Often, events in sports come across as a proxy for a fictional story. So much of the time in the sporting world, a game or season or career is attached to a series of foreshadowing, metaphors, allegories and numerous other literary devices that make it seem like the sports world is just too cliché to be true.
Whether it’s the Seattle Seahawks tempting fate by passing on the 1-yard line in this year’s Super Bowl, the 2004 Boston Red Sox finding that the only way they could break their 86-year title drought was to come back from an unprecedented 3-0 series deficit against their archrival Yankees, or the “show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy”-esque tale of Dwayne Roloson and the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, professional sports leagues find a way to make these stories almost too entertaining to be true. No franchise has been more emblematic of this quality in the last few years as the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is what made Molly Knight’s, The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle To Build a Baseball Powerhouse, a attention-capturing read.
Knight takes you on the adventure of Guggenheim Partners (the Dodgers current owners) in trying to bring a championship to Los Angeles while galvanizing the city much like the Magic Johnson-led “showtime” Lakers did in the 1980s (Johnson has likely been made one of the more conspicuous members of the Guggenheim Partners for this purpose). She also details how the team’s former owner, Frank McCourt, plunged the team into bankruptcy in 2011, and how this has made the current owners make a point to reconcile with fans, reinvest in the city and wildly spend to the point where they have been the first team to surpass the New York Yankees in their team salary in the 21st century.
For the on-the-field side of things, Knight uses her insider knowledge of the Dodgers clubhouse to show you the ins and outs of stars like Clayton Kershaw, Zach Grienke, Matt Kemp, and Adrian Gonzalez, as well as the meteoric rise of Yasiel Puig. Much is learned in this book about the near-firing of manager Don Mattingly, what lead to the Dodgers playoff losses in 2013 and 2014, and the rising disdain in the clubhouse for the antics of Puig since his arrival to America from Cuba.
The book does a fantastic job of revealing the character and personality behind these stars while also doing the same for the role players, coaches and front office members of this team. As well, Knight encapsulates the Dodgers 42-8 run in 2013 perfectly as she shows the joviality and surrealism of that run while fittingly putting the confounding discovery and breakout of Yasiel Puig right in the centre of it. While perhaps it would have been interesting to more accurately show how well the team was grabbing the interest of the city and building the team’s brand locally, Knight reveals an impressive amount of intel of the clubhouse and manages to show the tone of each the 2013 and 2014 seasons very well for the Dodgers.
Today, the Dodgers are weeks away from another playoff run, while they are expected to employ a winner of the NL Cy Young award for the 4th time in 5 years, and stand as a collection of larger than life characters that boast the largest average attendance in the MLB. They have a new crop of young stars coming in such as Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, and have pockets deep enough to fill any potential holes that could arise on the field with one of the most respected front offices in the major leagues. With all that’s going on with this team, it would not come as a surprise that more drama in the near future could spark the need for a sequel to this book in a few years.