From Worst to First: Dodger Mania and the League’s Top Contenders
After an abysmal start to the 2013 MLB season, many Dodger fans believed that the highest salaried team in baseball would once again fall flat on their faces. The team’s spotty chemistry left a lot more to be desired, and it showed—both out on the field and in the clubhouse as well. As of June 21st, they fell 12 games under .500, thus earning themselves a spot in the cellar of the league’s weakest division. While injuries are all part of the game, the Dodgers seemed to be perpetually reeling from the pain: Billingsley/Beckett (out for the season), Kemp, Ramirez, Greinke and Crawford are merely a few of the big money names that have spent some quality time on the DL. At this point, the media hoisted manager Don Mattingly onto the chopping block, yet he stood firm and continued to push forward by working with what he had.
And who knew? A Cuban born player by the name of Yasiel Puig joined the team in June and injected a much-needed spark into a sputtering baseball engine. He not only took the Dodgers by storm, but the entire league as well, falling just short of making the National League All-Star team. A half-empty Dodger Stadium suddenly began to reach capacity crowd levels, as the Blue Crew started regaining their collective health and playing competitive baseball.
The return of Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Zack Greinke seemed to solidify the team’s core as they steamrolled the competition, going 18-5 headed in to the All-Star break. Since that time, the Dodgers have gone 17-3 as they climbed back onto the top of the Western Division. The Dodgers also managed to set a Los Angeles record with 15 consecutive wins on the road, thus matching a franchise record set by the Brooklyn Robins back in 1924.
Amazingly enough, the team has been able to do all of this, for the most part, without their all-star center fielder. Matt Kemp showed signs of life after returning from a left-shoulder injury, only to go back on the 15 day DL with a sprained ankle. Because of the fact that Puig, Ethier and Crawford are doing more than holding the fort down, Kemp’s imminent return will likely have an impact on the nucleus of an already polished Dodger outfield? Quite the contrary; it’s rarely a sad day in baseball when a team has too many good players.
Even though the Dodgers look like a team poised to contend for a title, a few other teams from the National League may beg to differ. The Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since trading Barry Bonds, yet they’re flying high and back in contention. The Braves are on a roll of their own, which is no laughing matter for their opponents. Never count the Cardinals out, as they’ve shown the ability to win it all before.
The usual suspects in the American League, with the exception of the Yankees, are battling daily for position. Boston and Tampa Bay may go down to the wire for top honors in the Eastern Division, while Jim Leyland and the Tigers may ride the coat-tails of Max Scherzer into the playoffs, whose Cy Young-like pitching performances have kept the team at the top of the AL Central. Empirical evidence suggests that the Texas Rangers in the West have been stood up at the big dance before, while the Oakland A’s may spoil the Arlington Faithfuls’ chances altogether.
The dodgers are 8-1 to win the 2013 World Seris.
And the game continues; no matter which team takes the big prize, the 2013 season will definitely be one for the books.