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Dodgers mailbag: Corey Seager’s return, starting rotation, Christmas movies

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Answering the important questions to close out 2021

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Dodgers vs Padres Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions for our year-end Dodgers mailbag. I couldn’t get to every single one, but I hope to make mailbags a regular feature in 2022.

Let’s get to this week’s questions.

Q: When will [the] Texas Rangers next play at Dodger Stadium? And right or wrong, do you expect there to be some boos for Corey Seager? -Chris (uschris0304 in comments)

Corey Seager, the former Rookie of the Year who has the second-most home runs by a shortstop in Dodgers history, and who won series MVP in both the NLCS and World Series in snapping a 32-year franchise championship drought, has moved on, signing a 10-year, $325 million contract with the Rangers that was finalized on December 1.

Interleague play is scheduled on a rotating basis, with each team playing a particular division every three years. The pandemic threw a bit of a wrench into that with regionalized schedules, with the Dodgers playing only NL West and AL West teams in 2020.

The Dodgers played the Rangers in Arlington in 2020, and in Los Angeles in 2021. The AL Central is on the docket for the Dodgers in 2022, with the AL East expected to take a turn with NL West teams in 2023. That means the Dodgers and Rangers would next play during the regular season in 2024, and depending on where that series is (or if they play two two-game series), the two teams might not play again at Dodger Stadium until 2027.

However, Dodger Stadium hosts the All-Star Game in 2022 on July 19, which could be Seager’s first game back in Los Angeles. Whenever Seager returns, there might be some boos, but my guess is they will be drowned out by massive cheers from Dodgers fans.

Q: How do you see the construction of the 5 spots (or 6?) in the rotation made up when the season starts? -WhiteDevil67 (in comments)

Pitching remains a priority for the Dodgers once the offseason resumes. They need to add at least one more starting pitcher, with most of the cavalry — Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot, Bobby Miller, Landon Knack, et al — not expected to contribute in the majors early in the season.

Standing pat means relying on one of Mitch White or Andre Jackson in the opening rotation, or possibly both if the club decides on a six-man rotation. The latter seems only likely if COVID protocols are adopted to allow for expanded rosters, as was the case in 2020.

Walker Buehler and Julio Urías are at the top of the rotation, and then it’s a matter of where to slot in everyone else, including Andrew Heaney, who signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal in November as a free agent.

Clayton Kershaw remains the primary target, with the ball in his court as to whether he wants to return to Los Angeles or pitch down the road from his home in Texas. A Kershaw return, while not ensured, still seems more likely than not, so I’ll guess this opening five for the Dodgers rotation once the season begins:

Walker Buehler
Julio Urías
Clayton Kershaw
Andrew Heaney
Tony Gonsolin

Q: What date will Spring Training 2022 actually officially start? -Catherine (the Blue, in the comments)

In normal times, before the lockout, the collective bargaining agreement required that the earliest date pitchers and catchers could be invited to report for spring training workouts was 43 days before the start of the regular season. In 2022, with opening day scheduled for March 31, that means reporting dates couldn’t be set before February 16.

Spring training games are scheduled to start on February 26. But this was all before the lockout, which could throw a wrench into things.

As a point of reference, the 1990 lockout lasted until March 18, which was only 15 days before the originally-scheduled opening day. MLB pushed the start of the regular season back a week, allowing for a hurried three-week spring training. Putting the same timetable on 2022 would mean a spring training that would start on March 9.

But the 1990 lockout started in February, with most of the offseason moves already complete. This year there are still scores of players unsigned, so MLB players and owners would need to reach an agreement at least a few weeks before early March for the season to reasonably start on time.

As worrisome and boring as the current dormancy feels, the fear of missing games should provide enough impetus for negotiations to intensify after the new year. So while the ride to get there will likely be bumpy and a general pain in the ass, I think the regular season still starts on time.

But this question was about the exhibition period, which I do think will be somewhat truncated, so I’ll guess March 3 as the start of spring training.

Q: What holiday movies are essential watching, and which are overrated? -Catherine (the Blue, in the comments)

I grew up in a ‘Christmas Vacation’ and ‘A Christmas Story’ household, so perhaps I’m biased in this regard. But I still find them both comforting and hilarious. ‘Elf’ has since entered this must-watch pantheon.

Here are the movies I’ve watched this Christmas season in the last week, that I consider essential:

‘Christmas Vacation’
‘A Christmas Story’
‘Elf’
‘Home Alone’
‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’

People view Jeff Nortons house in La Mirada, made up to look like the house from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

I would also put It’s ‘A Wonderful Life’ and the stop-motion animated ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, and the animated ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ in this group as well, though I haven’t watched them yet this year.

If someone wanted to add ‘The Santa Clause’ as essential, I would not argue. Some would also consider ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ in this category, too, but I just never got into it. I love ‘Die Hard,’ and if you want to claim it’s a Christmas movie, congratulations for being interesting.

Also this season, I watched ‘Fred Claus’ for the first time. It took a while to develop, but ended up okay. A childhood favorite of mine was ‘Yogi’s First Christmas’, which was first televised in 1980. I rewatched that this week, and it holds up. I definitely didn’t remember that it was 94 minutes long, nor that Cindy Bear has two musical numbers in the movie. These are not complaints.

Though not a movie, the ‘Happy Days’ scene of Richie Cunningham inadvertently noticing a lonely Fonzie spreading mayonnaise on bread as a ravioli can heats on a hot plate on Christmas Eve was a perfect distillation of 2020, which was isolated for so many people.

Thanks again for the questions, and please enjoy whatever movies you want this week and beyond.