The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the talk of the MLB this year. Whether it’s having the National League’s highest payroll, being a first half disappointment, or experiencing the spark that is rookie Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers have created headlines on a daily basis. If you just started following the MLB this year, you might be led to believe that the Dodgers have always been on the headlines and that Dodgers fans are spoiled. But this has not always been the case. The Dodgers have come a long way from just two years ago, when game crowds dwindled, and the only Dodgers headlines were those concerning the bankruptcy of previous owner Frank McCourt.
But now under new owner, and former Los Angeles Lakers great, Magic Johnson, the team has indeed fulfilled the expectations of sports fans across the nation. The Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched the National League West Division, over eleven games ahead of bitter rival Arizona Diamondbacks. However, this seems like what should be expected from one of the highest spending teams in baseball. This may be true, but what makes it even more memorable is the fact that the Dodgers were 9.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks as recently as June 23. An injury riddled Dodgers team was underwhelming with most of the star-filled lineup battling all sorts of ailments . The Dodgers went 42-8 over a 50 game stretch, a feat which has not been accomplished in more than 60 years in either leagues. Many will attribute the success of the Dodgers in this span to exciting rookie Puig. With his .343 batting average, powerful swing and amazing athletic ability, the Dodgers received the catalyst that they sorely needed. Day in and day out, Puig played as hard as he can, albeit a bit recklessly.
Yet I believe hat shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who battled injury after injury for the first half of the season, has been the main contributor to this recent success, not Yasiel Puig. When Ramirez did return to the starting lineup a day after Puig made his major league debut, he immediately produced at an MVP level. Ramirez has hit 20 home runs, as well as earning an exceptional batting average of .351.
Albeit the recent success, the Dodgers have some lingering questions and injuries as the playoffs are drawing closer. Superstars Puig, Hanley Ramirez, and left fielder Carl Crawford have all been out of the lineup this week with hip (Puig) and back troubles (Ramirez and Crawford). With the playoffs just a few weeks away, injured players are definitely a cause for concern. After all of the successes and excitement this summer, it would be a shame for the Dodgers franchise and for the MLB if the Dodgers were knocked out of the first round due to so many injured players. Let’s hope that this will not be the case and that this season won’t be for naught.
And this is where we come to 2011 MVP-Runner and Dodgers center-fielder, Matt Kemp. Kemp has been dragged down by various injuries for the past calendar year, including surgery over the winter. With 153 games played so far this season for the Dodgers, five-tool player Matt Kemp has only played in 66. With the majority of his time spent on the injury list, Matt Kemp has been unable to reach his comfort zone, and as a result, he has had a frustrating and disappointing season. But if he does begin to feel comfortable and returns to form sometime when the playoffs begin, then the Dodgers will be a force to be reckoned with.
Since the Dodgers are the first team to clinch a playoff spot, they have nine game’s time to rest their players and then head into the playoffs with a fully healthy and elite lineup of all-stars and former batting title-winners. With great hitting from recuperating players such as Adrian Gonzalez, Puig, Ramirez, Crawford and Kemp, the Dodgers can strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitching rotations and give opposing managers plenty of difficult decisions to make.
So if the Los Angeles Dodgers can regain their health as a collective unit, not only will they ensure that they won’t be a bust in the first round of the playoffs, but behind their batting and pitching they will also have a good shot of making it to the World Series. If I were the other playoff teams, I would definitely watch out for the Los Angeles Dodgers, because they are fierce.