The Los Angeles Dodgers faithful have plenty of reasons to be upset over the less than spectacular 2012 campaign—about 200 million-plus reasons, to be exact. Failure leaves a sour taste in the mouth, without question, but that doesn't mean optimism can't refuel the hunger for next year.
Undoubtedly, the organization did not want to commemorate the 50-year mark at Chavez Ravine with an epic fall from first place, and possible Wild Card, at the hands of the hated Giants, but it happened anyway. Unless the Reds fight off their one-week celebration hangover and somehow shock the Cardinals, while using the bench to rest the starters, the MLB Playoffs are set in the National League. And, unfortunately, the Dodgers are not a part of it.
However, before fans begin packing away the blue for good, praying for NFL in 2014 or growing excited over the new-look Lakers and possible choices of shades Jack Nicholson will wear, there are signs of hope.
Here are the top five reasons the Dodgers will be a tough act in 2013, keeping the fan-base thinking blue, instead of feeling blue.
Not since Adrian Beltre wore the Dodger Blue has there been a more impressive talent controlling the "hot corner" and providing timely offense at the plate.
Cruz basically came out of nowhere. He is a journeyman that went from the Pirates to the Brewers, followed by a small cup of coffee with the Rangers, then finally landing in Los Angeles—where he has made a huge impact, in more ways than one.
After the signing of Hanley Ramirez and subsequent injury to Dee Gordon, the rise of Luis Cruz has left the infield a little crammed for the future. Reports have hinted that this scenario will leave Dee out looking in, but nothing could be more incorrect.
With Cruz at third, Ramirez at short and Ellis roaming second, Dee will be able to platoon next season, while working on his swing with Coach Mattingly, plus providing the one killer-element on the bases teams despise: speed.
Thanks to the breakout year of Luis Cruz at third base, the infield options for the club in 2013 are endless. Which should not be a huge shock. It won't be the first Pirates player to make an impact on a west coast team following their release.
Assuming Kershaw's hip gets to 100 percent, his maturation as a true ace will continue next season, as expected. Mix that with a strong and willing Josh Beckett and the starting pitching woes for Ned Colletti are lessened, massively, allowing the other pieces to fill behind the two horses up front—A much easier task knowing the bullpen, bolstered by Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario, have the later innings covered, too.
Remember: The last time a team from the N.L. West Division took perennial Cy Young candidates and placed them one and two in the rotation at the beginning of the season, a World Series championship was the outcome.
Perhaps the 2013 Dodgers will follow the path of the 2001 Diamondbacks?
Chavez Ravine, after all, is known as a pitcher-friendly park. Mixing in a new-found two-seam fastball on the corner to left handed batters carries a lot more room for error in Los Angeles than, say, a park with a short porch in left, like Fenway.
Make no mistake, although Kemp's 2012 season was injury-plagued, it was still a success—Mainly for one reason: He didn't regress.
Kemp is hitting .310, with 23 home runs and 69 R.B.I. in only 103 games this year. His hustle in the field has brought life to the defense. His leadership is a much welcomed facet to the Dodgers organization, something unseen in the past. Most importantly, he has done this two years consecutively.
The Dodgers have been waiting for what seems like an eternity to anoint a player to superstar status. Kemp looked to fit that very role, following a stellar 2009 season, however, a 2010 slump shocked the believers, leaving many, myself included, doubtful. After the Rihanna head-scratcher, most fans wished they would have just allowed Manny to be Manny and called it a day.
Los Angeles loves a celebrity athlete, but the athlete must win, and win again, in order to keep their relevance.
Once the 2011 season ended with Kemp nearly winning the NL MVP, only one question remained: Will he carry his success into another season, or will he fall again?
Luckily for the Dodgers nation, he rose to the challenge, finally earning the title of superstar.
Before the $200 million deal, there was Yasiel Puig and his $42 million, both leaving questions about the Dodgers front office spending practices.
The success of the packaged deal via the Boston Red Sox still remains to be seen, collectively, but the risky signing of Yasiel Puig was definitely a winner. He will be playing the major leagues next season, you can count on it.
True, it was a large amount of cash to throw at one player, especially when that player had not stepped on the field in over a year, however, Puig proved his worth this summer hitting .354 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 23 games played.
It doesn't take a statistician degree to know the difference between Single-A and the big leagues, but talent is talent. Taking a year off of anything and coming back strong is difficult. What he has done in baseball terms is amazing regardless of the level.
Age means nothing when talent is the deciding factor. Much like the 2012 seasons of Bryce Harper (19) and Mike Trout (21), Yasiel Puig could be the next young star to shine in the MLB.
Vin Scully (84) will return to the booth for another season with the Dodgers, continuing his tenure of more than half a century with the organization.
The announcement may confuse some as to how it will harbor optimism for the 2013 season, but sometimes the voice telling the story we watch is just as important as the story itself.
Before Harry Kals, Myron Cope and countless other broadcasting greats, there was Vin Scully. His anecdotes, quips and stories during a game are priceless, instilling an author in the minds of Los Angeles fans, and beyond.
With games at Yankees Stadium next season, it would be a fitting end to a historic career—bringing him back to where it all started—and possibly with one final World Series call.
Regardless, the concept is simple: If Vin Scully is eager to come back next year, then so should the Dodgers fans.