Dodger fans are currently lamenting how bad their team is. Most fans are currently are Frank McCourt bashers and are convinced that thesituation is hopeless. I am going to suggest that they are “way wrong.” The Dodgers need tweaking, not a complete overhaul!
At the start of 2010, this is what was said about the Padres by numerous National Writers and Publications:
- Projected finish: 5th because you can’t finish any lower.
- They look like a glorified Taxi Squad.
- They cannot compete for Free Agents.
- Their farm system is an embarrassment.
- They will deal away their beloved star – Adrian Gonzalez.
- Change won’t happen overnight.
All of those projections were absolutely wrong. Things certainly looked bleaker for the Padres last year than they do for the Dodgers this year. I think this is a team in need of tweaking and I believe that we will have to continue to have faith in the youngsters. San Diego’s youngsters delivered BIG TIME.
Cincinnati was projected to finish 4th and look what they accomplished. The Texas Rangers and Tampa Rays were both selected to finish third or lower in their divisions. The point is that all teams have question marks. The Dodgers also have question marks. Unless you are the Yankees, spending money is no guarantee that you will do better. The keys to doing better are making a couple of key acquisitions and having existing players step up along with a rookie or three developing.
The Dodgers young nucleus may be ready, willing and able to deliver in 2011. The pieces might need to be shuffled however. There is also an element of luck (where preparation meets opportunity) involved. Case-in-point: Aubrey Huff was a player no one wanted and the Giants signed him for $2 mil – he was arguably their MVP. Buster Posey also stepped up. We knew he was good, but we didn’t know he would be THIS good THIS soon. Juan Uribe also hit 24 HR for the Giants. Juan Uribe! So, sometimes you just get lucky or maybe just catch lightening in a bottle. There will lots of Aubrey Huffs in the Free Agent Pool this year. Obviously, there is Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, but their price will be huge. I am going to suggest that the Dodgers can obtain 4 or 5 position players and pitchers who can be had on the cheap, and who would cost less than Werth and Crawford COMBINED! Those 4 or 5 players might make more of an impact. It’s too early to speculate who that might be however.
I have one major question: Is it time to move Russ Martin to 3B and take the defensive pressure off of him? He is recovering from a hip injury and maybe he just needs to be the 3rd catcher and see if playing everyday at 3B can help him focus on his hitting and regain his form. He used to pretty good, if you remember. While not a prototypical 3B, Russ Martin’s best year when he hit .293 with 32 doubles 19 HR and 87 RBI would not look bad in the Dodgers lineup. Maybe playing a less demanding position would help him get that back. Maybe a new hitting coach would help. I don’t know if he can come back offensively, but I do know that he can play a good 3B defensively. That leaves Casey Blake as a backup at 1B, 3B and OF, as well as a pinch-hitter. The only reason I consider doing this with Martin is the tremendous amount of respect he gets from his teammates.
Catcher: Catcher is covered with Ellis and Barajas, with Martin as the emergency catcher.
First Base: I have been willing to trade James Loney in the past, and like many on the Dodgers, he as underachieved this year, but his 87 RBI was second on the team, and his defense is solid, if not spectacular. The Dodgers could do a whole lot worse than Loney, and with a new batting coach, maybe he can find that elusive power. He’s capable of hitting 25 HR and batting .300. Will he? When will he?
Second Base: Ryan Theriot is a very capable defensive 2B. He can do things on defense that Blake DeWitt could only dream about. I just don’t think he is a top-of-the-order hitter. But, he does have a career OB% of .348, and if I thought he could improve on that (also under a new hitting coach), I would say that if the Dodgers could sign him for less than $2 mil a year, they should do that. If he wants more, I wouldn’t take that risk and I am not afraid to start Ivan DeJesus, Jr. there, with Carroll as a very capable backup.
ShortStop: I have been fearful of Raffy’s injury history, but I have a feeling that he will train harder than every before and could have the moster year he was having this year when his back acted up. The good news is that it’s not structural – just muscle related. He’ll be playing for a new contract and 140-145 games with him healthy would bode well for the Dodgers. I believe that fans could be very happy with Raffy in his “Swan Song.”
Third Base: Russ Martin on a wing and a prayer that he can do the job justice (hey, do you have a better “realistic” idea?). Maybe Martin can be the 2011 Aubrey Huff… or maybe he will be non-tendered. Stay tuned.
Left Field: If the right free agent fell in the Dodgers lap, then I would leap, but I am all for going into Spring Training with Xavier Paul, Jay Gibbons, Jerry Sands, Trayvon Robinson and some other stiff competing for this job. Let the best man win! I can really see Paul or Robinson stepping up (maybe a platoon) although Robinson is better suited to hit #2,
Center Field: As I have stated, Matt Kemp can be a monster if he can keep focused. He has to take his off-season seriously and come back with a new mindset next year. He regressed in every area this year, but he has the tools and the will to change. He’s says he’s going to be a 40/40 man. I don’t doubt the 40 HR. 40 steals might be a stretch. I look for a batting average around .270 next season for him with 40 HR and 100+ RBI. Just pencil him in at Cleanup and leave him there all season. Let’s not forget that Matt lead the team in HR and RBI – the best is yet to come for this kid!
Right Field: Andre Ethier was hampered by ankle and hand injuries all season. Whether he should have been shelved is a question no one can answer. It was what it was, and just like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier will have a chip on his shoulder and be hungry to prove his worth. Look for a monster year from him.
Bench: Along with Carroll, it’s time for Hu.
Current Projected Lineup:
- Furcal SS
- Robinson LF
- Ethier RF
- Kemp CF
- Loney 1B
- Martin 3B
- De Jesus, Jr. 2B
- Somethings up with Logan White and the Dodgers – not sure what.
- Honeycutt is considering coming back.
- Could Willie Randolph be the bench coach?
- Will Tim Wallach be on the staff?
- What about Brad Ausmus? Will he be on the coaching staff?