Friday, August 23, 2013
'New' Dodgers worried about wins, not past
By Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES -- Adrian Gonzalez didn't look like a player who had just defeated his former team as he sat in front of his locker Friday night.
His demeanor had little to do with his 0-for-3 performance at the plate during the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2-0 win over the Boston Red Sox and everything to do with not wanting to rehash a time in his life he had moved on from a year ago.
Adrian Gonzalez, right, celebrates Friday's win with Kenley Jansen. Gonzalez, a former Red Sox player, was in no mood after the game to talk about his past in Boston.
"As long as we talk about the game," Gonzalez said as he got dressed when asked whether he was ready to talk. It was not a surprising request given the number of Boston media in town to cover the game and break down the aftermath of one of the biggest trades in baseball history.
About a year ago, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a nine-player trade in which the Dodgers took on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary and that completely changed the face of both teams. The deal brought Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles, making the Dodgers instant contenders, and gave Boston the financial flexibility to move forward and put together one of the best teams in baseball again.
The deal can be viewed as a win-win for both teams one year later, but for most of the players who left Boston and came to Los Angeles, there will always be a bitter taste in their mouths for the way things ended. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett were vilified as overpaid crybabies and busts on their way out the door.
"It [ticked] me off so much, the things I had said about me," Crawford said before the series with the Red Sox. "I have the type of spirit that, if you say something to me, I'm going to say something back."
Crawford went 2-for-3 on Friday with one run and two stolen bases but didn't address reporters before or after the game. He did admit during an on-field television interview after the game that he'd be lying if he said the three-game series against Boston didn't mean more, while adding, "That was a great win; now we want to get the other two."
Gonzalez was slightly more reserved in his comments after the game about his former team.
"It's just another game," Gonzalez said. "We prepare the same way we did against everyone else. It's just like when I faced the Padres when I got traded from there. It's just another game."
Of course, it wasn't just another game, just as the blockbuster trade wasn't just another trade. This game meant something more, and it certainly felt like something more.
"Any time you see guys that get traded from one team to another, they always want to play well," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "That's just naturally there. There was a big trade. There's been a lot made of it. I think it's been good for both teams and I think it's a big game that they want to play well in."
Of the $262.5 million that Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Punto are owed, Punto accounts for just $1.5 million of that total. His value to the team this season, especially in the clubhouse, is hard to quantify. While he was thought of as a throw-in when the trade went down, he has become one of the most integral pieces in the deal and on the Dodgers this season.
Punto was the only player in the deal who had no problems speaking about the trade and his time in Boston before or after Friday's game in the Dodgers' clubhouse. In fact, the sight of 15 reporters crowded around Punto's locker before the game caused more than a couple of players to heckle him from a distance that he was getting the spotlight for the "Nick Punto Trade."
"I loved it there," Punto said of his time in Boston. "I thought it was an unbelievable place to play. I loved the accountability factor. You'd go to the grocery store and get hitting advice. That part is awesome. But we were going from a last-place team to a potential first-place team, and that's the goal; the goal is to get to the postseason. It was a great move in that regard."
Beckett, who hasn't thrown a baseball in two months and is out for the season after thoracic outlet syndrome surgery was actually in the Dodgers' clubhouse Friday and is expected to be with the team during the three-game series against Boston.
"He feels good," Mattingly said. "I talked to him a little bit. He's excited to be around for a few days. I don't think he's staying around for a long time. He said he feels good. His fingers feel good. It looks like he's in great shape. It looks like he lost some weight. He looks really good."
While it was hard to tell from the expressions on their faces, everyone who came to Los Angeles from Boston a year ago looks and feels better than they did before. Sometimes a change of scenery and a change of climate is all you need to restart your career -- and maybe the fortunes of the franchise that traded for you.
"New York, Philly, Boston, there's just more of an intense kind of fan," Mattingly said. "Not in a bad way towards L.A., but they're a little more laid back out here. But on the East Coast, you kind of can't go out anywhere, and when you go out, that's where it changes things. I think, in general, you got to have guys that don't worry about it, that are taking care of the field. If you're letting everything else affect you, what's going on, if you can't take care of your business on the field, then you're in trouble in a place like that."
Mattingly wasn't speaking specifically about Gonazalez and Crawford, but it's clear they're both happier now in Los Angeles than they ever were in Boston, and the Dodgers obviously are the beneficiaries of their happier dispositions this season. Gonzalez is batting .299 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs, and Crawford is batting .289 with five home runs and 23 RBIs.
"It was obviously a big trade, which is an understatement," Mattingly said. "Getting Adrian was big. I knew we weren't getting Carl until this year, and I'm excited about that going forward, and Josh too. It changed the look of our club. Looking back on it now, it helped both clubs. Adrian has been solid for us, Nick seemed like almost a throw-in and he's been great for us, and Carl has been good. We're happy with it and they seem to be doing fine so it was a good deal."