Beyond Golf — 06 April 2015 by Jim Street
NL West: A three-peat for Dodgers

Another championship has been added to the Dodger Stadium landscape, but back-to-back National League West titles seem rather mundane to the storied franchise that hasn’t been a World Series champion since 1998.

That’s nothing compared to other Major League teams, but the Dodgers want and expect more than being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, which has happened the past two seasons.

Adding insult to agony, the division-rival Giants won six fewer games during the regular season but 11 more than the Dodgers during the postseason, winning the World Series for the third time in the past five seasons.

Ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the big-leagues during the regular season, did an about-face in the playoffs and you just know he’s determined to add a ring to his three Cy Young Awards.

That could happen in 2015 as the Dodgers lured highly-regarded club executive Andrew Friedman from Tampa Bay. He quickly changed the double play combination by acquiring shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Howie Kendrick, added a first-string catcher in Yasmani Grandal and are ready to unveil rookie outfielder Joc Pederson in center.

Even with Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) on the disabled to start the season, the Dodgers’ rotation is the best in the West. But fifth-year manager Don Mattingly won’t have his closer, right-hander Kenley Jansen (44 saves last season), until May because of foot surgery.

As for the remainder of the division, here’s what to expect in the National League West:

LOS ANGLES DODGERS

2014 Record/Finish: (94-68, first place).

Rotation: LHP Clayton Kershaw, RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Brandon McCarthy, LHP Joe Wieland, LHP Brett Anderson. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the season on the disabled list.

Acquisitions: SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Howie Kendrick, C Yasmani Grandal, CF Joe Pederson, RHP Brandon McCarthy, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Joel Peralta, RHP Joe Weiland, RHP Chris Hatcher, INF Enrique Hernandez.

Departures: OF Matt Kemp, SS Hanley Ramirez, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Josh Beckett, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Brian Wilson, RHP Chad Billingsley, RHP Kevin Correia, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Perez, RHP Jamie Wright.

Comment: A new double play combination highlights numerous roster changes for the reigning division champions who were ousted in the Division Playoffs by the Cardinals. The veteran skills of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, acquired from the Phillies, and second baseman Howie Kendrick, a key cog in the Angels’ lineup for years, are now sporting Dodger Blue. The depth of the rotation was bolstered by the acquisition of right-hander Brandon McCarthy, but lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu is injured and starts the season on the DL.

Prediction: First Place.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

2014 Record/Finish: (77-85, tied for third).

Rotation: RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP James Shields, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Brandon Morrow.

Acquisitions: RHP James Shields, RF Matt Kemp, LF Justin Upton, OF Melvin Upton, RHP Craig Kimbrel, CF Wil Myers, C Derek Norris, 3B Will Middlebrooks, RHP Brandon Morrow, RHP Shawn Kelley, INF Clint Barmes, C Tim Federowicz, RHP Brandon Mauer, C Wil Nieves.

Departures: C Yasmani Grandal, C Rene Rivera, OF Seth Smith, LHP Alex Torres, RHP Joe Wieland, OF Carlos Quentin, OF Cameron Maybin.

Comment: If the organization needs a motto, this one seems to fit: Where there’s a Wil (Nieves and Myers) or a Will (Middlebrooks and Venable), there must be a way. The mythical Trader Jack Award, named after the former Padres general manager/manager Jack McKeon, goes to first-year Padres boss A.J. Preller, who retooled a lineup that features three new outfielders in Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and the Upton brothers Justin and Melvin, in separate trades with the Braves. Preller burned the midnight oil trying to improve an offense that scored a Major League-low 535 runs last season and it’ll be interesting to watch the results. Veteran skipper Bud Black probably needs a good start, and a winning season, to keep his job.

Prediction: Second Place.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2014 Record/Finish: (88-74, second place, wild card).

Rotation: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Matt Cain, RHP Jake Peavy, RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Tim Hudson.

Acquisitions: 3B Casey McGehee, OF Nori Aoki.

Departures: 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Michael Morse, INF Marco Scutaro.

Comment: If the every-other-year syndrome that has occurred the past five seasons continues, the reigning World Series champions are in for another tough year. The even-numbered years (2010, ‘12 and ‘14) have been as good as it gets – Fall Classic champs. But the odd years of 2011 and ’13 were rather dismal. Other than postseason star left-hander Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ starting rotation looks suspect, at best as three of them had losing records in ’14 and Tim Lincecum (12-9) had a 4.74 ERA. Another potential wart is at third base, where Casey McGehee takes over for Pablo Sandoval.

Prediction: Third Place.

COLORADO ROCKIES

2014 Record/Finish: (66-96 fourth place).

Rotation: RHP Kyle Kendrick, LHP Tyler Matzek, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Jon Gray,  RHP Eddie Butler. Potential starters LHP Jorge De LaRosa and RHP David Hale will start the season on the disabled list.

Acquisitions: C Nick Hundley, RHP David Hale, RHP Kyle Kendrick, RHP Gus Schlosser, RHP John Axford, 2B Daniel Descalso, RHP Jairo Diaz.

Departures: RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RF Michael Cuddyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Rob Scahill, LHP Franklin Morales, RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Chris Martin.

Comment: Perhaps more than any team in the NL West, the Rockies must stay healthy to have any chance of a winning record this season. That means they can’t afford to lose All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki or fellow All-Star Carlos Gonzalez for long stretches like the past two seasons. They combined to play just 161 games in 2014. First-year GM Jeff Bridich, who replaced long-time boss Dan O’Dowd, pretty much stayed the course, banking on mainstays rather than doing a makeover. Good luck with that.

Prediction: Fourth Place.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2014 Record/Finish: (64-98, fifth place).

Rotation: RHP Josh Collmenter, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RH Rubby De La Rosa, RHP Chase Anderson, RHP Archie Bradley.

Acquisitions: Manager Chip Hale, 3B-OF Yasmany Tomas, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Allen Webster, LHP Vidal Nuno, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, LHP Robbie Ray.

Departures: Manager Kirk Gibson, C Miguel Montero, SS Didi Gregorius, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Travel Cahill, INF Eric Chavez.

Comment: Returning club president Tony LaRussa and hand-picked general manager Dave Stewart collaborated on numerous personnel changes, starting with the manager, jettisoning Kirk Gibson and replacing him with Chip Hale. The offense, led by Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo, has potential, but the starting rotation has been completely rebuilt. All eyes will be on third baseman Yasmany Tomas, who most recently played in Cuba.

Prediction: Fifth Place

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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