Before the season began I suspected the Dodgers would be a very good ball club. Their lineup would produce runs, there was no weak link. The defense set up to be incredibly strong. I felt like the bullpen was better than people realized. As much as there were concerns about the pitching staff, I felt Chad Billingsley was almost an ace, Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf would each be able to give the team some chances to win, and Clayton Kershaw sometime in the next 4 years would become a Cy Young winner. I felt like the Giants would be the real competition in the division with Lincecum and Cain anchoring a very strong rotation.
If you told me the Giants would be 10 games over .500 at the All Star Break, I think I’d have been scared the Dodgers would be in trouble. That would mean the Giants were playing strong defense and more importantly, finding a way to put runs on the board. That would mean the Dodgers would have to be on fire to be in first place. Totally on fire.
If you told me that Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin would be having immense trouble at the plate I’d have thought we were in trouble. If you told me Andre Ethier would be hitting .250, I’d have been concerned. If you told me Will Ohman would be a bust, Jason Schmidt wouldn’t be healthy, Hong Chih Kuo would be permanently on the DL, I would be certain things would be shaky. If you told me Juan Pierre would be one of our top players statistically, I’d have thrown up in my mouth.
If you told me Manny Ramirez would get caught for taking PEDs and would miss 50 games, I’d say we were more screwed than an Ikea coffee table.
Only all those things happened and the Dodgers ended the first half with a record of 56-32. These things happened and the Dodgers had the best record in the major leagues. The Dodgers have a 7 game lead on those over-achieving San Francisco Giants. They lead the last place San Diego Padres by 20 games. They ended the Arizona Diamondbacks season by May.
The Dodgers +105 run differencial is the greatest in the league by a landslide. They have been at the top 5% of almost every statistic a team can tabulate during the 2009 campaign so far. They have struggled to hit the long ball, but they have not struggled to score runs for the most part.
This is a team that has comeback wins twice a week. This is a team that is all smiles. This is a team that seems content to pick up right where the Lakers left us, floating on cloud nine dreaming of westward championships. Finally, a squad that seems to befit the strategy GM Ned Colletti has talked about for years, a strategy that made sense if we ever saw it on the field. You’d heard it a million times. Use veterans to bridge the gap to the future with the talented core of youngsters.
Only in years past, the vets were too far over the hill and the youngsters not long enough in the tooth quite yet. All of that seemed to change last season. We started to see it. The pieces were coming together, but the team we have this year, at least the bulk of it, was only together a few months. A few months that had the Dodgers losing the lead in three NLCS games and just a stone’s throw from the World Series.
Now the veterans are Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez and Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson. The role players can produce when called upon, led by Brad Ausmus and Mark Loretta. The youngsters are looking legit. Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton are All-Stars. James Loney leads the team in RBIs.
Along with Manny, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier form possibly the best Dodger outfield ever to wear the regal blue cursive.
This team can pitch and run and hit and throw. They do not give up when they are down. They seem to enjoy the game. They smile at each other. To watch them from the stands so many times this year, I can say with conviction that they love the game right now. They love it and I believe them. Nothing makes me happier.
Heading into the break, there is only one real question. Is it enough? Do we have enough? Rumors of looking to add a starter and/or a reliever are commonplace. Roy Halladay looms on the east coast. He can be had, but at what cost? At what reward? Would he and Billingsley be able to deliver us the title? What if the Phillies snatch him? Would a Hamels/Halladay frontline be unstoppable? Would it waste the team we have assembled?
I wish I knew, but more and more my gut is to play this one out and do it ourselves. Make no mistake, this town loves the Lakers. But we are used to the Lakers winning. Mark my words, if we have a sweet October followed by an even sweeter November, this city will party like it’s 1988. Everything will be blue and we’ll celebrate all the way through spring.
I personally will buy a keg and roll it around Silverlake in a radio flyer, pouring everyone in an LA cap a cold beer and smiling like a punk.
Until then, who knows. So much can happen to screw this up. I’ll keep wondering, “do we have enough”.
I hope we do.