On May 4, 2008, the Los Angeles Dodgers were defeated by the Colorado Rockies 7-2. By games end the Dodgers record was a mediocre 17-14, it had the all the makings to result in yet another disappointing Dodgers season.
The big money free agent Andruw Jones wasn't hitting, and the one bright spot in the entire first half of the season would soon be unable to play another inning until the end of the Dodgers run to capture the NL West title.
Joe Torre was hired as manager to act the role of sage, lead the team, and help develop the new crop of talent produced by the farm. And despite getting off to another slow start, you seldom heard of any major problems in the clubhouse other than mounting injuries.
The season is rigorous and favors nobody, as the Dodgers got to see first hand very early on. With the losses of the teams hottest hitter and lead-off man Rafael Furcal, Brad Penny the projected staff ace, cleanup hitter Jeff Kent, and all-star closer Takashi Saito, the Dodgers had every reason to fall apart.
But under the calm demeanor of their manager, the Dodgers hung tough long enough to stay in the race to obtain their savant and new face of the franchise, Manny Ramirez, capture the Western Division, and awake the competitive swagger and spirits of all that bled blue.
The thought of the 2008 off-season was something that Dodgers faithful were unnerved by. With the possible losses of Ramirez, Furcal, staff ace Derek Lowe, the first real solution at third base since the departure of Adrian Beltre in Casey Blake, and many more key pieces to the Dodgers success, there was every reason to believe that the team would only be able to retain a few of the quality players that were possessed the year previous.
When Ramirez finally came to terms with the Dodgers, the team had successfully solidified a starting lineup that was capable of being incredibly potent.
May 4, 2009, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-2, with a true reversal of fortion. The Dodgers record is now 19-8, which receives the top spot in Major League Baseball with the best record.
General Manager Ned Colletti brought the electric gold glover Orlando Hudson, who coincidently was a leader with the Diamondbacks a year previous, on board. So far Hudson has played an intricate role in the success of the team, batting .336 with an on base percentage of .416, setting the table for the games most charismatic character, Manny Ramirez.
While the Dodgers have their peaks they also have their lows. Casey Blake sits at the bottom of the Dodgers hitters when compared by average, but with five home runs, 15 RBI, and a steady glove at third there, is little to be concerned about.
As for the youth movement, upper management preached patience and never doubted the future stars the organization had carefully developed. The future is now. They have arrived. Andre Ethier leads the team (which includes No. 99) in RBI and HRs. Matt Kemp has transformed from a potential star with a nonchalant attitude, to a spectacular outfielder, motivated to tap into the talent that can make him a franchise player.
The pitching, a.k.a. the weakness of the club, showcases Chad Billingsley, who leads the National League in wins at 5-0, and also boasts a 2.21 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. Jonothan Broxton has inherited the closers role and has not only embraced the responsibility, but succeeds with head-scratching success. When you throw 100 mph and punch out 23 while walking four, you're in good shape.
The 2009 Dodgers team, to many, represents hope, which has been an elusive feeling after many faulty free agent signings, injuries, and trades over recent years. It is impossible to miss the togetherness, trust, and the skill of this Dodgers team.
Every man chips in, gets his days to play, and his days to rest. Chemistry is hyped up in sports, and many times is surprisingly discounted. But it is amazing how chemistry and talent coincide to make a team get off to the greatest start at home in it's entire existence at 11-0.
With a record of 19-8, the Dodgers are finally getting the result they were looking for when they began the process of grooming young prospects into productive Major League players. So while much focus goes to pinstripes and red birds, don't forget to think blue.