The bully to the north just got better

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. (A.P. Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Los Angeles Dodgers own the franchise that plays to the south with a lifetime record of 518-419.

This past year, the San Diego Padres went all in with a payroll of $249 million, while the Dodgers fell to fifth place at $223 million. It made no difference, as the Dodgers won nine of 13 games against San Diego.

And now, the Dodgers won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and structured a clever deal to avoid high luxury tax penalties. Ohtani signed for $680 million over ten years, the most generous contract in the history of the sport.

Ohtani will ultimately help the Dodgers on both sides of the ball. However, next season, he will be recovering from surgery to repair a tear in his UCI. As a pitcher, he has won 38 games and lost 19 with an ERA of 3.01 and a WHIP of 1.08. Concentrating only on batting, Ohtani may even outdo this past year’s offensive performance– 44 home runs, B.A. .304, OBP .412, WAR 6.6.

The Dodgers also have a winning manager in Dave Roberts. He was drafted in 1994 by the Detroit Tigers in the 28th round and played for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Dodgers, and the Padres as an outfielder from 2005 to 2006.

In 2010, the Padres hired him to replace Rick Renteria as first base coach and later bench coach before he left San Diego in 2015. In June of that year, he managed the team for one day after Bud Black was fired by new general manager A. J. Preller in August of 2014.

In November of the following year, the Dodgers chose him to manage the team. In the meantime, the Padres hired and fired a number of managers—Black, Pat Murphy, Andy Green, Rod Barajas, Jayce Tinger, and Bob Melvin. Mike Shildt will be the seventh manager in the Preller era, which began in August 2014.

Without Ohtani this last year, the Dodgers have bested the Padres in several important categories.

Win %- 606 to 506

Run differential- +194.0 to 104.0

Runs per game- 5.53 to 4.64

Hits per game- 8.72 to 8.12

RBI per game- 5.35 to 4.44

Slugging %- 4.51 to 4.13

The two teams were close in batting average (L.A. .257 to S.D. 243)—-without Ohtani’s bat.

He will join a lineup that includes Mookie Betts (OPS .987), Freddy Freeman (.977), Max Muncy (.808), and Will Smith (.797). The Padres lost their best hitter—Juan Soto (OPS .929)—and will have to depend on Xander Bogaerts (.790), Manny Machado (.781), and Fernando Tatis Jr. (.771) to provide the offense that was missing last year.

According to offensive data, the Padres ranked 13th in OPS at .742. The five top teams in batting were the Atlanta Braves (.845), Los Angeles Dodgers (.795), Texas Rangers (.789), Tampa Bay Rays (.776), and Houston Astros (.768). Having the third-highest payroll obviously made little difference offensively.

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In 2023, Ohtani hit 44 home runs, had an average of .304, an OBP of .412, WAR 6.6. As a pitcher, he has won 38 games and lost 19 with an ERA of 3.01 and a WHIP of 1.08.

The Dodgers also have a winning manager in Dave Roberts. He was drafted in 1994 by the Detroit Tigers in the 28th round, and in 2001, made it to the big leagues in L.A. In 2010, the Padres hired him to replace Rick Renteria as first base coach and then bench coach. Roberts also managed the team for one day after Bud Black was fired by new general manager A. J. Preller in August 2014.

Obviously, the third-highest payroll made little difference offensively for the Padres. And this year, San Diego’s budget will shrink.

On February 23, the Padres will begin Spring Training against the Dodgers. New manager Mike Shildt should remind his players that the Los Angeles Dodgers are not invincible. Last year, the Padres stunned the Dodgers (owners of 111 regular season games) by winning the National League Division Series 3-1.

While the Dodgers just got a lot better, the Padres will have to compete with a lower payroll while missing outfielder Juan Soto and starting pitchers Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, and Seth Lugo, as well as closer Josh Hader.

In 2024, Preller faces a huge challenge with less money–and no one like Shohei Ohtani on the roster.

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