So perhaps the midway mark of the 2009 Major League Baseball has me tearing up my prediction of a Cleveland Indians’, AL Central Division title. But regardless the second half of this baseball season is still shaping up to be one of the tightest races we’ve seen in a long while. With close races in the AL East, Central, West and NL East, Central and both Wild Cards- baseball execs are chomping at the bit for what could be some compelling baseball, come September.
Yet, the only team who DOES NOT find themselves in a neck and neck race for a division is the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s easy to say that despite the controversy of the Manny Ramirez steroids incident, it’s the Dodgers who have been the most dominate team thus far in 2009. The Dodgers, who find themselves 24 games over .500, have looked phenomenal, even when they’re best hitter had to pay the price for using women’s estrogen to balance out his steroids cycle. Dodgers’ General Manager, Ned Colletti deserves all the pats on the back he can get for his signing of Orlando Hudson, his patience in holding on to his young talent, and ability to put together a strong bullpen.
Yet with all that said, the Dodgers, just like any and all teams in baseball, are not immune to their own set of question marks.
For one, the Dodgers’ bullpen, which has been phenomenal this season, will run into a problem that Yankee fans know all too much of; Joe Torre’s ability to over-pitch the bejesus out of his bullpen (i.e.- see Scott Proctor, Ramiro Mendoza, Tanyon Sturtze, etc.). For several of the young arms in the Dodgers’ pen, 2009 has been a coming out party- but if it can end the same way will remain to be seen, as Joe Torre continues to turn to the ‘pen all to often.
Part of the over-pitching of the bullpen can be blamed on the fact that the Dodgers are missing a work horse in the rotation. Gone from last year is Derek Lowe, a man the Dodgers would love to get back right now, if all else because he’ll throw you 200+ innings on one leg. With that being said young guns, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw have been as good as advertised, which in the baseball world happens very rarely. Billingsley has become the ox of the rotation the way Lowe was a year ago. This dude throws hard, gives them innings and the lower half of his body looks like he’s a Centaur.
You can argue that this season will come down to these two guys at the front end of their rotation and someone stepping up to fill in a 3rd and 4th starter as the playoffs draw near. A combination of Jeff Weaver and Opening Day starter Hiroki Kurdoa might not get the job done for the Dodgers. And if Ned Coletti needs to, he can always dangle the best 4th outfielder in baseball out there in the trade market, the .328 hitting Juan Pierre.
Pierre was a god sent for this team when Manny Ramirez was suspended. Running the bases the way you remembered him doing all those seasons with the Marlins. Pierre would be the perfect amount of talent to get back a pitcher with enough stuff to be the 3rd starter for the team. Adding on payroll shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Dodgers’ either, since when Manny Ramirez was suspended he was suspended WITHOUT PAY. This opened up substantial payroll with a player making Manny-Money (upwards to 20 mil for a season).
With the Dodgers, the question won’t be can the bats hold up, it will be will the arms hold up. The organization must feel like this could be their season, so one would feel that if the team has the opportunity to add some arms it will and it should.
In 2009, all of baseball might be “Thinking Blue”, whether they want to or not.