Sportswriter Molly Knight reveals all in her latest piece of narrative nonfiction titled The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers' Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse. As a SoCal native, Knight has written about baseball for the past eight seasons; she's also written for ESPN Magazine, Glamour, and Variety. Knight spent much of career working closely with the Dodgers and in The Best Team Money Can Buy, she offers up insights into a team filled with "personality, talent and moods, [as well as] the occasional dollop of jealousy."
Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, I visited Dodger stadium as much as any average Angeleno, maybe even a little bit less. Then, during high school, I started playing softball and though I was far from a natural athlete I enjoyed the game and team camaraderie. I took a liking to baseball too and began watching every game I could, learning about the players, and attending games. This was all prior to when the McCourts owned the Dodgers, a tumultuous period of which Knight writes about with a distinct distaste. Around 2004, during those years which live in Dodger infamy, I remember attending games and noticing that the stadium seemed rundown, security was nowhere to be seen, and inebriated fans were a dime a dozen. Like most Angelenos, I wondered what had happened to the Dodgers? Thankfully, all of that changed when the esteemed Guggenheim Group took over ownership in 2012.
The Best Team Money Can Buy takes a close look at the perfect storm of ownership debacles, player trades and injuries, cultural influences, and management decisions that have effected the dodgers we know and love today. It's an interesting, easy to read, history of one of baseball's most beloved teams and whether or not you chant "Beat L.A." or paint your face blue, Knight's book reports valuable insights and intelligence.
I'll post a complete review in a few weeks. For now I'd like to share a few notes from the reading I recently attended for The Best Team Money Can Buy during which Molly Knight provided some sports acumen during a brief audience Q&A.
How did you get access to the team?
Fans are eager to know how Knight got the inside scoop on everything from Dodger golden boy Clayton Kershaw's record setting $215 million contract extension to the time fellow pitcher Zach Greinke tossed right fielder Yasiel Puig's luggage into the street during a team trip. Well, Knight explains her connection to the Dodgers as a "peer to peer relationship" due to "coming up with these guys" during the hectic McCourt era. Knight entered the clubhouse in the mid 2000s and she explains that as a journalist she had information regarding the McCourt's ownership, finances, and legal problems which made her an asset to the clubhouse.
Why can't Puig adjust his game?
Despite common misconceptions, Knight believes that it's not that Puig is unwilling or unable to reach his full hitting potential as a major league baseball-it's just that he's not mature enough…yet. Knight claims that she's sensitive to Puig's plight and that she respects him as a "man of color" foraging his way in the game but all that doesn't excuse his behavior in the clubhouse and his reputation as a "distraction" to his own team. She believes that if Puig attended "early b.p. (batting practice), [hit the] weight room, and watched video" to study his opponents "the sky would be the limit" for him. Ultimately, Knight says that "it's up to [Puig]" to adjust his game and that he "hasn't done anything to warrant an exit from L.A." anytime soon.
What's up with the Dodgers' (lack of) team chemistry?
Now that the Dodgers have gotten rid of "me first players," (a comment that seemed like a slight jab towards career long Dodger Matt Kemp, the suspected source of some of Knight's more juicy stories) Knight says that the team is on their way to creating the fervor required for a team to make it to the playoffs. Once the Dodgers get that far it'll be up to management to rely on the so-called "new school, numbers driven point of view" to fill their roster with players who make every at bat count. Knight states that many of the Dodgers "are being paid to hit home runs" (can't argue with that) so when it comes time for more critical at-bats players sometimes can't negotiate the difference in strategy. Criticism aside, it is the Dodgers' future players, like top prospect Corey Seager, who offer a bright future for both the team and the fans. Because it's when players mature together on a team that unbreakable chemistry, trust, and respect is cultivated. Plus, Knight says Seager's "the best player in a while," even better than Joc Pederson- to which the crowd gasped in disbelief.