While the 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers’ season looks bleak, a bright light shines at the end of the tunnel: the future of the program.
In the aftermath of the Frank McCourt saga, the new ownership made up of Mark Walter of the Guggenheim Partners, Stan Kasten and the great Magic Johnson have ushered in a fresh new environment with high expectations.
The record-breaking sale of over $2 billion revitalized Dodgers fans’ dreams of reaching a World Series in the near future.
These dreams became realistic in a matter of months as GM Ned Colletti pulled off a few blockbuster trades, making the team a legitimate contender this season. The acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Josh Beckett and a few others proved to the league and the fans that the new owners were willing to do everything in their power to get a World Series ring this season. Money is clearly no longer a factor in Los Angeles.
While all of these deals appeared great on paper, it didn’t quite work out that way the Dodgers had predicted on the field.
After leading the NL West at the All-Star break, the Dodgers are now barely clinging to playoff contention following a walk-off win Monday night at home against the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers are now two games out of the second wild-card spot with only two games left to play—meaning the Cardinals must lose their final two games against Cincinnati and the Dodgers must win both their games against San Francisco.
Hope still remains alive as the Cardinals have to play a Reds team that is still fighting for the best record in the National League, and Matt Kemp and the rest of the Dodgers lineup have finally remembered how to hit. However, it seems as though it might be too late.
In the final month of the 2012 season, the Dodgers have gone just 14-13 and are now 34-36 against the NL West for the season.
These aren’t the numbers of a playoff team.
Most of the Dodgers’ downfall can be attributed to their lack of hitting down the stretch. In 33 games as a Los Angeles Dodger, Adrian Gonzalez has hit only .291 with three home runs. You can’t place all of the blame on Gonzalez, however, as Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino have all done very little to contribute to the team since the trade.
In the month of September, the Dodgers ranked 14th among the NL in runs scored.
Assuming the Dodgers finish on the outskirts of the NL wild card this season, all hope is not lost for the future. In fact, quite the opposite. I am predicting the Dodgers finish the 2013 season, as well as the next few seasons, wearing the NL West crown—and this is how it is going to happen.
First reason: The Dodgers bring back the most prolific lineup in all of baseball.
Los Angeles will have Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford playing through the 2017 season and Hanley Ramirez at shortstop until 2014. Breakout infielder Luis Cruz will be back at third base, and consistent starters A.J. and Mark Ellis will be in their respective positions once again.
Although they have not displayed it thus far, the lineup is arguably the best ever assembled and has the possibility to be unbeatable.
Second reason: Los Angeles will trim the fat in the offseason.
By trim the fat, I mean literally and physically.
Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu will be free agents once the season ends and likely won’t be brought back. I also don’t expect the Dodgers to bring back Juan Uribe despite being on the hook for the remaining $8 million on his contract.
A few more guys who I don’t see being on the roster in 2013 are Shane Victorino, Randy Choate and Joe Blanton.
Shane Victorino has not made the most of his time in L.A. In the 50 games since being traded, Victorino has batted only .239 with two home runs. With Carl Crawford coming back from injury in 2013 and Yasiel Puig tearing up the minor leagues, the Dodgers will let Victorino walk and have Crawford roam left field, at least until Puig is ready to be called up.
Joe Blanton will not be around come spring training either. In 10 starts, Blanton has produced two wins and given up 32 earned runs.
Randy Choate is another expendable Dodgers pitcher. Since being acquired from Miami, Choate has a 4.05 ERA in 13.1 innings. The Dodgers will also have lefty reliever Scott Elbert returning from injury, essentially taking Choate’s spot in the bullpen.
Final reason: The Dodgers’ starting pitching.
In 2012, the Dodgers had one of the most impressive pitching rotations in baseball, but they were continuously overlooked by their lack of offense.
Led by ace Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' staff finished atop the National League with a 3.36 ERA and a .238 opponents’ batting average (second only to Washington).
With Kershaw, Billingsley, Capuano and Harang returning, along with some help from Josh Beckett—who has been surprisingly good since joining the team—the Dodgers will have one of the best rotations in the NL going into 2013.
The combination of a strong lineup with better chemistry, a nasty pitching staff and an ownership that will do anything it takes to win, will make the Dodgers the favorites to win the National League West once again and contend for the World Series title for years to come.
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