Today the American League Gold Glove Awards will be announced, here are my picks for the AL and National League.
C: Gerald Laird
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Placido Polanco
3B: Melvin Mora
SS: Erick Aybar
OF: Carl Crawford
OF: Torii Hunter
OF: Adam Jones
P: Kevin Millwood
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Freddy Sanchez
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
SS: Jimmy Rollins
OF: Matt Kemp
OF: Shane Victorino
OF: Jeff Francoeur
P: Adam Wainwright
After a 11-9 loss last night to the Nationals, the Dodgers now have 49 more games to go without Manny in the lineup. You all know the Manny story by now. He tested positive for a women’s fertility drug. Steroid users take it when they want to end their steroid cycle. And so on…
Here’s Manny’s response:
“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
Well, I don’t know how much to believe in there. But I would like to give Manny the benefit of the doubt. Wait, what am I saying, Manny over anyone doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to avoid the facts concerning the women’s drug, so unless he was trying to advance fertility, he’s in trouble.
If he would just come out and say it like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite did, then he could possibly get away from all of this. No one ever really talks about them anymore, other than the positive example they set for getting out of the steroid hole. So in the midsts of Manny, A-Rod, Selena, and PEDs, there’s baseball to be played, so lets focus on that.
So the Dodgers lost to the Nationals last night, that’s an awful way to start 50 games without your offensive leader. But will the Dodgers be in trouble? Well anytime a team loses a hitter like Manny, it’s never a good thing, but this team has got some great young hitters and they play in such a weak division. I wouldn’t be suprised if the Dodgers are still in first by July 3rd when Manny returns.
Here was the Dodgers lineup last night.
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Andre Ethier
1B James Loney
C Russel Martin
CF Matt Kemp
3B Casey Blake
P Randy Wolf
LF Juan Pierre
Ethier, who is hitting .312 with six homeruns and 27 RBIs, will be asked to pick up the slack, and I think he can. He had those numbers with Manny in front of him, so I don’t think that anything will be a problem.
Another note about the lineup: Having Juan Pierre as the “second leadoff man” down at the bottom is a nice touch by Joe Torre. This provides legitimate speed three batters in a row and will give the middle of the Dodgers lineup a chance to drive home runs.
The only problem I can see here is that the young hitters knew Manny could pick them up if they went down and got out, so their approach at the plate was a little more relaxed with Manny in the lineup. One of two things will happen, they’ll go back to bad approaches at the plate or they’ll rally around not having Manny and win ballgames (assuming the pitching keeps up).
What notable teams will the Dodgers be seeing until July 3rd?
Three games at the Phillies and Marlins.
Home against the Mets and Angels for three.
Four games at the Cubs.
Four at home against the Phils.
Three games at the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox.
Season Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers
Projected MLB Rank: 4th — NL Rank: 3rd — NL West Rank: 1st — Record: (94-68)
National League West Champions
They won’t be singing the Dodger Blues this year in LA. Bringing Manny Ramirez back wins the division for this team in my mind. The make up of this team is solid young players who showed they can compete last year along with a bunch of veterans that can still play the game.
We’ll begin with the veterans and none other than probably the best righthanded hitter in the game–Manny Ramirez. Manny became inhuman last season after being dealt to the Dodgers as he picked up the 24 other guys on this team, put them on his back, and carried them to the division crown and the playoffs. Manny obliterated baseballs last season posting a 37 homeruns, a .332 batting average, 121 RBIs, a .430 OBP, and a .601 slugging percentage while with the Red Sox and Dodgers. He’s a monster and as long as he’s happy, I don’t see anyone beating out the Dodgers in the NL West.
Another veteran, at shortstop, and back for a full season, is Rafael Furcal. He showed some signs of rustiness in the playoffs after not playing for a while. He’s out to play the full season now which provides the Dodgers with an everyday leadoff man. Perhaps going unnoticed, Orlando Hudson has joined this team as well. The O-Dawg brings a .305 average, a .367 OBP, and an amazing glove to second base. I guess Blake DeWitt doesn’t cut it? Because he won’t be playing at third either. Casey Blake returns to the position after a great season in which he hit 21 homeruns and drove in 81 runs. Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta, and Brad Ausmus are also nice veteran options off the bench.
Continuing with the veteran theme, we move to the rotation where Hiroki Kuroda, who has one year of MLB experience under his belt, is 34 years old and has been around the game a while, so I’ll consider him a vet. He’s recieved the opening day nod for this team as he posted a 3.73 ERA last season with a 9-10 record. Another veteran in the rotation is southpaw Randy Wolf. Wolf stayed healthy last season compiling a 4.30 ERA and going 12-12 for the Astros while striking out hitters at a nice rate. Staying on the pitching staff, but moving to the bullpen, Guillermo Mota should assume a setup role for this season (how did he get to be 35 so quickly?).
Moving on to the young guns. Russell Martin is 26 years of age and is becoming one of the best catchers currently in the game. Last season he posted a .280 batting average to go along with a .385 OBP. Oh yea, he can steal bases too. Firstbaseman James Loney hit .289 with 90 RBIs last season and turns 25 this season. Think those numbers can improve? I do. Same goes for outfielder Andre Ethier. The 26 year old is probably entering his prime this year after he hit .305 last year with 20 homeruns and 77 RBIs. Is there room for one more on the improvement boat because Matt Kemp will be getting on as well. Despite the strikeouts last season, Kemp still posted a .290 average with 18 homeruns and 76 RBIs. He also stole 35 bases.
The rotation’s youngsters have huge potential. I believe we have yet to see how good Chad Billingsley is going to be. Which is scary since he posted a 3.14 ERA with 16 wins and over nine strikeouts per nine innings, what’s scarier is that he’s just 24. Let’s get younger as we move on to 21 year old Clayton Kershaw. His rookie campaign was decent but nothing eyepopping when you look at the numbers, but he will develop and become a top tier pitcher. Then there’s James McDonald. He has a great curve and a great changeup but has shown tendancies to give up the homerun here and there.
Concerning the rest of the pitching staff. Cory Wade had a great season in the bullpen last year with a 2.27 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Hong-Chih Kuo also shined last season with a 2.14 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Kuo also had 96 strikeouts in 80 innings. The Dodgers also brought in Will Ohman who had a nice year with the Braves in 2008 and is a nice lefty option. Then there’s the closer. The big man. Jonathan Broxton is a shutdown closer. He struck out 88 hitters in 69 innings and posted a 3.13 ERA while compiling 14 saves for the Dodgers.
What is not to like about this team? They are so good. Then Joe Torre is their manager, which makes me like this team even more. In the words of Manny Ramirez,
And so are the Dodgers, atop the division and into the playoffs.