Yesterday, Don Mattingly showed me that he’s no dummy by naming Clayton Kershaw the Opening Day Starter and Jon Broxton the Dodgers’ closer. I have been as staunch a proponent of Clayton as I have been an opponent of Jon. It turns out that Broxton’sstruggles were mental – which was what I have always said. I can smell the fear emanating from him in tight games (you didn’t believe me that I could see it in his eyes – maybe you’ll believe I can smell it!). I’ll be rooting for him, because if J-Brox can pitch up to his potential, this will be one great team.
I still wonder what people would be saying about Frank McCourt right about now, IF Manny Ramirez had not been injured and lost him “Mannyability” and if the entire starting lineup of the Dodgers had not underperformed and if the bullpen had not imploded in 2010. Many baseball fans blame much of what happened last year on Joe Torre, and I am certainly in that camp, but if the Dodgers had played up to their capabilities, and if the pen hadn’t imploded and Manny hadn’t died, in all likelihood the Dodgers could have been playing the Phillies again for the NLCS. I wonder what people would be saying about Frank McCourt right about now? But we know what happened – The Offense Tanked, The Bullpen Blew and Manny Evaporated! There had to be a scapegoat, and Dodger fans found an easy one – Frank McCourt. The Dastardly Divorce brought out all sorts of facts and allegations and it became apparent to most people that Frank McCourt needed to be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It was all Frank McCourt’s fault.
Then the allegations really started piling up (some true, some not so true):
- “It was that Damn McCourt who caused all this.”
- “He’s looting the team.”
- “He’s stealing from the taxpayers.”
- “The IRS is investigating.”
- “The Dodgers are bankrupt!”
- “The farm system is depleted.”
- “The Dodgers are cutting jobs.”
- “The Dodgers didn’t go to spring training until today to save utility costs.”
- and on and on.
If the Dodgers had went to the NLCS last year, the talk of the off-season certainly wouldn’t be focused on McCourt. Was it McCourts’ fault? I think we are about to find out. The Dodgers are 5th or 6th in the NL in Payroll this year. Here’s an interesting stat: Of the teams with the Top 6 Payrolls in the NL, only 2 of the teams made the playoffs. I guess that was McCourt’s fault too?
But, it’s Spring Training and hope springs eternal. Here’s my question: If the Dodgers bounce back (and I realize that most of you are saying they won’t) and go to the NLCS, what happens to all the blame? Are you going to give McCourtcredit? It’s a rhetorical question, I suppose. If Ned had pulled the trigger and replaced Torre mid-season, we may not have been calling for Frank to be lynched. A manager or coach can make a huge difference. Case-in-point: I live in Indianapolis, Indiana and the Indiana Pacers were a horrible floundering team under Jim O’Brien. Once Larry Bird fired his buddy and replaced him with Frank Vogel (an assistant), the team has went 7-3 and lost to the Miami Heat twice, and barely at that. The change of coach made a huge difference. The Pacers aren’t Championship Caliber, but they were much better than they showed. They have been playing with a new zeal for the new coach.
I have a feeling you will see a re-energized and exciting team on the field this year with “Dodgers” on their uniforms. Frank McCourt says he is committed to putting a winner on the field. Matt Kemp is looking to step up and be a leader. Hes not making excuses for last year but he’s planning on a big season. James and Andre also want a slice of that pie. Raffy and Casey need to be healthy – don’t think for a minute that the both can’t have good years. In fact, I look for it! However, it will be the Young Guns who determine what will happen, and the Dodgers will rise and fall on the shoulders of the Great Eight:
- James Loney
- Matt Kemp
- Andre Ethier
- Jon Broxton
- Clayton Kershaw
- Chad Billingsley
- Kenley Jansen
- Hong-chih Kuo
This bounceback season will serve up a heaping helping of crow to all the naysayers. Spit out the feathers!