(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog).
In what has likely been the most dismal season in the 128-year history of the Dodgers’ franchise (some older Brooklyn residents might dispute that assertion), there have been a few stars shining out in Hollywood. Amid the dark clouds of financial distress, fan violence, and dwindling attendance, the Dodgers’ have managed to maintain respectability on the field thanks in large part to three men who could be in line for off-season recognition.
Although it seems as if the Cy Young is already being engraved with Roy Halladay’s name on it, Clayton Kershaw remains within striking distance of claiming the award. In fact, Kershaw actually enjoys a slight advantage over the Phillies’ ace in traditional statistics like wins, innings pitched and ERA in addition to striking out an extra batter per game. Although Halladay rates better in ERA+ and both calculations of WAR, the difference isn’t insurmountable, nor likely meaningful enough to resonate with what is still more of an “old school” voting bloc.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Other Cy Young Contenders
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com
Matt Kemp has an outside chance at finishing the year as a 40/40 man and incredibly remains in the running for a triple crown. Normally, a player pursuing either accomplishment, not to mention both, would garner daily national attention, but because of all the distractions surrounding the Dodgers, the center fielder’s potentially historic season has gone largely unnoticed. In addition to ranking among the leaders in most traditional statistical categories, Kemp is also a darling of the sabermetric crowd. His average WAR (bWAR+fWAR/2) easily ranks as the best in the National League, while his OPS+ and wOBA are not far off the pace. All things considered, Kemp has been the best player in the National League, but too many will discount his MVP credentials because the Dodgers have never been in the pennant race. Unfortunately, that sentiment is likely to cost him any chance at winning the award even though there isn’t a player in the league who has provided more value to his team.
Matt Kemp vs. Other MVP Contenders
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com
Don Mattingly has never had much of a sense for good timing. His playing career with the Yankees spanned from 1982 to 1995, which also happened to represent the second longest pennant drought in franchise history. Adding more insult, the Yankees won four championships and six pennants following Mattingly’s retirement, a run of success that ended when the former MVP returned to the organization as the batting coach in 2004. That year, Mattingly was poised to experience his first Fall Classic, but the Yankees became the only team in baseball history to surrender a 3-0 series lead. The Bronx Bombers wouldn’t make it back to the World Series again until 2009, one year after Mattingly left the organization to join Joe Torre in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately for Donnie Baseball, his move out west didn’t overcome his penchant for being in the right place at the wrong time. Almost as soon as Mattingly was named manager of the Dodgers, the financial house of cards that team owner Frank McCourt used to structure the team began to collapse. Instead of building a pennant winner, the organization’s main concern became meeting payroll, a situation that culminated in one of baseball’s longest operating franchises filing for bankruptcy protection.
Mattingly may have thought he was being entrusted with one of baseball’s crown jewels, but instead he was being asked to preside over a laughing stock. With fans already fleeing in droves, the Dodgers stumbled out of the gate and then continued to struggle throughout the summer. At its low point, the team was 57-69 and mired in last place. Instead of packing it in, however, the Dodgers reeled off 15 wins in their next 19 games, which, if not for an even better stretch by the Diamondbacks, might have thrust Los Angeles back into contention.
Kirk Gibson is probably the front runner for the Manager of the Year award, and Ron Roenicke also deserves consideration, but somewhere on the ballot Mattingly’s name should be listed. Although the other two will likely have division titles on their resume, Mattingly’s ability to keep his team together amid trying times is certainly a notable accomplishment.
Because of its team record, the Dodgers’ individual standouts will likely be shutout in the award balloting, but at the very least, Kemp, Kershaw and Mattingly should rank among the top-three for each relevant honor. That might be a small consolation for an organization and fan base that has had to endure a very painful season, but at least it proves there are still some things worth watching in Hollywood.
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