All San Francisco Giants fans know that their greatest enemy is located in SoCal, a peculiar beast which bleeds blue blood, known as the Los Angeles Dodgers-and many other colorful nick-names, depending on what’s happening in the game. Rejecting this principle of life, that the Dodgers are the adversary, would be the same as rejecting my morning pot of coffee. I will give up coffee-and I’m paraphrasing here-only when you pry my mug out of my cold, dead fingers.
For every time I shook my head in astonishment during the Frank McCourt era of the LA Dodgers, I am now shaking my head in dread, during the Magic Johnson-ownership era, waiting for the next expenditure to be announced. It’s enough to loosen the bolt affixing my cranium to my shoulders. It has been a topsy-turvy ownership cycle for the Blue-Crew, for sure. I actually felt bad for the Dodger organization for a minute or so there, because I think that ownership issues should somehow be placed above the integrity of the game. I’m not sure how integrity figures into the equation when the issue of money takes on the opposite meaning, in that there is a bottomless well, but that’s not up for discussion.
The topic on the table is whether or not deep pockets equates to great success. On the surface, even asking the question would make the inquirer seem dense. Conventional logic goes something like this: Big bucks pay big salaries; players who command big salaries are excellent athletes. Excellent athletes help win titles; therefore, big bucks buy championships. Translated, this strongly suggests that the Dodgers are well-equipped to win the division.
Polar opposites: Clayton Kershaw is number one on my list of favorite non-Giants players in the universe; he exudes class, style and civility in every endeavor he pursues, not to mention being the best pitcher in the National League. Then there is Yasil Puig, as mustardy and unlikeable as a banana slug, one that you don’t realize is there until you accidentally lean back along the creekbed, and put your hand smack on it. Ugh, gross. Yep, that’s our Yasiel. Even if he were God’s gift to baseball, I would not excuse his behavior. He’s not, though, and that makes it unacceptable. Manager Don Mattingly downplayed the tension between Puig and himself after meeting with his 23-year-old right fielder on Tuesday, obviously becoming adept at avoiding any additional wattage on his exuberantly immature star.
Kershaw has won the Cy Young Award two of the last three seasons; Puig has played in just over 100 games. That’s the trouble with the team from the ‘burbs: They are so scattered along Personality Avenue, that it’s hard to imagine them having each other’s backs. Each has traveled via a different GPS monitor to arrive in the Southland, as opposed to the Giants, the core of which has come up through the farm system. Half of the Giants’ starting eight position players and four of the five starting pitchers have come via Fresno.
For 2014 the projected Dodger lineup has A. J. Ellis at catcher, after a lively battle at backup, won by Drew Butero over Tim Federowicz. Next is Adrian Gonzalez at first, Hanley Ramirez at short and Juan Uribe at third. At second base Dee Gordon won out over Alex Guerrero, the player who came from Cuba, and signed a 4-year, $28 million contract. The Dodgers want him to play every day, because he’s rusty after not being on the field for almost a full year due to the political complications stemming from his defection, so they sent him down to the minors. Expect him to be back. Seven million is a lot to pay a minor leaguer, no matter how good he is.
The outfield consists of left-fielder Carl Crawford, who was excused from the trip to Australia for paternal reasons, Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier in center and Puig in right. Matt Kemp is starting out the season on the DL because of the left ankle injury he has been dealing with since surgery, but any team that has to have an injury before opening up a spot for Ethier, is in pretty good shape.
Last season Puig arrived in June and made the splash that he did, but overlooked by some is the fact that Hanley Ramirez also returned from the disabled list, and batted .345 with twenty homers and 57 RBI’s in just 86 games. That works out to 38 homers and 107 RBI’s over the course of an entire season. Whatever it was, the Dodgers’s season was one with more ups and downs than the Santa Cruz Roller-Coaster. It was fun, but in the end, you pile out and go on to the next ride.
Speaking of next rides, I will wait until tomorrow to examine the starting pitching for the Dodgers and wrap up my assessment of the team. In the meanwhile, do try to get that image of the banana slug out of your mind. It’s hard, especially when he manages a base hit, or a good defensive play, but give it a go. Try salt. See you tomorrow.