As I sit here writing this, the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the iconic franchises not only in Major League Baseball, but in all of sports, have played 73 games in this 2011 season, and have lost 41 of them.
After recently breaking a five-game losing streak, they currently sit in fourth place in the National League's Western Division, far off the pace. They are actually performing like a last-place team, but the San Diego Padres are playing worse.
And to add insult to injury, the financial problems of owner Frank McCourt, stemming from his divorce proceedings with his estranged wife Jamie, have been an albatross around L.A's neck—he was barely able to make payroll earlier this month, and it's likely that he won't be able to make the next payroll.
Not to mention that attendance has been suffering at Dodger Stadium, no doubt due to, at least in part, the Oakland Raider-like atmosphere that has permeated the place. San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow being savagely attacked in the stadium parking lot on opening day is an obvious illustration of that.
Being a longtime Dodger fan who's obviously frustrated, I've given some thought as to why L.A. has been so bad on the field and are several games below the .500 mark.
Here are my humble views on why the Dodgers have been the Dudgers to this point...
Players overrated and underachieving
Before the season started, I felt that for L.A. to contend, six players had to have a breakout year and be consistently outstanding throughout the season—starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Chad BIllingsley, closer Jonathan Broxton, first baseman James Loney, and outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.
So far to date, only two of those players have achieved expectations—Ethier and Kemp.
Ethier's 30-game hitting streak earlier this year was a great accomplishment, but Kemp has been the one to exceed expectations and become an all-out stud, as he's currently ranked in the league's top three in batting average, home runs, and RBIs.
As for the other four players mentioned here? Though some of them have had their moments, it's safe to say these three words—not so much.
Loney has been coming on with the bat lately, but his early season slump, where he was struggling to get above .200, hurt the team badly.
Kershaw has had some outstanding days on the mound, namely his recent performances against the Florida Marlins and the Detroit Tigers, but he has been hit hard at times and for a number one starter, should have a better record than he has.
Don't get me started on Billingsley and Broxton—after seeing them get hit like Charlie Brown, particularly Billingsley in his recent outings when it seemed like a little league girl's softball team could light him up, I feel in my heart that those two guys are overrated.
Not to mention that Broxton has ticked me off with his too-many blown saves over the course of this past year. I know he's been hurt, but it has gotten to the point where I think "Oh no, we're doomed!" whenever he approaches from the bullpen in the late innings.
That's not good for a closer. At all.
I think the time has come to consider that maybe some of these guys are just not that good.
It seems to me that some people, namely Casey Blake and especially Rafael Furcal, can't stay on the field without going on the disabled list, and that has hurt the Dodgers as well.
I do like some of the young players that L.A has called up in light of these injuries, especially shortstop Dee Gordon, who's batting nearly .300 and has speed to burn. He has a future with the Dodgers, so much so that perhaps they should ask Furcal to move to third base when he comes off the DL, give the job to Gordon permanently and let him grow there.
Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles have done a good job in the infield, too, but that doesn't change the fact that L.A. has looked like the Bad News Bears at times this season.
One thing is for sure—if things don't change, and I mean now, the Dodgers are looking at a year like the one they had in 1992, where they barely missed losing 100 games.
Unless their fortunes turn around 180 degrees, this could be one of the worst Dodger teams, if not THE worst Dodger team, this franchise has fielded since they arrived from Brooklyn in 1958.
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