As the 2008 season began, the Dodgers' roster was a conglomeration of fading stars and up and coming youngsters. Those closest to be considered 'stars' have spent significant portions of the season on the disabled list: Jason Schmidt, Brad Penny, Rafael Furcal, Takashi Saito and Andruw Jones (not to mention the infamous Nomar Garciaparra) have all spent long periods on the DL this year.
So much looks like the 2007 incarnation of this team that one wonders how or why the Dodgers thought they were in contention in midsummer this year. Of course, that's if you don't notice that the Arizona Diamondbacks, so untouchable early in the season, suddenly began backsliding towards .500 as soon as June hit. Either way, the fact is, for the umpteenth time in recent seasons, the Dodgers still needed a big bat, still needed an everyday third baseman, a replacement shortstop, a starter to replce someone hurt... and still didn't have them. They hadn't even budged towards acquiring them, in keeping with their utter commitment to their youth movement.
Then, something weird happened. Ned Colletti woke up.
He looked at his team. He saw holes that needed filling. And for the first time in his 3-year tenure... he actually tried to fill them.
He landed Casey Blake from Cleveland, a team that was waving a white flag from the beginning of July when they sent CC Sabathia (who the Dodgers didn't get due to the obstinacy noted earlier) to Milwaukee. Then he made a sudden and sweeping entry into the Manny sweepstakes--and walked off with the grand prize for the price of a minor league pitcher and one of a glut of third-base prospects that just weren't hacking it--and were now rendered irrelevant by Blake's arrival in Blue.
Dodger fans were rejuvenated. They rejoiced. For the first time since Piazza, there was a quality bat that made you drop everything just to watch him hit. Things were looking up; within a week, Nomar returned to take the toothpick out of Angel Berroa's hands, and Andruw Jones sat down to rest his ailing bat--er, knee. And when Penny came back from the DL, and was back on the DL within a week, Colletti tried an old trick that worked last time he tried it: He went out and got Greg Maddux for the playoff run.
One question: WHERE HAS THIS GM BEEN HIDING?
Since DePodesta sent LoDuca packing in a vain attempt to get Randy Johnson (a gambit most Dodger fans I think are now pleased failed), Dodger fans have held their breath when the trading deadline has come and gone every year: both hoping the big deal we've been needing would get done, and praying that no new gaps would be created. Each year, the Dodgers roll towards the deadline; each year, Colletti has made some deal which has seemed minor, preferring instead to follow big names who want big money during the off-season--and rarely getting the best those players have had to offer (the exception was in 2006, when at the trade deadline, Colletti sent Cesar Izturis to the Cubs in exchange for--you guessed it--Greg Maddux). Furcal, Kent, Schmidt, Jones, Garciaparra... the list of signees who've had "better years" than those with the Dodgers reads like a list of turn-of-the-millennium All-Stars, some of whom are just hanging on too long (Garciaparra and Kent), who are too fragile (Garciaparra, Furcal, and Schmidt) and others who have just lost a step or a swing off their best years somewhere along the line (Jones).
So in conversing with my fellow Bums fans, we're all scratching our heads. Manny is hitting like we've rarely seen anyone in Blue hit hit for more than, oh, a three-game stretch. Blake's playing effective defense and hitting well, too. And Maddux has been effective all year for a dismal Padres team, his numbers continuing to climb higher amidst the legends of the game (along with his age).
So here's the question: When did Ned Colletti start picking effective players to acquire?
Could the Dodgers end the curse that's followed them since Gibson, and win multiple playoff games in one off-season?
The thought has occurred to us.
Now, let's see if Colletti can keep these guys. If he can... well, it might just be a shiny time to be a Dodger fan after all.
Or our Blues could continue when they all walk this off-season.
Only Colletti knows for sure.