Dave Dombrowski’s sudden free agency led to an immediate wave of speculation about which teams might need a talented, experienced executive to run their baseball operations. The Angels, of course, have a vacancy at the top of baseball operations.
Then the conventional wisdom flowed, and with regard to the Angels the consensus was this: owner Arte Moreno and Manager Mike Scioscia wield the power, and an executive with Dombrowski’s track record would have better options than to try to thrive where Jerry Dipoto and Tony Reagins could not. Andrew Friedman, given the chance to run the Angels four years ago, stayed in Tampa Bay.
That does not mean the Angels cannot land a winner. The conventional wisdom in Anaheim now sounds all too similar to the consensus in Baltimore four years ago, where the presence of owner Peter Angelos and Manager Buck Showalter presumably compelled the most prominent candidates for general manager to say, “Thanks for the interest, but no thanks.”
Many did. Tony La Cava of the Toronto Blue Jays, who has worked in baseball since 1989 without ever serving as a general manager, turned down the job. The Orioles ultimately hired Dan Duquette, a former general manager in Montreal and Boston. Duquette had not worked in any front office for a decade.
When Duquette arrived, the Orioles had posted 14 consecutive losing seasons and had not appeared in the postseason since 1997. The Orioles had a winning record in each of their first three seasons under Duquette, and two playoff appearances too.
The Blue Jays last winter tried to hire Duquette as team president, but Angelos declined to release Duquette from his contract. The Jays decided to wait another year to fill the position, and Dombrowski just might get it.
The Jays won again Saturday, with a home run from trade acquisition Troy Tulowitzki and seven shutout innings from trade acquisition David Price. If Toronto holds onto its playoff position, the longest postseason drought in the major leagues would belong to the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners last made the playoffs in 2001, when Ichiro Suzuki was a 27-year-old rookie. Attendance has fallen by almost half since then. Jack Zduriencik, in his seventh year as general manager, has employed three managers and stars Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, without the Mariners ever finishing higher than third place.
Seattle is a crazy good baseball town starved for a winner. If the Mariners dump Zduriencik, that might be Dombrowski’s best bet.
The Washington Nationals arrive at Dodger Stadium on Monday in an unexpected position. If the playoffs started Monday, the Nationals would not be in them.
In the spring, the Nationals were regarded as the biggest lock in baseball. The analytical website Fangraphs had 38 writers pick the winner of every division in the major leagues; all 38 voted the same way in only one division: Washington, in the National League East.
And why not? The Nationals won the NL East by 17 games last year, and they spent $210 million to add Max Scherzer atop a star-studded starting rotation, one that posted the lowest earned-run average in the majors last season.
The Nationals have been hurt by injuries to outfielders Denard Span and Jayson Werth and infielders Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. Shortstop Ian Desmond, a Silver Slugger winner the last two years, entered the weekend batting .218. The Nationals have given 197 at-bats to Clint Robinson, a 30-year-old journeyman to whom the Dodgers gave nine at-bats last year.
All that, and the Nationals still have scored the most runs of any team in the NL East.
That starting rotation ranks ninth in the majors in ERA. The Nationals had five pitchers make at least 25 starts last season — Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark — and each has a higher ERA this season than last.
Roark was moved to the bullpen for Scherzer. Fister was moved to the bullpen for rookie Joe Ross. Strasburg was activated from the disabled list Saturday, with a 5.16 ERA.
Aside from Ross, none of those starters is younger than 27. The New York Mets are in first place in the NL East now, and they have five power arms lined up for their rotation next year: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. None of those starters is older than 27.