Greetings, friends, from spring training. The grass is green, the sky is blue and baseball has begun for the Dodgers, Angels and Padres. The postmark today is from the team known as ‘dem bums.
Sightseeing at Camelback Ranch, everyone is excited by the prospects of Dodgers’ baseball. The fans back home have conducted their own spending spree, buying season tickets at a record pace.
The Blue, who had 27,000 season tickets last year, sold so many new packages, they were thinking of capping it at 42,000 for the coming season, with many wondering if the team might crack the $4.2 million barrier in tickets sold by the end of the season.
The lineup is loaded, but will Matt Kemp be 100 percent by opening day after off-season shoulder surgery?
On the mound, can Chad Billingsley regain the dominance he has shown in some seasons, while avoiding arm problems that slowed him at mid-season last year?
The Dodgers, with that rich TV contract, are rich in talent, too.
Carl Crawford looks ready to be the lead-off hitter, coming off elbow surgery. Adrian Gonzalez is two years removed from shoulder surgery and looks to regain his power hitting form, even in spacious Chavez Ravine.
Hanley Ramirez has moved to shortstop and must shed the reputation that he does not play hard all the time.
Maybe being surrounded by stars like Kemp, Gonzalez and Ethier will make a difference.
Zack Greinke headlines a loaded pitching staff that has eight starters listed. It will be fun to watch South Korean lefthander Hyun-Jin-Ryu. He has dazzling stuff and right now is penciled in behind ace Clayton Kershaw and Greinke, in front of Josh Beckett.
Add to that Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang, and the staff seems loaded.
Don Mattingly’s contract has yet to be extended, though most expect him to get the same three-year package that general manager Ned Coletti got a month ago.
Mattingly, the legendary Yankee, proved his mettle as a leader, guiding the team through the chaos that was the Frank McCourt era.
He drew high praise for emotionally holding the team together, for helping guide Matt Kemp to stardom and for holding a patchwork lineup together a year ago when there was no money to sign talent.
Maybe it was all his time with the Yankees, playing and living among the superstars and the media, but he is an emotional constant — no highs; few lows.
The Blue have not won a World Series since the Kirk Gibson walk-off home run game in 1988. The Dodgers Way is a long time ago. Even the Tom Lasorda days with Fernando Valenzuela seem like another lifetime.
Yes, we might be looking at a Dodgers Blue-Angels Red October World Series.
But that is 162 regular season games and a bunch of postseason games away.
For now, this is fun. This looks good.
Next stop Tempe’s Diablo Stadium and Angels’ baseball.