A month into spring training and less than two weeks before Opening Day, what have we learned so far about the 2012 Dodgers? Not a whole lot, you could argue. We spent all winter talking about how locked-down the first 23 spots on the Opening Day roster seemed to be, and for the most part, that hasn’t changed a bit over the last few weeks. Jerry Sands hasn’t done much to earn the final spot on the roster, opening himself up to some real competition from Justin Sellers and Josh Fields, and while that may lead to a depressingly weak bench, it may be for the best given Jerry Hairston‘s defensive troubles and Don Mattingly’s insistence on letting James Loney & Andre Ethier get another chance against lefty pitching.
On the pitching side, the rotation remains set while Blake Hawksworth won’t be ready in the bullpen, and so the final spot will come down to Josh Lindblom battling NRIs like Jamey Wright & John Grabow, just like we expected weeks ago. (It won’t be Ramon Troncoso, of course.) Wright and Grabow each have the ability to opt out of their contracts on Sunday, which would then give the Dodgers until March 30th to decide to add them to the roster. If they don’t, they’re free agents. Expect at least one to be out of the organization in a week.
But we knew all that. What else has spring training taught us?
Well, we know that Juan Uribe isn’t worried. But he really, really should be. You know how little importance I place on spring training numbers, and so that’s why you won’t hear me making a peep about the fact that Matt Kemp has only a .297 OBP in Arizona, because, you know, spring. (It works both ways, too. I’ve been saying for months that Ethier’s going to have a great 2012. Is he going to hit .440/.483/1.080 all year? Uh, probably not.) But that’s not an absolute, and when you have a highly-paid veteran coming off a massive bust of a debut, in which injuries played a part and conditioning was called into question, you’d like to see something to give you some hope that he’ll rebound this year.
Heading into the last week of March, Uribe has managed just five singles. It’s hardly cause for optimism, though he’s doing his best to Allen Iverson the situation away by saying the games don’t count:
“I’m not worried because this is practice,” Uribe said, smiling and as carefree as ever. “I want to make sure I’m healthy, that I’m having good at-bats. It doesn’t matter if I get hits. This is to prepare for the regular season.”
Uribe said he was pleased with the results of the surgery he underwent in the fall for the sports hernia that prematurely ended the first season of his three-year, $21-million contract.
“You really don’t know how you feel until you start playing,” he said.
Feel the enthusiasm, don’t you? Uribe’s going to get his chances simply because of his contract, but I’m having a hard time envisioning him being the starting third baseman all year. Unfortunately, the options behind him are slim. Adam Kennedy is hardly a viable option, Hairston is useful mostly for his versatility, and Sellers is much more valuable up the middle than he’s going to be at third base. Spring sensation Fields could get a look, but despite his 23 homer 2007, his fielding and subsequent hitting have been so poor that he’s been worth all of -0.1 fWAR for his career.
Still holding out hope that Frank McCourt won’t hang onto the parking lots? You’re not alone, according to Mike Ozanian of Forbes…
The five remaining groups bidding for Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers want the roughly 130 acres of land Dodger Stadium’s parking lots sit on to be included with their current offers for the team. The current bids for the Dodgers range from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.
According to a high-ranking baseball executive familiar with the bids who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the potential owners do not simply want the right to lease the parking lots at Dodger Stadium from team owner Frank McCourt, they want outright ownership of the land.
No surprise there, of course. Why wouldn’t the incoming owner want to own the land his new toy sits on and ensure that he doesn’t have to deal with the soulless McCourt? By all indications, McCourt doesn’t want to give the lots up; on the other hand, it’s not that difficult to see him acting that way simply to drive up the purchase price, because that’s exactly the sort of thing he does.
Ken Rosenthal doesn’t think that Clayton Kershaw is going to repeat as NL Cy Young or that Matt Kemp will take the MVP that so many of us thought he should have won last season, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t expect any awards to come home to Los Angeles…
NL Manager: Don Mattingly, Dodgers
Several NL executives view the Dodgers as a darkhorse in the West, and not simply because they boast one of the league’s best hitters, Kemp, and pitchers, Kershaw — or because they’re about to be sold.
Mattingly, managing for the first time, held the Dodgers together through a rocky first half last season, then guided them to an 82-79 finish. His challenge this season is to get the most out of right fielder Andre Ethier and first baseman James Loney in their respective free-agent years.
With a little help at the trade deadline, the Dodgers could return to prominence sooner than expected, elevating Mattingly’s profile.
I felt Mattingly really did an excellent job in his first season, as we discussed near the end of last year, and so it’s not hard to see this scenario at all. On the other hand, the Manager of the Year award is kind of a crock, because it almost always goes to the manager of a playoff team, thus largely making it the “Talented Roster of the Year” award. Yahoo’s Tim Brown chimes in with some Mattingly praise as well.
I’m headed off to spring training this weekend (that’s Florida, not Arizona, though) and so expect a quiet few days around here. (Which, based on my history of being gone when big things happen, will almost certainly guarantee that McCourt is going to agree to sell the club to Lindsay Lohan at some point in the next three days.)
That said, the new site is coming along wonderfully and I still plan to launch it in the days leading up to Opening Day. I’m pretty excited about it, and I hope you will be too. Just for kicks, here’s a sneak peek…
…and much more to come. (This would be a hell of a lot easier if we could all just agree to never, ever use Internet Explorer again, by the way.) While I iron out the last few items, I would like to make sure that I’m building this in the most effective way for your usage, and so I’d love to see some discussion on these two items. First, a survey on how you find new MSTI content…
Second, I’m going back and forth on the commenting system. Many of you like the default WordPress system for its simplicity, while many of you hate it for exactly that same reason. I’m looking into using a third-party system (not Disqus) that would allow for real-time commenting and the ability to sign in via social networks, as well as more easily reply to other comments in the thread. What say you?