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By Jon Weisman
Not that it means anything, but the Dodgers are winners of a kind.
Twice a year, in a forward-looking gaze, ESPN.com ranks all 30 Major League teams “in an attempt to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years.” In the newest rankings, the Dodgers are No. 1.
It’s a nice reflection of the building strength of the organization and a reminder that, despite the disappointment of the past month, that all is not lost. But it’s admittedly an ephemeral honor.
After all, when ESPN.com debuted its Future Power Rankings in February 2012, the Dodgers were saddled with the 19th spot, so the site wasn’t exactly effective in predicting how the Dodgers would perform over the next three seasons, let alone five. In fact, even that unimpressive ranking was called “a leap of faith,” despite the promise of an impending ownership change.
At the time, under the Dodger Thoughts headline “Changes in MLB come too fast for long-term predictions,” I called the whole thing “folly” …
No one needs to detail to me the Dodgers’ current weaknesses, but the fact is that the franchise arguably has the best position player and the best pitcher in the National League, a farm system full of pitching potential, few contract commitments beyond 2013 and a volcano of TV money about to pour in — money that can be used to improve not only the on-field talent but the folks wearing the suits and sport coats.
The 2012 season, though not a lost cause, isn’t one to be optimistic about as a Dodger fan. But after that, do you really think there are going to be 18 other teams better positioned than the Dodgers for success?
ESPN’s biggest misgivings are in the category of “management” — defined as “value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staff” — in which the Dodgers were given six points, the fewest of any team except for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. But it’s sort of absurd to look at the Dodger management of February 2012 and extrapolate that it will tread such shallow water over the next five years. Though there are no guarantees, to say that there can be a quick turnaround in this category is an understatement.
Similarly, rankings of talent at both the major-league and minor-league level fluctuate like crazy year-to-year. If you want any evidence, consider how highly the Dodgers would have ranked three years ago, at the midpoint between back-to-back National League Championship Series appearances.
In terms of the Dodgers’ NL rivals, ESPN ranks the Padres 20th, Giants 17th, Rockies 15th and Diamondbacks in the top 10. There’s a methodology to it, but I think that methodology is the product of a glorified guessing game.
The Future Rankings are definitely a conversation starter — they got me started this morning — but that’s about as far as I would take them.
And there’s nothing wrong with a conversation starter, if it isn’t taken too seriously. Certainly, the Giants can have a nice laugh about this, the Diamondbacks a rueful chuckle.
Honestly, I think the ESPN Future Power Rankings would make more sense if they simply took the word “Future” out. Most of the value of the evaluation has an expiration date closer to the next year than the next five. And in that respect, I think there is something find hope in the Dodgers being No. 1.