Friday, June 29, 2007

Season Preview

By George G. Garvin
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES ---- In 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers had their best year in four years, breaking a string of three straight seasons of 100 losses or more.

In 2020, they are looking for something that hasn't happened ever since the Internet Baseball Sim League was formed in 2002.

Finish in first place.

"Some years we have great offense and some years we have great pitching," said General Manager Tommy Lasorda. "But this year we feel we have a good mix of both."

With the addition of ace Richie Jackson (pictured right) from St. Louis over the weekend and the announcement that the Dodgers signed 11 free agents, including eight middle relievers the Dodgers bolstered what they felt was their biggest weakness last year.

The Dodgers tripled their payroll, adding more than 41 million dollars in payroll.

"Like the saying goes, you have to spend money to win," Lasorda said. "We have had a low payroll for the past few years so we have been able to save a lot of cash to pay for the players we aquired."

Jackson, who will be the highest paid player on the Dodgers makes $16.5 million and is the higest paid player in the league. But Lasorda said that contract will be paid down with the overabundance of cash the Dodgers have aquired over the years. Jackson said he is excited to be a Dodger.

"This is the second time I've been traded in the past 12 months," Jackson said, refering to the July 1st deal that sent him to the Cardinals. "But I feel this is the place I belong. Cardinals GM Mike Williams said the Dodgers made the biggest push to get me and that shows with how many prospects they gave up to get me. It is a nice
feeling knowing someone wants you."

Jackson will join an already impressive starting rotation that includes Ricky Romero, Chet Lohman and staff ace Juan Gonzalez. All four starters are 30 years old or younger.

"We have a good core of pitchers and with the addition of the middle relievers in free agency, this team is going to be much improved," said Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "They are going to make my job a lot easier."

With so much focus on pitching, the Dodgers left most of their offense alone. Expect for trading leadoff man Deshawn Erhart, the Dodgers are not worried with incoming rookie Garrett Henry ready to take the reigns. Los Angeles has a good idea of what to expect of their rookies, as 2019 rookie of the year Peter Pimentel will tell you.

"They don't put any pressure on you and just tell you to perform like you always have," said Pimentel, who hit .275 with 30 home runs with 97 RBIs to claim the award. "That allowed me to enjoy the season and have fun."

But they aren't done yet. They know they need a legit No. 5 starter and depth is also a problem. But they are problems that are fixable, unlike last years problems.

All last year we kept telling ourselves we need a No. 1 starter and middle relief help," Lasorda said. "But none was available and we just kept kicking ourselves because there were so many games we should have won but didn't because of our pitching."

The Dodgers were 19-19 in one-run games and 5-5 in extra inning games. "That will be much improved," Lasorda said. "Count on it."

One more thing that must improve is their record versus National League West opponents. The Dodgers went 7-12 versus the rival Padres, which isn't bad versus a 100-win ball club.

However, they went only 12-7 versus the last place Giants, who went 45-117.

"With these additions and the expierence this team gained playing in close games and for the first time in many of their careers, games that count things are going to change," Lasorda said, "They have only gotten better because of it."

As one American League GM said, "It looks like the Dodgers are ready for a playoff push

That push would only be the second time Los Angeles has made the playoffs since 2002, a streak that Lasorda said must end.

"We can't go out and pay all this money and tell our fans that we are better and expect them to show up to the ballgame if we don't put out a quality product," he said. "It is the playoffs or bust for us."

2020 should be an interesting year, unlike 2019.

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