Topsy-turvy may be the best way to sum up the Dodgers season to this point.
You know things are strange when the Dodger pitcher with the most wins isn’t named Kershaw. Hyun-Jin Ryu has six wins to Kershaw’s five. Anomaly #2 can be found in the batting stats showing utility players Juan Uribe( .277 BA this season after averaging .199 the previous two seasons) and Nick Punto (.315 BA after batting .219 BA in 2012) having higher batting averages than Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp(.253 and .251 respectively). The season has gone south and there are zero signs of things getting better.
Of course, there are a myriad of reasons to explain the disappointing season. Injuries are a good place to start. Matt Kemp just went on the DL with a bad hamstring and Josh Beckett recently stated his career may be over due to an arm numbness he says “I’ve never felt before.” Discussions on the rotation and pathetic offense could go on all day which leads to another explanation for the Dodgers current residence in the NL West cellar-the farm system has stopped producing their crop.
When reviewing the everyday position players, all the “home grown” products started their professional careers more than 10 years ago. Catcher AJ Ellis, Kemp, and Ethier, who is considered a true Dodger although he was initially in the A’s farm system, began their pro careers way back in 2003. Current infielder/outfielder Scott Van Slyke is showing flashes of being able to hit like his dad, Andy, but he has meandered in the farm system since 2005. Actually, the younger Van Slyke is turning into someone who can deliver the big hit more than the “little” hits. He has nine hits this year-four home runs, four doubles and just one single. Basically, you have to go back five years, to Clayton Kershaw’s 2008 debut, in order to find a player who truly made an impact.
The Dodgers have been accused of draining the farm system via trades. The question is-did they really have much in the hopper anyway?
In 2009, the Dodgers acquired reliever George Sherrill from the Orioles in exchange for third base prospect Josh Bell. With then-third baseman Casey Blake turning 35, Bell was the heir apparent. Four years later, Bell has played a total of 100 games at the Major League level and has a career batting average of .195. He has been with four other organizations since the trade and is currently in the Yankees system.
In 2011, the Dodgers traded away their then number one prospect, oufielder Trayvon Robinson. He ended up with the Seattle Mariners where he did not do much and is currently batting .236 with the Orioles Triple A team.
Finally, a 2008 draft pick, shortstop Dee Gordon, was being mentioned by some as the next Maury Wills. Gordon was so fast, as the joke goes, he might get hit rounding second on his own single up the middle. Unfortunately, Gordon was recently demoted to Triple A and some are wondering if he will ever pan out.
In looking around at the current contenders, it is obvious a solid farm system can do as much, if not more, than signing the big free agents. The Orioles ended years of futility last year when a young third baseman by the name of Manny Machado shot to fame. Bryce Harper of the Nationals may be a star for a very long time.
So is there hope for Dodgers fans? Outfielder Alex Castellanos is not having any trouble hitting Triple A pitching. He batted .328 last year and is hitting .288 this year. Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig is currently batting .322 in Double A and the feeling is Kemp’s injury and Van Slyke’s inconsistency may see him making the jump to the majors sooner rather than later.
The Yankees seem to be the only team has perfected the art of filling three or four gaps per year with free agents and continuing to win. No other team seems to be able to do that.
Jerry Seinfeld used to make a joke that free agency makes us cheer for a shirt instead of the guy in the shirt. I agree that we can cheer on an Adrian Gonzalez or Zack Greinke just as easily as Kershaw and Kemp. But there is something about things tasting better if they come from your own farm.
Drama no more?
Last fall, I speculated, based on a comment made to me by an orthopedic surgeon, that Matt Kemp may have more trouble healing from shoulder surgery than the team was willing to admit. Needless to say a couple of comments accused me of over-the-top dramatics. Well, Kemp is struggling this year and, based on this article from CBS sports, maybe the good doctor knows what he is talking about. Of course, his patients sure hope he does.
A good viewpoint
Although the Dodgers are hearing more boos than cheers these days, fans continue to crow about the improvements made to Dodger Stadium. Our friends over at ThinkBlueLa.com took in some of the newest seats and wrote about how pleasant, and somewhat affordable, they are.