Big spending doesn't guarantee championships

December 18, 2012

By Michael Scott
Special to

We here in the Midwest understand the value of a dollar. It's not like we just throw money around, right?

That's SO LA!  (We'll just look past the $80 million the Tigers gave Anibal Sanchez.)

We've been told that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Apparently, this message hasn't made it out to the West Coast.

Let's take a look at the Lakers. Ever heard of “the best laid plans?”

General manager Mitch Kupchak thought he had a pretty foolproof plan to get Kobe Bryant his sixth NBA title. Kupchak went out and got Steve Nash from the Suns, then traded for the Piece de resistance, Dwight Howard.

Granted, it's not like there wasn't risk involved. Nash is 38 years old but only missed four games last season. Howard was recovering from back surgery and, in case you hadn't heard, had only one year left on his contract.

The Lakers have three certain Hall of Famers -- Kobe, Nash, and Pau Gasol -- and arguably the best center in the NBA. They have four winners of the Defensive Player of the Year Award -- three for Howard and one for Metta World Peace -- and added former All-Star Antawn Jamison.

This couldn't go wrong, could it?

Wrong it's gone, and coach Mike Brown was fired after just five games.

Then the Lakers either did or didn't ask another Hall of Famer, Phil Jackson, to return for third term as coach. Then they either did or didn't wait before hiring Mike D'Antoni, who was fresh off getting fired in New York.

There's no question that the Lakers have been the biggest disappointment in the NBA so far.


Even if you can't buy a championship, that hasn't stopped the Angels and Dodgers from trying, either.

This week's stunning five-year, $125 million deal with Josh Hamilton showed that owner Arte Moreno is willing to put his money where his mouth is -- again. If there's a cool toy on the market, Moreno wants it.

Last year, it was Albert Pujols. This year, after losing out on Zack Greinke, Moreno had to have Hamilton.

The funny thing is, the reason the Angels didn't make the playoffs in 2012 was pitching, both starters and closer.

But in that area, Moreno went for bargains, with oft-injured Tommy Hansen, middle-of-the-road starter Joe Blanton, and closer Ryan Madsen, who missed all of last year after Tommy John Surgery.

So their pitching remains suspect, while they have the Rookie of the Year in Mike Trout, Hamilton, Pujols, slugger Mark Trumbo and fleet center fielder Peter Bourjos. Their fifth outfielder, Vernon Wells is due $42 million over the next two years.

When in doubt, just buy, buy and buy some more.


In a whole new category, we have the Dodgers. If any team should have learned from the Lakers, you'd think it would be one partly owned by Magic Johnson, right?

But since taking over the team in the middle of last season, Magic and company have spent $650 Million. Let that one soak in for a second.

First, they added Hanley Ramirez -- two years, $31.5 million -- in a deal with the Marlins in July. Then they traded with the salary-dumping Red Sox in August, picking up Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.

Crawford -- with five years, $102.5 million left on his deal -- played in 31 games last season after elbow surgery. Beckett, who was 7-14 last season, has two years and $33.5 million remaining.  The good news is that the Boston will kick in $11.7 million of Gonzalez's deal.  The bad news is there's still another $115.3 million to go.

With those big-name, big-salary additions, you'd have to figure LA was all set to take over the NL West. Uh, not so fast.

So Magic's group, unhappy with their starting pitching behind Clayton Kershaw, made a quick stop by the ATM this offeason and bought Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin for a cool $210 million. They also signed closer Brandon League for $22 million over three years.


The beauty of baseball is that the season plays out over 162 games. Championships are won in the Fall Classic, not the Holiday Season and smart investments usually pay off.

Hopefully for the Tiger and their fans, the Sanchez signing was a smart move.

But I get the feeling the Angels and Dodgers will experience what the Lakers are learning right now -- a good idea in the heat of the moment doesn't always translate into success.