For all the hype created and long-term expense added, the Los Angeles Dodgers' talent/payroll accumulation guarantees them exactly nothing. Not for the rest of this season. And not beyond 2012.
And nobody knows it better than manager Don Mattingly.
"We don't think that we're going to show up and win, just because we got new guys," Mattingly said. "We're pretty realistic. We've got to play, and we know it."
We've never seen this big of a roster-altering deal this late in a season. Last week's blockbuster deal with the Red Sox rendered the July 31 non-waivers deadline irrelevant, and the Dodgers' talent grab since the All-Star break has grown their booklet of new player biographies to 25 pages, front and back.
And to ask a dramatically made-over roster, with eight new players added in the past six weeks, to put everything together, erase a short deficit in the standings and earn a playoff spot might be a stretch.
"I think we all know that we're in a short-term, short-run, sprint situation, and anything can happen — no matter what kind of guys you have playing," Mattingly said. "To me, our challenge is what kind of baseball are we going to play? What are we going to be?"
The immediate answer hasn't been pretty. The Dodgers arrived at Coors Field on Monday off two home games following the mega-deal, and by the time they left town, were facing a list of sobering issues.
We're not just talking about 10-0 and 8-4 losses before a sweep-avoiding 10-8 victory Wednesday tainted by the Rockies' seven-run bottom of the eighth.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Closer Kenley Jansen again is dealing with a heart-related issue that has sidelined him indefinitely. Concern was raised Monday, when he came into the blowout and quickly added to the deficit. After not pitching for five days, he didn't have his usual velocity, and was knocked around for four runs in 2/3 innings. Nobody knows when we'll see him on the mound again.
There also is concern that Chad Billingsley's latest elbow issue might shut him down for the rest of the season, costing the Dodgers their most-effective starter of late. Before going on the disabled list, Billingsley had gone 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
You know how crucial those two losses could be when Mattingly says, "it's still going to get back to our pitching. We have to pitch well enough every day to keep us in games." Look for the Dodgers to try to make another trade, although at this point, there isn't much left to acquire.
And one more thing. Make no mistake — the Rockies, Giants and rest of the National League will be gunning for a team that has picked up the "Yankees of the West" tag. Why, the Rockies' Jim Tracy managed the Dodgers' series as if it was his team's playoffs.
Facing deficits of 3 1/2 games in the NL West and 1 1/2 games in the wild-card race, the Dodgers' final five weeks will bring a very challenging schedule — more so than those of the Giants, Pirates and Braves.
Unlike the Giants, who will stay entirely within the NL West after this weekend's series against the Cubs, the Dodgers will face a crucial 10-game, out-of-division stretch Sept. 13-23: four games vs. St. Louis, three in Washington, and three in Cincinnati. The Dodgers also have six more cracks at the Giants: Sept. 7-9 in AT&T Park, and a season-ending series Oct. 1-3 in Dodger Stadium.
In contrast, the Braves have only two series remaining against playoff contenders: at home Sept. 14-16 against the Nationals and a season-ending series in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates already are done with the Cardinals, and other than that season-ending series against the Braves, will play only six games against a playoff contender: home-and-home series with the Reds.
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