So This is it. The big enchilada. This is the season review post I had up on Call to the Pen a few weeks ago. This is the review of the entire 2012 Dodger season. I go into everything here. I recap all of the dizzying highs and lows of one of the most memorable Dodger seasons in recent memory. Have fun reliving the entire season one page at a time. Some parts will make you want to cry, other parts will make you want to stand up and cheer, while other parts will just make you frustrated and sad, such was the 2012 Dodger’s season in a nutshell. Anyways, enjoy guys!
The 2012 Dodger Season was the ultimate roller coaster ride for Dodger fans. From the dizzying highs, and excitement of April, and May to the injury filled middle months of the season. The exhilarating trades of August, all the way to the final depressing month of September. The 2012 Dodger season was unforgettable, but unfortunately the Dodgers came up just short in the end. When all was said and done, injuries, and poor hitting doomed the Dodger’s season. How can I possibly fit in everything that happened during the 2012 Dodger season in just one article? The 50th anniversary season of Dodger Stadium would be a memorable one for Dodger fans. Thank god we were once again blessed with the beautiful voice of Vin Scully, who returned to the Dodger broadcast booth for an unprecedented 63rd season. We also celebrated the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the Baseball color barrier.
What went wrong for the Dodgers of course was all of the injuries. The Dodgers had an unbelievable amount of injuries. The only team that had more DL stints than the Dodgers was the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers used 50 players this season. The Dodgers should have had Hawkeye Pierce in the dugout with the rest of the Mash 4077th unit. The offense let the team down as well. The team just couldn’t hit. The Dodgers finished at the bottom of almost every offensive category. The Dodgers finished 29th in home runs, 16th in batting, and 26th in runs scored. That’s just not acceptable. The Dodgers also finished 18th in hitting with runners in scoring position. Kemp was the only Dodger to hit .300, and there was not a 100 RBI man in sight.
The pitching staff was a bright spot and carried the team most of the season, despite all of the injuries. The Dodgers finished with the third best staff ERA in the majors. (3.34 ERA).
Another bright spot for the Dodgers in 2012 was catcher A.J. Ellis. I couldn’t finish this season recap without mentioning him. The 31 year old played 133 games as the Dodger’s primary catcher, and won over Dodger fans with his hard work ethic, and clutch performances. This prompted one Dodger fan to create an A.J. Ellis facts tumbler page http://ajellisfacts.tumblr.com to document his rising folk lore legend. AJ finished the season batting .270, with a .373 OBP, and led the team with 64 walks. Most impressive was his power. AJ slugged 13 home runs, and driving in 52. He finished third on the team in both home runs and RBI.
For a lot of Dodgers it was a season filled with injuries and frustrations. Team captain Matt Kemp only played in 106 games with various injuries suffered, including a left shoulder frayed labrum suffered from a death-defying crash into the center field wall at Coors Field in August. (The Bison still finished the season with a .303 average and 23 home runs). Some Dodgers found a new home during their first seasons in Blue like Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Jerry Hairston, and Mark Ellis. For other Dodgers it was a season of redemption. For instance, nasty Venezuelan set-up man Ronald Belisario (8-1 2.54 ERA), would came back from missing the entire 2011 because of visa issues caused by a drug problem to have a very strong 2012. Clayton Kershaw had another Cy Young type of season, although with less run support and fewer wins. Kershaw finished with a 14-9 record 229 whiffs, while leading the league in ERA (2.53). Other solid seasons included all-star right fielder Andre Ethier (20 HR 89 RBI), and Kenley Jansen (25 saves 2.35 ERA). Some Dodgers had a breakout season, like A.J. Ellis, who continued to be the emotional and spiritual compass of the team. Second year manager Don Mattingly would have his hands full in 2012. Indeed this was a most memorable year for the Boys in Blue.
