If you're a Los Angeles Dodger fan, the phrase "next year" is automatic.
It seems to be one of the most comforting phrases in all of sports, in fact. As a fan of the Vancouver Canucks as well, you better believe it comes in handy when you need to be talked down from a ledge at the end of the season (your time will come, Boston).
This "next year" for the Dodgers carries a sense of optimism seldom felt. Next year, the Dodgers could really make a lot of noise.
However, in order for that to happen, the club has to carefully reevaluate where it stands on all levels. As it is now, this team would have a difficult time making the playoffs. In order to make a legitimate run, it will have to make some key changes.
With that, and submitted for your disapproval, I give you seven things that need to happen for the Dodgers if they hope to make the playoffs.
If this topic were limited to only one slide, this would be it.
If the Dodgers have any hope of fielding a contending team next season, they need not just a new owner, but a new owner willing to do whatever it takes.
I've preached on many a soapbox that Mark Cuban would be a perfect fit for the team, and this soapbox is no different. The enthusiasm, character and ultimately pocketbook he brings to the table could lead to some key offseason acquisitions and re-signings.
This isn't to say that Cuban is the only man for the job, as Peter O'Malley and Dennis Gilbert are both very good fits, but Cubes just seems to have that X-factor that a team like the Dodgers in a city like Los Angeles could only benefit from.
Regardless of who it is, this team desperately needs an owner if it's to make the playoffs in the coming season.
Upon being snubbed for the NL Most Valuable Player Award, Matt Kemp declared to the world that he was headed to the gym to start training for the new season: He's going to go 50-50.
No player in the history of Major League Baseball has ever recorded 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases in one season, and Kemp just declared war on the record books. If that doesn't sound like there's a fire lit inside No. 27, then what does?
While most don't expect Kemp to actually achieve such a monumental feat, the fact that he's motivated enough to call a shot like that is a testament to the potential the Dodgers have to make some serious waves.
If the Dodgers are going to have a hope of making the postseason, Matt Kemp is going to have to unload some serious firepower at the plate.
If Matt Kemp is the glove in the field and the bat of the Dodgers lineup, Clayton Kershaw is the arm and their best bet.
At 23 years young and in his third season in the bigs, Kershaw posted numbers in the same ballpark as Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez to win his first Cy Young.
Given the state of the Dodgers' current bullpen, Kershaw is hands down one of the most important factors in keeping alive his team's hopes of making the postseason.
While Kemp's chances of going 50-50 are realistically slim, Kershaw has a good chance to win back-to-back Cy Youngs. His achievements to date are a telling sign that this kid has that kind of superstar potential.
Look forward to another fireworks-filled season from No. 22 on the mound.
While there are no doubts surrounding Kershaw's No. 1 slot in the Dodgers' starting rotation, the rest of the staff needs some serious attention.
Chad Billingsley is a solid No. 3 who's been forced to play up to a No. 2 position for a few seasons. If the Dodgers hope to make a real run at the playoffs, they're going to have to address some big holes in their bullpen.
Since it doesn't look like Hiroki Kuroda will re-sign, the Dodgers' best bet comes from free agency. Names like Javier Vazquez (3.69 ERA and 162 strikeouts last season) would provide some much-needed firepower in the No. 2 spot.
Of course, in order for the team to pursue free agents, it's going to need a new owner who's willing to pay for a reliable arm or two.
The Dodgers' need for a reliable closer is a huge variable for their future success.
News recently broke that Jonathan Broxton is on a plane out of Los Angeles, and chances are pretty good he had to book two seats. Considering the amount of potential Broxton had, he ultimately became a waste of both salary and bench space.
Again, assuming the Dodgers have an owner willing to fork over the dough, free agency is rich with closers that could have a huge impact on the roster.
San Diego's Heath Bell and Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez would look great in Dodger blue. Considering the lack of options on the existing roster, management needs to address the gaping holes in the closing game on the free-agent market.
In Los Angeles, it's common knowledge that your superstars are nothing without their supporting cast.
Kershaw and Kemp are the headliners, but they have to rely on the rest of the team to do their part. The Loneys, Barajases, Lillys and Ethiers (hopefully) will have to really step up to ensure their club's playoff berth.
Not to say that the current roster is lacking, but it wouldn't hurt for management to go out looking for some big free-agency signings—new owner acquisition notwithstanding.
While names like Carlos Pena would negate the need for James Loney at first base, Pena's ability to put up numbers outweighs Loney's, which could really count down the stretch.
And what's Hollywood without some world-class drama? If the Dodgers really wanted to make some noise, they'd go out there and sign Prince Fielder. Drastic? Absolutely, but the payoff would be well worth it.
This might seem blatantly obvious, but if the fans are aware of the enormous potential the Dodgers have heading into next season, you can bet the players know too.
Considering the last few years have been plagued with negative drama surrounding ownership, it's time for the organization to settle into a rhythm and really address the fact that it has something special here.
No more distractions—just good baseball.
Confidence is the key here. If the Dodgers head into the season knowing they can make the playoffs, not many teams can stand in their way.