Here is a rundown of how the past 12 months helped form what could be a very interesting next 12 months for Dodgers fans.
January: The Dodgers go up for auction and many high profile names emerge as potential owners. Mark Cuban, former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, and Lakers great Magic Johnson are all mentioned. It becomes a felony to utter the name of former owner Frank McCourt in public. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are caught up in what could become nasty contract talks with three key players, Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, first baseman James Loney, and All-Star outfielder Andre Ethier. The Dodgers eventually sign Loney and Ethier to one year deals and secure Kershaw to a three year contract worth $19 million.
February: Spring training opens under a bit of a cloud. The bankruptcy dealings continue to dominate the headlines. While the Angels are having no trouble selling tickets, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is busy explaining what an Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano are. There is a bit of a scare when Kershaw is scratched from a spring training start due to back stiffness. Ethier comes to camp saying he does not want to make a big deal about the team deciding to sign Matt Kemp to a $160 million, 8 year contract while giving Ethier a one-year, $10.95 million deal. The fact Ethier says it is no big deal makes it a big deal in the press. Fortunately, Kershaw’s back is okay and the only stiff remains infielder Juan Uribe (.204 BA in 2011 after signing a $24 million contract).
March: The dark days continue when it appears pitcher Ted Lilly will begin the season on the DL. To make matters worse, the Dodgers still don’t have an everyday left fielder and for some reason, can’t convince anyone that Uribe is the answer at third base. March 28th brings a whole lot of sunshine when the Guggenheim group, whose members include Magic Johnson and veteran executive Stan Kasten, is announced as the new owner. The purchase price is $2.1 billion dollars. The Guggenheim group of Chicago, an investment firm, has this kind of money to spend in spite of the fact they don’t produce a product?? Of course, Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel earned their money in investment firms also.
April: The Dodgers jump out of the gate by winning nine of their first ten games. They finish April with a 16-7 record. Kemp justifies his contract by hitting 12 home runs during the month. Uribe earns his keep by hitting only 12 home runs less.
May: On May 2nd, the new owners hold a press conference at which Magic Johnson tells everyone the Dodgers will become the Yankees West. The city is all abuzz because the Dodgers are in first place and the NBA Clippers and Lakers and the NHL Kings are in the middle of playoffs. But the enthusiasm is tempered when Kemp goes on the 15-day DL with a pulled hamstring. Kemp returns the final week of May only to pull the same hamstring again. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announces he can’t see bringing back Kemp for a long time, possibly not until the All-Star break. Even without Kemp, the Dodgers finish the month with the most wins in baseball and a five game lead in the NL West race. An APB is put out for Uribe who shows up for all of seven games.
June: On June 12th, the Dodgers announce they have signed Ethier to a 5 year, $85 million dollar deal. Unfortunately, his signing coincides with a rash of injuries, including Ethier himself who is troubled with a strained oblique. Instead of the #3 and #4 hitter names being Kemp and Ethier, the line-up card reads Juan Rivera and James Loney. That pair has a total of four home runs between them. The lack of power sees the Dodgers go 1-10 over the final 11 games of June and fall into second place in the NL West.
July: The Dodgers play just .500 ball the first week of July but it is good enough to put them in first place at the All-Star break. There is concern on both the pitching and hitting fronts. Chad Billingsley has lost his last five starts and there is talk he will be dropped from the rotation. The offense continues to struggle and the team ends up batting just .245 in July. The new Dodgers owners take on a somewhat surprising “win now” mentality when they acquire shortstop Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins and outfielder Shane Victorino from the Phillies at the trading deadline. The move raises the pennant fever temperature level and the Dodgers finish July just a game behind the NL West leading Giants. Uribe’s checks keep getting cashed in spite of no one being able to find him.
August: The Dodgers take advantage of the disarray Bobby Valentine has brought about in Boston by acquiring first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford and utility infielder Nick Punto from the Red Sox in return for Loney and a couple of prospects. Unfortunately, after all the trade dust settles, Uribe is still in a Dodger uniform. Gonzalez hits a home run in his first at bat as a Dodger but the cheering is short lived. The Dodgers end up playing only .500 baseball in August and fall 4.5 games behind the Giants.
September: Infielder Luis Cruz emerges as the feel good story of the month, if not the entire year. Cruz had been in the minor leagues for five different teams since 2000. He had only played in 56 major league games before the Dodgers picked him up in the off season. Cruz, given a chance to play partly because the Dodgers have given up on Uribe, becomes a hero as he hits .297 and helps keep the Dodgers in the pennant chase. He generates so much excitement, there is a press release announcing that his jersey is for sale at the team store. Did they burn the Uribe shirts to make room? The Giants clinch the NL West on Sept. 23rd but the Dodgers finish the month still alive for a wild card spot.
October: The Dodgers are eliminated the next to last game of the season but the medical crew’s season begins in earnest. Kemp undergoes surgery to repair a shoulder he injured when he ran into a wall at Coors Field back in August. Reliever Kenley Jansen undergoes an ablation to correct an irregular heartbeat. Billingsley, who was earlier placed on the DL with an inflamed elbow, faces the possibility of Tommy John surgery which would cost him the 2013 season. Uribe has no excuse.
November: The Dodgers hire steroid poster boy Mark McGwire as hitting coach in an effort to give life to a lethargic offense. The team also announces they have won the bidding rights to Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. McGwire hears the name and admits he used that substance in 1998.
December: The Dodgers sign Ryu and land the year’s most coveted free agent, pitcher Zack Greinke. Ryu gets $36 million, Greinke $147 million. Kershaw, who narrowly missed out winning a second consecutive Cy Young award and has made $8.4 million since 2009, is seen wandering around town saying “What the f**k?” Uribe is wandering around town yelling “Suckers!!”