When it comes to the Dodgers, we’re all biased in one way or another. We’re in too deep. We worry if Adam Kennedy was really better for the last spot off the bench than any minimum salary has-been who might as well have been Adam Kennedy. We worry if signing a sorta-decent veteran reliever like Todd Coffey is going to push a sorta-decent prospect like Josh Lindblom to the minors for a few weeks until someone gets hurt, perhaps even Todd Coffey. (Perhaps that should go further, something like, “we are aware of the existences of both Todd Coffey and Josh Lindblom.”) We discuss guys who are inevitably going to come in something like ninth place in the ownership bidding as though they’ll matter. We complain about the color guy broadcaster who only works road games, but not even all road games, just out-of-division road games, at least those which haven’t been picked up by ESPN or FOX or TBS or MLB Network. (On the other hand, Steve Lyons is pretty awful.)
The point is, as much as we think we know, as much as we think we’ve got this team pegged, we look at them with far from a fresh perspective. How can we? We’ve been watching the same ownership/GM team for over six years now. Been there, done that, hated this, despised that. So at times it’s helpful to take a step back, get some air, and see what outsiders are saying about our favorite baseball squadron. At least, in theory…
Grant Brisbee, McCovey Chronicles:
Look, I’m a Giants fan. This blog started right as the Giants became the worst-hitting team in the National League and stayed there for what’s going on seven seasons. I have no right to make fun of another team because of how they hit, or how I think they’ll hit. No right. But I still look at that Dodgers lineup and think, “Holy crap.” I mean, holy crap. Pick the third-best hitter in that lineup after you account for position. Is it Loney? Rivera? Gordon? Uribe? I mean, holy crap.
Joe Lemire, Sports Illustrated (18th in power rankings):
The Dodgers very quietly went 34-20 over the season’s final two months to finish with a winning record. Now, 2012 will be a pivotal year for the franchise, as it’s sold to a new owner who will (presumably) allow for a payroll budget befitting a team in the nation’s second biggest market (choosing whether to extend Andre Ethier will be decision No. 1). For now, GM Ned Colletti is scraping together small parts around superstars Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw that should keep the team around .500.
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune (14th in power rankings):
While the Dodgers epitomize mediocrity (162-161 the last two years), they are as well situated with foundation pieces as any team. Matt Kemp, the 27-year-old center fielder who was runner-up to Ryan Braun in 2011 MVP voting, is signed through 2019; Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw is under control through ’13.
Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports:
The rest – as GM Ned Colletti adhered to a $90 million payroll – was bottom-feeding at its most Pittsburgh-ian; from early November to mid-December the Dodgers signed Juan Rivera, Mark Ellis, Matt Treanor, Adam Kennedy, Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston Jr., Wil Ledezma, Aaron Harang and Josh Bard.
Though Ellis is a reasonable enough guy at second base and Harang seems capable of pitching in the NL West, any exciting news would have to wait until April, when the new owner was due to be installed.
In the two seasons since the Dodgers maneuvered and played themselves to consecutive National League Championship Series, they’re a game over .500. Since coming up a pitcher or two short in two Octobers, they’ve finished fourth in the NL West, then third.
They drafted Kemp, developed him, rode out the rough patches with him, watched him become the best player in the National League, and then – over an entire season – batted him directly in front of (deep breath) James Loney, Marcus Thames, Juan Uribe, Jerry Sands, Jay Gibbons, Rod Barajas, Casey Blake, Aaron Miles, Juan Rivera and/or Andre Ethier.
They drafted Clayton Kershaw, developed him, showed him the strike zone, watched him become the best pitcher in the National League, and then had the ballclub fall apart around him, because there would be no more fluke trades like Manny Ramirez, and there would be no more signings of high-end free agents, and there would be plenty of teammates who were simply too old or too young or too incapable.
As a result, the Dodgers have let a soft division get away.
Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times:
Worst: Mark Ellis, two years, $8.75 million, Dodgers.
Ellis, 34, is an excellent defender and clubhouse leader, but shouldn’t a little offense be a standard feature with this sticker price?
Ellis hit .248 with a .288 OBP, seven homers and 41 RBIs for Oakland and Colorado last season, and his 1.3 wins above replacement (WAR) rating was third-lowest among major league second basemen.
Ned Colletti’s really built himself a nice little low-risk, low-reward team, hasn’t he? There seems to be little chance, short of a crippling injury to Kemp or Kershaw, that we’re in for a 95-loss disaster. On the other hand, a whole lot of things have to go right – a whole hell of a lot – for this club to sniff 90 wins and do more than pick up an “also competed” ribbon in the playoff chase.
Update: Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers have DFA’d Russ Mitchell, opening up a spot on the 40-man roster for Coffey. It’s somewhat surprising to see that Mitchell went over Trent Oeltjen or Ramon Troncoso; on the other hand, Mitchell isn’t very good and is recovering from wrist surgery. When he doesn’t get claimed on waivers – and he won’t – expect Mitchell to end up back in Albuquerque for another summer anyway, potentially meaning we haven’t see the last of him in Dodger blue.