“These Dodgers are a wild-card team that’s not a wildcard,” TBS analyst Ron Darling said of this 2013 squad, based on injured players trying to get healthy, an offense that can be inconsistent, but with a pitching staff that dominates.
Sound familiar? Maybe it’s not so different than the heavy underdog 1988 Dodgers squad that somehow rallied to win the World Series.
Are there comparisons to draw here with this 25-year gap we’re now faced with — the last time a Dodger team won it all?
Won the six-team NL West with a 94-67 record, seven better than runner-up Cincinnati; outlasted the 100-win New York Mets in the NL Championship Series 4 games to 3, then stunned the favorite 104-win Oakland A’s in the World Series, 4 games to 1.
Estimated payroll: $15,462,515
Highest paid: Kirk Gibson ($1.8 million); Orel Hershiser ($1.1 million)
Won the four-team NL West with a 92-68 record going into their final two games, highlighted by a 42-8 run between late June and mid August. They are just the fourth team in MLB history to be in last place in a division on July 1 and come back to win it, with the help of a team-record 15-game road winning streak.
Estimated payroll: $220,395,196
Highest paid: Adrian Gonzalez ($21.8 million); Zack Greinke ($21 million); Carl Crawford ($20.8 million)
1988: Peter O’Malley and family
2013: The Guggenheim Partners
O’Malley, following in the footsteps of his father, Walter, who brought the team West from Brooklyn 30 years earlier, was about spending wisely and keeping to “The Dodger Way.” The Guggenheim Baseball Management team, formed in March 2012 as they bought the franchise at auction for $2.15 billion cash, is led by Mark Walter. The financial services firm expert last year was named No. 8 by the Sports Business Journal among the “50 Most Influential People in Sports Business.” Just as influential: Part-owner and CEO Stan Kasten, and former Laker Magic Johnson.
1988: Tommy Lasorda
2013: Don Mattingly
The loquacious Lasorda got ’em all believing, winning NL manager of the year for his role in pulling off this heist. (That June, by the way, he also convinced the Dodgers to draft his friend son, Mike Piazza, with the 62ndd round pick). Mild-mannered Mattingly was rumored to be fired in early June when the team was nearly 10 games back in the NL West and headed nowhere.
1988: Kirk Gibson’s spring-training outburst after eye-black was put in his hat; Gibson’s Game 1 World Series homer off Dennis Eckersley; Mike Scioscia’s Game 4 NLCS homer off Dwight Gooden.
2013: Zack Greinke’s broken collarbone in a brawl six games into the season; Yasiel Puig’s June 2 promotion; Greinke and Puig are part of a beanball war with Arizona on June 12.
Books have been written about the former; expect more published material to come out about the later in the years ahead.
CY YOUNG CREDENTIALS:
1988: Orel Hershier
2013: Clayton Kershaw
Hershiser (23-9, 2.26 ERA, 15 CGs, 8 shutouts, 267 innings, 178 Ks), the only Dodger on the ’88 NL All-Star team, had a season for the ages. His streak of 59 scoreless innings in his final six starts was the capper. Kershaw (15-9, 1.88 ERA, 230 innings, 224 Ks), the only Dodger on the ’13 NL All-Star team, won the award in 2011 and is a favorite for ’13. The highest his ERA ever got this season was 2.14 on April 23.
THE HEAVY LUMBER:
1988: Kirk Gibson, Mike Marshall, Steve Sax
2013: Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig
As a team, the ’88 Dodgers hit a meager .248 with 99 total homers (8th among 12 NL teams). Gibson won an MVP award, not so much based on .290, 25 HRs and 76 RBIs. He also stole 31 bases and set the tone for intensity and playing hurt. Gibson, Marshall (20 HRs, 82 RBIs, .277) and Sax (.277, 42 steals, team-best 175 hits) were the only ones to play at least 144 games. The ’13 Dodgers are only 10th of 15 NL teams in home runs, led by Gonzalez’s 22, with Ramirez and Puig right behind. Ramirez’s 5.0 WAR is a team best.
