I should be excited for the Dodgers' 2009 Season. And yet, this year, I feel more detached than normal from the excitement. I can't figure out why I'm less excited for Opening Day this year than ever before (and I've been going to Dodgers home openers since at least 2002, consistently). But the excitement isn't there.
And I help run a Dodgers blog, for pete's sake.
Maybe it's just a product of exhaustion given the elongated Manny Ramirez signing, the offseason's molasses-speed story from hell, didn't resolve itself until just about a month ago. Watching this play out, and I do mean that liberally, had this after-effect of draining all the sap from a tree. While we should be getting excited for the most potent Dodgers opening day lineup we've seen in five if not ten years, we've all been so focused on the Manny that it's been hard to focus on the rest of the bats. Some of the bats of the Dodgers' core, which we've watched get more and more dangerous (Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier), are undoubtedly going to break out this year. And it's going to be great.
Maybe it's the comparatively weak pitching staff, whose recent addition of James McDonald to the starting rotation is exciting, but leaves us with three youngsters in the starting five, complemented by Hiroki Kuroda and the second tour of Randy Wolf (whom I don't recall being that durable in his first tour with the Dodgers). With a relief corps in question (thanks to the departures of Joe Beimel and Takashi Saito), it will remain to be seen if we can hold any lead in the latter innings, should we be lucky enough to have a lead in the first place. (And if SoSG stalwart QuadSevens is right about this promotion (see comments), holding a late-game margin of victory will be important.)
Maybe it's been the continued buzzkills of Dodger owner Frank McCourt, who each year decides to wade into waters that seem either illogical or self-serving (or both), and then when the concept blows up in his face in failure, he disappears from sight and refuses to take accountability. Witness the new and worsened Dodger Stadium parking system. Or the Dodgers Trolley, which won't provide service from Union Station this year because Frank won't pay for it. Or any of the Dodger Stadium renovation plans, both big (Dodger Stadium's "next 50 years" renderings) or small (continuing the stadium refurbishment plans he started with the field level but then opted not to do for the othe rlevels, exacerbating the stadium's class system of disparate services and comfort). And this year, it was the "mandatory charitable donation" provision that McCourt planned to add to every Dodgers contract, before the players union threatened to sue (and Dodger fans quickly realized it would further disadvantage us in competitive efforts to sign a player). every off-season, McCourt takes what should be a parade float for early April, and lets the air out of the tires before it can leave the depot.
Or maybe it's just the economy in general, particularly California's unemployment rate north of 10%, and the worry that it will be hard for Dodger Stadium--which rarely looks as full as the regular season attendance numbers will say, given all the no-shows--to be raucous and exciting this year when its fan base can't afford the sixth-highest average ticket price and seventh-highest Fan Cost Index level in the majors. If you're like me, and you live here in Southern California, many of your friends have lost jobs, purse strings are tight, and people are having trouble making ends meet. Who can afford getting into Dodger Stadium, let alone paying the $15 toll to park your car?
To be fair, there are things about which to be excited about this 2009 Dodgers squad. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus has picked us fourth in the majors (subscriber link needed). Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has given us a "2 seed" and assigned us what appears to be the seventh-best team in MLB (and by the way, if that Dodgers-Yankees showdown happened, it would be AWESOME). LA Times Dodgers beat writer Dylan Hernandez (whose writing and insight continues to improve and impress, by the way) reminds us that Ned Colletti could always pull a late-season rabbit out of his hat, a la last season with Manny Ramirez.
Or maybe it's just because the Dodgers open on the road tomorrow against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. This game, the first game that counts in the 2009 season, comes a full week before the Dodgers' home opener on April 13. I'll be at the home opener. And I know by then that I'll be plenty excited.
I guess I've got a week to fire up.