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Gilding The Chrysanthemum

So the Los Angeles Dodgers went out and acquired Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers, apparently as a response to the Clayton Kershaw injury.

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Yu Darvish: the Dodgers’ answer, but was there really a question?

Most of the talking heads said they needed to make that move. One wonders what season those babblers have been watching lately, because they’re quite wrong. The Dodgers didn’t need to pick up Darvish–they just did it because they could, and as likely as not, they did it to keep him away from the rest of the competition.

They’re not likely to regret the move, but there may be one small downside to the trade: a boost to expectations that were already sky high…which could upset their balance and lead to major disappointment down the road. 

Despite getting bombed in his previous start, Darvish will probably pitch quite well for L.A. The only real downside is this: the Dodgers had already established themselves as the best team in baseball before the trade. Now, with Darvish in the fold, the writing will be very much on the wall going forward: anything less than a World Series win will be considered a failure around Chavez Ravine.

Tinkering with a team on a roll can sometimes be a very stupid idea. The A’s learned that in 2014: hello to Jon Lester–another top of the rotation starter–but goodbye to Yoenis Cespedes, and goodbye to the best recored in the league, and to momentum, and–ultimately–goodbye to any chance of avoiding a Wild Card spot and making it out of Kansas City alive.

The Dodgers did not, as likely as not, give up quite so much to get Darvish. That’s good, because for all the talk-up that Darvish got as the Rangers’ ace, the fact is he has not been nearly as great as his reputation would make him out to be.

His won-loss records have not been exceptional after posting a 16-9 his first season in 2012. His only postseason work has resulted in two losses in two starts–one in a Wild Card game, one in the ALDS. People rag on Clayton Kershaw’s playoffs record–they can’t sanely criticize him for anything else–but Darvish is not exactly an improvement. And don’t forget: there is an injury history there. Darvish missed an entire season (2015) because of arm trouble. If everyone expects him to be a keystone No. 2 starter, and suddenly he starts wincing with each pitch…that smoggy sky over Dodger Stadium might start falling in a hurry.

So this acquisition is not the lead-pipe cinch one might expect from the all we’ve heard from the chatterers. Does everything ride on Darvish being what the Dodgers are expecting of him? Of course not. As noted, they’re already riding the best record in baseball; how much better does anyone think L.A. needs to be in order to reach the promised land? The Dodgers acquiring a top of the rotation starter is, at this point, gilding the lily–or the chrysanthemum, or the peacock’s feather, depending upon your preference for Yu’s Japanese or Iranian heritage, respectively. The point is, they’re already good enough to win it all.

But, as we’ve seen, so are the Cubs–and they’re looking more like their old selves lately. Maybe the Nationals are good enough, too, though they remain suspect until they’ve actually done it. Of course, the same can be said for the Dodgers.

L.A. sports fans definitely have reason to be excited–they just need to remember, before they get too excited, that Hollywood loves plot turns. And for a team that’s been demolishing everything in its path so far, the only real, available plot turn for them is an unexpected defeat.

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