A few years ago Eric and I took turns taking a look at how the Dodgers did during the current decade. That decade is now gone no matter how you think the decade begins or ends, so since we did some good work on this series we will run it again this week. I took the 1st term of President Bush, Eric will follow with the 2nd term.
I was supposed to start with the first year of the first term but miscalculated and started with the year 2000. Since I put some effort into this I've decided to leave 2000 as a bonus year.
Moves: Traded one time ROY of the year Raul Mondesi to the Blue Jays for Shawn Green in the first challenge trade of the decade. Orel Hershiser was brought back hoping to recapture the magic of ten years past. TJ Simers whipping boy FP Santanelo signed as a free agent. Kevin Elster was signed to be the starting SS.
Summary: They improved by 9 games over the 1999 season but it wasn't enough as the Giants behind Barry Bonds won 97 games and coasted to the Division Championship. The Dodgers were never really in the race and never saw 1st place after April 23rd. The team was paced by all-stars Kevin Brown and Gary Sheffield.
Hitting: The team did okay and even had some spectacular performances. The hitting machine known as Gary Sheffield had one of the greatest LA Dodger seasons ever, slugging 43 home runs and posting a triple stat line of 325/438/643 good enough for a 176 OPS+ which ranks as the 3rd best in team history. Todd Hundley was hurt but in 299 at bats he belted 24 home runs and posted a 143OPS+. Shawn Green also contributed but it would be in 2001/2002 that he really took off. Twenty one year old Adrian Beltre already in his 3rd major league season gave notice to the NL that the Dodgers might have one of the better young players in baseball when he posted a .952 OPS in the 2nd half. The Dodgers had one of their best benches in my recollection. Dave Hansen came off the bench to deliver hit after hit and posted a 153 OPS. Career minor leaguer Chris Donnels got a late season callup and destroyed NL pitching in Sept with an .833 slug%. Kelvin Elster capped off his solid major league career with a trio of home runs to ruin the opening of AT&T park.on April 11th. Alex Cora would supplant him as the starting SS and 2000 would be the last season for Kelvin Elster. Even our backup catcher, Chad Krueter chipped in with 116 OPS+ but he became infamous for going into the stands to retreive his hat which had been taken by a Cub fan.
Pitching: On the pitching front we got spectacular work from Kevin Brown who gave us the greatest season ever for a free agent Dodger pitcher . He would match his 169 ERA+ again in 2003 giving us two of the greatest seasons ever for Dodger FA pitcher. Chan Ho Park almost kept up with Kevin Brown and easily had his greatest season. I think it was 2000 season that led Texas to give him the boondoogle of a contract because he dropped off in 2001. Darren Driefort actually pitched 192 innings and was effective for most of them. It would be the last time he would even pitch 100 innings. It was a big dropoff after those three. Ismael Valdez was supposed to be a fixture in the rotation but the pitcher who was one of the best young pitchers in baseball at the age of 23 was done. He was traded mid season for a bucket of balls. From age 20 - 23 he threw over 600 innings and was never the same after his excellent age 23 season. It was a sad ending for many fans favorite pitcher of the previous decade. The Orel Hershiser experiment was a grand failure and retired just 24 innings into the season. Carlos Perez had parlayed a great 1998 Sept into a multi year deal but by 2000 he was one of the worse starting pitchers in baseball and would never pitch again in the major leagues. Down on the farm Eric Gagne came up and took his place in the rotation late in the season. He had his ups and downs but threw two excellent games in Sept and gave Dodger fans hope that 2001 would find him in the rotation.
Bubbling on the Farm: Not much was on the farm in those days but Luke Prokopec showed some promise. There was no Jacksonville Five to pin future hopes on. There was some hope that one Paul La Duca could become a solid backup catcher but he was 27 years old and that seemed like to much to ask of the career minor leaguer. Little did we know what kind of chemistry our La Duca was working on.
