It’s good to be a Los Angeles Dodgers fan right now!
The Dodgers were the first team in Major League Baseball to clinch a division and now its fans get to sit back and watch other teams duke it out over the final week of the season.
All is right with the Dodgers postseason universe…or is it?
As I am sitting here sipping my morning cup of Joe on a quiet Sunday while the rest of the world slumbers (well, at least my family!), I couldn’t help but think of some burning questions about the Dodgers postseason. Okay, “burning” might be pushing it for effect, just a tad! Let’s just say that some questions came to mind about the Dodgers postseason, their recent past, their present and their fast-approaching future:
1. Was a pool party in Phoenix appropriate for the Dodgers? We’ve all seen the video of the Dodgers parading out of their clubhouse and jumping the right field fence in Arizona. We watched the fully clothed Dodgers splash into the Diamondbacks’ outfield swimming pool to celebrate their first NL West title since 2009. Was that kosher? Should the Dodgers have kept the champagne-popping and Yasiel Puig breakdancing within the confines of the clubhouse and not let it seep into the pool? Yes and no.
You’re probably wondering how I can answer that question both ways. You’re probably thinking that I’m giving a political answer by straddling the answer fence. Well, you’re wrong! First, if I were running the Dodgers, I would have instructed the team to keep the celebrations within the clubhouse. However, I don’t know whether that summertime pool display was orchestrated, or whether the players just got caught up in the celebratory moment and went with the flow. I still don’t think, though, that the players did anything “wrong” by jumping in the pool to celebrate the Dodgers postseason.
Did the Dodgers graffiti the field? Did they punch holes in the clubhouse walls? Did they spin donuts in the outfield grass with the Diamondbacks’ John Deere field carts? No! They went swimming. Arizona’s Willie Bloomquist was hot under the collar and called the Dodgers “classless” by going for a swim. Here’s a note to Willie in case he reads TTFB when he is riding the bench for the Diamondbacks:
“Willie, I get it that you’re bitter about spending 12 years in the majors and only hitting 17 homers. I don’t blame you for wishing you wear Dodger blue right now so you could add to your postseason resume of appearing in a grand total of five playoff games. However, shut your pie hole and stop spouting off like a little baby. You’re more recognized for your whining now than for anything you have done on the field. If you don’t like the Dodgers postseason celebrations, then don’t let them punk you on your home field.”
2. Will Clayton Kershaw win another Cy Young? (Spoiler alert coming!) “Yes!” Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and this season he has continued his league dominance. Kershaw’s 15-9 record is nice, but his 1.88 ERA is just plain sick! Further enhancing Kershaw’s legitimacy for the Cy Young is the fact that he leads the National League with 224 strikeouts and he has held opposing hitters to a .195 average. Kershaw’s stiffest Cy Young competition is probably Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who has put together an amazing season. Kimbrel leads MLB with 48 saves and a 1.29 ERA. One strike against Kimbrel is that relievers rarely win this prestigious pitching award.
Coincidentally, the last reliever to win the Cy Young was former Dodger (and current rat fink) Eric Gagne, when he saved 55 games for Los Angeles in 2003. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright has also put together a great season with a 17-9 record, but his 2.98 ERA is more than a full point higher than Kershaw’s. Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman has won more games than any other pitcher in the National League (19), but his ERA is even higher than Wainwright’s (3.18). With at least one more start left this season for Kershaw, look for him to bring the Cy Young trophy back to Los Angeles for a second time in his young career into the Dodgers postseason.
3. What will the Los Angeles outfield look like this Dodgers postseason? – When the season began, the outfield was comprised of Carl Crawford in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right. Then Kemp went and got hurt (mentally or physically…or both?). The Dodgers sucked Major League rocks and Puig came on the scene. The Dodgers rode the Puig wave this summer and the outfield was Crawford in left, Ethier in center and Puig in right.
Now that Kemp has come off the disabled list, manager Don Mattingly has done some lineup-shuffling in the outfield. What will happen when the Dodgers open the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals or the Atlanta Braves? The biggest factor in which outfielders Mattingly pencils in the lineup is Kemp’s health. Puig is certain to start in right, and if he is fully healthy, Kemp should start in center. That leaves Crawford and Ethier to battle things out for the other spot. Mattingly is big on matchups, so there is a strong possibility that the Dodgers postseason will have different outfield lineups in each NLDS game. If the Dodgers face a lefty like Mike Minor of the Braves, look for Mattingly to consider Scott Van Slyke or Crawford in left. This is going to be a situation to monitor as the playoffs progress.
4. How important are the final regular season games? As of Sept. 22, the Dodgers trail the Atlanta Braves by 2.5 games and the St. Louis Cardinals by two games for the best record in the National League and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Does it really matter whether the Dodgers catch the Braves or Cardinals and ultimately come out as the No. 1 seed in the NL? Here’s a resounding “Yes” to that question!
The Dodgers are 14 games over .500 at home this season, but more importantly, the Braves and Cardinals are even better in their confines. Atlanta has baseball’s best home record (52-22) and has dominated the Dodgers at Turner Field. St. Louis is also very good at home this season (48-27), and is only six games above .500 on the road. Not only would having home-field advantage be good for the Dodgers, garnering the top seed would also let them play the winner of the Wild Card game for the first round.
Facing the Pirates or Cincinnati Reds after they have had their ace already pitch is a huge advantage when starting a playoff series. Here’s hoping that the Dodgers don’t mail it in over the last week of the season. I’m not satisfied with the NL West title and a trip to St. Louis or Atlanta. I want to begin each Dodgers postseason series with the palm trees of Chavez Ravine in the background.