What to Make of the Dodgers for 2012


The Dodgers came into 2011 full of hope. Ned Colletti had spent just short of $92 million dollars on free agents (more on that later), they had a starting rotation that was 6 deep, a deep bullpen, and a veteran lineup that looked to be better defensively and offensively than the 2010 edition. BTW MLB Trade Rumors has a great Dodgers Offseason review from April showing all of the signings etc…

James Loney was entering his “magical” age 27 season when he was supposed to develop power, Casey Blake was supposedly healthy and ready for a solid season, and newly acquired Juan Uribe, fresh off of his post-season heroics with the rival Giants, was going to add a power bat to the middle of the infield. Most importantly Uribe was labeled as a “clutch” hitter, it didn’t matter that he had such a low career average and OBP he was clutch and coming off of a career season.

The season actually started off great with the Dodgers taking 3 out of 4 from the Giants on opening weekend. But on April 20th, with the Dodgers sporting a 9-and-10 record Bud Selig shocked everyone by announcing that MLB was taking control of the Dodgers. We all knew that Frank McCourt was broke and had to borrow money from Fox in order to make payroll, despite the fact he spends $40 grand a month to live in a posh rented condominium.

But by that time the injuries had started to mount and all of that money Ned Colletti spent in the off-season started to look not very smart. But one positive to come out of all of the injuries was the Dodgers surprisingly promoted slugging prospect Jerry Sands, even though he had only been in AAA for a brief while.

Sands was certainly rushed to the majors, but he showed a patient approach, flexibility to play multiple positions and provided an angry fan-base with a reason to want to tune in to watch the Dodgers, aside from Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw‘s brilliance. However even though the Dodgers promised they were promoting Sands to play every day, unfortunately he began to lose playing time. The ultimate slap in the face was when he was benched in favor of Jay Gibbons, seriously your going to bench the guy who is supposed to be a middle of the order hitter for you for the next decade for Jay Freaking Gibbons?

Here we sit on August 13th, the Dodgers are 11 games under .500, 12 games out of the playoff race, the season is lost. Yet Jerry Sands continues to toil in AAA, while left-field, which has been a disaster all season now belongs to Tony Gwynn Jr. and Juan Rivera. Rivera has been a pleasant surprise and has been a spark. Gwynn is having a career year, hitting a whopping .250 with ZERO power and a measly .306 OBP.

Gwynn is a nice 4th outfielder, but there is simply no reason why Jerry Sands is still in AAA. The Dodgers just promoted Dee Gordon to give him valuable experience over the final 6 weeks of the season, and of course he got hurt and is now on the DL. A familiar theme to the Dodgers season. Sands needs to be doing the same. James Loney has shown exactly what kind of player he is, a light hitting solid defensive first baseman. Rivera and Sands should be alternating between Left and First base, with Loney and Gwynn serving as late inning defensive replacements.

The other promising young hitter the Dodgers were hoping to add to the mix, Trayvon Robinson, was stupidly traded. You all know my feelings on that so I won’t go into it again.

On the pitching side the Dodgers appear to have discovered several young arms that make moves like signing aging middle relievers to 3 year $12 million dollar contracts seem ill advised. The best of the bunch was Rubby De La Rosa, I say was because we all know Rubby had Tommy John Surgery recently. I still get a pit in my stomach every time I hear the words Rubby De La Rosa and Tommy John Surgery used in the same sentence.

Young Rubby sported the best fastball in all of the major leagues, at an average speed of just over 96 MPH. But now we’ll all have to wait and hopefully next year at this time he’s making rehab starts ala Stephen Strasburg and will be a permanent fixture in the rotation in 2013. It’s just tragic and really sums up the Dodgers season to lose such a promising young arm like Rubby for virtually an entire season. Kershaw, Bills and Rubby had the makings of a dynamic 1-2-3 duo.

Fortunately another youngster Nathan Eovaldi has come up from AA to take Rubby’s spot and has pitched very well in his first 2 starts. He likely only has about 30 innings left this year before he reaches his limit but hopefully he can fill the void left by the injury to Ruby. Allen Webster is having another solid season in AA and could also be a candidate for a spot in the rotation in 2012.

Unfortunately the Dodgers are stuck with Ted Lilly and his $11 million dollar contract for the next 2 years, at age 36 and 37 years old by the way.

