In Los Angeles, most sports fans only bleed one color, purple and gold. The Lakers have won the most championships and attracted the most media attention. The celebrities want to be seen at StaplesCenter. People sometimes ask the Laker fans for autographs. However, times are changing in La La Land. The Los Angeles Dodgers are taking LA and the rest of Major League Baseball by storm. After a slow start, they are flaming hot and seem to be winning almost every game they play.
The Dodgers are not only really good, but they are very fun and exciting to watch. They are even making Vin Scully feel young again. Since June 22, they are 46-10 and an outstanding 26-5 since the All-Star break (as of August 24). Those numbers are remarkable when you realize a team plays 162 games in a season. All they do is win. You cannot pinpoint one reason, but let’s examine a couple why the Dodgers have been playing like the 1920s New York Yankees.
Fresh Blood. If you had to pick one player for this turnaround, the choice is easy – it’s Yasiel Puig. He was called up in June, and soon thereafter, the Dodgers began their unprecedented streak. Puig, an electric player from Cuba, has more spark than a road flare on the field. He has speed, power and charisma. His attitude seems to carry the team like Ray Lewis did for the Ravens. His presence rejuvenated the team and gave it a shot to the heart for a team that looked poised for an underachieving season (See the Los Angeles Angels). Puig has the “juice,” the pizzazz that motivates his players and inspires the fans.
For years, Clayton Kershaw has been the bonafide ace of the Dodgers, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. This year, he finally has some help. Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu has made an international splash to the team similar to what Hideo Nomo did in the mid-‘90s. Zack Greinke, who slightly underachieved in Milwaukee, has regained his form and is pitching like he did when he was a perennial Cy Young candidate in Kansas City. Greinke also brings some fire to the club. Earlier in the year, he ignited a brawl with Carlos Quentin and the Padres, and as a result, suffered a broken collarbone. He missed six weeks, but it looks like it has taken a positive effect on the time in the long haul. They traded for Miami’s Ricky Nolasco, who on any given night can pitch a shutout. And left-hander Chris Capuano is a legitimate No. 5 starter for this squad.
They start the game with studs and end the game with studs. The bullpen is relentless, collecting many strikeouts and broken bats. Kenley Jansen is emerging as the next Eric Gagne, minus the goofy goggles. Bottom line is they have the best pitching in baseball and their staff seems very similar to the Phillies and Giants teams that won three of the last five World Series. Their hitting is potent, but in October, good pitching beats good hitting. If they run into an ace, the Dodgers are more than capable of winning a 2-1 ballgame. It would not surprise me if you see Kershaw as the World Series MVP when it’s all said and done.
Every great team has a player that is a having a comeback season. Well the Dodgers have two, Juan Uribe and Hanley Ramirez. These two are hitting like champs and clutching up through this entire hot streak. People forget Uribe helped the Giants win a World Series in 2010, and now he is positioning himself to provide the same accolades this postseason. Sure, his effort might be up for debate and he is susceptible to the hidden ball trick, but thankfully for him, this is not The Rookie of the Year. I pray for his sake that he does not fall for that again. Ramirez might be runner-up to Puig as most important Dodger during this run. He is hitting for average and power, and loves turning a sharp double play. He has that swagger that like Puig. In fact, maybe he was the one that taught Puig some of his antics. Hanleywood is making the Dodgers front office look very intelligent. He had some subpar years with the Marlins, and the Dodgers bought low. Now his stock is sky high, and the only thing the Dodgers are selling now are season tickets.
Lost in the mix has been Matt Kemp. Kemp has been Kershaw’s counterpart on the offensive end for the Dodgers. While Kemp has spent a large part of the season on the disabled list, it hasn’t mattered. The Dodgers lineup still features Puig, Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. It is scary to think of a lineup with Kemp sandwiched in it. I pity all opposing pitchers. You throw in role players like A.J. and Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker, the only breather comes when the pitcher is up at the plate. Oh wait, all Dodger pitchers can hit. Yikes. This is starting to make sense now.
When the Dodgers struggled in the early season, people in Los Angeles were calling for Don Mattingly’s job. The perception was that the inmates were running the asylum and Donny Baseball was not a good fit for this team. He stayed the course and weathered the storm (these clichés are truly applicable here). No one really knows what impact he has had on this team during this hot streak, but credit must be given to the manager of a comeback of this nature. His moustache may be gone, but his job as Dodgers skipper is very much still there.
Overall, the Dodgers are clearly the best team in baseball right now. They have the pitching, the hitting and the winning attitude. After working out the early chinks in the armor, they are playing on a level now that is hard to fathom in this modern age. They just win, plain and simple. If they can stay healthy and carry this momentum into October, they will be tough to beat once, yet alone in a series.
The people in Los Angeles are buzzing about their new favorite toy. And with the Lakers looking prime for another disappointing season, the Dodgers might be here to stay. Even Magic Johnson has shifted his loyalties now that he is one of the owners of the team. Maybe Kobe will come in and pinch hit. He will probably want to soon enough. We might never see a winning streak and run like this ever in our lifetime. It’s time for all of us to appreciate this Dodger team and Think Blue.