Thursday, September 29, 2011

The 2011 Season: Some Thoughts

So, I guess that happened. That being the entire 2011 season. Anyway, I just had a couple of thoughts that were too long for Twitter and decided to post them here.

1. Before the season began, I thought to myself that if everything went right this season the Dodgers could get somewhere around 86 wins and (again, all things going right) that might allow them to win the division. That meant Casey Blake contributing (ha), getting quality innings from Jon Garland (Ha), getting a lot of scoreless outings from Broxton, Kuo, and Vicente Padilla (HA!), and getting a handful of homeruns and some solid defense from Juan Uribe (HAHAHA!). Obviously, things didn't go right.

On the bright side, Uribe did end up the star of one of the best baseball memes of the season.

Of course, I never imagined the Diamondbacks would win 94 games, so that really blew everything away anyway.

Still, for all the injuries and question marks, the Dodgers had a great second half and still ended up winning 82 games. Even though there's no reward for finishing in 3rd place in your division, there's still some pride to be had in having a winning record for this season, especially because a few months ago, winning 70 games seemed like a barely achievable goal.

This team deserves a lot of credit for the strong finish. And that means a lot coming from me, considering how cynical and "dead inside" I've been for the last several months.

2. Speaking of credit, James Loney deserves a bunch for saving himself from what was quickly becoming a horrific season. He somehow managed himself 12 homeruns and a line of .288/.339/.416. That's not that much worse than his career numbers. 2011 actually turned out to be a very James Loney year.

Does this mean he shouldn't still be non-tendered this offseason? Yes and no. I know that's not an answer. Let me explain.

If there is money to spend for free agents this offseason, 1st base is definitely in need of an upgrade. But let's be honest, the budget will probably be conservative. Where is McCourt going to get the money to sign big checks? If that's the case, might as well keep Loney (this route might include non-tendering him and resigning him cheaper). There's not a whole lot of sense in letting Loney go and creating a hole at first base if the front office isn't going to have the money available to replace him.

(Quickly, while I'm still partially on the subject, Rod Barajas had a totally Rod Barajas year as well: 16 homeruns and a line of .230/.287/.430. Compare that to his career line of .238/.284/.414. I guess you couldn't ask for more?)

3. Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, and Rubby De La Rosa (may his 2012 season rest in peace) have me excited for the future. Flashes of brilliance from all three.

4. Finally, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

Granted, I'm biased, but these two should be Cy Young and MVP, respectively. Both races are going to be close, and both players should be really proud of themselves no matter where they finish in the race.

A lot has been said about who should win what and for what reasons, so I won't get into it too heavily. I'll just say this about Matt Kemp:

If Matt Kemp had won the Triple Crown (ignoring how unimportant the stats that make up the Triple Crown are) he'd probably be a near unanimous MVP choice. Kemp finished the season at the top of the leaderboard in both homeruns and RBIs. He finished with a .324 batting average, coming in third to Ryan Braun (.332) and Jose Reyes (.337). Kemp was 195 for 602 on the season. If Kemp had gone 203 for 602, he would have finished the season batting .33721 to Reyes' .3371 (181 for 537).

What I'm saying is this: Kemp missed out on the batting title in the Triple Crown race by eight hits. Eight. This is over a six month season. That's something like just one more hit every three weeks of the season. One bloop single here or there. A lucky hop. A squib single towards a 3rd baseman who was playing too far back. A fly ball that an outfielder loses in the sun and never gets his glove on. A line drive or ground ball that stays fair instead of just drifting foul. Eight hits over the course of a long season is so, so minimal.

Point being, if you would have voted for Kemp had he won the Triple Crown but wouldn't now that he just missed out on it, consider how very slim the margin was here. If missing just eight hits over an entire season costs Kemp the MVP award, it would be a tremendous shame.

Last thing, still related to Kemp and Kershaw.

It is such a travesty that the Dodgers have, arguably, the best young starting pitcher and the best young position player in the league and the best they can do is finish 3rd in the NL West.

These two young players are in or entering their prime and they are being surrounded by players the likes of Juan Uribe and Eugenio Velez (not that Velez cost this team their shot at the playoffs, but I think you get my point). Frank McCourt won't, or can't, spend big to improve the team, and the small amount of money he does allot, Ned Colletti wastes on poor free agent signings (Matt Guerrier is still owed $7.5 million over the next two years).

They've turned what should be something great into a mess.

I guess if I were to point a single reason why I only went to one home game this season (and the tickets were bought by someone else) it'd be that. So, there you go, McCourt. If you are wondering why attendance is down so much this year, it's you. You are the face of a group of people that have turned this great franchise into one of constant upheaval, and one, worst of all, that has begun to squander some of the best years of its brightest young players.

Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw should be the center pieces of a 100 win team heading for the playoffs. Instead, they are heading home before the start of October while McCourt still sits in court trying to get control of a team no one wants him to have.

At least, that's just my reason for attending the fewest amount of Dodger games in season since I was a little kid ... though, what am I but just another fan?

God, this got depressing. I didn't mean for it to be, but whenever I get to thinking about the number McCourt has done to this franchise, I start to go to a dark place.


I'm going to take a couple of deep breaths and get myself ready for the offseason.

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