As the dawn of the 2011 Dodgers baseball season began, Hope sprung eternal, as the Dodgers made a flurry of moves during the off season. Not without much debate though. There was no huge star signing, but a bunch of average and below average signings sparked the debate even before spring training began. Was it quantity over quality? you decide.
After the shrewd trading of the completely useless Ryan Theriot, for young relief pitcher Blake Hawksworth. The Dodgers made their big off season splash by signing Juan Uribe to a 3 year 21 million dollar contract. Coming off of his 24 home run 85 RBI season with the FORMER (fluke championship) world series champion Giants, was expected to provide the Dodgers with the power they sorely needed. They also added setup man Matt Guerrier, coming over from the American League. Left fielder Marcus Thames, and notorious innings eater Jon Garland. Vicente Padilla was resigned to fill in when and where he could, with Ace Clayton Kershaw, and what was supposed to be a rebound year from Matt Kemp (whooa boy Kemp), a new coaching staff announced in November, and a new voice in the clubhouse, rookie manager Don Mattingly, there was initial excitement. Things were fun fun fun in the sun…..at least for a little while.
While we grew accustomed to a rookie manager, and spring training started to take shape, I wondered how I would make it through the long stretch drive in August, as Stacie’s second child was due in August, and she was Disabled because of child berthing when Little Ali Wheeler decided she wanted out only hours after Stacie covered a game. We will get to that later.
But as soon as the fun began, the bad news started to slowly trickle in. In February we learned that for the third straight year, Ronald Belisario would not only not make it to Spring Training on time, but he would miss the season entirely unable to make it into the Country because of Visa Problems.
After Belisario’s murky whereabouts were announced, the first injury of 2011 soon followed. Vicente Padilla, who was signed more as a staff utility guy, underwent surgery to fix a recurring injury to a nerve in his forearm. He was expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. but no biggie we signed Jon Garland so we should be all good right…..well about that…..
Garland suffered a torn oblique in basically his first spring game of the year, and landed right on the disabled list. The injuries wouldn’t stop there though, oh no they wouldn’t….
In early march, Manager Don Mattingly asked Casey Blake to lay down a bunt, and he tweaked out his back. With his lower back in rustiness, Blake began the year on the disabled list.
As the Dodgers played poorly during the spring, they were forced to shuffle their cards due to injury. The original starting infield of Blake, Furcal, Uribe, and Loney, only played together two games during the first half, and Juan Uribe had to be moved to third base to replace Blake.
As spring training concluded, we got a chance to see several non-roster players we would normally not get to see. players like Aaron Miles, Hector Gimenez, and Mike MacDougal. While Macdougal (Dougie) somehow stayed on with the team, catcher/first baseman Hector Gimenez would only last 7 at bats before tearing his knee up and never to return.
Because of the injury to Padilla and Belisario’s disappearance, The Dodgers were forced to start the year with Dougie, Lance Cormier (uggghhh) and John Ely in the bullpen. This gave us returning nightmares of last year’s reclamation projects Ortizi.
But Padilla and Garland were due back in late April, and so was Blake, and certainly the Dodgers could get through a few weeks without totally screwing up the first part of the year right?
Of corse our MVP center fielder who I have an admitted man crush on would have a season for the ages. after the former coaching staff did nothing but scream at him, and after breaking off his much publicised relationship with pop star Rhianna, Kemp refocused on his game, and boy did he ever…..
There was also Ace lefty Clayton Kershaw, who dominated all opponents with his magnificence. but we knew that already…..
Well…….and then of corse there was Jonathon Broxton. after last years second half collapse, it was painfully clear that Broxton’s arm was completely blown to smithereens, ending his Dodger and possible his Baseball career. Still Broxton had a quiet spring, and despite him losing a full 6-8 MPH off his fastball, we still clung to hope that he could still be an effective closer.
Spring Training ended with Broxton blowing a meaningless game. Despite fearing he was finished as a major league pitcher, Stacie and I still held out hope that he could rebound and called for fairness.
Our calls for fairness would later be replaced by our calls of agony. You will see why later.
While April was a .500 month for the Dodgers, it was filled with controversy. With the ownership situation unfolding, the Dodgers began their 2011 schedule at home against the Giants. Follow the links below to see the highlights and low-lights of the first half of the season.
The Dodgers would score a tremendous victory on opening day. Beating the hated Giants 2-1. Kershaw beat Lincecum. his first of five victories against the Giants. The first run scoring on an error by Buster Posey, and the second run being knocked in off an RBI double from Loney.
Broxton while allowing a home run to the second hitter he faced, still got the job done by saving the first three out of four games.
The Dodgers would come from behind to win the second game………
Matt Kemp and Hiroki Kuroda would help the Dodgers secure their first winning series of the season.
After the Dodgers dropped a pair of games in Colorado, they had to play two games in one night, after one of their games was suspended due to rain while tied in the 9th inning.
The game resumed with the Dodger taking the lead for good. they won the night cap too, and as Vin Scully said that night “here we go again”
Unfortunately Casey Blake’s return from the DL was short lived after a collision with Chase Headley.
