10 Reasons the Los Angeles Dodgers Will Bounce Back in 2012
2011 was a rough year for the boys in blue both on and off the field. The team itself finished just three games over .500 but the real trouble lingered in the front office. An ugly divorce and bankruptcy mess turned the organization into a media circus. At one point fans were so fed up with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt they began boycotting the team altogether.
It seemed as though things couldn't get any worse for the Dodgers, that is until their cross-town rivals made a huge splash in the free agency market with the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed both players to a combined total of $331.5 million. Now it couldn't possibly get any worse for the Dodgers. With no owner and little money for big name players, it seemed as though the rival Angels would take control over baseball in LA.
However, 2012 signifies a fresh start for the Dodgers and their fans. 2012 will be a bounce back season and here are 10 reasons why:
1. Bye Bye Frank
First and foremost, Frank McCourt will no longer be the owner of the LA Dodgers. That in itself is a huge sigh of relief for the team and for fans. McCourt's personal problems were a huge distraction to the team last season. Who knew that divorce could bring down an entire organization?
Then, to top it all off, McCourt tried to keep the team's financial woes a complete secret. Major League Baseball was shocked to hear that the team was heading for bankruptcy. One can only wonder as to what went wrong but it's no surprise as to who took the blame for the dilemma.
Rumors have already begun as to who will take over the Dodgers next. Magic Johnson, Mark Cuban and Larry King are just a few of the celebrity names being tossed around. No matter who takes over the team next season, it's clear that they'll do a far better job than McCourt and kick start the organization's recovery.
2. Matt Kemp
After the 2011 season finally came to an end the Dodgers made signing Matt Kemp to a contact extension their top priority. Kemp signed a franchise record eight-year, $160 million deal to stay in LA and produce offense for a team that ranked near the bottom in runs and slugging percentage.
2011 was a breakout season for Kemp who won multiple awards including a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and the Hank Aaron award. The star outfielder was even acknowledged for a shot at the National League Most Valuable Player Award but came in at a close second in the voting to Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Kemp's career has only gotten better since he made his major league debut in 2006 and the sky's the limit for his potential in the near future. Kemp's presence already makes the Dodgers a better team in 2012.
3. Clayton Kershaw
The reigning NL Cy Young winner will most likely start the 2012 season where he left off. Last season Kershaw pitched his way to an NL Triple Crown by leading the league in strikeouts, wins, and earned run average. The 23-year-old hasn't missed a beat since he made his debut in 2008, and it doesn't look like he'll be slowing down anytime soon.
Kershaw gives the Dodgers a work-horse on the mound and a sure-fire ace in the pitching rotation. More importantly, Kershaw gives the Dodgers a chance against the division rival San Francisco Giants. During the 2011 season Kershaw posted a 5-0 record over the Giants and out-pitched two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on two occasions. Kershaw's success is crucial to the Dodgers season and experts believe he's on the path for an encore.
4. Donnie Baseball
Because of all the drama off the field, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn't really get a chance to shine with his team. Mattingly had a lot on his plate during 201, but this time around he should feel a lot more comfortable about the situation in LA. No distractions, just baseball.
While Mattingly doesn't have a ton of experience as a major league manager that's not an indication that he's not capable of leading the Dodgers. People tend to forget that Mattingly was among the candidates to replace Joe Torre when he left the New York Yankees in 2007. Mattingly has nearly three decades of baseball experience so he knows a thing or two about the game. The Dodgers still have some great talent on this team and Mattingly should do well to help them rebound next season.
5. Dodgertown Will Be Back
It's hard to perform well when there's nobody watching. Last season's attendance average was horrendous for home games. Fans resorted to boycotting home games when they were fed up with Frank McCourt and his antics. Who could blame them?
With McCourt leaving the organization it's safe to say that the Dodger faithful will be back in the stands for 2012. The Dodgers are an historic franchise in the city and their fans are some of the most passionate in baseball. Fan support should give the team an added boost next season.
6. Free Agency
Despite a lack funds for big name free agents, the Dodgers made a few good moves while staying within their budget. Their biggest acquisition so far has been the signing of veteran pitcher Aaron Harang. The 33-year-old Harang adds depth to a pitching staff that fared well statistically last season. Harang joins Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and fellow veteran acquisition Chris Capuano. The additions to the pitching staff give the Dodgers two veteran arms and allows the team to rest Kershaw consistently in between starts.
The re-signing of Tony Gwynn Jr. also gives the Dodgers help in the outfield. Gwynn allows center fielder Matt Kemp to get an occasional day off and gives the team some much needed speed on the basepaths.
7. Supporting Cast
There is a lot of young talent on this team, and besides slugger Matt Kemp, the Dodgers still have two very good players in James Loney and Andre Ethier. Both guys lock down their positions on defense but they also produce a large chunk of the team's offense. Last season Loney and Ethier accounted for nearly 20 percent of the team's total hits and RBIs. Kemp can't put up runs by himself every game so Loney and Ethier will have to provide the team with some consistent hitting to keep them in games next season. Both Ethier and Loney are nearing the prime of their careers and now seems as good a time as any to live up to their high expectations.
8. No Broxton, No Problem
When closer Jonathan Broxton was lost for most of the season with injuries, 26-year-old Javy Guerra was called up from the minor leagues to help out. Not only did Guerra help but he possibly earned himself a new job. Guerra led the team with 21 saves and kept his ERA under 2.31.
Broxton signed a one-year $4 million deal to play for the Kansas City Royals next season leaving the Dodgers without a true closer. With Broxton out of the picture, Guerra should be the ideal candidate for the position and more saves opportunities will help him develop into his new closer role.
9. Back in Blue
Remember relief pitcher Ronald Belisario? Remember how well he pitched in 2009? It's hard to remember anything good about Belisario with all the off the field problems he's had the last two years. In 2010 Belisario plead guilty to a driving under the influence charge and missed most of the season due to unknown reasons. Then in 2011 the native of Venezuela was unable to play due to visa issues. As of late Belisario's agent claims that his client will have his visa situation sorted out and eventually play in 2012. Belisario would give the Dodgers much needed bullpen help if he can stay out of trouble.
10. Putting the Pieces Together
General manager Ned Colletti has done a fine job putting together a team in each of the five seasons he's been with the Dodgers. While he has a habit of acquiring veteran players instead of young stars, Colletti's moves have played out well in aiding the team's needs for each particular season. Colletti had a hand in the trade that landed Manny Ramirez in 2008 and created Manny-mania in LA. While Ramirez's Dodgers career didn't end on a high note it still put the team in position to win games.
With the team salary so tight it's hard to believe that Colletti will be able to work some magic in free agency and the trade block but a few minor moves may help the team perform better than last season.