Dodgers spring opener rekindles Katy Perry Syndrome

Paul Konerko has haunted the Dodgers since leaving in 1998. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

There’s an old adage that says if you love something, set it free, and if it’s meant to be it will come back to you.

If that adage was applied to Major League Baseball, it would read something more like this: “If you love a player, set him free, and watch him post sick numbers that will give you nightmares for years to come!”

Every team has had the “pleasant” experience of trading away a player and then watching him make them rue the day they made that trade. Other nightmarish incidents involve a team deciding that a player isn’t worth re-signing and watching him sign a free-agent contract with another team.

I couldn’t help but be reminded by the “Katy Perry Syndrome” that the Los Angeles Dodgers have created when the Dodgers played their first 2012 spring training game against the Chicago White Sox on March 5.

What is “Katy Perry Syndrome,” you might be asking?

Perry has a new song out called “The One That Got Away.” Thus, Katy Perry Syndrome is the angst that the Dodgers (more like me!) felt the other day at Camelback Ranch when they watched one of the ultimate “ones that got away”: Paul Konerko.

Konerko was the Dodgers’ “Jerry Sands on steroids” as a “can’t-miss” prospect in 1998. When the Dodgers gave up on Konerko and traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 for reliever Jeff Shaw, no one knew the full impact of that decision.

However, Dodgers fans have been reminded of that huge mistake for the past 13 years, thanks to Konerko’s 396 homers, 1,261 RBIs and .282 average. Oh, the tangled web we weave, when we trade Konerko for a guy to relieve!

There have been many other Katy Perry Syndrome blunders from the Dodgers over the years (Pedro Martinez to the Montreal Expos in 1993 for Delino DeShields?). Rehashing all of those failed decisions, though, is too much for me to stomach.

Instead, how about looking at the handful of current major-league players besides Konerko who came up with the Dodgers, but were prematurely abandoned?

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers – Third base has been a black hole of suckiness (I know that’s not a word, but it’s appropriate here!) since … well, Beltre! Beltre was a stud with the Dodgers and even spanked 48 homers for the team in 2004. However, management didn’t want to pay him what he thought he was worth, so the Dodgers let Beltre leave via free agency in 2004. Brilliant move, Dodgers! All Beltre has done is smack 310 homers, drive in 1,113 RBIs and hit .276 over his career. Over that period, the Dodgers have gone through more third basemen than Christina Aguilera has all-you-can-eat buffets.

Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals – What is one of the Dodgers’ weakest positions in 2012? Left field. What would it be like to plug Werth into that spot in Chavez Ravine? Werth had a ton of promise with the Dodgers when the team let him test free agency in 2006. All Werth has done over the past four seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Nationals is hit 107 homers and drive in 309 runs! Anyone else sensing that the Dodgers need to think long and hard when one of their young players tries to test the free-agent waters?

Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates – Third free agent verse, same as the first … young player not deemed worthy of the money by the Dodgers. In 2006, the Dodgers refused to pay Hanrahan the money, so he bolted for greener pastures. This has turned out to be another “solid” decision by the Dodgers. Hanrahan has saved 67 games over the past two seasons for the Pirates. Last season, Hanrahan had 40 saves and a stellar 1.83 ERA.
Among other current major leaguers the Dodgers have given up on are the likes of catchers Russell Martin (New York Yankees) and Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians) and pitcher Edwin Jackson (Washington Nationals). If I started listing every player mistake the Dodgers have made, though, I would just curl up in the fetal position and repeat the phrase “Help me, Vin Scully!”

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