Gotta Love The Dodgers

Dodgers_coach_Larry_Bowa_wearing_a_batting_helmet,_spring_training_2008No, there’s no metaphor here or any symbolism or spiritual lesson behind the scenes. I’m a sports nut, and I’m enjoying cheering for the Dodgers. They were the first major league team in any sport that I followed, so it’s fitting.

I admit, I went through a period after the latest strike and a series of steroid scandals in which I lost interest in baseball altogether. It didn’t help that the Dodgers experienced a change of ownership that could not uphold the proud tradition of the team.

Steroid scandals are still plaguing the sport, but at this point it seems the current crop of Dodgers are not connected with the ongoing league investigation. Most of them are too young. They’ve only been in the league for a few short years.

Well, “most of them” is probably an exaggeration. To be honest, I’m still getting to know who’s on the roster. I’ve only been following them for about six weeks–sort of that turn-around point when manager Don Mattingly said the season started anew for the guys in Dodger blue.

Don_Mattingly_(2011)The fact that Mattingly was still the manager was a minor miracle as the media pundits had him on the way out unless he had a particularly good series against . . . I forget which team. I think the Dodgers might have been swept.

But to the surprise of all those sports talkers, the new, new ownership–a group of sports lovers which includes Magic Johnson–stuck by their manager. They recognized that no one on the team had given up and that Mattingly hadn’t been playing with the line-up he expected due to a rash of early injuries.

As some of those players who had been on the DL (disabled list), returned to action, a new-comer burst on the scene, too–a raw talent with all kinds of enthusiasm named Yasiel Puig.

Those in the know call Yasiel a 5-point athlete. He is fast, has a strong arm, can hit for power, can hit for average, and plays defense. But he’s still a bit of a diamond in the rough, which is why he was in Triple-A. Sometimes he misses his cut-off man. Sometimes he tries too hard to hit home runs. Sometimes he makes base-running blunders. But he also gets key base hits and makes spectacular catches in right field. Sometimes he throws runners out or steals bases or stretches a single into a double.

He plays with abandon–at least he did until the All Star break. Now he’s settling in a little and seems aware that the world is watching. He’s a good human interest story, having come from Cuba by way of Mexico. His is a rags-to-riches story, and we still love to hear those.

But the Dodger success has more to do with the changes Don Mattingly made in the bullpen, so that the games the Dodgers had been losing in the late innings, they now are winning. And it has to do with improved defense, and key hitting.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has figured into both those last factors. He came off the DL days after Yasiel Puig joined the parent club. When was the last time a shortstop was a clean-up hitter? It’s new to me, but Hanley is managing to hit better than .380 in that spot. He’s either driving in runs or getting on base or moving runners over.

But from top to bottom the Dodger line-up can hit (in July the team batting average is .292). And now, after struggling through April and May and a good part of June, they are actualizing their potential. And they still have an ace up their sleeves.

Arguably their best player who isn’t a pitcher, Matt Kemp, is once again on the DL. After nursing a pulled hamstring for far too long, he finally sat down, healed, and had just come back. Oh, I forgot the shoulder thing. He re-injured the shoulder he’d had surgery on, so sat for a short while to heal that. Then he came back for a couple days and was smoking! I mean, home runs, key base hits, his usual outstanding defense.

Everyone was wondering how the Dodgers were going to juggle four outfielders who all deserved to start. And then Kemp slid into home. Well, he actually slid into the catcher’s shin-guard-covered leg blocking home plate, and broke his ankle.

But he’ll be back. And the Dodgers, full of confidence now, don’t look like they’ve got a mind to slow down. They just might be the best team in baseball. Since the All Star break they’ve won 10 of 11 games. Since the beginning of Don Mattingly’s season reboot, they’re winning 80% of their games. That’s unheard of in baseball.

The thing is, they’re winning in all the ways there is to win. They’ve dominated teams offensively, they’ve won pitching duels. They’ve even won ugly–ever heard of a team striking out 20 times in a game and WINNING? Yep, the Dodgers managed that just the other day. They’re winning at home. They’re winning away. They’re beating teams in their division and those outside. They’re beating AL teams as well as NL teams.

This time of year I’m normally getting excited about the start of football. But pardon me for staying focused on baseball a while longer. It’s pretty fun to be a Dodger fan these days. 😉

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Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. Love this Becky! I have been following all this year, even when they were in the basement. I decided not to be a fair weather fan this year. But they are doing very well, even when they lose – like last night and the incredible pitching.

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  2. Love the baseball helmet being worn in the first image Becky! The Dodgers have had a great year and this is a fun post to read. Thanks!

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    • The Dodgers truly are having one of those magical seasons–since June 22, anyway. I think, what would have it been like had they played this way at the beginning of the season? My only hope is that they sustain it into the playoffs.

      Anyway, thanks for the feedback, Susan. This is one of those posts that I figured only a few would appreciate. I’m glad you did. 😀

      Becky

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