Last season’s version of the Los Angeles Dodgers left a little to be desired. The Puig era began at a much-needed time while manager Don Mattingly was teetering on the edge of being fired and a seemingly overpaid roster full of underachieving veterans was stumbling through the season lacking the firepower that a 6’2″ Cuban would eventually give them. Now that the world has seen what the Dodgers are capable of, it is time for them to put it all together and come through in 2014 as the league’s World Series favorites; at least that’s what Las Vegas is saying.
The Dodgers begin the season as 6-1 favorites, but obviously cannot focus on that during the season. Regardless of the numbers, LA will undoubtedly be feeling an intense amount of pressure all season under the bright lights in southern California. Adding to the proverbial pressure in LA is the fact that the Dodgers have overtaken the Yankees for the largest payroll in baseball, a title held by New York since 1998. LA did not eke out that “victory” either, but rather emphatically stormed past the Yankees in that category. The Dodgers payroll now sits at an astounding $235 million, over $30 million more than the Yankees. New York has been slammed by the media just about every year they don’t win simply because of the team’s payroll, an unfortunate distinction that is now bestowed upon the Dodgers. Anything short of a title is unacceptable.
On the field, the Dodgers appear to have all the pieces to get it done. Their question marks are almost nonexistent besides the second base slot, where Dee Gordon likely has first dibs to prove he can get it done. The logjam in the outfield and the exact roles in the bullpen are minor issues that will work themselves out in one way or another. If there is one weakness, it could be at the back end of the starting rotation. Veterans Dan Haren and Josh Beckett have great track records, but neither has done much recently to instill a lot of confidence. The old adage of winning with pitching proved itself once again in last year’s NLCS against the Cardinals, where the team rode its starting rotation depth to the World Series.
The Dodgers should not have the hardest time reaching the postseason in the NL West, but once they get there they simply have to execute. Regular seasons are just appetizers when expectations are this high. The Dodgers lack of playoff success in the lineup is something that could be a cause for concern if they are unable to get it done once again. Only Juan Uribe has a World Series ring, and while the other superstars such as Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier have made names for themselves, none have lit the world on fire in the postseason. The Dodgers also have a team with most of its players on the wrong side of 30, so while the window of opportunity isn’t exactly closing by any means, it is certainly not wide open either.
The Los Angeles Dodgers begin the 2014 season in uncharted territory as the indisputable favorites to bring home a title in the Fall Classic. The team has done everything right in the offseason and the regular season, but absolutely has to get it done when it counts to quell any doubts.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Los Angeles Dodgers