With Los Angeles celebrating another NBA championship, thanks to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, you can forgive Angelenos for not focusing on their baseball teams temporarily.
Even then, the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t Los Angeles’s baseball team that has enjoyed the most success recently.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a better recent track record, making the playoffs five out of the last seven years, and capturing a World Series title in 2002.
But now, the Dodgers sit atop the NL West and have the best record in baseball with a winning percentage of around .650 while the next best team in the majors is around .600.
What’s more amazing is the fact that the Dodgers have been without one of their best players, Manny Ramirez, since early-May.
Ramirez was handed a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance enhancing drug policy. According to ESPN, Ramirez had artificial testosterone in his system and was said to have used human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a female fertility drug that is “used by steroid users to restart their bodies’ natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle.”
The suspension could have had a catastrophic effect; after all, Ramirez was more than pulling his weight, batting .348, with 6 homers and 20 runs batted in through 27 games.
The Dodgers were cruising with a record of 19–8 and while losing a star player has been known to sink a team or two, Los Angeles’s NL team has soldiered on.
Since ManRam was disciplined, the Dodgers have won 62 percent of their games, going 23-14.
It might seem amazing to the casual observer but if you examine the Blue Crew’s infield, outfield, and rotation, you realize that Ramirez is just a cog as opposed to “the man.”
In terms of the batting order, ManRam isn’t the only one hitting .300 or better; there are players who have played a majority of the games that have done the same.
Left-fielder Juan Pierre is batting .343, second baseman Orlando Hudson has an average of .310, and center-fielder Matt Kemp is batting .308.
The team is lacking in the home run-hitting department, as only right-fielder Andre Ethier and third baseman Casey Blake have hit homers in double-digits.
However, the Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to batting runners in.
James Loney has 43 runs batted in followed by Blake with 39, Ethier with 38, and Kemp with 35.
The Dodgers are also solid on the mound.
Righty Chad Billingsley is the ace of the staff with a 9–3 record and an earned run average of 2.72. The team has the lowest ERA in baseball at 3.57.
Coaching Makes a Difference
The most valuable asset the Dodgers have, however, doesn’t field balls or hit homers. He sits in the dugout, sets the lineup, and makes trips to the mound when pitchers struggle.
Between 1996 and 2007, Joe Torre led the New York Yankees to four World Series titles. His wealth of knowledge and experience from his days in the Big Apple are starting to bear fruit on the Leftcoast.
The Dodgers have been on the edge of winning big recently as they made the playoffs in 2004 and 2006, but both times they made early exits.
But with Torre managing, the Dodgers swept the Chicago Cubs 3–0 in last year’s divisional series eventually falling to the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS—an improvement that has been followed up on this year.
Tommy Lasorda is the yardstick by which Dodger managers are measured—as he led the team to World Series titles in 1981 and 1988.
Torre has the experience and skills to be this generation’s Lasorda for the Dodgers.
This year could be Los Angeles’s to win championships in two sports—basketball and baseball—and match Pittsburgh with their two titles (NFL and NHL).