ATLANTA: James Loney #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers attempts a sacrifice bunt against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
The Dodgers appear to have their infield all in place for the 2012 regular season, and looking at it just really bums me out.
I'll admit from the get-go that this is probably going to be a difficult concept to convey. The thesis of this post is that, as noted above in the summary, looking at the Los Angeles Dodgers' infield bums me out. We all have different responses to things, and it's possible that my response to the Dodgers' infield is not in line with your response to the Dodgers' infield. But hear me out. I mean, you're already reading this, so you might as well.
In some respects, the Dodgers have a lot of good things going on these days. They just signed star center fielder Matt Kemp to an eight-year contract extension. The team has been all but freed from the clutches of Frank McCourt. Vin Scully is very much still hanging around, and Clayton Kershaw was recently named 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner. The Dodgers have positives -- more, perhaps, than a few other teams, or than more than a few other teams.
But there's something about the Dodgers that brings me down. Understand that I am not a fan of the Dodgers, or of a team that is a rival of the Dodgers, or of a team that is even in the same league as the Dodgers. I do not have any emotional investment. But what they've done...it only really dawned on me when news broke that they'd signed Adam Kennedy to a major league contract. The Dodgers have now put together the following infield:
Looking over that infield just makes me really depressed. Not actually depressed, like Buffalo, but baseball depressed, where I look at this group and feel like it would suck the fun out of things if I had to watch it every day. When I look at this group I wear the facial expression of someone who's flaking out on plans with someone else for the second time in two days. Furrowed eyebrows, teeth bared, drawing in air. fsssssss
Behind the plate, the Dodgers will rely on an unproven Ellis, but this unproven Ellis is actually 30 years old, and has 21 home runs in his entire professional career. At first base there's Loney, who's among the least exciting first basemen of his generation. The 34-year-old other Ellis has been brought in to play second, and he's praying for a bounce-back at the wrong age to pray for a bounce-back. Gordon is the resident youngster at short, and he's a top prospect, but he's a top prospect with zero power, a raw approach, and a raw glove. And at third, there's the 32-year-old Uribe, who last season was a disaster.
And the bench isn't any prettier. The Dodgers paid to bring in Treanor, who is old and bad. They brought in Kennedy, who is old and bad, with bat speed as if he were swinging through custard. Sellers, at least, is in his mid-20s, but he's also of limited ability, and there's still time for him to be displaced by someone else.
It's not that the Dodgers' infield is guaranteed to be a mess. There is a case to be made for every one of these players making a positive contribution in the coming year. But it's just so ... I'm going to re-use this word -- unexciting. It is a spectacularly unexciting infield. You look at this infield and you don't even want to make jokes. It just makes you appreciate your own infield more, the way being sick makes you appreciate health.
I really do think the Dodgers have the least exciting, most depressing infield in baseball. There are, of course, a few other contenders. I counted the Astros, the A's, the Cubs, the Padres, the Pirates, and the Twins. But the Twins have the Morneau and Mauer wild cards, while the other infields are much younger, still being built, or both. The Dodgers strike me as having the worst combination of age and skill sets.
Here's the good news for the Dodgers: it isn't the infield that matters. It's the whole team that matters, and the whole team has players like Kemp, Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Andre Ethier, and Kenley Jansen. There's talent there, compelling talent, and it's not like watching the Dodgers will be like watching a powered-off copier. It isn't quite fair to focus on the infield alone.
But, oh man, the infield. I look at the infield and I feel a slight tinge of sadness. There's a "Dodger blue" joke to be made here. I just don't have the heart to make it.