Saturday, March 15, 2008

30 teams in 30 days: Los Angeles Dodgers

A look back: What began as a season of promise wound up in ashes for the Los Angeles Dodgers, which ended up costing Grady Little his job. But at least this time, he wasn't unfairly blamed for an out his ace pitcher couldn't get in a big game. (Did I mention how much I hate Boston fans?) In steps Joe Torre, who returns to the National League 13 years after getting fired in St. Louis. Will he be able to adjust to the nuances that are National League baseball? With Arizona and Colorado looking strong, it might not matter this year.

Positives on the field: The Dodgers will be quick at the top of their lineup. Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal are both strong on the basepaths, able to get runs manufactured if they get on base. Los Angeles has some power backing up the speed in Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones and James Loney, and Russell Martin is a fine young catcher.

The pitching is also strong, with Brad Penny anchoring the rotation and Takashi Saito combining with Jonathan Broxton for a nasty late-inning combination. The Dodgers do have several strengths on paper, and look like a candidate to win the NL West on the surface.

Negatives off the field: The Dodgers are leaving Vero Beach. It had to happen with the fan base so far from Florida, but it's still a shame.

Negatives on the field: The Dodgers blew up last year, dividing the clubhouse between veterans and young players. Little couldn't keep tempers in check, and as a result, he's gone. Can Torre succeed where Little failed? It won't be easy, especially as he tries to adjust to winning without George Steinbrenner's millions backing him up. Torre hasn't won anywhere but the Bronx, and that will be interesting to see if that continues.

Outlook: The Dodgers have the potential to do a lot, but they don't seem to have the intangibles. On paper, this should be a team that pushes for the NL West title with Arizona. But games aren't played on paper, and the Dodgers struggle with actually playing the game. That's why Los Angeles has yet to win a playoff game in my lifetime (since 1988).

Projected finish: 4th in NL West. Season opener is March 31 against San Francisco at Dodger Stadium.

Spring base: Holman Stadium, Vero Beach, Fla. The team played its games on the East Coast of Florida. The Dodgers sent a split squad to China, and will move their base to Arizona on Thursday. The move becomes permanent with Thursday's move.

Fan of the team?: Check out True Blue LA, the Dodgers fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads even further down I-5 (and will have now traveled all of it) and stops in San Diego, home of the Padres, the team that came closest to making the playoffs without getting in.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Cartel.

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