The Dodgers season is fading fast and it looks like 2010 will provide their first absence from the playoffs since 2007. Tyson Qualls analyzes what went wrong and if Dodger fans have a glimmer of hope for the future.
|What Went Wrong?The injury bug dominated the Dodgers throughout the course of the season. Frequently injured Dodger, Rafael Furcal, had one of his best seasons as a Dodger derailed by his recurring back problems. Manny Ramirez has played a total of 61 games so far this season and Andre Ethier was on a triple crown pace before a broken pinkie disrupting his rhythm. Sprinkle in key injuries to Vicente Padilla, Russell Martin, Jeff Weaver, Reed Johnson, Chad Billingsley, and Hong Chih-Kuo and you have a squad playing at less than 70 percent during the course of the season.
Blaming injuries as the sole reason is hardly fair, however, as all MLB teams deal with hurt players on a frequent basis. The inconsistency of the bullpen also sent the Dodgers spiraling out of contention. George Sherril never regained last year’s form and Jonathan Broxton has temporarily relinqueshed his closer role. Both players contributed to arguably the best 8-9th inning duo in the league in 2009, but could not get an out during the second half of 2010.
The digression of Matt Kemp and Russell Martin weighs heavy on Dodger fans as the question now becomes similar to a Clash song, “Should They Stay or Should They Go”.
Kemp spent the better part of 2009 being hailed as a five tool, once in a decade player. This year has been different. His average slumped to .254 and he is on pace to post the lowest SB, average, RBI, and hit totals since becoming a full time starter. While it may be easy to attribute the lack of protection from an absent Ramirez as the main factor, it may be that the league has figured him out and he needs to adjust in order to save his career.
While this is Kemp’s first trip down disappointment’s path, Martin has become a regular visitor. In each of the past three seasons, Martin’s HRs, RBIs, average, OBP, BB, SB, and 2B have all decreased. The Dodgers should be looking elsewhere for a catcher if Martin cannot regain his swagger.
Wait Til Next Year
Overlooked in the drama of Frank McCourt’s ownership is the recent success of the Dodgers. While it is easy to point the finger at the divorce and blame McCourt’s penny pinching ways for this season’s failure, it should be noted that during McCourt’s tenure as owner the Dodgers have made the playoffs four out of seven seasons.
If McCourt can put the divorce behind him and show more commitment to winning,(signing prospect Zach Lee certainly helped) the future in Los Angeles may not be so bleak.
Clayton Kershaw has been giving Dodger fans a reason to go to the park throughout this season and will continue to be a force for many years to come. Kershaw’s 163 K’s have him trailing only Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, and Adam Wainwright in that category.
Manny Wood will be closed for good next season, freeing up 20 million dollars for the Dodgers payroll. Whether that goes to the team or divorce court lawyers is still up for debate. However, what it does mean is that the Dodgers won’t have to pay exhorbitant amounts for a player who appears for less than half the season.
Notes from the Dugout
Short Stop Rafael Furcal experienced a set back in his on-going attempt to return from the DL. No time table has been set for his reappearance in the starting line up.
Prospect Zach Lee will not pitch this season, but will be joining the Ogden Raptors as a spectator while they prepare to play in the post season.
Jeff Weaver is expected to return from the DL this week, while Vicente Padilla may be out for the season with a bulging disk in his neck. Travis Schlichting was called up to replace Padilla.
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The Dodgers have crashed into the same road block for two consecutive seasons. This year, if they are going to break through the NLCS and into the World Series a few essential components must fall into place. With the right mixture of youth and experience, this season has the Dodgers poised for another October run. Tyson Qualls provides five keys to a Dodgers World Series berth in 2010.
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