Surely you’ve heard the saying, “We had to burn the village in order to save it.” When involving actual villages, it’s a pretty messed up saying. When involving the Dodgers 2011 season, it’s probably a pretty good assessment of the State Of The Blue.
If you – like yours truly – are a Dodgers fan, there’s one thing (besides keeping Vin Scully around for as long as he wants to postpone retirement) that matters more than anything – anything – else: not keeping the McCourt family – any of them – around for one more freaking second than absolutely necessary.
Their financial shenanigans – from charging themselves $14 million a year to rent Dodger Stadium (in other words, sending the money from the team’s coffers to their own to paying a psychic six figures to send the team winning vibes to, well, you get the point, are a disgrace. The likelihood that they’ll continue to be bloodsucking leaches unworthy of one of baseball’s great franchises? We call it in the vicinity of 100%.
Translation: the one thing the Dodgers need this year more than anything else is for the McCourts to have to sell the team. If that means they need to have another ugly fourth-place season, that’s the price we might have to pay to have a real contender in blue again. Bud Selig has already told Frankie to suck it when he tried to set up an advance on the team’s next TV contract that would have likely dinged their payroll for seasons to come, so things seem to be headed in the right direction.
You never want to root against your team, but Dodgers fans might not be too upset if things don’t go so well this year. After all, the last thing we need right now is for there to be any reason for Bud Selig to think he shouldn’t order the McCourts to sell the team to real owners. (Peter O’Malley…please come home!)
So…with that as background, here are the best and worst case scenarios we can dream up for 2011.
What could go right: The They’re-Not-Kids-Anymore Kids finally reach their potential. With Davey Lopes coaching him (and apparently reaching him), Matt Kemp finally becomes the next Willie Mays. With his hand healthy and his intensity kicked down to a manageable level, Andre Ethier looks like he did before he got hurt last year, turning back into the second coming of Ted Williams. James Loney keeps improving, and while everyone continues to whine about his lack of home run power, he hits .300 and drives in 100+ runs. Casey Blake gets off the DL early, stays off, and provides leadership and clutch hitting.
The starting pitching isn’t good – it’s incredible. Anchoring what is effectively a six-man rotation, Clayton Kershaw – the closest thing to a sure thing in blue – turns into a 20-win kinda guy. (That one sounds pretty dang likely, doesn’t it?) Chad Billingsley takes a lesson from Kershaw and the Dodgers have two bona fide aces. The rest of the starters keep it together, and so does Jonathan Broxton, recovering from last year’s second half flameout. Hong-Chih Kuo’s arm miraculously doesn’t fall off, like we keep thinking it’s going to. Continuing a Dodger tradition, middle relief appears out of thin air.
The rest of the division goes belly up, and the Dodgers win the West…before getting mowed down in the playoffs by Philly.
What Could Go Wrong. Matt Kemp. Just like every year. ‘Nuff said?
With Blake never really getting healthy and Rafael Furcal joining him in semi-injured limbo, 3/4 of the infield blows. Juan Uribe is a complete bomb of a free agent signing, and there’s no one to bat leadoff when Furcal’s back is acting up.
The other four starters all break down. With Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla starting the season hurt, the aging Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly suffer breakdowns too. Billingsley continues to alternate between awesome and awful. Brox never gets it back together – we’re betting he does, by the way – and Kuo is unavailable most of the time. Head case Ronald Belisario is MIA all year long – a good bet – and no one steps up to take his valuable place in the bully.
Catching? What catching? Left field is a giant sinkhole.
The Dodgers finish fourth in the West. Again.
Of course, if that happens, you have to think Bud Selig will finally call up Frankie at the end of the year and cordially invite him to take a long walk off a short pier.
It sucks, but this might be one time that a bad season would be better than a good one.