It’s weird. The Dodgers today own the best record in baseball. They also have the second-best team ERA and average nearly five runs per game. They have a seven-game lead in the average National League West two days before August, which I suppose could be an edge comparable to beginning a 100-yard dash 15 feet from the finish line.
The weird part: They are in trouble.
It is obviously a team built best to win from April to September, a team that could play .500 ball in the next two months and still reach 93 wins. That would mean the Rockies or Giants having to play 15 games above .500 during that span while hoping the Dodgers suddenly become average just to catch them.
I’d bet all the Coors in Denver and all the crab in San Francisco that won’t happen. Would be some great eats, though.
But the Dodgers have come to that line in a season when contenders must weigh the consequence of overreacting for an opportunity to win it all now. When you must decide if a chance at the Hope Diamond is worth parting with one or two of your precious stones whose value could continue rising over time.
It shouldn’t shock anyone if they get carried away by Friday’s trade deadline and offer too fat a package for pitching help. Their last World Series title came in 1988. I know. I was there. It was forever ago. Kirk Gibson might need a wheelchair to get around the bases now.
It’s also true the Phillies got a whole lot better Wednesday and instantly became the NL’s best team in acquiring left-hander Cliff Lee, which means the Dodgers must confront the thought of facing Lee and Cole Hamels (who has owned Los Angeles like iPod does the music player market) in consecutive games of a playoff series.
It’s enough to burn the mustache right off Ned Colletti’s lip.
Desperation, though, is never a flattering trait. It doesn’t wear well. The Dodgers could try it on for size this week. They might try going a little loopy and mix a gold shirt with purple trousers. It would be a mistake.
Not because the idea that you should always do everything to win now and worry about the future later is mistaken. Hardly. If tomorrow isn’t promised, you can bet championship rings aren’t.
But you also can’t ignore history, and baseball’s is pretty clear: Those who trade for an ace to win a World Series more often than not aren’t the ones spraying champagne over each other while planning a parade.
Consider these numbers from an ESPN report: Three pitchers traded at the mid-season point have won a World Series game the past 32 years. Since 1996, only two pitchers dealt at the trading deadline have won any post-season games. None of the five was Cy Young Award winners. None was close to the caliber of Roy Halladay.
CC Sabathia was last year when he was traded to the Brewers. Then the playoffs arrived, and he offered an ERA in the neighborhood of 8.
The Blue Jays today are not shooting for the moon in what they are demanding for Halladay. They are flinging the arrow all the way to Neptune. They want the keys to the bank, the combination to the vault, personalized bags in which to stash the cash and a waiting limousine curbside with a police escort to the airport.
This probably would mean the Dodgers having to include Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw in a deal with Toronto.
This would mean giving up too much if you’re L.A.
Billingsley is struggling. His ERA has jumped from 2.73 on June 9 to 3.96. He has been credited with one win in his last eight starts and has thrown the third most pitches in the majors this season. He’s obviously tuckered out.
He also turned 25 on Wednesday.
Kershaw is 21. And left-handed, and the owner of one of the game’s best breaking balls. And is 5-0 in his last eight starts, allowing three earned runs in 38 innings this month.
The idea for L.A. is to somehow match a rotation the Phillies now own. You don’t do that by giving up young, talented, established starters. You don’t trade front-line pitching for great pitching.
James Loney? Trade the first baseman if you must.
Russell Martin? I’d pack the bags of that three-homer catcher and rally killer extraordinaire myself.
Andre Ethier? They could survive without him.
But not Billingsley or Kershaw. They can’t be involved in any package.
The Dodgers should do everything in their power to add pitching depth the next few days as Philadelphia did for Lee (translation: not sell your soul to get it), realize acquiring an ace such as Halladay has hardly proved a guarantee for winning the World Series and remember this point:
Always do what you can to win now. But don’t get loopy in the process.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on “The Sports Scribes” on KDWN (720 AM).