12/27/10 10:00 AM EST
Tough 2010 gives way to change for Dodgers
Mattingly takes over after first losing record in five years
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The past one, not so good.
From ownership uncertainty to Manny Ramirez's demise, from Matt Kemp's struggles to the bullpen's meltdown, the Dodgers foundered to the point that a frustrated manager Joe Torre stepped down and turned over the club to Don Mattingly.
Coming off consecutive National League West titles and appearances in the NL Championship Series, the Dodgers finished in fourth place with their first losing record in five years.
Nonetheless, there were bright spots: Clayton Kershaw stepped up as the rotation ace at age 22; Chad Billingsley rebounded to provide an impressive 1-2 top of the rotation; Hong-Chih Kuo posted the lowest ERA in the game and took over as closer; rookie Kenley Jansen continued his meteoric conversion from catcher to closer-in-training; and veteran utilityman Jamey Carroll proved invaluable for his versatility and toughness.
But injuries took their toll. Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla was hurt twice and made only 16 starts, catcher Russell Martin broke his hip and missed almost two months, Andre Ethier was en route to a monster season until breaking his finger in a freak batting-practice mishap and Ramirez couldn't stay on the field because of leg injuries.
The Dodgers' top five story lines of 2010:
5. Bullpen ineffectiveness was the biggest difference between 2009 and 2010.
It started in the spring with Ronald Belisario's visa problems and -- except for Kuo's phenomenal season and Jansen's arrival -- the burden of Belisario's unreliability caused a domino effect throughout the Dodgers' bullpen that lasted all year. Jonathan Broxton losing the closer job was the most telling, but George Sherrill was a mess all season, Belisario later missed a month with personal problems, Ramon Troncoso's sinker stopped sinking and Jeff Weaver struggled.
4. Instead of a rebound season from Ramirez, he lost power, health and eventually his job.
The Dodgers had $20 million riding that Ramirez would regain his 2008 impact after a 2009 season ruined by a drug suspension. Instead, Ramirez seemed uninspired and dour right from the time in Spring Training that he announced it would be his last season in Los Angeles. Leg injuries made playing time erratic, and when on the field, he never looked like he wanted to be. Ultimately, he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, saving the Dodgers nearly $4 million.
3. Ownership uncertainty clouded the organization's future.
Critics blamed the divorce of owner Frank McCourt and wife Jamie with financially handcuffing general manager Ned Colletti, who was mostly a bystander during free agency after the 2009 season. Colletti maintained it was business as usual, but the Dodgers' payroll did drop by $10 million and the club went into Spring Training without an identified fifth starting pitcher or an established starting second baseman. Nonetheless, Colletti was busy at the in-season deadlines, acquiring Scott Podsednik, Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, Octavio Dotel and Rod Barajas in an attempt to jump-start a late surge.
2. Kemp finishes a roller-coaster season on a high note.
Coming off a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger 2009, Kemp in 2010 was prodded by the general manager, benched after blowing up at the bench coach and took the brunt of criticism for an underachieving club as his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage slid and he topped his franchise record for strikeouts. All this while in a highly publicized relationship with recording artist Rihanna. He still had a career-high 28 homers, played every game and laid the groundwork for 2011 by homering in his last five games.
1. Torre steps down, Mattingly steps up.
In effect, Torre fired himself. He was frustrated that nothing he said or did unlocked the talent and potential of his young club. He halted talks of a contract extension in March and by September announced he would hand over the reins of the Dodgers to his protégé and hand-picked successor, Mattingly, saying the club needed a younger voice as manager in 2011, even though he had led the team to consecutive division titles and the NL Championship Series in 2008 and 2009.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.