Davy Johnson was replaced by Jim Tracy but they still finished with the exact same record as 2000. While the wins didn't change it was a different atmosphere in the summer of 2001. Instead of finishing in 2nd place 11 games out of first place they finished in 3rd place, six game back of the eventual World Champion Diamondbacks. Not many changes from 2000 to 2001. Devon White would be replaced in CF by Marquis Grissom but for the most part the team remained the same. The Dodgers were the best team in division until Aug 1st rolled around. For 38 days they had spent time in 1st place but by Aug 10th the death knell had sounded and they sank beneath the weight of a lousy team who was only competing because of the incredible duo of Sheffield/Green. The new season started off omiously when a simple appendectomy for budding star Adrian Beltre turned into a life threatening procedure. At age 21 Adrian Beltre had a star as bright as anyone in baseball. Speed, power, plate discipline, along with stellar defense had Dodger fans drooling with anticipation over his future. It all changed in 2001 and he was never the same until 2004 when Eric gets to write about his glorious year.
Hitting: The season was salvaged by two offensive juggernauts the like the Los Angeles Dodgers had never seen before. Sheffield and Green both posted an OPS+ > 150 and combined for 85 home runs. This lefty/righty duo decimated NL pitching but the only help they got was from an unlikely career minor league catcher who one would have expected to hit his ceiling as a backup catcher. Instead this career minor league catcher who had managed to hit only 29 career minor league home runs in eight seasons blasted 25 home runs and posted one of the greatest offensive seasons for a LA Dodger catcher not named Mike Piazza. This trio kept the Dodgers atop the leaderboard for most of July as they went 18-9. To bad for them they got no help. Remember this was 2001, when home runs were flying out at a chemical rate. With all of that happening around them, only Jeff Reboulet could post an OPS+ > 100. The rest of the offense was just dreadful. I'll always wonder what Adrian Beltre career would have looked like if he not had his appendectomy done in the DR. It was strange to watch a 20/21 year old with excellent plate discipline just lose it for the next several years. He would never again reach the splits between BA/OB that he had as a 20/21 year old.
Pitching:Kevin Brown led the staff but he was only able to pitch 115 innings. From him it was a steep falloff to a mediocre Chan Ho Park, and then an even steeper falloff to the rest of the rotation. Terry Adams moved to the rotation ala Brandon Looper but the results were less then stellar. The youngsters Gagne/Prokopec got 46 starts and did not remind anyone of the plethora of good young Dodger hurlers who had wowed Dodger fans over the last 40 plus years. They were young so the expectations were not high. That was not the case for one Darren Dreifort who had signed a ridiculous contract in December of 2000. The Sheriff had ruined the farm but so far he hadn't ruined the big league club. That ended on Dec 11th, 2000 when the Sheriff inked Dreifort to the above mentioned contract. It wasn't that Dreifort didn't have talent, he did. Nasty stuff but he also had not shown the ability to stay healthy to warrant such a contract. In Dodger circles he was most known for the guy the Dodgers drafted because Arod had been taken by the Mariners. The Dodgers had the worse record in baseball in 1992 but the Mariners got the 1st pick because back then they alternated between AL/NL for the number one pick. How Dodger history would be different today. Anyway I digress, Dreifort of course did get hurt in 2001 and even when he wasn't hurt he pitched like crap. Other then Brown/Park the whole rotation was below average. The bullpen however held up their end of the bargain. Free agent pickup Giovanni Carrara showed for the 1st time but not the last time that he loved pitching for the Dodgers. His ERA+ of 125 paced the bullpen but they also got solid performances from Jeff Shaw, Matt Herges, and Jesse Orosco.
2002: The Dodgers picked up six games and won 92 but still finished in 3rd place behind Arizona and the Giants again. Back then the West was strong and in 2001/2002 the West was represented in the World Series. Luckily for Dodger fans the Angels slew the Giants in one of the best World Series I've seen. So the Dodgers were winning more games but not picking up any ground. The standings looked the same from 2001 to 2002 as far as the Dodgers were concerned.