But before the season started at all, all of the talk surrounding Dodger land was the impending sale of the team. Former owner Frank McCourt had finally agreed to sell the team last winter. After McCourt had dragged the team through the mud, and sent them into bankruptcy, the announcement of the sale of the Dodgers was met with jubilance from all fans. When you think of a sale the first thing you think of is dollars, and in this case there was plenty of that involved.
In order to understand the beginning of 2012 for the Dodgers, you have to go back to 2011. Frank McCourt had failed to make payroll last summer, and as a result, had to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy. MLB and commissioner Bud Selig had to step in and take over control of the team’s finances. Finally after a lot of posturing between McCourt and Selig, McCourt agreed to put the team up for sale via bankruptcy auction. As a result of this, the team was unable to spend money on top-notch free agents last year, and there was no money being spent to improve the team. As a result the product on the field suffered. The Dodgers languished in last place for most of last summer. Technically lame duck McCourt still owned the team when spring training started. The bidding process for the sale of the team began in January, and carried on through spring training.
General manager Ned Colletti was hamstrung by the team’s financial issues, and was unable to spend money freely. Because of this the Dodgers spent money on mid-level type free agents while the team was being sold. Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang were added to fill holes in the starting rotation. Todd Coffey was signed to solidify middle relief. Juan Rivera returned to man left field, and Matt Treanor was inked to provide back-up catcher responsibilities to starting catcher A.J. Ellis. Veteran Mark Ellis was signed to play second base. Gone were free agents Hiroki Kuroda, catcher Rod Barajas, infielder Jamey Carroll, and former closer Jonathon Broxton.
The Bidding was getting crazy. Naturally everyone wanted to buy the Dodgers. The list of potential bidders included a billionaire hedge-fund manager, the Disney family, Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, NFL Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and a group led by Magic Johnson. There were different rounds of bidding, as the Blackstone group managed and brokered the deal. The bidding process dragged on through March, and into early April. Finally on April 1st, the announcement came. The group led by Magic Johnson, and the Guggenheim partners had won the bid to buy the Dodgers. The announced deal was for 2.15 billion dollars. It was the largest sale of any professional sports franchise in the history of sports. McCourt had purchased the team for just over 400 million dollars back in 2004. It was astounding.
When the specifics were announced, we had learned that Johnson would be a part time owner, the Guggenheim people would control the team, and Johnson had hired former MLB executive Stan Kasten to run the Baseball operations. The division of Guggenheim that would control the Dodgers would be called the GBM, or the Guggenheim Baseball Management. There were other factors involved with the sale as well. The Dodgers needed someone who was going to preserve and protect Dodger tradition, preserve Dodger Stadium, and put a winning team on the field. We felt this group was the perfect fit for the Dodgers. The news of the sale to Magic Johnson and the GBM was met with a massive waive of relief and joy by Dodger fans all across the Dodger blogosphere. As Dodger fans celebrated all over the world, Vin Scully said it best at the press conference to introduce the new ownership……
“This is the last time I will ever attend one of these again”~ Vin Scully
Other than the sale, the Dodger’s spring training was fairly quiet. Only a few roster spots were up for grabs. Before spring training even started, we learned that reliever Blake Hawksworth would miss the entire season, while still recovering from arm surgery. This would be the first of many injuries for the Dodgers in 2012. We’ll get to that in a second.
Of course, returning to the outfield was team captain and perennial MVP candidate Matt Kemp. Andre Ethier returned to man right field, and Juan Rivera was slated to start the season in left field. In the infield the Dodgers again went with longtime first baseman James Loney. Lone-dog had been most disappointing. He was once a top draft pick, his power never developed, and his hitting declined in general. This was to be a make or break year for Loney. If he could not find his stroke again, we knew he would be traded, and indeed he was. Defensive specialist Mark Ellis played second base. Since Carroll had left for free agency, and Rafael Furcal was long gone. The Dodgers decided to start the season with rookie phenom Dee Gordon at shortstop. Juan Uribe began his second season at the hot corner. A.J. Ellis was the starting catcher, and the bench was filled with guys like Jerry Hairston, Justin Sellers, and Tony Gwynn Jr.
