The star stealing began last winter, when UCLA won the national battle for Chip Kelly.
It continued in early spring, when the Galaxy crashed the headlines by bringing in Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
A couple of days later, the Rams outfought several teams in completing an offseason haul by signing Ndamukong Suh.
Then this summer, the Lakers made the giant grab of LeBron James.
Now, apparently, it’s the Dodgers’ turn.
It only makes sense they appear to have their clutches on Manny Machado, and could soon complete a trade for the Baltimore Orioles star shortstop and baseball’s hottest available talent.
It’s what smart Los Angeles sports teams do. It’s who they are. It’s who they have to be.
They listen to you. They have to not only win, but entertain. They have to do it with not only stuntmen, but stars.
It’s ingrained in our landscape. It’s the culture of this town. When trying to sell your project, you attach a headliner. When an A-lister is available, you do the deal, because if you don’t, your competitors will, and you’ll wind up with a fate far worse around here than losing.
Five consecutive division championships have netted no titles. The lingering damage done by the TV blackout is almost beyond repair. Consistent sellout crowds have finally had a taste of a World Series, but deserve more. Thirty years is 30 years.
The team has good young talent, but the window is slowly closing on its leaders. Clayton Kershaw could be gone after this season. Kenley Jansen can only bear so much bullpen burden. Rich Hill will be 39 next summer. Justin Turner will be 34.
It would be a deftly bold and appropriately L.A. decision for Andrew Freidman and Farhan Zaidi to acquire Machado.
But it would also be a Hollywood-sign-sized risk.
Because, on the surface, there are only two ways that trading valuable assets for Machado and his expiring contract would be a successful deal.
They have to win a World Series with him or he has to be willing to sign a contract with them this winter, and both outcomes are fraught with complications.
For them to leap that final nine-inning hurdle and win their first World Series championship in 30 years, they’re going to need more than Machado. He’s a terrific hitter — his 24 home runs and 65 runs batted in would lead the Dodgers — but they have a greater need of pitching. They need help in the bullpen and possibly the rotation.
Machado doesn’t vastly improve their chances of winning a title, especially if they find themselves in a World Series against the powerful Boston Red Sox or Houston Astros or New York Yankees. Only a couple of accomplished pitchers acquired in the coming weeks could make a difference.
Signing the potential free agent this winter amid a host of other suitors could also be problematic. Machado stated this month he would sign only with a team that can play him at shortstop. By next spring the Dodgers will already have a better-fielding shortstop, the recuperating Corey Seager, and so they would need to convince Machado to move to his other position of third base, then move Justin Turner to first base and put Cody Bellinger in the outfield.
No matter what happens, give Friedman and Zaidi credit for understanding the L.A. market and its insistence that they do whatever it takes to compete for a championship every season . They showed this understanding last year in making the deadline deal for Yu Darvish, which was greatly praised in this space. It turns out, of course, they picked the wrong pitcher. It didn’t help that eventual World Series champion Houston picked the right one in Justin Verlander.
But at least the Dodgers went for it, and they’re going for it now with Machado, but the push to create good memories could only bring back disillusioning ones.
If they don’t get pitching help, the Machado deal will be only a disquieting 10-year anniversary reminder of another big trade for another guy named Manny.
It was July 31, 2008, when the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez in a trade for a player so spectacular, they actually named a section of Dodger Stadium after him.
Ramirez ended that 2008 season by treating Mannywood guests to an incredible tear — I’ve never seen a hotter hitter — and then lived up to expectations by batting .533 in the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. But even his mighty bat wasn’t enough to prevent pitching meltdowns by the likes of Chad Billingsley, Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton.
The next year, after serving a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance, he wasn’t the same hitter, but it didn’t much matter, as the Dodgers lost a second consecutive NLCS to the Phillies thanks to a Dodgers pitching staff that racked up a 7.38 earned-run average.
Manny Ramirez wasn’t enough without pitching. Manny Machado won’t be enough without pitching.
If the Dodgers front office can steal this star, they need to immediately get back to work on trying to steal a championship.