By Jon Morrill
Dear Dodger Fans,
Rejoice! Your ball club, led by newly appointed GM Ned Coletti, has taken two big steps towards getting back in the ring for the rematch against your cross-town brethren, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whom you once had stuck in a headlock for so, so long. Not only have your beloved boys in blue signed one of the most underrated free agents on the market this off-season (how A.J. Burnett all of a sudden became the savior of baseball is beyond me) in 2003 AL Batting Champ 3B Bill Mueller; but you also picked up the first real leadoff threat to come to DodgerTown since Brett Butler in SS Rafael Furcal. So not only have you added some real pop to your lineup with the switch hitting antics of Mueller and the dynamic Furcal, but you’ve also upgraded the left side of your infield considerably. Add that to the fact that once Cesar Izturis comes back from Tommy John elbow surgery after the All-Star Break, he’ll probably take over at second base, shuffling Jeff Kent over to first; you’ll have 4 All-Star caliber players patrolling your infield. In addition to all of that going on, the Dodgers are also said to be in the running for landing Nomar Garciaparra, who apparently now can play any position on the baseball diamond–any position but shortstop.
I know things haven’t felt right for a long time at Dodger Stadium. Things have probably felt odd since July 30th, 2004, when your old GM, Paul DePodesta, laughed in the face of team chemistry and momentum when he sent C Paul Lo Duca, RP Guillermo Mota and OF Juan Encarnacion packing in exchange for Marlins P Brad Penny and 1b Hee Seop Choi. Hell, I know things may not have felt right since May of ’98 when they sent Mike Piazza to… well, Florida oddly enough; where they rented him for two weeks and then sent him packing again to the Mets. Times have been tough, Dodger folks, I know. In 2005 you were decimated by injuries, and even though you made the playoffs in 2004 despite the trading deadline mash-up, you still went one and out against the Cards. And let’s face it, in the NL West where you play Colorado and Arizona close to 40 times a year, you should always have a shot at the postseason.
But things are on the mend now, Fernando Mania Enthusiasts. I know it took some time, but months after you fired your old manager Jim Tracy, you finally have a new one in Grady Little and his perpetual impression of Milton from “Office Space” (listen to a few interviews with him, you’ll see what I mean); and members of the 2002-2003 Boston Red Sox and their followers will tell you–Grady Little is not as bad as what he’s remembered for. He’s not (just) the guy who left Pedro out on the mound too long in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Yankees. The truth is that he’s a fantastic player’s manager who made a big mistake in a crucial situation, but has (presumably) moved on from him. In fact, I’m actually really glad to see that Grady Little never went into full hibernation/Scott Norwood mode after his Fall 2003 collapse. To those of you who actually paid attention before Pedrogate, you’ll remember that Little had a 188-136 record as BoSox skipper. You’ll remember that he’s the manager that nurtured and cultivated the amazing team chemistry that Terry Francona inherited in 2004 which carried them to the World Series title.
So, boys and girls, in two weeks when you’re huddled around the Christmas tree scrambling for presents and perhaps only see a few; possibly one shaped like Nomar Garciaparra, just remember that you’ve already got some of your Christmas presents early. Remember that the biggest Christmas present from the Dodgers to you is that they’re giving you reason to keep your hats colored Dodger blue if you haven’t already changed them to Angel red.