Bonsignore: LA Dodgers’ new season brings hope — and a lot of angst

first_imgOn the Dodgers’ first day back in Los Angeles since getting taken out of the National League Division Series by the New York Mets last year, Clayton Kershaw glanced around the clubhouse, smiled and said: “There’s a lot of new faces. That’s always exciting.”That’s one way of looking at it.Another is: Who in the name of Branch Rickey are these guys, and what are they doing in the Dodgers’ clubhouse so close to Opening Day?Dave Roberts is the new manager, and he brought eight new coaches with him. Only pitching coach Rick Honeycutt survived the transition from Don Mattingly to Roberts. The 25-man roster that opens the season Monday in San Diego could have as many as 10 new faces compared with the one that opened last season.Not one of the newcomers represents the kind of impact free agent or trade acquisition the Dodgers needed to smooth out their flaws and potentially lift them to serious World Series contention. Hell, even the Dodger Stadium organist is new.The question is, is he better than Nancy Bea, whom he replaced?And are these Dodgers better than the 2015 version? I don’t see how anyone can answer yes to that question with a straight face.Not when the Dodgers inexplicably allowed Zack Greinke to leave as a free agent — to division rival Arizona no less.Or when they didn’t make one offseason addition you can definitively say makes them better than when they ended last season.It’s hard to get excited about Opening Day knowing all that.And it’s impossible not to be frustrated knowing it didn’t have to be like this.Andrew Friedman was hired away from the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago to run baseball operations, hailed as a baseball savant uniquely qualified to push the Dodgers over the hump. He’s done anything but. In fact, the team has fallen a step or two back thanks to some head-scratching trades — you think Dee Gordon wouldn’t look good at second base right about now? — and ambivalence to making a bold, big move.If it’s part of some grand plan in which the Dodgers grit their teeth through one or two bridge seasons on their way to championship parades, great.But it’s hard to even see the bridge right now, let alone across it, to be certain this is all headed to a good place.“I know those guys, they’re going to do their research. And the risks they take, they’re going to be calculated and smart,” Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell said. “I know they’re going to pull some moves that look random, but trust me, it’s not random. They know what they’re doing.”We can only hope Howell is right.For now, all we can do is brace for one of the most uncertain Dodgers seasons in years. Outside of Kershaw, the pitching staff is completely revamped.Greinke, who played Robin to Kershaw’s Batman the past three years as the most lethal one-two pitching punch in baseball, is gone.Journeyman Scott Kazmir replaces him as the No. 2 starter, which represents a major step back. Beyond that is utter uncertainty with newcomer Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood the No. 3 and 4 starters. The No. 5 is anyone’s guess at the moment.The everyday lineup is every bit as curious, thanks in large part to a crushing array of injuries that crippled the Dodgers during spring training. Plus, it appears ownership changed the locks on the vault storing all that surplus money, which resulted in an entire winter passing without one major free-agent signing or trade.Howie Kendrick and Andre Ethier will start the season on the disabled list, joining pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Mike Bolsinger.A bunch of others were besieged by various ailments: Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero, Kiké Hernandez, Yasmani Grandal and Kazmir the most prominent. Gonzalez should be fine, and his consistency and dependability will anchor the offense.But it’s all just hope and a prayer surrounding him. Like Turner replicating his breakthrough 2015 season and elite prospect Seager performing like a 26-year-old veteran rather than what he is — a 21-year-old rookie.Or Kendrick returning soon from the disabled list to give the Dodgers certainty at second base. Anyone else think Puig will emerge as a disciplined, mature, consistent veteran this year after two maddeningly inconsistent, immature seasons that sent him plunging from one of the game’s brightest young stars to one of its biggest enigmas?And Joc Pederson will re-emerge as the force he was over the first half of last season, rather than the kid whose head was spinning for most of the second half? That’s way too much hope and prayer for my taste.Especially for a club with an estimated $229 million payroll.Baseball season is upon us.But all things considered, it’s hard to get excited about the Dodgers.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more