By Mitch Chortkoff
The new Dodger owners spend lavishly and they’re attempting to build a championship team.
“Last year we made a lot of progress and reached the playoffs,” said Magic Johnson. “Now our goal is to go all the way.”
Many forecasters have listed the Dodgers as favorites to win the World Series. One consideration is their record $240 million payroll.
But there’s been enough early trouble for fans to be concerned.
Let us count the difficulties – quite a few since it’s only the beginning of April.
First, there’s the uncertainty about Matt Kemp’s status. He’s a terrific player with a huge contract but he’s injured. What will the Dodgers do with him?
Second, we have Yasiel Puig. Young and extremely talented, but still making blunders as he did last season. And the Dodgers have already had a team meeting about his immaturity.
Next we have the curious decision of the Dodgers to rid themselves of second baseman Mark Ellis, a solid veteran who would seem to be valuable on a team with several question marks.
Not only did the Dodgers release Ellis they began the season without anyone close to his experience at second base. Dee Gordon, a converted shortstop with limited offensive skills, starts the season at second base.
To make the situation worse, Ellis quickly signed with the Cardinals, the team that eliminated the Dodgers in last season’s playoffs. Now they have his skills and experience and the Dodgers don’t.
So the season begins and the Dodgers believe the bullpen is the strength of their team. But in the first game in San Diego Sunday reliever Brian Wilson gives up three runs in the eighth inning of a 3-1 loss.
Wilson was a closer on two San Francisco Giants championship teams. When the Dodgers signed him last season I thought it was a fine example of how devoted they are to winning.
But Wilson is pitching the eighth inning so far, and maybe there’s a difference in taking on that role instead of getting the final outs of victories.
Wilson said he didn’t have command of his pitches in San Diego and that’s unusual.
The Dodgers have an ace pitcher, perhaps the best in baseball, but Clayton Kershaw has gone on the disabled list with a back problem.
Let’s not even discuss Kershaw’s eight-year contract. It’s logical to believe he’ll recover from his back problems and earn his long years of reward for a great start to his major league career.
I’m just thinking about how his absence for awhile will contribute to the Dodgers’ uncertainty in April.
It’s simply another problem.
Every baseball season is a long journey and reaching conclusions this early isn’t a good idea.
But for a team expected to be highly successful the Dodgers certainly have their share of problems