How will the Dodgers look this year?
With El Nino waning, the Super Bowl fading in memory and the hillsides in Santa Clarita turning greener, it can only mean that spring is fast approaching. With it, comes a new baseball season, one that carries high hopes for Dodger fans.
The season officially begins April 4, although the Dodgers play their first game in Pittsburg April 5. Spring training is well underway now, and will ramp up throughout March.
KHTS AM-1220 will again broadcast all Los Angeles Dodger games as part of the Dodgers' Radio Network.
Last year the Dodgers repeated as NL West Division champions, and unfortunately also experienced some déjà vu at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies, who knocked them out of the NL Pennant race for the second consecutive year.
Here's what to look for this season:
How do the Dodgers stack up this year?
In terms of personnel, the club is pretty much the same. Late hero Vicente Padilla will return on a one year deal, and he is expected to pitch in the starting rotation. Most of the young players have been rewarded with bigger paychecks this year, so they'll be back and presumably happy. Manny Ramirez will also be back, along with 2nd baseman Ronnie Belliard.
In the loss column, the Dodgers no longer have Juan Pierre, Orlando Hudson or Randy Wolf. Hudson was an all-star last year, and both Pierre and Wolf were spectacular.
For the Dodgers, a few players can make or break the season.
Manny Ramirez - Last season he went from superstar to overweight super-bust. If he can get back to Manny of old, the Dodgers will have a major shot in the arm. Ramirez has already said that he expects to be someplace else next year, so maybe he'll want to go out with a bang.
Chad Billingsley - After an all-star first half, Billingsley withered down the stretch and became a major liability. The Dodger's hoped he would be a rotation chief by now, and if he can get to that level, the starting pitching would be a force to be reckoned with.
Russell Martin - While all of his young teammates were having career years, Martin could never quite get out of the cellar. He was still a defensive force on the team, but a different man on the offensive side. His resurgence as a catcher who can hit above .250 would add a jolt to that critical spot near the bottom of the lineup. Word has it he put on 20 pounds in the off season with the goal of hitting more for power. * Martin will miss all of spring training and potentially the start of the season with a groin injury.
Clayton Kershaw - When Billingsley hit the skids, Kershaw caught fire. Utterly dominant at times, Kershaw's worst enemy was himself in high pressure situations. If both Kershaw and Billingsley can put up solid seasons, the Dodgers will go far.
Kemp and Ethier - By far the team leaders in nearly every offensive category, these guys carried the team at times last season. If the rest of the lineup can start pulling more weight, Kemp and Either will only be more productive.
Xavier Paul, Jason Repko, and Reed Johnson - These are the backup outfielders, and if Joe Torre carries through with his plans to rest Manny Ramirez at least once per week, one of these guys will be getting a lot of playing time. Repko has been waiting in the wings for a while, and Johnson is a recent signing from the Cubs with seven years of big league experience.
What does Vegas say?
If you're a betting person, the odds makers seem to think that the Dodgers have a slightly better chance of success this year, compared to last year. In March of 2009, the Dodgers were getting 10:1 odds to win the NL Pennant. As of now, Vegas.com lists the odds at 9:2. Philadelphia currently has the most respect for this race, going off at 13:4.
Fun fact: If you believe in miracles, start rooting for the San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals, or Cleveland Indians. A $10 bet on any of those teams to win the World Series will be worth $2,000 if they should actually do it. They won't, but it's still fun to think about.
Best opportunities to catch a Dodger game
Santa Clarita Dodger Day is Saturday May 8, vs. the Rockies. This is great news because:
- The game is at 7:10 p.m., so finally we don't have to risk 3rd degree sunburns to support our town
- Tickets are discounted for SCV residents
- All tickets purchased from local organizations benefit our non-profits. Information on those tickets will be publicized in local media as the date approaches
Dodgers play interleague games against the LA Angels
Dodgers play interleague games against the NY Yankees. Tickets for these games are currently only available to mini-plan and season ticket holders, so keep an eye out.
The 2010 All Star game is at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Surely some Dodgers will be there...
August 30-Sept 1
Dodgers host the Phillies in what could be a preview of the post season.
Games against the bottom rung
Usually when teams with good records play teams with bad records, they are the hardest for the stadium to fill. This means that the best deals and some cool giveaways will usually accompany these games. See the full schedule to see which games are of interest to you.