L.A. Baseball Season Ready to Take Off

Alex Campos

With spring training finally over and baseball fans geared up for opening day, there is plenty of optimism surrounding the two Los Angeles Major League Baseball teams, the Dodgers and the Angels.

The Dodgers hope to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season. After a long season of struggles from key players, a number of injuries and an ongoing divorce procedure by the owners, the Dodgers look ready to compete in 2011.

The expensive divorce proceeding between owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, pretty much kept the Dodgers from making any big moves in free agency. Instead of going after superstar players, they made sure to keep most of their team intact. They made a few nice signings, such as second baseman Juan Uribe, starting pitcher Jon Garland and relief pitcher Matt Guerrier.

For the Dodgers to improve from last year, they need bounce-back seasons from centerfielder Matt Kemp, right fielder Andre Ethier, shortstop Rafeal Furcal and closer Jonathon Broxton.

Kemp had been dubbed one of the top outfielders in the game prior to last season, where he regressed in all offensive categories except for home runs. His defense, which won him a Gold Glove the year before, also regressed greatly.

Ethier was absolutely dominant until he broke his pinky in a game against the San Diego Padres in May. When he came back, he was not the same player.

When Furcal is on the field, he has the ability to take over a game. The problem with him has always been his health. Last year, he only appeared in 97 of the teams 162 games. If he can stay healthy this season, he should put up absolutely huge numbers.

Broxton was the biggest disappointment on the team. He was virtually unhittable for the first part of the season. After completely blowing a game against the New York Yankees, Broxton was never the same. He lost his closer job towards the end of the season and heard boo’s from Dodger fans.

Last year, the Dodgers finished 80-82, which put them in fourth in the National League West.

The Angels also finished last year at 80-82, giving them third place in the American League West. They were having a pretty good season until May 29.

With a big win against their division rival Seattle Mariners, that game was one of the high points for the Angels.

First baseman Kendry Morales had just hit his 11th home run of the season, a game winning grand slam in the 10th inning. In celebration, Morales jumped in the air, only to fall down. He was carted off the field and diagnosed with a broken ankle, which still hasn’t healed.

Since that game, the Angels were a completely different ball club.

The Angels off season did not go the way it was supposed to. The prize of free agency, left fielder Carl Crawford, was supposed to be a lock to end up in an Angel uniform. He signed with Boston.

They regrouped and sought after third baseman Adrian Beltre. He signed with Texas.

Possibly out of desperation, the Angels traded outfielder Juan Rivera and catcher Mike Napoli to Toronto for outfielder Vernon Wells. While many people view this as a bad trade with Wells’ expensive contract, Angel fans remain optimistic that he can be a great player for the Angels.

If the Angels can stay healthy, there is plenty of reason for optimism. They have two talented young players expected to see time in the Major Leagues this year, catcher Hank Conger and first baseman/outfielder Mike Trout. If they can live up to their potential, this season could see a very dangerous Angel team.
GCC outfielder/pitcher Juan Sanchez is a Dodger fan. His favorite players are Ethier and pitcher Hong Chi Kuo.

“I like Ethier because he’s one of those guys that had to work hard to get to where he’s at. He had a rough time growing up, his parents divorced when he was young. His father was basically his coach for the most part. That’s something I can relate to.

“And I like Kuo because he’s not afraid to challenge hitters. He goes right after them. That’s the same mentality I have as a pitcher. It’s basically telling the hitter ‘Here it is now try to hit it’.”

GCC pitcher J.P Cohn is a huge fan of Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw, and sees this as a big year for Kershaw.

“Many people believe this is [Kershaw’s] year to establish himself as an ace pitcher in the pros,” he said. “The last few years he has been the number two or three pitcher on the team, but this year he’s starting opening day against the Giants. He has a good fastball and one of the best sliders in baseball today.”

GCC pitcher Nick Woodward said that Angels pitcher Trevor Bell is a guy he looks up to.

“Bell is a cool guy,” he said. “He’s a pitcher on the Angels who went to Crescenta Valley High. A few of the dudes on the team played with or against him in high school.”

The Dodgers open the season on Thursday at home against the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

The Angels first game is Thursday at Kansas City.