I’m usually excited about the start of baseball season. I was looking at a baseball preview Sunday and suddenly realized opening day is Thursday. In the midst of March Madness Major League Baseball wasn’t on my radar.
But indeed it is here and I’m trying to find a reason to watch. I’m usually pretty pumped about the Dodgers, Chavez Ravine, and Dodger Dogs. There is still nothing quite like an evening at Dodger Stadium – watching your favorite team play in what is still, even after 48 years, arguably the most beautiful stadium in the major leagues.
But it always helps if the Dodgers are uh…winning! Sorry Charlie I couldn’t resist. And when you look at the current state of the Dodgers roster winning is anything but a foregone conclusion.
The Dodgers finished fourth last year with an 80-82 record, 12 games behind the National League West Champion and eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. Two games below .500 would seem to call for wholesale changes or at least an earth shaking addition. The Dodgers did none of the above.
And with Frank McCourt as the owner, or is it Jamie? Don’t expect any earth shaking additions anytime soon. McCourt showed up once at the Spring training complex in Camelback Ranch in Arizona but refused to speak to reporters about his financial and legal problems that threaten the future of the ball club.
McCourt can’t afford to run the Dodgers like a Major League ball club should be run. And after Jamie takes half of his money, (or is it him talking half of her’s?), the status will definitely be quo, which doesn’t bode well for Dodger fans.
When Juan Uribe is the biggest off season acquisition you know it could be a long year. The Dodgers let Russell Martin walk which isn’t heartbreaking. Martin’s numbers have decreased over the last few years and his home run totals are below what was expected. But when you find out the permanent replacement is 35 year old Rod Barajas, Martin doesn’t look so bad.
Barajas isn’t bad – as a backup. His lifetime batting average is .239 and he’s only hit more than 20 home runs once in his 12 year career – 21 in 2005. The Dodgers need a starting catcher. Barajas isn’t the answer.
Uribe was a big part of the Giants success last year but he’s a .256 career hitter. Uribe will fill in at second and third base – lately he’s been at third spelling the injured Casey Blake.
Blake, a mainstay at third since coming over in 2008, is 37 now and has been battling injuries for most of the spring. If Blake is out, Uribe will play third with either Jamey Carroll or Ivan DeJesus taking over at second.
The Dodgers seem set at short with Rafael Furcal and first base with James Loney but there’s a catch here also. Furcal hasn’t played a full season the last couple of years due to various injuries and Loney still hasn’t provided the sock that the Dodgers were counting on.
Left field, a question mark since Manny Ramirez departed, will be filled by Jay Gibbons… or Marcus Thames… or Tony Gwynn Jr. Don’t be upset if you don’t know who Gibbons is he is- a lot of people don’t. Look in the Mitchell Report. You’ll find his name there.
It will be up to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to carry the Dodgers offensively but if both or either one goes into a prolonged slump it could get ugly. Ethier and Kemp combined for 51 home runs last year but went through periods of dry spells.
The pitching is the bright spot with ace Clayton Kershaw being joined by Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda. Jon Garland was brought back as the fifth starter. Closer Jonathan Broxton needs to bounce back from a tough 2010.
Manager Joe Torre is gone and was replaced by batting coach Don Mattingly. Okay. Isn’t this the same club (or worse) than the team that was a disappointment last year?
Sorry it just doesn’t excite me. I do like the Dodger dogs though.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at email@example.com