Expensive Dodgers team full of hope

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Expensive Dodgers team full of hope

GLENDALE, Arizona - Players wander into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spacious clubhouse all morning, exchanging handshakes and hugs, asking about health and family, smiles all around.

The weight of expectations from what will likely be baseball’s highest payroll are nowhere to be found. With six weeks until opening day, eight months until the World Series starts, there’s plenty of time for that.

Right now, the middle of February, the first day of spring training, the focus is not on what this team might be able to do, but on setting the foundation to even give themselves a chance to get there.

“All these expectations are just noise to me and noise to our club,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Tuesday, reporting day for pitchers and catchers at Camelback Ranch Stadium. “We should win the World Series and this and that, that’s all fine, that’s all good, but my job is to prepare this team to play and to cut out the noise.”

Mattingly has plenty to work with after the team’s owners went on a spending spree.

Stuck in bankruptcy, the Dodgers opened last season 12th in the majors with a payroll of $94.7 million.

After Frank McCourt sold the team in May, the new ownership group that includes Mark Walter, Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten whipped out the wallets, working out deals to acquire Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Brandon League.

The Dodgers kept handing out stacks of cash during the offseason, paying a combined $183 million to right-hander Zack Greinke and Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.

The wheeling and dealing sent the Dodgers payroll over $200 million, into luxury-tax range and likely ahead of the New York Yankees, baseball’s biggest spender the past 14 years.

A price tag like that brings expectations, particularly for a storied franchise that hasn’t been to the World Series since winning the title in 1988.

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