The starting rotation included reigning Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, who had another terrific season. Filling out the rest of the rotation was free agents Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and rotation mainstays, Chad Billingsley, and lefty Ted Lilly. The Dodgers started the season with second year right hander Javy Guerra as the closer, but would eventually move converted catcher Kenley Jansen to the closer role when Guerra was hit in the jaw by a Brian McCann line drive, and then struggled. Making up the rest of the bullpen was lefty Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Todd Coffey, and veteran journeyman Jamey Wright, who had a surprisingly effective season.
The Dodgers began the season by beating the Padres 5-3 at Petco Park. It was a worrisome win since Clayton Kershaw had come down with the flu. Our warrior Kersh was somehow able to pitch three shut-out frames before having to come out. What worried everyone most was that the same flu bug infected Vin Scully. The legendary broadcaster had to miss his first opening day in over 30 years because of that dam flu bug. Vin returned to the booth a few days later.
The Dodgers opened up the season red-hot, winning nine of their first ten games. It was their best start to a season since their world championship season of 1981. The Dodgers finished April with a 16-7 record. The Dodgers continued to win throughout May as well. They finished May with a 16-12 mark.
Matt Kemp had one of the greatest April’s in Dodger history. Kemp hit .417 in April with 12 home runs. On April 30th, he hit a walk-off home run to beat the Nationals, as the Dodgers swept the series at home. As Bison scored the winning run and was mobbed at the plate by his teammates, 50,000 Dodger fans chanted MVP…MVP…MVP! The Dodgers were in first place, and Dodger Stadium was rockin’!
First place is where the Dodgers stayed for most of the first half of the season. Dodger fans rejoiced as the Dodgers won everything in sight over those first few months. They swept the world champion Cardinals at home in May. They came from seven runs behind to beat the Dbacks in a game in Mid May. This prompted Vin Scully to call the Dodgers a wonder team. Everything was fun, fun, fun in the sun, at least for a little while that is.
“This team of wonder….” ~ Vin Scully
The Dodgers had the best record in Baseball until June 17th. The Dodgers won four in a row in Philadelphia, sweeping the Phillies in June. All seemed right with the world on June 17th, as Juan Rivera’s three run shot defeated the Angels, the Dodgers were a season high 17 games above .500. That’s how things went for a while. Kemp and Ethier drove in all the runs in front of solid pitching and defense. Most days it was enough to win ballgames. It all seemed to good to be true. Could the Dodgers keep up this high level of play?
Then the injuries hit. Oh lord how the injury bug hit the Dodgers. There were so many injuries it was stunning. Ted Lilly pitched in only eight games before suffering a neck and shoulder injury. He never returned. Juan Uribe missed time with a wrist injury. Jerry Hairston tore his hip. Matt Guerrier missed almost the entire season with a sore elbow. Justin Sellers made a diving catch of a foul ball while falling into the stands. He hurt his back on that amazing catch, and was never seen again. Scott Elbert had elbow problems again. Kenley Jansen had an irregular heartbeat, and had to be put on blood thinners again. Mark Ellis was upended on a take-out slide by Tyler Greene, and had to have an emergency surgery to drain fluids, and relieve pressure in his leg. Andre Ethier had a strained oblique. One of the most heartbreaking injuries was to Chad Billingsley. He had just begun to pitch great, winning six in a row, and harnessing the power of his newly grown beard. Bills blew out his elbow in August and was unable to pitch again. Even Kershaw couldn’t escape the injury bug. Kersh battled the flu, plantar fasciitis, and a hip injury during 2012. However the biggest injury was the one to Matt Kemp. Many consider that as what really sunk the Dodger season. The Dodgers hit only .212 in the month of June.