After John Ely’s lone start of 2011 ended with a loss to San Diego.
The Dodgers opened their first series of the season in San Francisco. it was not a good one for the Dodgers….
Rafael Furcal (Hit Machine) broke his thumb while sliding into third base. This landed him on the DL for several weeks.
Fortunately for the Dodgers, the dependable Jamey Carroll came to the rescue providing his usual solid work at shortstop,
And after Ted Lilly (who was the but of many jokes as he allowed home run after home run and many stolen bases) did the unthinkable by allowing a go-ahead home run to Mike Fontenot that landed in the McCovey cove.
The Dodgers returned home down but not out. but after three straight blowout losses to the Cardinals, things looked bleak. Until our MVP Matt Kemp had enough……..
Finally in order to improve the non-existent offense the Dodgers called up Albuquerque rookie slugger Jerry Sands. Jerry started by doubling in his first at bat, and driving in a run with a sac fly. Leading the Dodgers to a win against the Braves.
However after the ownership battle between Frank Mccourt and MLB commissioner Bud Selig came to a head, as Selig and MLB announced a planned takeover of all Dodger finances. McCourt cried wolf as he threatened to sue, while still attempting to assure us that by selling off the Dodgers TV right’s would bring the Dodgers out of their financial troubles.
We were shocked, as attendance declined. however Matt Kemp would hit his second walk-off homer of the home-stand lifting the Dodgers to victory over the Braves.
This was nothing new to Stacie and I. after last years major meltdowns, we were able to easily spot and predict the impending bullpen implosions. With this year though it was different. The meltdowns were more precise and final. There would be no extra-innings like last year, the game’s were blown completely away in the 9th innings, often times with 2 outs and nobody on base. Yes the bullpen would blow any and all leads obtained. Often 5 or 6 run leads would be blown in a blink of an eye. On april 1st, Andre Ethier would get a hit. this seemingly meaningless hit, would start the beginning of a record 30 game Dodger hitting streak. A wonderful reprieve from the losing that would continue throughout the first half.
Ethier, who had a solid all-star season despite a knee injury that prevented him from hitting home runs at his usual pace, single-handedly beat the Marlins, with a heroic home run giving the Dodgers a miraculous victory, and extending his hitting streak.
While Kemp and Ethier were crushing the ball, Uribe and Loney struggled. Uribe was a monumentally embarrassing disaster. A Bum of epic proportions. While Uribe struggled to stay above the mendoza line, Loney also struggled while hitting nothing but weak little ground balls. earning his nickname of “ground ball” Loney. He would later atone in the second half.
In Late April Tony Gwynn Jr. son of former batting champion Tony Gywnn Sr. made the first of his two game saving flying catches to preserve Dodger victories. This saved us from what was an obvious two out 9th inning Jonathon Broxton meltdown. While Andre Ethier extended his record hit streak to 25 games.
Andre Ethier with a three hit game, extends his hitting streak to 30 games. Moving into second place on the all time Dodger hit streak record books. Only 1 behind Willie Davis’ 31 game streak.
Andre Ethier’s 30 game hitting streak, was unceremoniously ended while in New York. Oh and the Bullpen blew another game in New York……..
Ethier saved the Dodgers and our sanities from an embarrassing sweep, with another game winning home run….
We all continued to be intoxicated with Kershaw’s magnificent dominance on every level. He whiffed 11 Dbacks during this game in May…..
Stacie and I attended a game against the Dbacks. Bills pitched a 1 hitter and lost….the only run scoring on a botched pickoff play and a sacrifice fly.
Despite pitching with nearly no run support whatsoever, Hiroki Kuroda still comes up a hiro….
As the Giants returned to Dodger stadium, we witnessed the Dodgers rally for three runs to tie the game, off a ground ball single from Loney, that seemed to be on the back of an invisible winged guardian. Followed by us forced to watch an unspeakable horror. Mattingly let Lance Cormier pitch the 9th inning of a tie game. Several meatballs later Cody Ross crushed a three run home run just inside the left field foul pole…..
As the Dodgers began their inter-league schedule in Chicago, Jon Garland made his final start before succumbing to shoulder surgery to repair a torn lab rum. He would not pitch again. With the Dodgers down 3-2 in the 9th inning, down to their last out, Bench man Russ Mitchell launched his hail Mary home run just inside the foul pole to tie the game. The Dodgers followed with a three run rally in extras, highlighted by Juan Castro batting with the bases loaded. The miracle win followed a game filled with fog…
Hit Machine returns to the lineup, pushing the dependable hard working Jamey Carroll back to the bench.
Fire-balling Rookie Phenom, Rubby De La Rosa, who ends up filling in for the injured Jon Garland, makes his MLB debut in Houston for the Dodgers, helping them to victory. Jerry Sands blasted a grand slam
Clayton Kershaw continued hs wonderful dominance. His two hit shutout gives the Dodgers a win against the Marlins. Kersh whiffed 10 fish that day.
