Things are looking downright grim in Dodgertown. One of the best teams in baseball history, the 2017 Dodgers, seemed poised to follow up a truly magical year with continued dominance. It would be amazing like last year, except this time, they would win one more game—they would win four contests in the World Series and bring home the crown.
Some fans became anxious when the front office made very few moves over the offseason. Not only did they not land any of the big whales (Stanton, Ohtani, etc.), they lost some key players (Ethier, Watson and Morrow). Brandon Morrow loomed large last year and there was no question the club would feel his absence. Still, though, it would be fine. The team had last year’s stars and the farm was chock-a-block with talent. Depth, they call it. The team was so deep that guys like Culberson and Thompson languished in the minors. The Dodgers would be fine.
Except things began to go wrong. Arguably our hottest bat, Justin Turner, was hit by a pitch in spring training and suffered a broken wrist. Ouch! What a big loss. Okay, injuries happen. Clayton Kershaw missed two months in 2016 with back issues and spent two months in 2017 on the DL. The team rose to the occasion and dominated. It would work out.
So, fine. This would be the year. April started off slow, but April is always slow and the team didn’t open with a series against the Padres. That’s always a nice way to kick off a year, but oh well. The new reliever, Tom Koehler, was also on the DL by March 29, and remains there. Ok, still, not that worrisome. We still had the best closer in the business – Kenley Jansen. But Kenley this year isn’t the Kenley of years past.
Fans began to worry as the team continued to rack up loss after loss. Even worse, they lost to teams such as the Giants and the Marlins. Hell, if you can’t win a series against the Marlins, you may as well be playing at the Triple-A level.
Fans grumbled, people began to clamor for the FO to identify the problems and fix them. This isn’t the time to hold the purse strings so tightly, despite the intentions to stay below the luxury tax threshold. Being cost-effective is fine, but not when it means the team can’t win games. (The Marlins!)
Still, May was right around the corner. Things always got better in May. Except on April 30, the team announced star shortstop and big bat Corey Seager, needed Tommy John surgery. He’s out for the season. Even the most optimistic and Pollyanna-ish fans’ hearts lurched at this news. Seager? Out for AT LEAST the rest of 2018? Pack. It. In. Season is over.
I can’t imagine many things more difficult for a baseball fan to endure than coming off a season like 2017 and having to deal with this. Clearly, the team is circling the drain. Everyone will have to wait for 2019. And after missing out on the World Series by one game, a series that saw a Dodger pitcher tipping his pitches, while a member of the other team made overt racist gestures, along with other misbehaviors, well, it is a hard thing to tolerate. Talk about bitter pills!
And it may be true that the Dodgers are out of it. They could even finish last in the NL West. Yup, it could happen. But I’m not throwing in the proverbial towel. Not yet. It really is premature.
The Dodgers historically seem to play their best under adverse circumstances. When things look impossible, they somehow reach deep down and start winning. Heart. Grit and determination. This is when those things come in to play. Yes, it may be too much to overcome. But that’s far from certain.
Turner should be back in the lineup within a month. Hopefully, Puig and Hill will return much sooner. And don’t count out the front office. They may surprise us and bring in some outside talent. They never tip their hands, so it’s hard to predict what they will do. Also, the Injury Fairy doesn’t visit the Dodgers exclusively. Other teams will see players on the DL. It’s a long season. I’m not going to worry unduly until the All-Star Break. If they’re not in a hole so deep they can’t see daylight, they will still be in the running.
In the meantime, I’m going to get to work on that umpire doll. And look for hat pins. Long, sharp hat pins.
The Dodgers are going to win tonight. I believe that.