STRAINED LEFT HAMSTRING, that was the diagnosis to Matt Kemp. Somehow Bison had pulled his hammy in early May, and had to go on the DL. The Dodgers battled through two weeks without Kemp, fighting and struggling knowing they would get him back on May 29. That was the day everything would be ok. Kemp returned played one game, then on May 30th, the unthinkable would happen. In the first inning after singling and scoring on an Ethier double, Kemp pulled his hamstring again. It was a killer. Kemp didn’t return until after the all-star break.
Because of all the injuries, the Dodgers would have to dip into their depleted farm system. Luckily, there was a bunch of Dodger unknowns who rode to the rescue. The versatile Elian Herrera was called up, and played all over the diamond. His on base skills, and penchant for coming through in the clutch helped the Dodgers win several games during the middle months. Rookie Stephen Fife filled in admirably once Nathan Eovaldi was traded, and then of course there was Luis Cruz.
They called him Cochito. Luis Cruz was plucked from relative obscurity to become a Dodger hero. Who was Luis Cruz? That was the question nobody could answer. Nobody knew. We knew his father once played in the Mexican league. The problem was rookie Dee Gordon was struggling. He wasn’t hitting, and his defense was bad. Gordon broke his thumb in mid-season, and the Dodgers called up Cruz to replace Gordon at shortstop. Cruz seized the opportunity, playing with focus and passion. Cochito batted .297, with six home runs, and 40 RBI in 78 games. He single handedly won several games for the Dodgers down the stretch. He is now a fan favorite and beloved by all Dodger fans.
The Dodgers lost 11 of 12 at one point leading almost up to the All-Star break. At the break the Dodgers were 47-40, a half a game in front of the Giants. But the Dodger team that started the year was very different from the one that finished it. On July 25th, the Dodgers traded rookie pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer to the Marlins for infielder Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers would also acquire Bobby Abreu, Brandon league, pitcher Joe Blanton and outfielder Shane Victorino. But on August 25th, the Dodgers would make the trade that would shock the Baseball world. The Dodgers traded prospects Ruby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Allen Webster, and first baseman James Loney to the Boston Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and utility guy Nick Punto. The blockbuster trade signified the Dodger’s new owner’s desire to win now. It was the biggest trade in Dodger history.
It was no secret that the Dodgers were looking to upgrade their corner infielders. Loney had struggled all season long, and Uribe was a total disaster. Uribe barley hit above the Mendoza line, and only hit two home runs all season. Once Ramirez was acquired and Luis Cruz called up, Uribe was benched. He only played in 12 games after July 24th. Gonzalez hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Dodger. Anything seemed possible.
In mid August the Giants lost their best hitter Melky Cabrera to a PED suspension, and it seemed as though the Dodgers were the favorite to win the division. But it was not meant to be. After a losing month of June, and a .500 July, the Dodgers struggled in August and September to score runs. The Dodgers and Giants flip-flopped back and forth between first and second place, until a late August series between the two teams ended with a San Francisco sweep. The Dodgers finished August with a .500 record. Injuries continued to plague the Dodgers. On August 28th, Matt Kemp crashed into the center field wall while chasing a fly ball during a game against the Rockies at Coors Field. The Dodgers initially feared a concussion and knee bruise. A shoulder surgery surfaced later revealing a frayed labrum. Kemp had to have surgery after the season to fix his shoulder, but would play through the pain to finish the rest of the season.
The Dodgers lost another series in San Francisco in early September which put their division hopes further out of reach. It became increasingly clear if the Dodgers wanted to make the playoffs in 2012 it would have to be as a wild card. The Dodgers had turned over one quarter of their roster, but the new Dodgers struggled while trying to adjust. The team just couldn’t hit, even after making all of the trades to improve the lineup.
After the Dodgers fell to four and a half games behind the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot, GM Ned Colletti was heard screaming in the clubhouse after a frustration induced tantrum. The Dodgers had a team meeting, and it seemed to spur them on to one last incredible run. The Dodgers went on to win six in a row, and seven of their last eight games to end the season. It was too little too late.
