October 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford (25) is congratulated after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 92 wins, 70 losses
* Won the National League’s Western Division by 11 games
* Defeated the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, three games to one
* Lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, four games to two
Now that a little time has passed since the Dodgers were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in an overwhelming fashion (in the last game, anyway), and now that everyone has had time to decompress a bit…
Even though the Cardinals dropped the big bomb on L.A.’s season, it wouldn’t be right to not acknowledge that these Dodgers accomplished much in 2013.
Winning a division and the first round of a playoff series with one hand tied behind your back on offense – injuries kept Hanley Ramirez out of half the games and Matt Kemp for more than half, plus Andre Ethier was hurting the last few weeks – is nothing to sneeze at.
Imagine how the Dodgers would have done if Ramirez – who batted .345 with 20 hone runs in just 86 games – and Kemp were healthy all year!
I’m not saying that they would have been in the World Series, no one can predict that, but it would have made things with the Cardinals a lot more interesting.
October 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) scores a run during game five of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Magic Johnson and the rest of the new ownership regime needs to be lionized as heroes for the way they made a commitment to improve things, from spending money on free agents to renovating Dodger Stadium and improving the fan experience.
Who would have thought that a basketball icon would be seen as one of the saviors of this franchise after the bad times of Frank McCourt?
As such, the season really began for Dodger blue on June 3.
With the team languishing in last place and people labeling the team a high-priced bust (they set the all-time record for the largest payroll) and manager Don Mattingly days from being fired, the Dodgers called up Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig from the minors – where he was supposed to be all year, but Kemp’s injury necessitated the move.
To coin a cliche, the rest was history as the 22-year-old made an impact from his very first game, batting over .500 in his first few weeks in “The Show” and essentially making the race for N.L. Rookie of the Year pointless with his .319 average, 19 home runs and 42 runs batted in while playing just 2/3 of the season.
With his sometimes lackadaisical fundamentals – who can forget his two bad throws and letting a ball go by in Game Six of the NLCS – and his rubbing opponents and to an extent his teammates and coaches the wrong way with his on-field emotions and lack of maturity, Puig was far from perfect; everybody knows that.
Now that he has an entire off-season, however, I expect Puig to use the time to play winter ball under mentors who will show him the proper day-to-day approach to being in the majors, to be more consistent in his fundamentals and maturity level.
This is a young player who not only has more than all the tools to have a long, successful career, he has Hall of Fame potential – if he plays his cards right.
I, for one, am eager to see Puig in spring training next March; I’m eager to see if and how he has changed and if he’s ready for the mental and emotional rigors of a big league season.
The Dodgers’ pitching was the real reason why L.A. went as far as it did this year.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke provided a one-two punch that bettered pretty much anyone else’s in the majors, Grenke winning 15 games (it probably would have been 20 if not for that broken collarbone suffered in San Diego in April) with a 2.63 earned run average while Kershaw’s ERA was a ridiculous 1.83 – the lowest for a Dodger pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1966.
His league-leading 232 strikeouts and 16 wins to go along with that has everyone convinced that he will win the N.L. Cy Young Award; it’s really a pity that Kershaw’s teammates didn’t hit well enough for him, otherwise he wouldn’t have lost nine games.
As we speak, team officials are working with the Dodger ace on a long-term contract deal that could be worth $300 million, which is what he so deserves.
Hyun-Jin Ryu provided well in the number three position in the rotation with his 14 wins and 3.00 ERA; his misfortune is that the Korean was a rookie at the same time as Puig, otherwise he may well have been voted Rookie of the Year.
The bullpen came though as well, Kenley Jansen saving 28 games with a minuscule 1.88 earned run with 111 strikeouts in 76.2 innings, while Brian Wilson of the Huge Beard came along in August 19 and gave up but one run in 18 games, sporting a sick 0.66 ERA.
It’s too bad that Wilson will likely be pitching for someone else next year, as he had a one-year contract with the Dodgers and as there are many teams who need a closer.
As for the on-field leadership, I agree with Mattingly when he stated his frustration over the lack of a long-term deal at a recent press conference, saying that he felt that he was on a one-year audition.
Dodger president Stan Kasten, I feel, is jerking the three-year skipper around; he needs to be either hot or cold with him, either offer him a long-term deal or not. And as soon as possible.
October 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) pitches the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Otherwise it’s not fair to Mattingly, who despite a few rumblings over his handling of the pitching staff in the playoffs won over 90 games and a division title; if that’s not a good job managing, then there’s no such thing.
This winter will be very interesting as far as whether Mattingly or someone else – former Dodger star Dusty Baker, perhaps? After being fired from the Cincinnati Reds, he’s available – will lead the team in 2014.
The best news for next season, however, is undeniably Vin Scully announcing that he will return for his 65th year in the booth. I’m sure that every Dodger fan will wholeheartedly agree with me on that.
And as long as Scully is spinning his wonderful tales, no matter what else is happening with L.A’s signature team, all somehow seems right in the baseball world.