The biggest benefit of the Dodgers 9-1 start is that we don’t have to read TJ Slimers constant Dodger-bashing drivel! Free at last, free at last free at last! If this keeps up, he’ll have to take early retirement. I write this knowing that I might very well sit next to him next week, but I am pretty certain he can’t whip me, so I feel OK.
On March 18th, I wrote this:
2011 was an aberration for the Los Angeles Dodgers. For those of you who think the 2012 version of the Dodgers is not a very good team, I say: “I beg to differ. In fact, I will go as far as saying you are crazy if you think this is a bad team.” It’s popular to beat up on McCourt and the Dodgers – after all, most people are, right? I’m going to again say that conventional wisdom is very frequently wrong.
The team has a lot to prove and has an attitude that I can see is very different this year. Of course, there could be injuries and issues we don’t know about, but I doubt that will will see as many problems as the Dodgers had last year, and that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the reason for my optimism!
Now, it would have been me that was crazy if I had predicted that the Dodgers would start with a 9-1 record. It will be interesting to see where th Dodgers are when the new Power Ranking come out tomorrow. It’s even crazier to think that the Dodgers are 9-1 and their Ace is winless! Of course it has helped that Andre Ethier is playing up to his potential and Matt Kemp is doing his Superman imitation. David Schoenfield of ESPN.com writes this about Kemp and the Dodgers today:
The Dodgers feature Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who struggled through 5.1 innings in getting a no-decision on Sunday, but it is Kemp who has become the face of the franchise after his near-MVP season of 2011 when many thought he was the baseball’s best all-around player. Kemp may not like the notion, but he’s also symbolic of the type of player baseball must do a better job of attracting: Known for his basketball exploits in high school in Oklahoma, the Dodgers drafted Kemp in the sixth round in 2003 and convinced him to sign. His bonus of $130,000 was in line for that round; Kemp simply decided he wanted to play baseball.
And, man, can he play. He’s insanely hot right now, one of those stretches in which you can’t pitch to him. He went 3-for-4 with a walk on Sunday; he went 3-for-4 with two home runs on Saturday; he homered and drew three walks on Friday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kemp is one of just four players since 1920 hitting .450 with at least six home runs and 16 RBIs through his team’s first 10 games, joining Dante Bichette (1994 Rockies), Lou Brock (1967 Cardinals) and Willie Mays (1964 Giants). The Dodgers play again Tuesday in Milwaukee, and I suspect the Brewers are going to be very careful with him.
At the start of the season, ESPN.com ranked the top 500 players in baseball. Kemp came in 13th; I thought it was a little low, but it was somewhat understandable if you factored in Kemp’s disappointing 2010 when he hit just .249. But after hitting .324 with 39 home runs and 40 steals in 2011, Kemp intimated during spring training that he’d like travel where no major leaguer has before: 50-50. While that goal may be difficult to reach, it also made a statement in my mind: Kemp isn’t content being one of the best players in baseball; he wants to be the best. No questions asked.
As for the Dodgers, everyone is already quick to point out that they’ve beaten up on the Padres and Pirates so far. Fair enough, I suppose, but 9-1 is still 9-1. The Dodgers are just the 11th team since 1990 to start 9-1 (the last team to start 10-0 was the 1987 Brewers). Here’s how the previous 10 fared:
2011 Rangers: 96-66, reached World Series
2009 Marlins: 87-75, missed playoffs
2003 Yankees: 101-61, reached World Series
2003 Giants: 100-61, division champs
2003 Royals: 83-79, missed playoffs
2002 Indians: 74-88, missed playoffs
1996 Orioles: 88-74, won wild card
1994 Braves: 68-46, strike season
1992 Blue Jays: 96-66, World Series champs
1990 Reds: 91-71, World Series champs
But there are some signs that the Dodgers may be a lot more competitive than most envisioned. The bullpen has a chance to be one of the best in the league with Kenley Jansen setting up Javy Guerra and a solid corps of middle men including Matt Guerrier and Josh Lindblom. Chad Billingsley had a rough 2011 (career-worst 4.21 ERA as he walked 84 in 188 innings), but he’s been brilliant through two outings, allowing one run with a 15/1 strikeout/walk ratio. Aaron Harang‘s 13 strikeouts on Saturday may be a fluke but, hey, he’s the team’s fifth starter. Suddenly a rotation of Kershaw, Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Harang looks like it could be decent, especially in the NL West, not exactly a division full of mashers.
Hey, it’s too early to make strong declarations, but I’ll leave the first 10 days of the season with this thought: Kemp is on a mission and the Dodgers are looking like baseball’s surprise team.
- It was a proud day for Major League to honor Jackie Robinson, but it’s still a shame that young black kids don’t want to play baseball. ESPN and their highlight dunks have all of their attention. We need more Matt Kemps!
- For those of you who don’t know, Minor League Baseball (MILB) has a video package where you can see a substantial number minor league games for $39.99 for the year. Check it out: http://www.milb.com/milb/multimedia/milbtv.jsp?ymd=20120415
- Don’t look now, but Juan Uribe does look slimmer and his batting average is fatter – all the way up to .267. That’s huge for him.
- Josh Lindblom ain’t going anywhere soon! He’s a key part of the pen.
- Ron Rivera continue to be a professional hitter. So far, he’s been a good signing.
- Jared Massey’s Minor League Report – 4/15/2012
- I still have a lot of questions about the structure of the new Dodger ownership. I mean, they paid a half billion more than the next bid, but evidently allowed Frank McCourt to keep half ownership of the land. Yet, they say he won’t get any of the parking lot revenues. It appears to be a play on words – he’s half owner. Then they keep the details of that agreement secret. I smell something I don’t like and I don’t know exactly what it is. I’m not obsessed with it, but I’m not just chugging the Kool-Aid either!