The Dodgers were the last team in Baseball to be eliminated from the playoffs. They were eliminated on the second to last day of the season, and were eliminated by their hated rival the Giants. The Dodgers came into game number 161 trailing the Cardinals by two games. The Cards had lost earlier at home to the Reds, and the Dodgers came into their game needing a win to stay alive. If they could win they would move to just one game back with one to play. They would have to win, then win the next day, and hope for another loss from the Cardinals just to force a tiebreaker, which was to be played at Dodger Stadium thanks to the Dodgers holding the season series edge over the Cardinals by just one game.
Before game number 161, starting pitcher Chris Capuano was reported to have a sore shoulder. Cappy had injured himself swinging a bat with one of those weighted donuts attached to it. As a result Cappy was ineffective, and was pulled after just three frames.
The Dodgers were down 2-1 in the fifth inning when the Giants scored two more runs to take the lead by a score of 4-1. With two outs and a man second base, Mattingly foolishly walked Angel Pagan to pitch to red-hot Marco Scutaro. His two run double gave the Giants a three-run lead.
The seventh inning was like a microcosm for the Dodger’s season. So close yet, so far. After Ethier was hit by a pitch, then the miracle man A.J. Ellis bombed a two run home run that just cleared the center field wall, and the outstretched leaping glove of Giant’s center fielder Angel Pagan. The home run put the Dodgers within one, and the score was 4-3. And for the briefest of moments there was hope. But sadly it was not to be. One out later Mark Ellis appeared to have doubled into the gap, and the Dodgers were on the verge of doing something special. For some reason, M.Ellis tried to stretch his double into a triple, and was thrown out at third base. His costly Tootblan proved to be too much to overcome. As if on cue, the next hitter was Shane Victorino, who tripled into the right field corner. M.Ellis would have easily scored had it not been for his Tootblan. Kemp was the next batter. With two outs, he was the Dodger’s last hope. The crowd came to their feet, but Kemp struck out. He went down flailing at a low and away breaking ball. Kemp threw his bat down in frustration. The Dodgers would go on and lose to the Giants 4-3. As the Dodgers were eliminated by their hated rivals with just one game left to play. Vin Scully summed it up best.
“Well, it figures”…..~ Vin Scully
When all was said and done, the injuries and poor hitting were too great for the Dodgers to overcome. In addition the new Dodgers were unable to get it together in time for the Dodgers to make the playoffs. It was terribly disappointing. The Dodgers finished the 2012 season with a record of 86-76 and in second place in the NL West.
The Dodgers face some uncertainty this winter, but the majority of the roster is set. The main concern is the starting rotation. It is unclear yet if Chad Billingsley will require Tommy John surgery, and if he does, he will miss the entire 2013 season. Will Carl Crawford be ready by spring training? With Crawford ready to play left field and bat lead-off, it is unlikely they will resign Shane Victorino. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery himself. Can Ted Lilly stay healthy? The Dodgers main goal this winter is to acquire a starting pitcher, maybe two. They’re going to need to pick up one or two bench bats as well. The Dodgers have said they are interested in bringing back free agent relievers Brandon League, Randy Choate, and Jamey Wright. The Dodgers will also need to decide whether to play Hanley Ramirez at shortstop or third base. It does appear though that the Dodgers are prepared to start the season with Ramirez at short, Cruz at third, and Gordon back in the minors. What role will Kenley Jansen have in the bullpen next season now that Brandon League has resigned? Other than adding a couple of starting pitchers, and rebuilding the bench, the Dodger’s roster appears pretty set for 2013. I would expect minimal activity this hot stove.
While the Dodgers came up a tad bit short this year, it was a year that was marked by hope. The new ownership group has instilled hope into our hearts. There is one thing that the Giants can never ever take away from us. Our Hope. They can’t take away our Blue hope. They also can’t take away the passion and love for the Dodgers that we share together as Dodger fans. Before we know it, it will be spring training again and hope will spring eternal. The Dodgers were the team that coined the phrase wait til next year. Well…… Go Blue.