Taking a closer look at those 'dysfunctional' Dodgers

Taking a closer look at those 'dysfunctional' Dodgers
The Dodgers' clubhouse leadership next season is likely to include catcher A.J. Ellis, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) and outfielder Andre Ethier (16), who are celebrating a three-run homer by Ellis during a game last season. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

Seems like dysfunction is getting an odd amount of play with the Dodgers these days. A disproportionate amount.

There are stories all over the place bemoaning what a dysfunctional team the Dodgers were last season, which is curious if nothing else. Makes you wonder how they won 94 games.


Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, indirectly fed this quasi-revisionist history during a conference call with reporters Friday, twice using the term “highly functional” to describe the results of his off-season trades.

"This just gets back to us doing everything we could to mold our roster into the most highly functioning baseball team, as opposed to a collection of talent," Friedman said.

Which implies they were highly dysfunctional last season. Now if he's referring to clubhouse chemistry, certainly there were some issues. Every clubhouse in baseball has its issues. Somebody doesn't like someone else because of personality or perceived work habits or locker room politics or something. Like any other workplace.

A clubhouse with strong personalities such as Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Brian Wilson, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier is not always going to be all hugs and kisses. Sometimes there were unhappy players, whether over personal playing time or the play of others. Happens on every team.

But it wasn't like some cancer that ate away at the team, crippling their effort and leaving them divided and in disarray.

ESPN's Buster Olney, one of the hardest workers in the business, wrote last week: "The Dodgers' level of dysfunction last season was extraordinary."

Seemed mostly ordinary to me. Now Ramirez and his funk are gone. Kemp and his boyish enthusiasm and sometimes selfishness are down the freeway. Dee Gordon and all his politeness are gone to Florida, along with Dan Haren and his introspection. Wilson is off to places unknown.

Coming in are Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Brandon McCarthy, Joel Peralta and Yasmani Grandal. The clubhouse will be a little different, but it’s not like a blowtorch was taken to it.

Now dysfunctional is something of an imprecise term. If Friedman is referring less to the clubhouse chemistry and more to the how well the roster can work as a focused, practical, interchangeable unit, that's different. Which is what I think Friedman was really getting at.

"We're excited the way our position player group fits together, how they complement one another, and we feel like we've got great length to our lineup with great balance as well," Friedman said.

Friedman likes the new depth, that Rollins and Grandal are switch-hitters and that the lineup, if missing the power of Ramirez and Kemp, is deep. Plus he likes that the bullpen has been upgraded.

So if that makes for a more functional team, OK. Just don't look back on the 2014 team as some mutinous disaster that was lucky to reach the .500 mark.