Yesterday, I introduced the topic of the SoCal beast which bleeds blue blood, the Los Angeles Dodgers, with their high-profile, high-maintenance boy wonder, Yasiel Puig, and the highest paid player in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. In doing so, I inadvertently misspelled Mr. Puig’s first name in the featured headline, for which I am abjectly sorry. My complete and total bad. I examined the Dodgers’ starting eight position players, while leaving the task of evaluating the pitching for this morning. I find this a ponderous undertaking and I do so with a less-than-light and breezy manner. The Dodgers’ corps of hurlers is a daunting unit, indeed, with no sniveling about it being the best money can buy.
Deep pockets go a long way to providing a winning team, but that’s about as relevant as the idea of scheduling a snowball fight in hell for early morning, instead of later in the “heat” of the day. When the games start, no one cares about salaries; people care about wins and losses. On paper Dodger pitching would appear to be in line for more than its share of W’s. As I said yesterday, in reference to not being able to get Andre Ethier into the lineup until there was an injury, the Dodgers are stacked pretty deep. Just knowing that their numbers four and five guys are Dan Haren and Josh Beckett, is enough to make me flinch, twitch and retch, but enough of all this optimism. Let’s git ‘er done.
LA Blue vigorously pursued the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes event, but lost out to New York Pinstripes. What a shock. With Chad Billingsley still out from Tommy John surgery and not due back until shortly before the All-Star break, things are shaping up like this: The big K, southpaw Clayton Kershaw is the ace, after signing a seven-year, $215 million contract over the offseason. Considering LA’s payroll, highest in the majors at $235 million this year, is only 20 mil more, it says something about what they think of K. I think just as highly of this extraordinary athlete.
The number two man is righty Zack Greinke, hampered for the moment by a strained right calf. He was less than enthusiastic about making the trip to Australia, and this calf injury gave him an out. Being the number two guy on this staff, he will garner a lot of outs, much to the dismay of opponents. His well-documented social anxiety issues seem to have abated, and I think it bears mentioning that his collarbone fracture, sustained in that April 11th brawl in 2013, placed him on the disabled list and contributed to that hideous start for the Dodgers last season.
Third comes lefty Hyun-Jin Ryo, suffering from a right big toenail injury, which occurred while running the bases in Sunday’s game in Australia. In rounding third base, he stopped too abruptly, in what has to be one of a manager’s worst nightmares. Ryo had a minor surgical procedure done since, to remove half of the injured toe nail, but that is some painful stuff for a pitcher to throw off of.
Right-hander Dan Haren is fourth, feeling as though he has to prove that losing 14 games for the Washington Nationals last year was just a fluke. Haren signed a one-year, $10 million contract and hopes to improve on 2013’s 4.67 ERA. The fifth starter is slated to be Josh Beckett, who was just placed on the DL with a bruised hand. Replacing him, most likely, is lefty Paul Maholm, who early on in spring was himself battling some elbow tenderness.
Kenley Jansen will close for LA, with the bearded one, Brian Wilson, being paid a cool ten million for 2014 (same $$ as Haren) to set him up. Wilson was obviously miffed that the Giants would not tender him a contract when he came back from his TJ surgery and he found the most suitable way to get pay-back. I wish him well, though not when he pitches against the Orange and Black.
Together with Kershaw’s well-publicized back tenderness earlier this week, the Dodgers’ pitching is a little beat up, though it must be considered absurdly potent, when it’s functioning on all cylinders. Like many pitching staffs this season, the Dodgers have had problems. The more extreme cases throughout the league make the Dodgers’ issues seem trivial, but trivial issues make the difference, at times, in a highly competitive league. If the Dodger pitching remains healthy, it’s hard to see them anywhere but competing for top spot, especially with Billingsley waiting in the wings.
The San Francisco Giants begin the season with 22 games against National League West foes and altogether play 29 of its first 38 games against the Wild West, including ten against the Blue-Crew. The Giants must take this ten-game series, in order to establish in the first quarter of the season that they are contenders. Having finished an NL best 44-32 against the West in 2013, the Giants must rise to the task again because I do not see any team being able to overtake the Dodgers should they build up a substantial lead.
The bottom line, though dotted, seems as solid as a double yellow one. Everyone knows that you are not supposed to pass on a double-yellow line, and yet teams do it all the time. Bulky with glitz and baggage, like a cumbersome Winnebago, the Dodgers can be passed. The Giants, well-versed in their chemistry lab, have the ingredients of motivation and pay-back and are the four-wheeling, NorCal team to do it. It’s not a dash-it’s a marathon, and the Giants have the character and temperament to carry them into first place. Let the games begin.