Entering the season, I, like most baseball people, thought the Dodgers would be a major factor in the National League West. The Dodgers had been to the playoffs for the past two years, and most of their roster was returning. Yes, they had a weak starting rotation, but I thought general manager Ned Colletti would obtain another experienced starter at the Trade Deadline, and he did, trading for Ted Lilly.
Though I didn't foresee the rash of injuries that the Dodgers have experienced, every team must be prepared for injuries. The Dodgers have missed Rafael Furcal for more than half of their games, but Jamey Carroll, the team's MVP, has filled in fantastically for the enthusiastic shortstop.
Andre Ethier's broken pinkie ruined the Dodgers' season. Although Ethier quickly returned to the lineup from the broken pinkie, he hasn't been the same offensive force. Last week, Joe Torre said that if he were the Dodgers' manager next season, he would work on the mental approach to baseball with Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney during the offseason. I am not sure Ethier has the wrong mental approach to the game. I am not confident that his broken pinkie is healed fully. With a finger problem, no hitter can be an offensive force in any lineup, and Ethier doesn't have a good power hitter to protect him in the lineup.
The Dodgers relied on Manny Ramirez to provide right-handed power, but the aging power hitter couldn't stay healthy. Ramirez rarely played for the Dodgers, except during Interleague Play when he could be the designated hitter. Playing in left field was apparently too stressful for the 38-year-old's legs.
Though Colletti signed Reed Johnson to be a backup outfielder, Johnson doesn't have the power that the Dodgers need. The Dodgers have only 102 homers, second fewest in the NL. Johnson is a good defensive outfielder who can dominate any left-handed pitcher. The recently acquired Scott Podsednik is a good defensive outfielder with excellent speed, but he, too, does not have power that the Dodgers desperately need.
The season-ending injury to Russell Martin damaged the Dodgers' chances of making the playoffs. Though Martin wasn't having a great season, he provided stability behind the plate. He threw out about 30 percent of basestealers, average in the league. Before Thursday, when A.J. Ellis threw out a basestealer, Dodgers catchers hadn't thrown out a runner since Martin injured his hip in early August.
The newly acquired Rod Barajas has provided a little power from the catching position. Though he has performed well as he lives a childhood dream of playing for the Dodgers, he doesn't hit for a high average. When Martin went out, he had a .271 batting average since the All-Star break.
Vicente Padilla has spent two stints on the disabled list, leaving the Dodgers shorthanded in their starting rotation. When he can pitch, he has performed splendidly, especially using the "Padilla soap bubble." When he couldn't pitch, the Dodgers have used pitchers who aren't ready for the Major Leagues.
Some Dodgers have had poor performances this year, especially during the second half. The Dodgers' bullpen, which was the best in the Major Leagues during the 2009 season, has struggled this year, especially in the second half. Jonathan Broxton, who was an All-Star closer, has lost his closing role. Since he blew a memorable save against the New York Yankees, Broxton hasn't had the confidence to succeed. When a team must change its closer, it is in serious trouble.
The rest of the Dodgers' bullpen hasn't performed up to standards. George Sherrill hasn't recaptured the magic that he had when he joined the Dodgers in July 2009. Twice, Jeff Weaver has been on the DL, leaving the Dodgers without an experienced long man. The Dodgers were relying on Ramon Troncoso to be an effective seventh-inning reliever, but he has been to the Minor Leagues twice to work on mechanics. Personal problems have plagued Ronald Belisario. Since Octavio Dotel came from the Pittsburgh Pirates, he hasn't been much help. Hong-Chih Kuo has dominated the league, making him the most reliable Dodgers reliever.
It seems every year the Dodgers have an enigma, and this year is no exception. After winning both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove Award, Kemp, with all of the athletic ability in the world, has disappointed. Last year, he batted .297, and this year, he will be lucky to have a .260 batting average. He leads the team in strikeouts, because he began chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone again. Though he has superior speed, he can't steal bases without being caught, and often, he has committed many mental mistakes on the bases that have cost the Dodgers many runs. Defensively, Kemp has seemed distracted and he hasn't played great.
Since Kemp has everything to make him a superstar and he hasn't fulfilled his enormous potential, he frustrates every person who watches him regularly. Colletti and Larry Bowa have criticized Kemp in the media, angering Kemp and his agent. This offseason, the Dodgers must decide what to do with Kemp.
It has been a long disappointing season for the Dodgers. The last three weeks of the baseball season the Dodgers will take a serious look at the rookies or players that the Dodgers just promoted from Triple-A. I hope John Lindsey, Jay Gibbons and Russ Mitchell will make favorable impressions on the Dodgers' management. During the offseason, Colletti needs to rebuild the starting rotation and the bullpen, and find a good power hitter. In 2011, hopefully, the Dodgers don't experience as many injuries as they had in 2010.
Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less