The Los Angeles Dodgers' record payroll in 2013 has created expectations every bit as large, but first baseman Adrian Gonzalez isn't concerned.
"You deal with expectations by playing the game right," Gonzalez said as Opening Day approached.
Simple as that sounds, the Dodgers don't have to look very far to find an example of a team with an expensive roster, multiple All-Stars and great expectations that has been a huge disappointment. The Los Angeles Lakers went into their season with all of the same characteristics and are fighting just to make the playoffs as the NBA season winds down.
"Definitely -- a talent-laden team, huge expectations, 'championship or bust' expectations," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of the parallels.
The Dodgers and Lakers share another connection. NBA Hall of Famer and former Laker Magic Johnson is a member of the ownership group that bought the Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion less than a year ago, investing massively to upgrade the roster, the scouting department and Dodger Stadium itself in the months since that purchase.
"Expectations? I told them, 'Enjoy it,'" Johnson said of the pressure created by that overhaul. "Shoot -- we want that. What do you want -- to be picked last? I don't want to be picked last. I don't want to be saying, 'Hey, we're not going to have a good season.' Enjoy expectations. That's what it's all about.
"I love it. It reminds me of the old Dodgers, the old Lakers. I told them, 'You think y'all have pressure? We had pressure, too. We loved it.' We loved that, 'Oh, the Lakers are the team to beat.' OK, come on. Let's go."
Johnson called the need for leadership to emerge on the made-over Dodgers "the last piece of the puzzle" and challenged several players this spring to take on their share of that role.
"He talked about being a Kurt Rambis-type leader through effort. He kind of used that comparison talking to me and Mark," Ellis said, referring to himself and veteran second baseman Mark Ellis. "He talked about Adrian being more of a Kareem-type leader, quiet and stoic. He said he was kind of more like Matt (Kemp) when he played.
"It was fun to be a Laker for a day."