Its hard for Los Angeles Dodgers fans not to feel like the “new” New York Yankees going into the season tomorrow. Los Angeles is the inevitable envy of all other NL teams and the current class of the league. With a $250 million price tag, it would seem that the world is the Dodgers’ oyster.
This obviously hasn’t gotten past MLB. L.A. is currently being dressed up and shown off on the block like the high-priced dazzler it is … in the form of a trip to Australia for the season opener.
Australia? Sure, its random enough to make even the hardest of baseball fans roll their eyes in judgment, but its also a veritable hat-tipping to what the league feels about Los Angeles’ 2014 potential. This is reminiscent of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shipping his teams to London to open the last NFL season; the largest faith that can be put in a pro sports team is the expectation that they can cash checks overseas.
However, like many New York teams before them, L.A. could suffer from the subtle pitfalls of heightened expectations. Baseball has a long season. Baseball has a wacky season, and baseball has a season where event the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry. As fans giddily await the first pitch, here is what L.A. fans can rejoice and stress about going into tomorrow.
On paper, everything can go right with this team. Making Clayton Kershaw the highest-paid pitcher in the game was a good start, and things have only gotten better. The pitching rotation consists of Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu as the most fearsome top three in baseball.
Never mind the fact that they have a newly dedicated Dan Haren coming in at No. 4, and the choice of (once healthy) former All-Stars Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley waiting to prove that they’re not back-of-the-line pitchers … and even if they are, they’re good ones.
Everyone knows who Yasiel Puig is at this point, so there’s no need to go into the talents he demonstrated last year both batting and in the outfield. But it gets even better for L.A. Andre Ethier has been acting a fool this spring, showcasing the diversity and depth of skills in the outfield that made him a must-have years ago .
Add the speedy Carl Crawford to the mix, and you’ve got arguably the most skilled outfield trio in baseball. Does it stop there? No. Matt Kemp, as in the player nicknamed the Bison, as in the spurned lover of Rihanna, should be healthy this season and will be on a mission to prove he’s once again one of the most dangerous player in baseball.
On the other hand, there are some things that can go wrong. The one thing Los Angeles seemingly can’t control is player injuries. Of all the talent they have, the lynchpin of success rests on whether or not these players can stay healthy. Kemp has been “the boy in the bubble” for quite some time, and his fellow outfielder Crawford has already missed time in Spring Training during to some odd mixture of injury and the flu.
Beckett has been touch and go since slamming his thumb into a clubhouse door, and with the history of brittleness of key players like Hanley Ramirez and Greinke, it’s easy to see that injury bug is a serious specter haunting the Dodgers dugout.
As well, for all the heavy hitters on the payroll, the bats on the team seem susceptible to inconvenient slumps. During this year’s Spring Training, players couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and that’s troublesome going into a season where they’ve put so much of a premium on bats.
All a team can do is put the best players in the best position to win games, and L.A. has spent the money to do that. If all goes well, the money spent on quality players will put the Dodgers in a place to at least be competitive deep into the playoffs.
But as we all have learned if we’ve seen the documentary movie Moneyball, sometimes you can’t buy your way into championships. That said, given this roster and the experience they have as a unit, the only things stopping from Dodgers from playing for the World Series are injuries.