Time to Kick Off the Second Half

A little less than 11 hours from now, Clayton Kershaw will throw his first pitch against the Padres in Dodger Stadium, and the second half will officially begin. (“Second half”, we should say, given that the Dodgers have already played 87 games, or approximately 54% of their schedule.) I think it’s fair to say that the team we’re going to see tonight is going to look very different than the one saw collapse before the break, and I think the team we’re going to see in two weeks is going to look even more different.

For tonight, Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier are each expected to be in the lineup together for the first time since May, and that alone is a cause for celebration. Gone, fingers crossed, are the days of the 3/4 spots in the lineup being filled by James Loney, Jerry Hairston and friends. Gone as well will be Scott Van Slyke, and while we can all hope that Juan Uribe is finally getting cut, I’m starting to believe more and more that Elian Herrera will take his options back to Albuquerque, given that he’s struggling terribly and he’s no longer needed in the outfield. (Even if it’s not today, I still doubt Uribe lasts the season.)

I doubt any team can say they’re getting a bigger July boost than adding Kemp & Ethier, yet that’s far from the end of it. The Dodgers, eager to flex their financial muscles and put the stink of the McCourt era behind them, are in on just about everyone. (Hey, Chase Headley will be in town tonight!) They absolutely will trade for a starter and at least one bat if not two, and while we’ve been over the options extensively and will continue to do so, you can be absolutely sure that at least two of the prospect group headed up by Zach Lee, Chris Reed, Garrett Gould, the guys just below them will be saying goodbye. We may like whatever the deal is, we may hate it (okay, we’re more likely to hate it, given Ned Colletti’s track record, and especially if it’s for Michael Cuddyer), but accept that it’s going to happen. That’s both exciting and downright terrifying, I think.

All that, plus the minor league debut (amid encouraging reports) of high-priced Cuban import Yasiel Puig, means that the next few weeks are going to be among the most interesting we’ve seen around here in years. (Yay, site traffic!) While the Dodgers start the second half in first place, they do so by only a half-game over San Francisco, and their June debacle burned so much of their April/May buffer that merely playing .500 ball – which would give them an 84-78 record – isn’t going to be good enough. Fortunately, they have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the NL with which to work with.

I’m pretty sure that this is in no way the second half we anticipated we’d be gearing up for when the season began. (I’m also pretty sure that if you had read this post in March, you’d have said, “who the hell is Elian Herrera and what exactly is a Yasiel Puig?”) I have no idea how things are going to turn out, but I know that after four long days without baseball, I’m ready to get things moving.