Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2023 Season in Review

By George G. Garvin
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES ---- To say that this past season for the Los Angeles Dodgers was a disappointment is true. But you can also call it a success as well.

But how can a season be good and bad?

With only a handful of games left, the Dodgers were headed to their first postseason since the 2006 season. But that is when it all went down hill. The Dodgers suffered a breakdown in the last 10 games of the year, going 3-7 and falling back to the pack in the Wild Card Race. In all, they finished four games back from the Pirates, who went on to win the World Series.

"Had we played better down the stretch, that could have been us," said Juan Gonzalez, who has been with the Dodgers for nine years. "But that is the way baseball goes. We learned a lot about ourselves next year and we are going to use that to our advantage this year."

Many experts thought the Dodgers had the edge over the Padres, especially after their mini-fire sale right before the trade deadline. But like they always do, the Padres pulled out another National League West Banner, their 13th in a row and their 12th straight season of 100 wins or more.

"We were neck and neck with one of the best organizations in ISBL history," said Gonzalez. "And that is something to be proud of. But how many times do you want to finish in second place and watch. It is time for us to be the team that people are talking about."

Even with a disappointing finish and not making the playoffs, the Dodgers had several positive things happen during the 2023 season. Their 93 wins was the most since they won 100 back in the 2006 season. It is also the first time the team has finished back-to-back seasons over .500 since 2006 and 2007.

"Two years ago we lost 95 games," said GM Tommy Lasorda. "And now we are winning almost 95. That is an amazing turnaround."

Many are crediting an upstart offense for the turnaround. For years, the Dodgers had pitching. There was always an ace or two throwing bullets for the Dodgers. But now they had pitching and offense.

It is hard to pick just one player who had an outstanding year, but the player who made the most impact was outfielder Richard Thomas.

After rupturing his Medial Collateral Ligament late last season, Thomas worked his tail off to be ready for this year. He would return two months early and was dominant from the start. Thomas led the team in batting average, which ranked No. 3 in the league.

"For us to have a chance, we needed Richie to do his thing and lucky for us, he did," Lasorda said. "Without him, we would have been lost."

Also helping out was John Husby, who placed in the top 10 for hits for the sixth straight year, Robert Cosner hit over .300 again and surprise starter Charles Tulowitski, worked his way into the lineup after hitting .372 in the month of May. In all, we had five players that scored 100 runs or more and two more that scored 85. In his first year in the Major Leagues, Alexei Ramirez held his own, hitting 25 home runs and stealing 47 bases.

On the mound, like always, the Dodgers might have had the best 1 through 5 in baseball. Led by staff ace, Gonzalez, the Dodgers saw many others step up. But everyone knows it starts with Gonzalez.

On the year, the 32-year-old left-hander went 18-5 with a 2.84 ERA. All that after missing four weeks with bone chips in his shoulder. It was the best year the left-hander has had as a Dodger.

"Just think if we would have had him during those four weeks," Lasorda said. "That is 5 starts we missed from him. And with him in, you pencil those in as wins."

Taking a cue from Gonzalez, was newly acquired Paul Walker. Practically stolen in a trade from Kansas City, Walker proved to be a solid No. 2 starter in LA. The 31-year-old went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA.

"He was our MVP," Gonzalez said. "The way he pitched was amazing."

One thing that didn't go unnoticed was Richie Jackson's pitching. For the first time in his career, Jackson did not record 12 or more wins in a season. In fact he didn't even get to double digits in wins. But it was not that he pitched bad (he had a 3.43 ERA), it was more of a case of no run support.

"Our goal this year is to get him 20 wins," Lasorda said. "So that way we can make up for not getting him 12."

Coming up next, a look at the 2024 season.