The upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC) championship round is set to be held at Dodger Stadium at the end of March. The WBC being held in Los Angeles is nothing new for Angelenos, hosting the semifinals in 2009. However, for those of who are Dodgers fans, it is a reminder that their team has not seen a World Series pitch since 1988.
With the championship drought now at 29 years, the Dodgers have been a prime example of the phrase “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Winning the National League (NL) West division the last four seasons, the Dodgers have seen a fair share of playoff baseball, but have come up short every one of those years, being eliminated in either the NL Division Series and NL Championship Series.
While being a model of consistency when it comes to making the postseason, the Dodgers have been cursed with choking in the playoffs. There was the terrible start by their ace, Clayton Kershaw, that cost the Dodgers the series against the Saint Louis Cardinals in 2013. Kershaw’s seventh-inning breakdown costing the Dodgers the series against the Cardinals again in 2014. The massive Daniel Murphy home run off of then Dodger, Zack Greinke, propelling the New York Mets past the Dodgers in 2015. And still a fresh wound to Dodger fans, the 2016 edition of the Clayton Kershaw choke start, this time sending the Chicago Cubs to the World Series.
It is safe to say that Dodger fans are tired of their team doing well during the regular season, only to falter and implode in October when the games really matter. Lucky for them, it looks like the World Series sun could finally shine over Chavez Ravine in 2017.
While it is hard to truly predict what the Dodger’s season will look like, on paper they are going to be good, really good. In fact, they are projected to be the best in the NL. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, the boys in blue are to win 99 games which would be the winningest record in the majors.
The Dodgers will also have key players back for this upcoming season, as well as new faces signed in the offseason.
Arguably, the largest priorities for the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi, was to get back the two big free agents that were with the team this past year. Back in Dodger blue will be the third base defensive marvel, Justin Turner, signing a four-year, $64-million contract, and shut down closer, Kenley Jansen, on a five-year $80-million contract. The Dodgers also re-signed veteran Chase Utley to a one-year deal.
With a lot of questions about the future of the Dodgers’ outfield, they signed Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year contract, giving them more breathing room to potentially trade away the wildly unpredictable, Yasiel Puig. Bolstering the bullpen, former San Francisco Giants’ closer, Sergio Romo, was signed to a one-year contract. Also, in the absence of Howie Kendrick, who they traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, they dealt pitcher Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for Logan Forsythe, who will most likely start at second base.
And after being out for essentially the past two seasons, outside of one start that was cut short, Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu looks as if he is poised to make a return for spring training and that his shoulder, after two surgeries, is back to 100 percent, physically. The southpaw had a terrific 3.28 earned run average during his first two years with the Dodgers prior to getting hurt.
Ryu coming back gives the Dodgers a solid starter to put behind Kershaw. His return also allows for the rest of the pitching rotation to settle into a more regular schedule as opposed to trying to shuffle pitchers around to coincide with Kershaw’s pitching day.
With healthy starters coming back and new role players coming in, one cannot help but think that the Dodgers will be a legitimate threat to the Cubs in the NL. In Los Angeles, there is a feeling of optimism and while it is too early to definitively tell, signs point to the Dodgers’ post-win song, “I Love LA,” by Randy Newman, being sang throughout the historic Dodger Stadium as the boys in blue are rung in as World Series Champions.