L.A. Dodgers: Kemp, Kershaw and a Host of Reasons to Feel Optimistic for 2012

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L.A. Dodgers: Kemp, Kershaw and a Host of Reasons to Feel Optimistic for 2012
Kent Horner/Getty Images

Who are these guys?

The Los Angeles Dodgers of the past 60 days have looked nothing like the team that staggered into the All-Star break. They recently completed their final home stand of the season with an 8-2 trouncing of the San Francisco Giants and headed into Arizona this week to complete a season that suddenly seemed substantially more than just trivial.

Who would have thought two months ago that there would be something to cheer about at Dodgers Stadium?

Is this the same team that most had given up on, the one that appeared tired, downtrodden, disheveled and flat as a stack of IHOP pancakes?  Was this same bunch that had to hear about Frank and Jamie McCourt day after day, to the point where Dodger baseball seemed more like a reality show about bickering families.   

But somehow, some way, something just seemed to click for the Dodgers in August and September.

Looking back, writer Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times gave the Dodgers an overall grade of C at the halfway point of what seemed like a season that would never end. They couldn’t hold leads, their pitching was suspect, the defense lax and the batting lineup consisted of one tremendous player—Matt Kemp—and eight other guys trying to make contact with anything.

Since acquiring Juan Rivera from Toronto in mid July, the Dodgers are a different team—a much better team—even though they still have some major holes in the lineup and on the pitching staff.  

A mix of veterans and young players seemed to finally jell under first year manager Don Mattingly, and the Dodgers looked like they would finish the season at or above the .500 mark. Not really the stuff to call Grandpa about, but a vast improvement on what could just as easily have been a 100 loss season.

Let’s take a look at the surprise performances and the reasons for optimism in Dodger Town for 2012.

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