Dodgers Can Be Champs But Erratic Play Leaves Doubts
September 29, 2014
During most of my lifetime the New York Yankees have been baseball's biggest spenders and often had the best team.
They piled up World Series championships but in some years they didn't win in the best-of-seven final test.
So I learned as we went along. It became clear to me that in baseball, where there is no salary cap, a team could virtually assure itself of being in the playoffs by accumulating the most talent for a 162-game season. But in a short series a team with a smaller payroll could beat the Yankees sometimes.
Now we have the Los Angeles Dodgers in the same role. The Yankees have reduced payroll. The Dodgers, with new ownership, have taken over as baseball's biggest spenders.
The Dodgers had problems this season. They had four outstanding outfielders for three positions. When Scott Van Slyke emerged they had five and Manager Don Mattingly had the task of keeping them all happy.
Matt Kemp got off to a slow start and was moved to right field as Yasiel Puig claimed center. Puig displayed plenty of talent but also showed immaturity, and that's an understatement. Kemp eventually did very well, looking like the guy who was one of baseball's best players a few years ago before he was injured.
The relief pitching was ineffective. Brian Wilson wasn't the dominant reliever who had helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in 2010 and 2012. Chris Perez, an off-season acquisition, proved very little help.
Hanley Ramirez hit well but was error-prone as the shortstop.
I could go on and on but you get the point. The Dodgers had bought a championship-caliber roster but they left plenty of doubt about how well they'll finish this season.
But down the stretch the Dodgers pulled away from the Giants to win the NL West and now they should be regarded as a strong contender in the playoffs.
They have the great Clayton Kershaw pitching and Zack Greinke doing very well too. But Huin-Jin Ryu, another key man, suffered a shoulder injury. The rest of the starters haven't done well and don't figure to be major assets in the playoffs.
The teams who've finished strong enough to get my attention for the playoffs are Washington and Pittsburgh.
The Dodgers will begin the playoffs in a five-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who eliminated them last season. Because the Dodgers had a better record in the regular season they'll host the first two games and the deciding Game 5 if it is necessary.
The first game Friday will start at 3:37 pm, LA time. The starting time for Game 2 Saturday is 6:37 pm.