Moves: Welcome to the Dan Evans era and he wasted no time in putting his stamp on the team. In a flurry of deals, Dan Evans revamped the team with some moves working, some not. Gary Sheffield was unhappy as a Dodger so he was unloaded in a forgettable trade. Sheffield was one of the best but most despised Dodgers to ever wear the uniform. Being traded for someone who will probably be the first home grown position Dodger to make it to the HOF didn't help matters. Being a selfish prick also didn't help. Still he was one of a handful of the best right handed hitters to call Chavez Ravine his home and the day he was traded was not a good day for the Dodgers. Brian Jordon and Odalis Perez were the chips received and they had some value, just not Gary Sheffield value. Promising young pitcher Luke Prokepec was traded for Quantrill and Izturis. In a minor deal we traded some names for Dave Roberts. Hideo Nomo was brought back much like Orel in 2000 but this time the results would be different. He then signed Kaz Ishii to a free agent contract. Followed that with moving Herges to the Expos for Guillermo Mota. Then in his most important move he brought in Logan White to oversee the draft.
Hitting: With Sheffield gone the bulk of the offense sat squarely on Shawn Greens shoulders. For one more year his shoulders were up to the task and he delivered after a slow start. On May 19th, Green was hitting .239 with only three home runs. Plenty of whispers behind his back that without Sheffield he would cave in. Then on May 21st he slugged 2 home runs. On May 23nd he had a game for the ages and slugged four homes to with six hits and seven runs batted in. Some would argue it was the greatest offensive explosion in LA Dodger history. He wasn't done, from May 21st - May 27th he hit 10 home runs. By the end of the year he had hit the most home runs in LA Dodger history . What is even more amazing, is that you have to go all the way back to Strawberry's 28 home runs to find another left hander on the list. So not only did Shawn Green hit 49 home runs, he hit 21 more home runs then any LHB in Dodger history. For two years, Shawn Green was the best LHH in LA Dodger History, yet just a few years later he gets little respect from the fans. The only help he got came from Brian Jordan who had his last good year before succumbing to injuries. Marquis Grissom/Dave Roberts put up some nice numbers as Tracy mixed and matched them extremely well. So the outfield was a strong spot but the infield was pitiful. Karros continued his spiral into uselessness with his 2nd straight year of an OPS+ < 100. For a first baseman he was killing the team. While Karros had been a solid performer for many years, the new decade had not been kind to him. Grundy finished hitting less then .280 for the 3rd year in a row. He'd get better after he left the Dodgers but from 2000-2002 he stunk. Alex Cora split time with Izturis at SS and Cora had his career year in 2002 while Izzy was awful at the plate but looked like a budding Ozzie Smith in the field. Beltre was lost in the 1st half but again found his stroke in the 2nd half but the fans were starting to worry if he'd ever be the guy they saw in 2000. Paul LaDuca fell back to earth from his career 2001 season but it was still solid and he had become the team leader with Green being such a quiet player.
Pitching:Kevin Brown was injured even more in 2002 then in 2001 but this time he didn't even pitch well. Odalis Perez and Hideo Nomo battled for the right to be called the ace. Neither was brilliant but they were both above average and netted the team 31 wins between them. Nomo had done what Orel had failed to do. He had recaptured the magic of the past and while it wasn't Nomomania it was damn close. The other Japanese import Kaz Ishii did not fare as well. He struck out a lot of batters but he also walked over 100 batters. Ashby and Omar Daal rounded out the rotation and they delivered average work. Still when we talk about pitching in 2002, we should start out talking about Game Over Gagne. As the season started the Dodgers did not have a closer. At one time it was hoped Gage would be a fixture in the rotation but he had lost his luster and was working out of the bullpen when they decided to see if he could close a game on April 7th. From that point on it was Game Over as Welcome to the Jungle blared from Chavez Ravine. We knew we had something special when on April 11th he entered the game with only a one run lead. Very quickly the Giants had the tying run on 3rd base with only one. Then punch out and fly ball and the Dodgers and Eric Gagne had passed his toughest test. By the end of the year he would garner the most saves in Dodger history. The bullpen wasn't just Gagne. They got great work from Chad Quantrill, Orosco, and Carrara. It just wasn't enough.
Summary: The Giants capped off a great four years by whipping the anemic boys by 15 games. The Dodgers pitching and defense tried to make a race of it but the burden of the popgun offense finally caved in the Dodger chances.
Moves: Traded long time 1st baseman Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek to the Cubs for another go with Todd Hundley. While with the Cubs, Grud would recapture his batting average that had been AWOL the previous three years. Karros was replaced with Fred McGriff who was supposed to hit his 500th home run as a Dodger. A move that garnered little publicity turned into the best move of the season when Wilson Alveraz regained the luster he had lost in 1999. The anemic offense needed a boost and Evans traded for or signed Burnitz, HOF Rickey Henderson, and Robin Ventura.