1988: Jay Howell
2013: Kenley Jansen
Howell (50 games, 21 saves), pine-tar glove and all, was the closer, while Alejandro Pena (60 games, 12 saves), Jesse Orosco (55 games, 9 saves) and Tim Crews (4-0) did the heavy lifting. Jansen (28 saves, 16 holds) assumed the ninth-inning role, making more than 74 appearances this year, as did set-up men Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisaro.
1988: Mickey Hatcher, Rick Dempsey
2013: Juan Uribe, Yasiel Puig
Hatcher, who could have been the World Series MVP, partnered with Dempsey as the leaders of the “Stunt Men” benchwarmers. Dave Anderson, Mike Sharperson, Tracy Woodson and whatever other spare parts laid around also joined in and combined for 150 RBIs. Uribe’s greatest contribution, aside from his Gold Glove performance at third base, was when he was caught by the hidden ball trick during a home game in August against Colorado. His teammates wouldn’t let him forget it, in a good way, especially the “wild horse” Puig.
1988: Tim Belcher
2013: Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jim Ryu
Belcher (12-6, 2.91 ERA) was 9-2 over his last 17 starts with an 1.06 ERA in September. He even started Game 1 of the World Series. Puig nearly made the NL All-Star team just seven weeks after his May call-up. Ryu (14-7, 2.97) stands to be the No. 3 starter in the playoff rotation.
1988: Fernando Valenzuela
2013: Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez
Valenzuela’s arm went dead at age 27, leaving him with a 5-8 record in 22 starts before shutting down. Kemp was on the DL three times for shoulder, hamstring and ankle problems, missing more than half the regular-season games. Ramirez barely appeared in half the team’s games as well, yet produced 20 homers and passed .340. Heading into the postseason without a healthyAndre Ethier also makes for tougher sledding.
UNDER THE RADAR:
1988: Tim Leary, Franklin Stubbs, Alfredo Griffin, Jeff Hamilton
2013: Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis
Leary (17-11, 2.91 ERA, team-best 180 strikeouts, 6 shutouts) also won a Silver Slugger award for hitting .269, including a game-winning hit as a pinch hitter. Stubbs (.223), Griffin (.199) and Hamilton (.236) were everyday starters. Mark Ellis (.264) at second base and A.J. Ellis (.237) at catcher make defense a top priority.
VIN SCULLY CAPTION:
1988: “In the year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
2013: “The magic castle”
The former described Gibson’s World Series Game 1 homer. The later came after a come-from-behind win against the Mets in early August, harkening back to 1988.
Among those who the franchise stays in contact with:
Dave Anderson: Texas Rangers first-base coach
Tim Belcher: Cleveland Indians baseball operations
Tim Crews: Died in 1993 boating accident
Rick Dempsey: Baltimore Orioles broadcaster
Kirk Gibson: Arizona Diamondbacks manager
Alfredo Griffin: Angels first-base coach
Chris Gwynn: Seattle Mariners director of minor league operations
Mickey Hatcher: Dodgers’ organization as special assistant
Jeff Hamilton: Mortgage banker in Michigan
Orel Hershiser: ESPN game analyst
Jay Howell: Antique furniture dealer in Atlanta
Tim Leary: Senior life insurance broker living in Santa Monica
Mike Marshall: Commissioner, the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs
Ramon Martinez: Dodgers’ senior adviser, Latin America
Jesse Orosco: Teaches pitching in San Diego
Alejandro Pena: Dodgers rookie-level pitching coach
Gilberto Reyes: Certified nursing assistant in Albuquerque
Steve Sax: Arizona Diamondbacks first-base coach
Mike Scioscia: Angels manager
Mike Sharperson: Died in 1996 car accident
John Shelby: Milwaukee Brewers coach
Franklin Stubbs: Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque hitting coach
Don Sutton: Atlanta Braves radio broadcaster
Tracy Woodson: Valparaiso University baseball coach