Andre Ethier

NL West Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Since the San Francisco Giants were gracious enough to invite me to Media Day, there’s no better time than now two weeks later to preview what the Giants will be up against in 2011.

Los Angeles has no NFL team yet (although they’re trying pretty hard), but the Dodgers are as close to an NFL team as a baseball team can be. You know that thing about the NFL, where whenever a team is successful at anything the rest of the teams all rush to copy the good team? Then everybody’s doing the same thing, and someone has to figure out a new way to become a good team? The Dodger have changed one of the most common cliches in the world to “If you can’t beat them, become them.”

“Literally” is a word used far too often (“I was literally running for my life” … no you weren’t, you ran five steps so you could enter the McDonald’s before that family of eight made it in before you, fatty), but the Dodgers are literally trying to become the Giants. Even today, the Dodgers signed Merkin Valdez to a Minor League contract. That’s along with Juan Uribe and Eugenio Velez, along with a failed attempt to sign Aubrey Huff. Perhaps since the Dodgers are children of divorce they’ve formed an unhealthy, Single White Female-like attachment with the Giants. Either that or Ned Colletti has run out of ideas (or both!).

So to get away from needlessly bashing the Dodgers, why did they suck so bad last year? 80-82, with what before the season was considered to be two of the best young trios in baseball (Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney for position players; Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and John Ely in the rotation)? The answer was only one of each trio (Ethier and Kershaw) performed up to expectations. Loney has shown to be a completely mediocre player in every phase of the game besides durability. Kemp is a douche — a fancier, safer version of Milton Bradley who’s almost as harmful to team chemistry as Mr. Boardgame. Alright, Billingsley actually had a fairly decent year, but Ely’s 18 starts were an exercise in gawdawfulness.

Subtractions
Russell Martin
George Sherrill
Jeff Weaver
Brad Ausmus
Ryan Theriot
Ronnie Belliard
Garret Anderson
Scott Podsednik

Additions
Juan Uribe
Matt Guerrier
Dioner Navarro
Tony Gwynn
Jon Garland
Marcus Thames
Blake Hawksworth
Eugenio Velez
Merkin Valdez

Strengths
An extremely durable play-by-play announcer; Dodger Stadium is a pleasant place to watch a game, although admittedly I haven’t attended a game there since the early 90’s — when there seemed to be fewer stabbings at Chavez Ravine; Velez’s moxie; their general manager teared up while watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series; race integration.

Weaknesses
The McCourts; Broxton is the lesser of the two fat closers in the NL West; fan safety; Juan Uribe’s chances of landing on the DL multiple times this season skyrocketed immediately after signing that 3-year deal; Rafael Furcal’s hamstrings and groin are even tighter and less flexible than Uribe’s; Loney is like J.T. Snow, only Snow was actually a really good defensive first baseman; Casey Blake could have changed his name to Blake Casey during the off-season and nobody would have batted an eye; the warranty’s about to run out on Ted Lilly (and Jon Garland); Lamar Odom recently confused his wife with Vicente Padilla (actually, maybe that’s a strength); Don Mattingly is the Mike Singletary to Bruce Bochy’s Bill Belichick.

Overall
This is a team that should completely rebuild around Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and all their young bullpen arms (Kenley Jansen, Carlos Monasterios, John Ely). Instead, the way they’ve gone about their off-season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they signed Rich Aurilia before March. The Dodgers will be a better team in 2011 than they were in 2010, but not better enough for Colletti to save his job. I wonder if he’ll will get his old office back whenever he returns to the Giants as a special assistant. JOB WELL DONE, NED.

Predicted Record: 85-77 (2nd in NL West)

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