With spring training rapidly approaching, fans around Dodgertown are still a bit distressed with the way the roster is shaping up for 2016. People are insisting that additional bats and bullpen arms are needed to contend, but considering the state of the franchise five years ago, things aren’t really as bad as they seem.
When November rolled around in 2010, ex-owner Frank McCourt was smack-dab in the middle of a horrific divorce, and based on the daily operations of the club that were visible to the public, the budget was extremely limited.
Joe Torre presumably sensed where the Dodgers were headed and decided to retire from managing completely, passing the reigns to Don Mattingly. After soaring to the NLCS in both 2008 and 2009, a downward trend was beginning.
Much to the dismay of many fans, Russell Martin was non-tendered. Assistant GM Kim Ng left for greener pastures. Brad Ausmus retired. Team psychic, magician and healer Vladimir Shpunt vanished. The roster was in shambles.
McCourt even went as far to sever ties with team president Dennis Mannion in an attempt to save money.
Former GM Ned Colletti took the funds that were allotted to him and attempted to spend wisely. He made what he thought were big splashes by signing Juan Uribe, Ted Lilly, Jon Garland and Matt Guerrier — all to multi-year deals.
Aiming to make the roster functional with hardly any money remaining, Colletti scored a group of low-cost, one-year contracts with scrappy, gritty veterans like Aaron Miles, Marcus Thames, Eugenio Velez, Dana Eveland, Juan Castro, Tony Gwynn Jr., Ron Mahay, Juan Castro, Mike MacDougal and Gabe Kapler.
On top of that, the Dodgers still owed money to Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt.
In terms of the minors, the farm system “seemed” to be in good order. John Ely and Carlos Monasterios were poised to anchor the back end of the starting rotation. Prospects were emerging — big things were expected from Jerry Sands, Russ Mitchell, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Justin Sellers, Kenley Jansen and Rubby De La Rosa.
In the end, the 2011 Dodgers were 82-79 and finished third in the NL West. Maybe it was the divorce. Or the lack of talent. Perhaps the management was incapable. Or maybe it was a whole lot of bad luck.
Regardless of those days, the Dodgers seem to be on the upswing. Sweeping changes have been made since that time. Only four players on the 40-man roster remain from 2011 — Clayton Kershaw, Jansen, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis.
Even coaches Tim Wallach and Davey Lopes, always fan favorites, have pursued other interests — nobody at all saw that coming.
In any case, three divisional titles have been won, and the franchise seems to be in much better position to go one step further. Hopefully for the sake of the fans, the players and the ownership group, that day comes soon.
In the meantime, perhaps everyone in Dodgertown should be grateful for the team’s current state of affairs.
Another winter like 2010-11 would be a total nightmare.
(Photo Credit: mlb.com)