Adrian Gonzalez believes in Andrew Friedman and the others in the Dodgers' front office. Gonzalez believes in what they did this winter and what they will do in the coming months. You're probably expecting me to tell you that he also believes in Santa Claus, but we didn't get around to talking about that.
While skepticism about the front office has spread to some parts of the clubhouse, the All-Star first baseman remains convinced the team's decision makers are determined to win now. So in the hours leading up to the Dodgers' season-opening 15-0 thrashing of the San Diego Padres, Gonzalez wanted to wager on what Friedman will do at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. The details are still being worked out, but the tentative framework of the bet includes a dunk tank.
"I can't wait to dunk you, not once, but multiple times," Gonzalez said with a laugh.
Friedman also laughed when he heard about the proposed wager, but wouldn't say what, if anything, he would do to help Gonzalez win.
Gonzalez, who went three for four with three runs batted in Monday, dismisses the notion the Dodgers are in the midst of a rebuilding project, even though their rotation consists of Kershaw and a never-ending series of question marks that happen to be under short-term or inexpensive contracts. Gonzalez defends Friedman's quantity-over-quality approach, which resulted in the departure of Zack Greinke.
"If you look at every year, every team has major injuries," Gonzalez said. "They're going to go through a major injury at some point. And almost to a T every year — and it's true, it's not an excuse — the teams that don't win the division will at some point say, 'Well, injuries played a big role in why we didn't win.' Everybody in baseball has acknowledged we have the best [40-man roster] and the best farm system in baseball. That puts us in prime position to sustain any major injury."
Greinke's Arizona Diamondbacks already sustained a major blow last week when All-Star center fielder A.J. Pollock went down with a fractured elbow that is threatening to sideline him for the season.
But there are questions about the dependability of the Dodgers' supposed pitching depth, considering most of the starters have histories of arm trouble. Gonzalez countered by mentioning the potential availability of Julio Urias, the 19-year-old hotshot left-hander.
Is Urias ready?
"He's absolutely ready," Gonzalez said. "The only reason he's not ready is because they haven't let him pitch more than 80 innings."
Doesn't that make him not ready?
"OK, but he can come up here and pitch a month," he said. "He was ready two years ago."
Let's say Gonzalez is right and the Dodgers can navigate through a 162-game season with this ticking-time-bomb rotation. What about the postseason? There's a considerable drop-off in quality after Kershaw.
"How about this?" Gonzalez said. "I will bet you whatever you want that come July, if we need to make a move, we'll make a move that everyone in baseball's going to be like, 'That set them over the top.'"
Like the move the Toronto Blue Jays made to acquire David Price last year. Or the trade the Texas Rangers made for Cole Hamels.
The Dodgers midseason additions to their rotation were modest — Alex Wood, the current No. 4 starter, and Mat Latos, who was a bust. The reason was cost. Landing a pitcher of Price's or Hamels' quality would have required the Dodgers to part with high-end prospects.
If the Diamondbacks' acquisition of Shelby Miller over the winter was any indication, the price of a front-line arm remains prohibitively high. The Diamondbacks had to give up a package that included Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 amateur draft.
Gonzalez believes Friedman will do whatever's necessary.
"I know what our owners want," he said. "Our owners want to win the title."
Former Dodger Matt Kemp had a particularly forgettable opening day, as he was 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts for the Padres. He also made a sixth-inning fielding error that resulted in a run.
This wasn't what Kemp had in mind before the game, as he flashed his trademark smile and spoke about the upcoming season in the most optimistic of terms. He was particularly upbeat about his reunion with Mark McGwire, the Padres' new bench coach. McGwire was the Dodgers hitting coach who helped Kemp regain his power in 2014.
"We were grinding, man, especially coming off ankle surgery, trying to figure out how I was going to generate some power," Kemp said. "We got through it."
Kemp's debut season with the Padres last year was somewhat of a disappointment, as he batted .265 with 23 home runs and 100 runs batted in.
He's now 31 and the widespread perception is that he's in decline.
"Listen, people can think what they want to think about me," Kemp said. "This is the best I've felt in a long time. I feel like the further I get from surgery, the better I'm going to be."
Padres fans waved white towels as the first pitch approached. Based on what their team's roster looks like, can anyone blame them for surrendering already?