As long as the Los Angeles Dodgers are paying attorneys at the rate of $20 million-per-divorce -- the approximate annual salary of a top-line free agent -- no one expects them to contend for a Hot Stove League championship.
But no one expected them to get more significant work done than the Angels at this point of the off-season, either.
How is this happening? Dodgers over Angels in the free-agent marketplace? Call it the biggest crosstown upset since UCLA 13, USC 9.
The Angels had jammed their saddlebags with Arte Moreno's cash and his declaration to spend what it took to reload their offense. That meant you, Carl Crawford.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers made it clear that the Crawfords and Cliff Lees weren't in their budget.
As it turned out, Crawford wasn't in the Angels' budget, either. Whatever "value" that Moreno and his general manager, Tony Reagins, put on the free agent left-fielder -- using their special actuarial tables and amortization schedules -- didn't jibe with the reality of this year's goods. Boston hit them in the face with its own pie chart.
The trouble with this loss, in particular, is that the Angels set themselves -- or more precisely, their fans -- up for it. They raised hopes and seemed to be in the driver's seat for Crawford, especially after the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez.
Unfortunately, this winter, free agents are going to be overpaid. It's not 2003-04 when you could sign Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar to relative bargain contracts.
This market required a gambler's heart, a steel-lined stomach and a willingness to smile and say, "It's only money."
The Angels just couldn't do it.
Yes, the acquisitions of veteran lefties Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi to fatten up the bullpen are underrated moves. And the peripheral buzz is that the Angels are still in the hunt for third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Even so, in Angel Stadium, Beltre would more likely resemble the mediocre run-producer he was in Seattle than the monster he was in Fenway Park.
All of this makes the Dodgers look pretty good, at least by comparison, even with their baggage. The most significant name they acquired -- or make that reacquired -- during last week's winter meetings was Jamie McCourt.
Not by choice, of course. She was re-installed as a big-time player in the team's ongoing melodrama by a judge, and the 5-foot-2, 100-pound Boston native can't play left field, where the Dodgers could use someone with equal clout, just in a bigger pair of pants.
But there was good news, there, too. The prevailing hope is that Jamie McCourt now will be in a position to force money-juggling ex-hubby Frank to sell the team, thus freeing it to behave like a large-market franchise, once again, one of these years.
As for the actual team, GM Ned Colletti was aggressive even before the meetings and solidified the starting rotation. Maybe he figured he had to get busy, before Jamie returned and had a chance to buy another mansion.
Whatever his motivation, it worked. Under the circumstances, having six starters -- including just-signed veterans Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland -- before Christmas counts as a happy surprise. Throw in a couple of deals that marginally increase the team's power and you get an early Hot Stove lead over the underperforming Angels.
Of course, beating each other in December isn't the hard part. That would be beating their identical 80-82 records, starting in April.