I've been a Los Angeles Dodgers fan since 1984. I was a young kid at the time and my stepfather was from Garden Grove, Calif. That summer I visited Cali for the first time and took in my first big league game -- at hallowed Chavez Ravine (I remember something about Franklin Stubbs hitting a double down the first base line). I've had Dodger Blue running through my veins ever since.
Maybe that's also why I like hot dogs so much?
Kirk Gibson is my hero, Orel Hershiser is a close second. 1988 is a year I will never forget (Gibson's limping, fist-pumping homer off Eck, Orel's incredible scoreless innings streak and World Series heroics). Watching the Dodgers beat the heavily favored A's in the World Series with my stepfather was priceless. He would pass away a year later.
That was 20 years ago! I realize that's not even close to 100, but I'm hungry for a championship too! After a season of ups and downs (repeat), I'm not sure if this is the year for my beloved Dodgers. But I admit, I love Manny and with him, anything is now possible!
Unfortunately, everything all year long has seemed to magically line up for the Cubs. They are the clear favorite, but a 5-game series is dangerous. Recent hot-hitting, clutch pinch-hitting and bullpen work is the key.
That gives me hope.
My prediction: Cubs in 5 games. Hopefully, that is the ultimate kiss of death.
Here is my scouting report on the projected batting order for the Dodgers in the playoffs:
1) Rafael Furcal (S/SS) -- (.357 BA, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 8 SB, 143 ABs) Furcal's return to the Dodgers lineup changes the team's offensive outlook for this series dramatically. If completely healthy (back), Furcal adds experience, speed and most importantly, a legit leadoff man to get on base in front of the big guns. He can bunt, spray hits and even occasionally power up when you least expect it. A solid defender with a Shawon Dunston-like arm. Missed four months on the DL and hasn't played more than five innings in two games of action since return from the shelf. Durability and potential impact is still unknown. The team's only switch-hitter.
2) Russell Martin (R/C) -- ( .280, 13, 69, 18 SB, 90BB/83K) Martin has an excellent eye at the plate. Was moved to leadoff spot late in season because of ability to draw walks, but struggled hitting there. Has occasional power, but basically a line drive hitter. Can steal a base unlike any other catcher in baseball right now and must be treated as a threat on the basepaths. Good hit-and-run candidate, but can also sacrifice to move up the runner. Could be most important hitter for the Dodgers, batting in front of Manny Ramirez. Has been very easy to run on this year, but is outstanding blocking the plate and fields his position with athleticism.
3) Manny Ramirez (R/LF) -- (AL/NL.332, 37, 121) Undoubtedly the best all-around hitter in the game right now. Is constantly praised by new teammates for his preparation and it shows. Has been on a two-month tear (.396, 17, 53, 187 ABs w/Dodgers) and is a former MVP of the World Series. Dodgers would not be in playoffs without him. Cubs must have a plan to attack Ramirez. Walk him in any kind of important RBI situation or be ready to pay for it.
4) Andre Ethier (L/RF) -- (.305, 20, 77) Ethier began the season as the team's 4th outifielder behind Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre. Ended the season as the team's leader in batting average (.305) and home runs (20) and also posted double digits in outfield assists. Hits the ball to right field in most situations, but makes adjustments well at the plate and can go the other way in clutch situations. Can hit lefties.
5) James Loney (L/1B) -- (.289, 13, 90) Loney came into the season expecting to platoon with Nomar Garciaparra at first base. Injuries forced Nomar to move around the diamond (3B, SS) as the season played out, but Nomar likely would have been bumped somewhere else any way with the emergence of Loney. The sweet-swinging lefty led the Dodgers in RBIs (90) and hovered around .300 all year. Very good defensively and can occasionally turn on a ball to right field with authority. Struggles against lefties.
6) Matt Kemp (R/CF) -- (.290, 18, 76, 35 SB) Kemp is a five-tool player and one of the game's most underrated young stars. A joy to watch running the bases at full speed, but can be overanxious on the basepaths. Set a Dodgers record for strikeouts in a season (153). Has great power to right-center field. Has a cannon for an arm in CF (16 assists) and can get to balls in the alley. The next Andruw Jones?
7) Blake Dewitt (L/2B) -- (.264, 9, 52) The rookie Dewitt has switched from third base, where he unexpectedly began the season, to second base and has shown great range and instincts defensively. At the plate he has been streaky, but since being recalled from the minors when Jeff Kent went down, has shown signs of occasional power and patience at the plate. The Dodgers are happy with Kent now being reduced to a pinch-hitting role and are hoping to utilize the 40-year-old in big late-game situations.
8) Casey Blake (R/3B) -- (AL/NL .274, 21, 81) Blake hasn't got the publicity that Ramirez has since joining the Dodgers from the Indians at the trade deadline, but manager Joe Torre doesn't think the Dodgers would be here without him. Blake is a gamer and has shown to be more than consistent defensively as a third baseman, surprising many. Has big-time power at times and is considered to be the top 3B on the free agent market following the season, despite his age (36). A good addition to any clubhouse. Hitting 8th for the first time all season, because of Furcal's addition to lineup and so Dodgers can go lefty-righty 5-8.
On the bench: Jeff Kent (R/2B), Angel Berroa (R/SS), Nomar Garciaparra (R/SS,3B,1B), Pablo Ozuna (R/2B,OF), Juan Pierre (L/OF), Danny Ardoin (R/C). Note: Joe Torre has said the Dodgers will carry 11 pitchers and 14 position players.