Hitting: Dan Evans had hoped that Fred McGriff was going to give the offense a shot in the arm by teaming up the future HOFwith Shawn Green but it didn't work out the way Evans planned. McGriff at age 39 was only able to get 300 at bats and when he did hit, he didn't do much. Shawn Green coming off excellent back to back seasons had shoulder problems and was unable to generate the power he had displayed in the past. He went from 42 home runs to 19 and without him generating the power this offense sank without a whimper. The highest OPS+ on the team stil came from Shawn Green but it was only 116. Then it dropped to McGriff at 99. Jordan was hurt as usual so he was a non-factor. The three players that Evans traded/signed to help the team during the summer performed even worse then the players they replaced. Burnitz gave his own A Jones performance putting up an OPS+ of 69 in 230 at bats. He would leave LA and hit 37 home runs for the Rockies and almost double his OPS+. I expect the same folk who said Jones is done said the same thing about Burnitz in 2003. Alex Cora and Izturis dazzled Dodger fans with some of the keystone defense they had ever seen. They also combined to be one of the worse offensive keystones since the 70's. Beltre's star kept dimming as he kept alternating ice cold 1st halves with hot 2nd halves. This year his 1st half was colder then normal and his 2nd half not as hot. All in all it was a pathetic offense with little expectation this group of players would ever be able to muster enough offense to get into post season play.
Pitching: As bad as the hitting was, the pitching was incredible. No one could score on the bullpen as three pitchers posted sub 2.00 ERA's. The highest ERA in the bullpen was 3.5 from Loogy Martin. ERA+ numbers of 335, 231, 204, 134, 114 were mind blowing. Gagne of course led the crew with his CY Young season. A season in which he saved 55 games, posted a 1.20 ERA, struck out 137 batters in only 82 innings. It simply was one of greatest seasons ever for a relief pitcher. Paul Quantrill and Mota were now slouches as they almost were just as hard to hit. The rotation was led again by Kevin Brown who bounced back from his 2002 injuries to throw 211 exceptional innings. Hideo Nomo had his best season since Nomomania in 1995 posting a 130 ERA+. NRI Wilson Alveraz dominated in AAA and got the call to the big leagues where he gave the team a huge boost pitching in the rotation and bullpen. It had been 5 years since he been this effective. Ishi had an excellent ERA of 3.86 even with posting 100 walks for the 2nd year in a row. The bightest spot was Edwin Jackson who defeated Randy Johnson on his 20th birthday.
Summary: Big changes take place as the team gears up for the final year of Bush's first term. Fox sells the team to an Eastern parking lot magnate but it doesn't go smoothly. Dan Evan signs Vlady Guerrero to contract but MLB voids the contract because they didn't want the team burdened with a long term contract while it was being sold. The Dodgers would pay dearly for the intervention by MLB. The McCourts take control of the team and make Dan Evans interview for his job. Once all the interviews are complete, the McCourts shock the community by choosing Moneyball hero Paul Depodesta to run the team. Depo takes over the club just before spring training so he has little time to put his stamp on the team but he makes all the right moves and boldly puts the Dodgers into the postseason with a series of trades and pickups. Steve Finley hits a grand slam to win the pennant against the Giants on 2nd to last day of the season, and for the first time since 1995 the Dodgers were the Division winners. Unlikely hero Jose Lima shuts out the offensive juggernauts St. Lous Cardinals for the first Dodger playoff victory since game five of the 1988 World Series. One win however does not cut it in a playoff series and when Odalis Perez gets rocked twice the Dodgers only walk away from 2004 with a moral victory in that they finally won a playoff game. Other then the playoff victory the highlight might have been when the Yankee's came to Dodger stadium for the first time during the regular season. The games were played in a post season atmosphere and when Gagne struck out Bernie Williams to end the first game with a Dodger victory the crowd went crazy. It was Ghame Over at it's zenith and soon it would only be a memory.
