Busted and Blue

I first heard this song from Ray Charles when I was nine. It never strays far from my mind.

My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted.

As much as I try to find something to latch onto as we head into the new year with a MVP and Cy Young in tow, I can't feel it. My spider senses are all tingling disaster disaster, and try as I might, I can't shake it.

The optimism I felt at the end of the year has dissipated like the early snow, replaced with a pit of despair. Ned had a bad winter in 2010, he has compounded that with another bad winter in 2011. A team could handle one, but two bad winters leads to things like the 2009 Met's and that my friends is where I fear we are headed.

Ned has frittered away millions once again, with little to show for the effort other then the extension of Matt Kemp. He should have stopped there because everything he did after that simply makes it harder for his ultimate successor to clean up the mess.

I can see the optimist view if I look real hard. We have a legitimate MVP. We have a real Cy Young. We have an exciting young SS. We had the best 1st baseman in baseball in the last two months of 2011. We have a slugging right fielder coming back from an injury plagued season. We have the holder of the best K/9 ratio in the history of baseball. In the history of baseball.

The Dodger rotation has been solid since Ned took over but never great. It won't be very good in 2012. It won't be bad but it won't be good. I think the best case scenario is a 6th - 7th placement. Once upon a time I always felt the Kershaw/Kuroda/Billingsley trio could match up with any other trio. No longer do I feel this way.

Year NL fWar Placement
2011 3rd
2010 6th
2009 6th
2008 3rd
2007 7th
2006 5th

Our true number two is gone, replaced with soft tossing oldies who put up some decent numbers in pitching parks. Some still hold out hope for Chad Billingsley to become the Don' to Kershaw's Sandy's. We are past that point. On the surface a nice veteran staff, headed by the best left hander to hit this town since FernandoMania. And he may be getting better. However no one else is, they have all seen their best days, including Chad. The bullpen will be extremely taxed by this rotation every fourth day.

This was a below average team for four months last year even with Kemp and Kershaw hitting on every single cylinder. So many things have to go right for this team to be competitive:

1. James Loney simply has to be 33% better then he has upto this point in his career. For two months he gave us a glimpse of what he can do. Can he really break out at age 28 and produce for a full season like a six million first baseman should? Betting on that happening is probably a fools bet.

2. Mark Ellis has to not only stay healthy since we have nothing behind him but Adam Kennedy, but he has to do more then play defense. He has to get on base. He has to have his 2010 season because if he gives us his 2011 season it will be a black hole reminiscent of Juan Uribe. Betting on a 35 year old second baseman rebounding is probably a fools bet.

3. Dee Gordon was everything you'd have hoped for the second time around. Defensive wizardry, killing speed, and even got on base at a functional clip. Yet we know that Dee is just as likely to make the great play as throw the next groundball away. We know that Dee has to get on base to utilize his game changing speed. Can this wisp of a man be the catalyst for the offense? I can hope for it, I can't bet on it.

4. Juan Uribe may bounce back. He had two skills coming into 2011. Above average power for a middle infielder and some defensive ability. He's now a full time 3rd baseman so the power is now average. The defensive skills seemed to remain intact. At his best he was middling, good bet that he'll never see middling again.

5. AJ Ellis has impressed enough to become the starting catcher. Yikes

6. Was Andre's power shortage all related to injuries? From May 31st, 2010 - Oct 1st, 2011 Andre accumulated 996 plate appearances and hit 23 home runs. Basically what James Loney would do in the same number of plate appearances. What has kept Andre relevant during this time is his ability to get on base. If he's going to become Bobby Abreu, that would be cool. I'd bet on Andre recovering some power, I would not bet on Andre staying healthy.

7. If Matt Kemp is not Willie Mays he's going to regress. As long as it not greater then 20% he will still have a great year. The last thing Matt Kemp has to prove is that he is not an odd/even baseball player. This is the year to prove it.
His ODD OPS years - .894 / .842 / .986
His EVEN OPS years - .737 / .799 / .760

If Matt Kemp comes close to his historical OPS in an even year, this team can have everything else go right and still stumble. During his historic 2011 season, he still couldn't keep this team above .500 until the reinforcements showed up in Jim Loney, Gordon, Sands, and Rivera.

8. Juan Rivera drove in a bunch of runs in a very small amount of time. It was impressive, much more impressive then the .666 OPS he put up in even more at bats with the Blue Jays. Juan is done, his act in Aug/Sept was his last curtain call. He will follow Jose Cruz Junior right out the door into oblivion.

I think the long term future is bright, who knows what new ownership will do once they get a handle on things, and with Rubby, Eovaldi, Lee and folk getting ready for 2013 I can get excited about that future. I can't get excited by our current future.

This current incarnation of the Dodgers has to have so many things go right simply to compete that I think we have more of a chance of being the 2009 Mets then anything else. Everything could jell, the veterans could have what it takes, the rookies could come faster, the core could fuse together into a coalition of greatness one time before they are scattered to the winds.

I'd love for that to happen, I'm not betting on it.

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