There was absolutely no way of stopping Matt Kemp this season. His MVP year continued as the Dodgers played a road series in Cincinnati. Kemp’s onslaught on National League pitching and the triple crown threat was unstoppable. His grand slam home run brought the Dodgers a victory during an historic come from behind win.
After Furcal tore his oblique muscle on a throw to second base in Houston. Rookie Shortstop Dee Gordon was called up to fill in. he made his first start against Philadelphia collecting three hits in a Dodger victory. it would be their only victory against the Phillies in 6 head to head games.
Kemp hit a ball into the next universe to spark a 9th inning rally that fell just short…..
Tony Gwynn Jr. picks up his second game saving flying catch. preserving a Dodger win and a save for rookie Javy Guerra.
After being swept by the Reds, the Dodgers drop two out of three to the lowly Astros. Were saved the embarrassment of a home sweep, thanks to the heroics of Hiroki Kuroda, and a solo home run from Dioner Navarro on Father’s day….
Clayton Kershaw completely shuts down the vaunted Tiger’s lineup, by pitching a two hit shutout, and whiffing the side in the 9th inning and beating former Dodger Brad Penny….
The Dodgers lose a game to the Angels, despite the Halos committing TOOTBLANs throughout the game….
The Dodgers have one of the most lopsided games in blue history pounding out 15 runs and 25 hits in a 15-0 drubbing of the Twins in Minnesota….
As the Dodgers headed into July, we could only watch with hopeless terror as the boys in blue plummeted into last place and couldn’t get out. As Injuries, poor hitting, and bullpen metldowns continued to doom the Dodgers, Stacie and I and the rest of Dodgertown prepared ourselves for our inevitable nightmarish descent into hell…..but things would slowly begin to change as the all-star break approached.
The Dodgers started July off on a winning note by beating the Angels in Anaheim 5-0, behind Kuroda….
On July 4th, De La Rosa has a terrible start as the Dodgers will soon discover a tear in his arm that will end his season….
Things began to change though as the Dodgers won their final four games before the all-star break….
Then there is another victory against the Padres, Bills pitches a shutout, and Guerra works out of a nobody out bases loaded jam to pick up a save….
The next day in a game that saw only 1 hit between both teams until the 9th inning, the Dodgers who did not have a single hit walk off with a victory in the bottom of the 9th. The two worst hitters on the team came through. Uribe doubles, and Dioner “Pudjito” Navarro singles home Uribe for the winning run….
The Dodgers ended the first half of the season with a win and a four game winning streak. Andre Ethier slams two home runs in the Dodgers sweep of the Padres. The Dodgers finish the first half with a 41-51 record. as Kemp, Kershaw, and Ethier are all selected to the all-star game.
During the all-star break the Dodgers made a move that was very quietly announced. They acquired former Angel outfielder Juan Rivera, and desginated the useless Marcus Thames for assignment. While Kemp, Kershaw, and Ethier were helping the National League beat the American League for the second year in a row in the All-Star Game, The rest of the Dodgers were flying to Arizona to begin a roadtrip.
Despite a nightmarish first half, winds of change would begin to blow through Dodgertown, as we would watch the Dodgers finish with one of the best records in the second half and get back to .500. In the second half we would see Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp continue to have seasons for the ages as they completely dominated all opponents. We drink in Kershaw’s magnificent dominance of all opponents, as he was on his way to winning the pitching triple crown, and the Cy Young award.
Matt Kemp falls just one home run short of a 40/40 season, while leading the league in home runs, RBI, runs scored, and total bases.
We saw Juan Rivera acquired from the Blue Jays from waivers seemingly grabbed out of the trash bin. Rivera would supply lineup protection for Kemp that the Dodgers would sorly need. We would see COC graduate Dana Eveland filing in for the injured Rubby De La Rosa and pick up his first win in a rain makeup win in Pittsburgh. We would see a flurry of Dodger rookies come to the rescue. we would see Dee Gordon return, Josh Lindblom catching a red eye flight from Albuquerque arriving just in time to help the Dodgers get out of a late inning jam preserving a Dodger win in Pittsburgh.
We would say a sad goodbye to Hit Machine as he would be traded to the Cardinals. Then we would see rookie Dee Gordon amaze us with his game changing speed while taking home NL rookie of the month honors for september
We would see a new and improved and resurgent James Loney with his new swing, that not ironically coincided with the firing of hitting coach Jeff Pentland and the promotion of Dave Hansen into this role. We would see the Dodgers trade rookie outfielder and top hitting prospect Trayvon Robinson for catching prospect Tim Federowicz and two pitchers.
We would see Stacie give birth to Aliana Wheeler only hours after covering a Dodger win, and then land on the disabled list for a month.
We saw Vin Scully, the greatest sports braodcaster in the history of sports announce his return for 2012, gracing us with his wonderful voice.
We would see the one thing that Frank McCourt could never ever steal from us…ever…..hope……he cant take away our hope…… Remember guys, dont ever lose hope, dont ever give up. No matter how the Dodgers play. Thank you all for reading! Our season in recap will become a tradition after the season ends. I would love to say more about the second half, but Stacie is already coming to the plate…..swing away Stac! (Second half recap coming tomorrow morning)