9/20/2013 11:14 P.M. ET
Top reasons Dodgers clinched NL West title
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- When the biggest controversy is a pool party, it's been a very good season.
Two years removed from bankruptcy, the Dodgers only unleashed the greatest comeback in franchise history in 2013.
They rallied from last place, 9 1/2 games back and 12 games below .500. They became only the fourth club in history to be in last place on July 1 and finish in first place.
So with all of that, and everything that went wrong in the beginning, it's hard to limit the list of things that went right to make this comeback happen.
But here are 11 of them:
Hanley sees you
First thumb surgery, then a hamstring injury and it was looking like a lost season for the shortstop. But for all the fuss made about Yasiel Puig's arrival, the team's difference maker was Hanley Ramirez. If he can't stay healthy, the postseason could look a lot like May.
Guggenheim issues 'Strong Buy' on Greinke and Ryu
The new owners get credit for stepping up financially, and the baseball operations department targeted the right starters to upgrade the rotation. Zack Greinke was sort of a no-brainer as a former Cy Young Award winner, but Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu was a roll of the dice that turned into a jackpot.
Kershaw aces another season
For a franchise with a legacy of dominant pitching, Clayton Kershaw fits with the best of them. He is the classic ace to build a club around, tireless and fearless. He matches up against anybody the Dodgers will face.
The Cuban wild horse
It never hurts to have a rookie come out of nowhere, or even out of Cuba. Puig can do amazing things, good and bad. The most amazing thing he did, however, was raise the game of his teammates by his mere enthusiasm and full-speed approach at a time when the club was in the doldrums. He has that rare ability to drive everybody on both teams crazy. Don't take your eyes off him because you never know what he'll do.
Adrian Gonzalez, MVP
He's never seemed comfortable with the expectations of being The Man, but he filled the role when everybody else got hurt. He's productive, durable, tough and willing to mentor. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called him the glue that held the team together in the tough times.
At one point Kenley Jansen retired 27 consecutive batters, a reliever's perfect game, and he's still learning. But it says something that this bullpen has three former All-Star closers and they are merely setup men for the converted catcher and his Mariano Rivera-like cutter.
Juan Uribe comeback
Uribe provided one of the great non-injury comebacks in recent memory. The first two years of his contract were a total bust. He was allowed only one at-bat over the last 34 games in 2012. Talk about a forgotten man. But after inheriting the starting third-base job from Luis Cruz in June, he flashed Gold Glove defense and enough clutch offense to wind up in the cleanup spot several times. Nobody in the clubhouse is more popular.
Ricky Nolasco and Brian Wilson acquisitions
Tip of the cap to general manager Ned Colletti and his staff. First, they went with Nolasco instead of the bigger name on the trade block at the time, Matt Garza. Until his last two starts, Nolasco was putting up Kershaw/Greinke numbers when all the Dodgers had hoped for was a better fourth starter. And they correctly projected Wilson healthy enough to look and pitch like his strange, old self, getting get big outs down the stretch.
Back in May, Mattingly called out Ethier for his attitude. But when Matt Kemp went down, Ethier volunteered to play out of position and surprised everybody by his smooth transition to center field at a time of desperation. His offense even picked up as a side benefit.
The coaching staff
The manager said that when his job was in danger, there was no backstabbing, which isn't normal. The hitting coaches turned Uribe around, a miracle right there. The pitching coaches had the talented staff among the league leaders. And if you think it's easy being Tim Wallach or Davey Lopes, try teaching Puig to hit a cutoff man or not run out of an inning.
The first one that sidelined Greinke for a month had a horrible impact and nobody in the clubhouse gives credence to the theory that the June 11 brawl against the D-backs had anything to do with the club's turnaround. But, hey, it sure makes for great video. And the carryover might have led to that Chase Field pool party the Dodgers threw on clinch day.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.