So….been awhile since I’ve done one of these, hasn’t it?
To put it mildly, plenty has happened since the last Artful Dodgers column. Not the least of which was the insane front office overhaul, sacking the hapless Ned Colletti and replacing him with a sabermetrics think tank of the brightest minds in baseball. The legendary coup of Andrew Friedman from Tampa Bay brought over the most coveted executive in the game, followed by Farhan Zaidi from Oakland and Josh Byrnes from Arizona. Before the quick assembly of that group had settled in, heads were exploded even more by the instantly legendary winter meetings. In a few days, they made a total of 10 trades, acquiring Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and Brandon McCarthy one a single day alone. And of course, the Matt Kemp-for-Yasmani Grandal swap with San Diego that I predictably hated at first, but eventually understood over time.
All that matters, of course, is that this radical restructuring pays off in a championship, as well as continued success in the forthcoming decade. With the calendar officially flipped past April, the status of this mission is so far, so good. Very good. Hell, downright great. Unlike last year’s largely inflexible, cluttered squad, the Dodgers are playing like a deep and pluralistic unit so far. Kendrick has been swinging a potent bat, and formed a wonderful double play duo with Jimmy Rollins. The much deeper roster has seen contributions from everyone from Adrian Gonzalez to Alex Guerrero to Scott Van Slyke. Best of all is the explosive rookie sensation Joc Pederson, who’s stolen Kris Bryant’s spotlight with a powerful bat and nimble glove.
And let’s not forget the bullpen, which was an overpriced achilles heel last year thanks to the likes of Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Brandon League. Instead, the discount and partly home-grown unit of Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, Paco Rodriguez and others has been as close to perfect as could be asked, especially with LA’s starters not going particularly deep in games thus far.
Hell, this depth is so good, they’ve been able to win soundly with Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenley Jansen and Yasiel Puig all on the DL. While I eagerly await the return of the first two (and big deadline acquisitions, most likely Cole Hamels), I’ll be honest: I’m enjoying the Dodgers much more without Puig in the equation. I don’t mean to say I’m happy he’s hurt in the slightest, but I’ve tired of his antics to the point where I find it preferable to tune him out. Don’t get me wrong, if he does mature and become a great man of the game as I hope, I’ll be his biggest defender. But watching the team play so proficiently as one, without relying on a moody superstar like him (or Hanley Ramirez), is refreshing.
And should the Dodgers slump at all, and I begin to feel sorry for myself….I can always remember this as evidence that it could have gotten much, much worse.