With the season beginning to come to a bitter end, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves at a complete loss. Not only are they completely out of a pennant race, but are now battling to stay out of last place. The Dodgers slipped very quickly these last few weeks with the San Diego Padres holding a 5 game lead over the Giants, while LA is now 9 games back. There won’t be any comeback stories to talk about this year at Chavez Ravine, only the dismal season to look back on and question. When discussing how this Dodger year transpired, the only logical explanation would be the injury bug. Many Dodgers lay open to the bug that hit their clubhouse this year. Here’s how it played out:
• When the Dodgers acquired RF J.D. Drew back in January of 2005, GM Paul DePodesta thought he had brought in an immediate threat to the lineup. Sure, Drew’s name did in fact look nice on paper, but there would also be the consequences of signing a player who had several stints with the disabled list in his past. Throughout his career, Drew was considered a potential standout only if could remain healthy. While with the Atlanta Braves in 2004, Drew did just that and had a great season. He batted .305 with 93 RBI and belted 31 homeruns. Now the right fielder was definitely on the rise of being able to produce more seasons like he did in ’04. His value now had surely risen with the impending off-season and him being a free agent… As of July 4th a broken wrist has ended his season.
• The former CY Young award winner Eric Gagne opened spring training with a lingering elbow injury. Many can say he was rushed back to quickly, but Gagne thought otherwise. He only lasted 14 games posting 8 saves and a 2.70 ERA… His season officially ended in June when the Dodgers announced that he would have to go under the knife to fix his right elbow. Now with Gagne being down for the remainder of the year, the bullpen was at a loss of who to name the closer.
• The Gold Glove SS Cesar Izturis would now be the latest victim to fall prey to the sidelines. Izturis began the year hitting like a machine and propelled the offense as the lead-off hitter. As the All Star break neared, a lingering back problem had taken a toll on the young Dodger. He would unfortunately have to sit back and watch the mid summer classic from the NL dugout. Finally, in early September Izturis would be transferred to the disabled list with now a severe elbow problem that requires Tommy John surgery. He’s not only finished with this year, but is now set to return some time next year around the All Star break.
• Catcher Paul Bako was signed in the off season to back up starting catcher Jason Phillips, but a knee injury would end his season as it required surgery. He had only lasted 13 games for the Dodgers, but would continue to be a helpful addition to the clubhouse. He took the young called up catcher Dioner Navarro under his wing to teach him some techniques about the position.
• RP Kelly Wunsch pitched only in 45 games for the Dodgers before tearing a ligament in his right ankle. This injury would affect the team’s bullpen needs to face opposing left handed batters. Wilson Alvarez wasn’t pitching like he once did last year for the Dodgers which didn’t make him a reliable RP this year. Wunsch is expected to be ready for the start of the 2006 season.
• CF Milton Bradley was shut down in late August due to a partially torn left patella tendon. His season unfortunately did not end as he planned. The internal problems within the clubhouse and his recent domestic issues just may have ended his tenure in Los Angeles. Milton Bradley’s days in a Dodger uniform may be numbered.
The injuries have indeed been a serious repercussion on why the Dodgers will not participate in postseason play. Manager Jim Tracy had to do something he had never done since being with the Dodgers. He basically said that they need to play out the remainder of the season with respect for the integrity of the game. They may be out of a divisional race, but focusing on the games ahead is just as important. Staying positive is an essential element that needs to be taken seriously by them if they want to compete for years to come. This season did not go as they had hoped for, but it did bring some bright talent to the table.
When players began to go down, we began to see names we were unfamiliar with. Oscar Robles contributed his quick lead off approach when Izturis went down. Jason Repko filled in smoothly in the outfield playing great defense in place of Drew and Bradley. Dioner Navarro is a young stud that should be ready for a catching role next year possibly as a starter. Navarro has been well received by the pitching staff since being called up from the minors. Willy Aybar is well deserving of a roster spot for next years club. He has been filling in at 3B and 2B and is batting .397 with a homerun. Yes this season has been one in which all Dodger fans would like to forgot, but the future looks great with these up and coming prospects.