Moves: Jose Lima is signed as an NRI and after having success in the bullpen, he moves into the rotation and Chavez Ravine is christened with Lima Time. Near the end of spring training he trades a minor league relief pitcher for Jayson Werth. Just a week later Milton Bradley burns his bridges in Cleveland and Depodesta turns his anger into our starting Center Fielder. Within one week Depo has found our LF and CF without touching the major league roster. Then with the team in first place but a floundering rotation he trades the most popular player on the team Paul La Duca for Brad Penny. Also going was Mota and Encarnacion and coming back was Hee Sop Choi. The next day he makes a plethora a moves but the most important one was sending minor league players to the Diamondbacks for Steve Finley. By the time the season ended the starting outfield of Bradley, Finley, and Werth had been acquired for peanuts. So while the outfield was solid the trade of La Duca left us without a catcher. Charles Johnson was supposed to fill LaDuca's shoes but he turned down a trade and the team had to turn to David Ross. Brad Penny made one brilliant start and then fell victim to a strange nerve injury to his arm. Hee Sop Choi was relegated to pinch hitting duties after Tracy saw enough of him that he didn't want to see much more of him. Still when Finley hit the grand slam to win the pennant it all seemed worthwhile.
Hitting: Adrian Beltre had showed flashes of greatness in several 2nd halves during the first six years of his career. He was still only 25 when he put together two halves and had the greatest season by a 3rd baseman in Dodger history. He crushed 48 home runs, the most ever for a RH, he drove in 121 runs, while continuing to play some of the best defense ever seen at Chavez Ravine. For the first time since Gary Sheffield had left the Dodgers had a power source from the right side. Jayson Werth when he wasn't hurt added some power of his own, and played an excellent left field. Milton Bradley played an above average center field in the field and at the plate. Dave Roberts started out in left field but Depo was not a fan of his game. When Steve Finley was acquired he was moved into CF and Milton moved to right, with Roberts being shipped to Boston for minor league parts. At age 39 it was a risky move bringing in Finley but he added some sock with a .491 slug% and of course it was his grand slam that helped propel the Dodgers into the postseason. Shawn Green had been moved to 1st base and he bounced back from his injury riddled 2003 season with 28 home runs. He wasn't the Shawn Green of old but he was still a productive ballplayer. In 2003 the keystone combo of Cora/Izturis had combined for an OPS+ of 127. In 2004 they improved on that by 59 points while continuing to play excellent defense. Hard to find any team that had 3 better defensive players then Cora/Izturis/Beltre on the infield. Before being traded LaDuca had been giving the team above average offense but once he was traded the catching position became a black hole. David Ross put up a triple stat line of .170/.253/.291. It was truly awful and Depo got a lot of flack for not having a fall back solution when Charles Johnson refused his traded.
Pitching: 2004 was all about Lima time. He was not the ace, Odalis Perez was, but it was Jose Lima who won not only game after game but the hearts of the fans. The somber Perez could only mange 7 wins even with an ERA of 3.25. He was be far the best pitcher on the staff but the team refused to hit when he pitched. Ishii, Lima, and Weaver won 13 games but it was Lima Time that Dodger fans will remember about the rotation in 2004. Weaver had been acquired by Dan Evans before he lost the interview for his job and he acquited himself well. Depodesta was right that this team needed a big arm in the rotation if they were going to make noise in the playoffs. He just didn't get the right guy as Brad Penny's right nerve folded at the wrong time. With a rotation going into the playoffs of Perez/Weaver/Lima the Dodgers didn't really stand a chance agains the Pujols led Cardinals but Lima somehow managed to shut them out for the highlight of the season. The bullpen still had Gagne and the combo of Gagne/Mota shut down team after team. Carrara had come back to work more magic under the Dodger lights but in a ballsy move the setup sensation, Mota was traded as part of the package for Penny/Choi. It was only possible because Depo had faith that Yhency Brazoban could fill Mota's role, and Brazoban rewarded that faith by stepping right into Mota's spot without the team missing a beat. Edwin Jackson was expected to be in the rotation in 2004 but it never happened as he failed to win a spot in the rotation and then did nothing to remind fans of the 20 year old who had bested Randy Johnson just a few months ago.
The first term was up and we had won a playoff game but the future was uncertain. Eric Stephen will walk us through the next term.