Any Dodger fan had to know going in that 2012 was going to be the year from hell (apologies to Richard Lewis). We had endured several years of declining disinterest and rot due to pasty owner Frank McCourt and the winter’s shopping was sparse, as usual. Ned managed to add some good pieces from the dumpster he frequents but with bankruptcy, a pending sale, etc., it was evident a painful year was ahead of us.
The reporters covered the divorce like the OJ trial and baseball was the last thing on anyone’s minds. The sale eventually happened, with Magic Johnson’s name and smile foisted upon us in efforts to feel all warm and fuzzy about the change but the lies that continued to come fast and furious, not to mention McCourt exiting with a BILLION DOLLARS and control of the parking lots left a lot of longtime Dodgers fans disgusted, and feeling in need of a delousing shower.
The little team that could (or tried) the second half of 2011 delighted and amazed for the first few months of the season. The team overachieved, making fans wonder if Ned’s mix of cheap veteran plugs and our maligned farm system, not to mention Don Mattingly and the coaches’ leadership, might be enough. Watching this post-season, and how the Orioles and As, and even diminished Giants, it wasn’t out of the question that perhaps the magic was for real. A big lead, ’88-ish wins, and hell, we deserved it! – and just as we started to dream of all our wrongs being righted at once, the losing began. And went on for quite some time.
Fans looked to the boastful new owners for leadership. A bat? An arm? A few bats? Nope. Losing begat losing and the free fall seemed to happen for several long months. As the big lead disappeared, yet with talk of a comeback still possible, Stan Kasten and the other new faces (who were on record during the time of the sale as saying they didn’t think the team was more than a .500 club – likely the reason for the earlier inaction) got busy. They started throwing around the insurance company money (much like when Bruce McNall spent like a mad man and I suspected something fishy was going on, I sense the same here – stay tuned) and added a gang of expensive super stars, in fact doubling the payroll, now 2nd only to the Yankees.
The new super star lineup didn’t amount to much, for whatever reason, and the team continued to struggle to score runs. Maddening with Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino wearing those gorgeous home whites. But the year was just the continuation of a 25 year old curse. Since Al Campanis’ regrettable remarks on “Nightline”, the team has been playing under a black cloud of mammoth proportion. Look at some of the happenings, judge for yourself…
Kemp jumps out to an amazing first month or so, chants of “MVP!” filling the air, and then hamstring problems derail his entire season. As he sat out, he focused on awards shows, limos, custom gold shoes and never really rebounded. We hope next year is a huge improvement, but who can say? After all, with all his talent and likability, Kemp is also not far removed from questionable fundamentals, showboating with Rihanna and a deep love of the Hollywood lifestyle. He spent more time on twitter challenging Magic Johnson to a 1 on 1 hoops game than talking about his teammates.
Chad Billingsley, who had declined in recent years and looked to be on to another mediocre season, with a new contract in his hip pocket, suddenly turned it around. He won games consecutively, piled up the Ks and looked finally to be the Drysdale to Clayton Kershaw’s Koufax. Then of course, as soon as we added all the offensive weapons we apparently could possibly need, Billingsley got hurt and likely will miss all of 2013, not to mention when we needed him most in 2012.
There were many disappointments in 2012… Dave Hansen, a gifted pure hitter and Dodgers pinch hitting hero, sucked as hitting coach. Mattingly seemed to have difficulties getting all of the pieces working together, odd for a guy who seemed every bit as competent as mentor Joe Torre at creating clubhouse chemistry and finding a way to make every guy on the roster feel involved (he did this beautifully in April and May).
Now we wonder what will be done in the off-season. It seems just a few pitchers and a full year for the new faces and injured ones to come together as a team is all that’s needed. Perhaps Hiroki Kuroda returns (he’d be nuts to stay with the Steinbrenner boys’ Yankees team), or maybe more money is spent on someone like Zach Greinke or Jake Peavy. Maybe an unforseen trade where we add someone like King Felix, David Price, Cliff Lee, etc. We at least know the traditional strength of the Dodgers, pitching, will be addressed.
We hope Carl Crawford comes back sooner, rather than later, and is more like his thrill a minute Tampa Bay self than his unhappy and unproductive Boston form. Will Yasiel Puig push into the outfield mix, and perhaps even force a trade at some point? If he only becomes the needed power bat off the bench next year, I’ll be happy.
Can fan favorite Luis Cruz duplicate what he did in 75 or so games in 2012? Is he a late bloomer and the real deal, or an overachieving utility man? He’s a great story, but I also witnessed Elian Herrera and Jerry Hairston, Jr. excite and deliver when needed when their numbers were called. Personally, I’d prefer Hanley Ramirez to move back to third and see Dee Gordon revert to 2011 form and provide the spark and speed that was clearly missing as we struggled pathetically for a playoff shot the last month. I’m sure it will be an open competition for the final infield spot next spring, and in honesty, that’s fine. The team is bloated with super stars and we should be happy we’re in such a position. We don’t need a big name at every position, and it seems we have depth should Cruz, Dee, Hairston, etc. falter. Anyway, we’re all hoping our exciting new infield draft pick Corey Seager is the guy to man one of the corner slots within a few years anyway.
So 2012 was always going to be a disappointment. The excitement early on was a sad tease that made us think long deserved happiness might actually come our way. As any longtime Dodgers fan knows, that is seldom the case. It does appear though 2013 looks to be bright. I mean, can all of those sluggers collapse simultaneously again?
The biggest indignity of a year filled with them is how it appears the Giants will be returning to the World Series. As a Dodgers fan, disliking the Giants is a birthright. But how can you explain so many mediocre players putting on the Halloween colors in recent years and doing so well, while great players have recently begun putting on the blue and sucking? Losing Brian Wilson, Melky Cabrera just the latest in a list of San Francisco cheaters and ace Tim Lincecum looking like a poor man’s Aaron Harang should have guaranteed them a broken year, no? Not at all. I think it’s not so much their good luck as our bad luck. The higher powers seem to frown on the blue, and the curse is on. Will 2013 be different? Or will there be more misfortune? I decline to answer as I want to be wrong.