(Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)
A legendary broadcaster in his final year on the airwaves. A rookie prodigy at shortstop who is stomping his way to the top of the league’s MVP voting. A former Dodgers outfielder in his inaugural season as skipper. Leadership qualities just oozing from every single crevice of the clubhouse. While the players thought that playoff success was in the making in each of the last three campaigns, 2016 is shaping up to have all the necessary components of a truly memorable year.
Dave Roberts is no stranger to the World Series. Neither is Chase Utley or Carlos Ruiz. While it appears that Roberts will have a lengthy and successful career as manager, Utley and Ruiz may be gone before the beginning of next season. The same could be said for Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen — players who have displayed significant roles in leadership that have helped the Dodgers cruise to their fourth consecutive divisional crown. All of these magical ingredients combined together at the ideal time just may be the difference between bowing out admirably in the NLDS and appearing in a World Series for the first time in 28 years.
Everything seems to be in perfect alignment. The best position player in the organization, a 22-year-old infielder from North Carolina, is strategically surrounded by three legitimate Gold Glove candidates. The Greatest Pitcher in the Universe has returned to dominant form, and this time around will have only about half the normal mileage on his arm at the beginning of the postseason. The Dodgers’ closer is arguably among the best in the game, and, is far and away having the most prolific season of his career. One of the club’s top outfielders has climbed the whole way from High-A farm ball to MLB rookie stardom in the blink of an eye. A front office that skillfully dives into the deepest, darkest corners of player analytics is undoubtedly at the peak of its own respective game.
These are the primary factors which may break the postseason curse and propel the 2016 Dodgers to a point in the playoffs that they haven’t seen in almost an eternity.
Ask Corey Seager who he believes is the MVP of the club, and without any uncertainty, he’ll humbly start with Utley and end with Adrian Gonzalez, while making stops at names like Turner, Jansen, Yasmani Grandal and Clayton Kershaw along the way.
Gonzalez is the Dodgers’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, an honor annually given to one MLB player “who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” All of his many intangible qualities aside, there’s still nobody else the team would want at the dish trailing by one with two outs in the ninth.
And perhaps the biggest award of the season so far, the Roy Campanella Award, went to Utley, who was voted the winner by his very own teammates and coaching staff. The award is given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership that Campy himself once showed in the Golden Age of the Dodgers’ rich heritage.
A short testament from Roberts:
“That’s a fitting award for Chase. Just the way we go about playing every pitch with intent, attention to detail, preparedness and all that stuff, that’s what Chase does. A guy that everyone in the clubhouse has respect for, has learned from,” Roberts explained.
“I’ve learned a ton of things from him just watching him on the day to day, and I think I can speak for every coach, we certainly would not be here without him.”
Of course there’s still the small matter of playing effectively on the diamond and winning the required games to advance deep into the postseason, however, this year, unlike that of the previous three, the Boys in Blue will embark on their quest with more ammunition and firepower than ever before.