Over the next few weeks there will inevitably be words written about fresh cut grass, birds singing and baseball coming back to life — or something like that. Every year there’s a countdown to Pitchers and Catchers Day that begins the second the previous season ends.
It’s an exciting day to be sure. The season is coming and actual team activities are finally underway this week. But before the season can begin, there is a long March, full of long afternoons of hoping Justin Turner won’t get his wrist broke in a random spring game or trying to put Corey Seager in bubble wrap because we’ve waited so long to see him back in the lineup.
Yes, the time has come to ramp up the expectation machine for what you think the 2019 season holds.
The Dodgers don’t have Bryce Harper — no team does just yet — but they have a good team that is going to be a bit different. No Yasiel Puig to patrol right field or lick his bat. Where there was Yasmani Grandal, there will be the return of Russell Martin.
10 of the players on the current 40-man roster weren't on it last season, and five weren’t in the organization. And the roster churn will still happen over the course of the season, even with Farhan Zaidi up north.
Listening to Clayton Kershaw address the media for the first time, he said something that I think applies to what the Dodgers’ front office is doing with the team.
“You need to be stubborn in your routines,” Kershaw said about his offseason of tweaking his mechanics. “And you need to be stubborn with what you’re doing to be successful, to be consistent.”
“But at the same time you have to be open minded when things aren’t working. And you have to be able to assess your situation and understand if there needs to be change, you need to work on it.”
Kershaw was talking about regaining the velocity he lost at some point last season. The lefty is known for having an aggressive workout plan.
Applying the comments about being stubborn to the way the front office operates and you can say they’ve been stubborn to what they believe works. They have refused to spend big money over a long-term deal since Andrew Friedman came to town and it’s hard to argue with the results.
Many expected them to spend money after they got under the luxury tax threshold. They did spend, but not much. The thing is, they didn’t need to in order to make the improvements they believed in.
By adding Joe Kelly and A.J Pollock, they believe they improved two areas that were of concern, late-inning relief and a right-handed hitting outfielder to play center field.
Puig will be missed, but with Pollock, an open spot for Alex Verdugo and Seager returning, the Dodgers have a more balanced attack on offense. Manager Dave Roberts hinted Tuesday that there may be less platooning because of that balance.
The offseason may have felt like a letdown after the talk of the last couple years of spending once the payroll was under the threshold. But the financial discipline will likely allow the Dodgers to spend where they need to in the future.
Ready or not, here comes 2019. We shall see if Kershaw can get his fastball back to 94-mph, if one of the catchers can hit above the Mendoza Line, if Max Muncy can repeat his brilliant year at the plate and whether or not Kenley Jansen will return with dominance once again.
The Dodgers will be good again and will be attempting a seventh straight NL West title, trying to return to the World Series. It’s hard to believe they would make it back to their third straight World Series, but expectations aren’t coming down anytime soon.