It’s that time of year again. The Dodgers have packed up and left their Arizona Spring Training facilities, Opening Day is right around the corner, and we all have a little down time before the Freeway Series with that team which thinks Los Angeles is in the heart of Orange County.
Scott dropped his ten predictions for the season a few days ago, so here are mine:
1. Clayton Kershaw is going to have a bust out, break out, best season ever. I’m not saying that because I’m a homer and I think the man and the team can do no wrong. Heck, anybody who’s read more than three of my articles knows that. Nor do I mean he’s going to put up another impressive line of superhuman pitching numbers during the season.
I mean Kershaw is going to carry this team through the playoffs and on to a World Series Championship like Dodgers pitching heroes of the past. Sure, Kershaw had his share of postseason crash and burns in the past, but he started to shrug that albatross off his shoulders last season. This year, the Ace is due. He’s healthy, he’s hungry for it, the team and the timing is right for a World Series run, and Kershaw shall lead them to the promised land.
2. Andre Ethier will have brief success and then flame out quickly. As much as I love Captain Clutch, I think it’s curtains for the man. The past two spring Training injuries will take their toll – not so much on his body, but on his mind. As good an athlete as Andre is, he’s always been a little too emotional for his own good. That’s a sign to me that he won’t have the mental discipline necessary to bounce back from his second ST shutdown in a row.
He’ll return to the lineup, but too fast, without putting in the step by step work that is required to recover correctly. His talent and desire will carry him for a time, maybe a month, and we’ll all think Dre is back. Then he’ll over-exert himself in the wrong way, or he’ll suffer another bad luck, freak injury, or he’ll have another dugout blowup. Whatever the cause, he’ll lose his spot in the lineup, mope on the bench, and be out of the picture by the All-Star break.
3. At the first game I attend this season (April 4), I’ll fruitlessly search for a decent craft beer that’s locally brewed, and will grudgingly settle for an overpriced michelada that tastes oh so good, or for the best-kept beer secret in the park – a Korean-brewed Hite. Hite is lower priced than the lowest-priced domestic swill the stadium carries, and it tastes better than a bunch of them.
4. Speaking of attending games, I’ll miss at least one play of the night while standing in a food line. They have those TV screens so you can watch, but it’s never the same as viewing it from your seat.
5. Speaking of Korean imports, Hyun-Jin Ryu is also going to have a Dodgers career year. The man many counted out at the start of ST will have a solid year and become the unsung anchor of the rotation.
6. Another Dodger hero of mine will falter this year, Adrian Gonzalez. The iron man of the infield has seen his offensive production decline the last two seasons, and this year won’t be any different. He’ll still be reliable with RISP, but his weapon won’t be the long ball. He’s become Tony Gwynn. Lots of RBI singles and some well-hit doubles will keep his RBI numbers up there until the dog days of summer take their toll, and the butter and eggs begin to melt. His playing time will sharply drop after the All-Star break.
7. Andrew Toles will take advantage of Ethier starting the season on the DL and make it very hard for the skipper to keep him on the bench when Ethier returns. Tolesey’s energy, speed on the base paths, and better-than-average bat will force the skipper’s hand to find an everyday spot for this invaluable Dodgers spark plug.
8. Scott will have his annual “The Dodgers stink, they’ll never win again” phase, and I’ll calmly talk him through it, because I know the Dodgers (and he) will come around again. Like I do every year.
9. I’ll constantly hear my inner-voice version of Vin Scully calling plays in my mind as my brain struggles to comprehend the strangeness that will be Dodgers baseball without the master behind the mike.
10. Speaking of the strangeness of a missing Dodgers constant, I’ll have a private and very sad moment when the reality of this being the first season without my mother to share it with hits me.
Mom was the first Dodger fan I knew. For the last fifteen seasons (after my father passed away) she lived with us, and the biggest thing that I shared with her was baseball season and “those screwballs” as she lovingly called the boys in blue. It’s not going to be the same without Vinny and mom.
Still, I can’t wait to hear the words, “PLAY BALL!”