host of the postgame talk show on the team’s flag­ship ra­dio sta­tion. Vassegh de­liv­ered the news: The Dodgers had ac­quired Yu Darvish in a trade.

Jansen laughed Tues­day as he re­called that “where were you when …?” mo­ment from the pre­vi­ous af­ter­noon. Other play­ers told their own sto­ries. They should make it a point to re­mem­ber them. These are light­hearted anec­dotes that could be told for years to come, the kinds that are fea­tured in doc­u­men­taries on cham­pi­onship sea­sons.

The Dodgers made two mon­u­men­tal trades in the last decade,

both with the Boston Red Sox, ac­quir­ing Manny Ramirez at the 2008 non­waiver trade dead­line and adding Adrian Gon­za­lez, Josh Beck­ett and Carl Craw­ford in a block­buster waiver deal four years later.

On the sur­face, the trade for Darvish doesn’t have the same im­pact. In re­al­ity, it’s no less sig­nif­i­cant.

Ramirez trans­formed the Dodgers from a medi­ocre team to a World Se­ries con­tender, his in­fec­tious per­son­al­ity and steroid­fu­eled pro­duc­tion cat­a­pult­ing what was a cash­strapped fran­chise back into promi­nence in a stardriven mar­ket dom­i­nated by the Lak­ers.

Gon­za­lez was a state­ment from the team’s new own­ers, who were des­per­ate to sep­a­rate them­selves from the pre­vi­ous regime that nearly de­stroyed the fran­chise. This team would win and they would spend to win.

The ad­di­tion of Darvish doesn’t mark a ros­ter makeover, as the two other trades did. With the Dodgers own­ing the best record in base­ball, it doesn’t have to.

This is about cul­ture. This is about what the fran­chise stands for. And from that stand­point, this trade means as much as any the Dodgers have made in the last decade.

This was about An­drew Fried­man, Farhan Zaidi and the other mem­bers of the front of­fice an­nounc­ing the Dodgers are ready to win — not next year, not in five years, not in 10. Now. The Dodgers will en­ter the play­offs as the over­whelm­ing fa­vorites. They were the fash­ion­able choice in 2013, but not to this de­gree.

Tro­phies aren’t handed out for this. It’s nonethe­less a dis­tinc­tion that should be cel­e­brated.

For the first time in a gen­er­a­tion, maybe longer, An­ge­lenos can do more than hope the Dodgers will win the World Se­ries. They can be­lieve. Re­ally be­lieve.

Which is why, when Jansen was asked to com­pare this deal with the Gon­za­lez trade, he said with­out any hes­i­ta­tion, “I was more ex­cited af­ter this one.”

The Dodgers won’t have to count on an­other su­per­hu­man ef­fort by Clay­ton Ker­shaw, which has al­most been taken for granted in re­cent years. Joined by Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill in the post­sea­son ro­ta­tion, Ker­shaw will be spared from mak­ing starts on three-days’ rest, some­thing that has un­ques­tion­ably af­fected his per­for­mance in Oc­to­ber.

They have a No. 8 hit­ter with 19 home runs in Yasiel Puig. They have depth in their bullpen. This isn’t a team that will have to pray for a lucky break. As long as they aren’t struck by mis­for­tune, they should be in ev­ery post­sea­son game they play, re­gard­less of the op­po­nent. This is base­ball and vic­tory can never be guar­an­teed, but the Dodgers’ chances are far bet­ter than any­one else’s.

As was the case with the trade for Ramirez, there was an el­e­ment of for­tune fac­tored into their land­ing Darvish.

Ramirez was dis­grun­tled to the point of be­ing dis­rup­tive, mak­ing the Red Sox so des­per­ate to trade him they of­fered to pay the re­main­der of his salary. Then-owner Frank McCourt’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion made that com­po­nent a re­quire­ment.

The cur­rent front of­fice’s re­quire­ment was that any po­ten­tial deal for Darvish not in­clude prospects Walker Buehler or Alex Ver­dugo. Again, the events con­spired to make this pos­si­ble.

A mar­ket for Darvish never de­vel­oped, as four of the six di­vi­sion races were prac­ti­cally over. Wild-card con­tenders weren’t about to of­fer the Texas Rangers a sub­stan­tial bounty for the chance to reach a play-in game.

The Dodgers be­came the Rangers’ sole op­tion. In many other sea­sons, the in­cli­na­tion to hoard prospects would have cost the Dodgers the player they wanted. In this par­tic­u­lar case, it helped them read the mar­ket cor­rectly.

How the deal came to­gether doesn’t mat­ter. It hap­pened and it said some­thing. The play­ers heard.

“The fact that the front of­fice stepped up and did what they did at the dead­line,” third base­man Justin Turner said, “means that they’re as se­ri­ous as we are.”

And, just like that, a stan­dard was es­tab­lished.

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