In the bullpen Kenley Jansen has had a roller-coaster season. He had a couple of bad outings that inflated his ERA, went to the DL, then returned and dominated like he did at the end of 2010. Unfortunately he is now dealing with an irregular heart-beat and there is a chance he will pitch again this year. If he can recover fully he has the makings of a dominant set-up man/closer.

Javy Guerra has filled in as the teams closer and has done an admirable job. He tends to make save opportunities a little too exciting sometimes and may not be a long-term solution but he’s gotten the job done and looks to be part of the bull-pen for years to come. Josh Lindblom and Scott Elbert have also been solid arms out of the pen and with a bunch of really talented relief arms in AA the Dodgers bullpen looks like it will be in good shape next year, and for years to come.

The big questions is the offense. Juan Uribe is under contract for next season which makes him the ONLY Dodger position player who can say that. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will once again be arbitration eligible, but the Dodgers would be wise to sign them to long-term deals, but of course the Frank McCourt front office disaster makes that entire process a huge question mark. And Dodgers fans there is a very good chance the McCourt madness will continue well into next season.

True Blue LA has a great payroll worksheet here if you’re looking for information on any player. Casey Blake has a $1.25 million option and could be brought back as a utility guy. The Dodgers obviously made a mistake by just letting Russell Martin leave without any type of compensation and no one is holding their breath at the return of Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro. But considering what Ned Colletti gave up to get him, perhaps Tim Federowicz can step in next year with AJ Ellis to serve as the catching duo.

The Dodgers will have a decision to make with Loney and frankly he hasn’t performed at any level, for well over a year to warrant a return. It’s time to part ways with Loney, I know he’s a great guy but they simply cannot cope any longer with his awful production at an important offensive position.

Juan Rivera is pulling a Rod Barajas from last year and probably playing his way into a roster spot next year. The trade of Trayvon Robinson makes me think Tony Gwynn will return as well. Aaron Miles, and Jamey Carroll have done admirable jobs this year, but they are not everyday starters. The Dodgers must improve third base and second base, hopefully Uribe can have a rebound year, and Dee Gordon should be the shortstop.

All in all the Dodgers have a ton of questions as they go about making up their roster for next year. One of the biggest questions is will Ned Colletti still be the guy making those decisions. Based on his track record he does not warrant an extension. Again I’m sure he’s a great guy but you have to look at the results and the decisions Colletti has made, whether it be free agent blunders like Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt and Juan Uribe and etc…combined with trading of top prospects like Carlos Santana and Trayvon Robinson, just giving away James McDonald for a month of Octavio Dotel etc…The probability of an extension doesn’t bode well for him.

He did turn Milton Bradley into Andre Ethier. For that move alone I will always root for Colletti, but you can make a case that the next best move he made during his tenure was signing Jamey Carroll, and I really like Jamey Carroll. But that’s not nearly good enough considering all the awful contracts and millions still owed to guys no longer on the team. Unfortunately the poor decisions, due to injury or whatever, far outweigh the good ones he has made.

Injuries are a part of the game, but this is the team Ned Colletti built, and honestly it’s not a very good team. However the 900 pound gorilla in the room is Frank McCourt and the complex web of companies and llc’s he’s bankrupted the Dodgers into. As long as the ownership situation is not settled it’s hard to figure out how all of the baseball decisions are going to be made.

Ned at least gets a pass for the simple reason that Frank McCourt has made his job nearly impossible. Ned is operating under the worst situation of any GM in Major League Baseball. However, when he has spent, it has typically not worked out well for him, and a lot of that is on him. Particularly with several free agents who he signed that the rest of MLB  had huge red flags about, but Ned signed them anyway.

I won’t blame him though for some players performances like Andruw Jones, who was a lazy fat POS. He disgraced himself and the Dodgers with the way he approached the game while wearing Dodger Blue.  He was completely unprofessional about being a baseball player while he was a Dodger, out of shape, lazy, and a terrible example to the younger players. The worst part is Andruw knew he was all of the above and he could have cared less, and that’s on him.

My hope is that the one guy who I respect most in the Dodgers organization, Logan White, is not a casualty of the front office mess and perhaps is the teams next GM. But there are a countless number of hearings, and court dates that need to be completed before the Dodgers as a franchise can move forward. As it is thank goodness for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw and what ever the outcome, the Frank McCourt bankruptcy better not cost the Dodgers the chance to sign both of them, so they spend the rest of their careers with the Dodgers.  If not 2011 will truly be “the lost season.”

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