Dodgers Season Preview: Big Payroll Still Leaves Questions Unanswered
The enthusiasm by Dodger fans can be seen on Twitter. New ownership brought about a projected opening day roster to cost in excess of $212 million, the most in baseball history. But you know what Biggie Smalls said: Mo Money, Mo Problems. And the Dodgers aren't dodging that mantra by any means.
One would think with the scrap the Dodgers are dishing out to their players there would be a little more stability throughout their roster. Well, one person does think that.
"There's not that many questions," manager Don Mattingly said. "The answers, we're just not willing to throw them out there yet."
Well, okay then. "We pretty much know where we're going," Mattingly continued. "We're just not ready to reveal it all yet."
So that means that the Dodgers have answers to all the questions I have, but they just don't want to tell me. Well after the Dodgers squeaked out a 9-8 victory over the Angels in this penultimate exhibition game, here are some outstanding questions I have.
Josh Beckett. He's not the fireballer he once was. He tried to blow his 91 mph fastballs past the Angels. It didn't work. Beckett gave up seven runs on nine hits in four innings pitched.
"It's frustrating," Beckett said. "I just couldn't put anybody away."
One of the positives that Beckett pointed to was his ability to get ahead of the hitters. He said he felt good, that health wasn't an issue, that the flu was completely behind him.
Beckett is slated to be the fourth starter in the rotation.
Matt Kemp. Coming off of a spate of hamstring injuries last season and offseason shoulder surgery, Kemp has been slow in getting his hitting form back. As of Wednesday Kemp was batting .186 in 43 at-bats. Thankfully the Dodgers don't really need to exercise patience with him. That MVP-caliber hitting stroke of his has reemerged over the past several games. Most notably he has doubled a run home in each of the last two games.
"For me, Matt is what we though was going to happen," Mattingly said. "The bat speed is coming on as spring went along."
But another source of concern is the mental aspect of coming back from surgery. We've seen Kemp make remarkable plays whether it is running into the wall or making a diving catch. It's also no secret that Kemp is not the best at reading the ball coming off of the bat. He's been known to make Juan Pierre-esque circles in the outfield in trying to make a play.
So if the fear of getting reinjured keeps him a half-step behind, how many runs will that equate to? Mattingly also debunked that.
"There is so much less talk as camp went along with his shoulder," Mattingly said. "We feel like he's ready to go."
Carl Crawford. Crawford is coming off of Tommy John surgery, and you know all the questions that arise from that. Mattingly has committed to Crawford being the opening day left fielder, the black hole of the Dodgers for nearly a decade. Like Kemp, just how will he rebound from surgery?
Chad Billingsley. Billingsley's season ended with tendinitis of his pitching elbow. After platelet-rich plasma injections, he opted not to go in for surgery. Since then he's been sidelined with a bruised index finger complete with a fingernail that could still fall off.
Ryu Hyun-jin. Ryu seems to have really found his groove over his last several starts. But the question still remains: will he be able to adjust to Major League hitters? "I'm where I want to be," Ryu said about his progress. His first start is on Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants. I guess we'll find out then.
Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez broke his hand in the championship game at the World Baseball Classic and is due to be out for another six weeks. When he comes back will he return to shortstop or be moved to third base?
And speaking of, who will be the opening day shortstop? There is a lot of talk of keeping Luis Cruz at third base while putting Justin Sellers at shortstop. But, like Mattingly said, they know what they're going to do.
Andre Ethier. Will he hit lefties ever again?
Zack Greinke. Greinke got some inflammation of his right elbow. That does not inspire confidence.
Luis Cruz. He had a pretty remarkable season last year batting a smidge under .300. How realistic is it for him to replicate that output or even surpass it?
Yasiel Puig. He tore up Cactus League pitching, and if all projects as it should he will be tearing it up in Double-A ball with the Chattanooga Lookouts. Hell, he might even be elevated to Triple-A where he really will tear the cover off the ball in those launch pads of parks.
Dodger Stadium. It was an ambitious $100 million project to make Dodger Stadium look a bit more presentable by 21st century standards. However coming into the park, there were times when I wondered if I needed a hard hat in order to walk around.
Back in January when the media gathered for the press conference, we questioned whether there was enough time to everything they wanted. Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten insisted everything would be done by opening day, and if not there were "contigency plans".
What was done looked nice: the life-sized bobbleheads in front of the reserve level entrance; the hall-of-fame numbers outside of the top deck. As you can see above, the Dodgers upgraded all of the bathrooms. You could almost eat off of that floor. The fans loved the new scoreboards, the HD-iest of all HD scoreboards. The media loved the new chairs in the press box. But one glaring problem still remained.
The attendance was announced as 34,157, yet the lines were still just as bad for the concessions. Sure the bathrooms were nice, but the lines that were 12-deep still remained all around the park.
That's the short list of things that worry me about the Dodgers. While a lot of fans welcome the big spending ways of this Dodgers ownership group, the Fox group also spent some money on the team. How many playoff appearances did that get them? Zero.
So when the Dodgers fail to make the playoffs with an 89-73 record, no one should be surprised. Right?