The Los Angeles Dodgers are a franchise in flux. They are normally a proud and decorated team known for their stellar farm system, exuberant fans and talented major league roster.
Today, as we all anxiously await the beginning of a new year, the Dodgers anxiously await the beginning of a new era; an era they hope is a successful one.
Since the unfortunate departure of Manny Ramirez in August of 2010, the Dodgers have spiraled out of control both on and off the field.
From the former owner Frank McCourt’s lack of money and lack of security in the parking lots to the unfortunate opening day incident and of course the inconsistencies on the field, the team is not what they once were.
Dodger fans will try and stay optimistic as I’m sure Cubs and Red Sox fans were when their curses were only 23 years young. But let’s face it, the Dodgers aren’t going to be playing October baseball anytime soon.
I recently wrote a couple of pieces, one grading the offseason moves of the team, the other discussing ways to win back the fans. I have yet to write a piece discussing how the team would improve in 2012 because they won’t.
Here are seven reasons the Dodgers will be even worse this coming season.
The most interesting thing about the end of the Frank and Jamie McCourt era in Los Angeles is the optimism shared by almost everyone about the team’s future.
Commissioner Bud Selig really holds the cards in this situation. Regardless of the multiple groups that have emerged as potential buyers (Magic Johnson, Larry King and a slew of former players have all expressed interest), Selig will have the final say.
Selig's say coupled with the fact that it took almost two years to get McCourt and his lack of money out of the owner’s box, I can’t imagine how long it will take baseball and their old school thought process to get someone new in the seat of power.
Until the Dodgers have a new owner, a new payroll and a new approach to the team’s future, nothing will change. Ask the New Orleans Hornets how life without an owner is. Actually, ask the Los Angeles Lakers.
No owner means no real productivity, no moves in the right direction, no way to truly get the ball rolling. No way to build around the National League’s only true five-tool player and best young pitcher.
In case any of you haven’t heard yet, the NBA is back and better than ever. David Stern, despite his recent blunders, can sleep sound at night knowing his league is putting out one heck of a product.
Come early April when baseball picks back up and the NBA is in crunch time, baseball will have no choice but to take a back seat.
This should come as troubling news for the Dodgers who now find themselves the third-most popular franchise in the city. The Dodgers' biggest nightmare come April is the dual successes of both the Lakers and Clippers.
Not only will the Dodgers be putting out a somewhat inferior product on a daily basis, but they will be doing so to a less than capacity crowd.
LA sports fans will be so preoccupied with NBA hoopla that the Dodgers will see their attendance and revenue affected for the first several months of the season.
That's not the way any new owner wants to start his tenure.
The Dodgers used to be able to skate by, racking up some easy wins here and there because of the fact that they played in the NL West.
What used to be a fairly weak division has now turned into a young, athletic and dangerous one. Any team can pick up steam and take control at any given moment.
Last season the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the entire baseball world with their regular season run and short lived, but existent nonetheless, postseason heroics.
The year before that it was the starting rotation and the youth of the San Francisco Giants that captured the spotlight. Often forgotten is the 2007 Colorado Rockies team that wound up in the World Series.
Yet another aspect of the Dodgers' upcoming season that is truly unfortunate is the fact that they can no longer look at their division schedule and expect to just take two out of three from the Padres, Rockies or Diamondbacks. The NL West is deep, young and hungry.
The Dodgers are going to have to fight for every win they can get next season. Come the dog days of summer, that is something I’m not sure all 25 guys will be willing to do.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the piece, the Dodgers were once known for having the deepest and most promising farm system in all of baseball. They drafted well, groomed their draft picks and molded them into successful big league ballplayers.
So far this offseason, the Dodgers' biggest signings have been players whose ages are 33, 33, 35 and 35. I don’t know if Ned Colletti pays any attention to the industry he works in, but that isn’t exactly the recipe for success.
Trotting out washed up veterans will not only get you more losses than it will wins, but it will frustrate the already disgruntled fanbase.
If you know you’re in a bit of a rebuilding phase and you know you’re not in a position to compete, then roll the dice and see what you’ve already got within.
If I could tell Colletti what to do, it would be something like this: call up some young guys, mix up the lineup every night when someone isn’t getting it done and take a chance on someone you drafted the year before.
Don’t just go through the motions that haven’t worked year in and year out for the past 23 years.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell him anything. Even if I could, he probably wouldn’t listen.
Hong Chik-Kuo is a way to remember the Dodgers of yesteryear. The 30-year-old just finished his seventh, and worst, season with the club. He, like many Dodgers of old, was found by the Dodgers, signed by the Dodgers and has thus far stayed with the Dodgers.
Kuo, an All-Star in 2010, had a less than favorable 2011. He battled injuries all season long that affected his ability on the mound.
He finished the season with a 9.00 ERA and a WHIP just below 2.00. Kuo was normally a rock that manager Don Mattingly and former manager Joe Torre could lean on if need be. His injuries hurt the pen and the team in 2011.
Having a solid bullpen is by far one of the most important tools for sustained success throughout a baseball season. A solid bullpen is something the Dodgers have not had in years.
Whether it was former closer Jonathan Broxton blowing saves in the 2008 playoffs or Kuo collapsing during 2011, the Dodgers simply have not been able to put together a consistent and strong pen. It's a microcosm of the entire organization.
Following Mike Piazza, the Dodgers haven’t had a true stud behind the plate for most of my lifetime (I’m 20). They haven’t even had a consistent catcher for as long as I can remember (yeah, I’m talking to you Russell Martin). Yet management almost refuses to address the position.
The last 10 World Series champions have had the following guys behind the plate when the last out was made: Rod Barajas, Bengie Molina, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, A.J. Pierzynski, Yadier Molina, Jason Varitek again, Carlos Ruiz, Jorge Posada, Buster Posey, and Yadier Molina again.
It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out the point I’m trying to make. A solid catcher that can be depended on in crunch time is crucial to winning a World Series (which means winning games in general).
He’s the middle linebacker to an NFL defense and the first man off the bench to an NBA team. He has to do his job and then some.
I am a firm believer in the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child." It also takes a village (or a solid lineup top to bottom) to be a successful winning ball club.
Much like my “you need a catcher” argument, my next argument entitled, “you need more than one offensive stud and one Cy Young pitcher” argument is quite similar. The Dodgers have very little to throw at opposing teams other than Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.
The inconsistencies in the lineup, bullpen and starting rotation so diminish the achievements of Kemp and Kershaw it’s almost sickening.
The Dodgers have not had a dangerous roster top to bottom since the departure of Manny Ramirez and I doubt they acquire a David Freese type of player anytime soon.
Get used to mediocrity Dodgers fans. It’s going to be around for a while.