Hey! Remember the 2000’s? It was a crazy time! When the decade began, we didn’t know who Tom Brady was, LeBron James was only 15 years old and Sue Bird hadn’t even won a collegiate or professional championship yet. It was also the start of 10 years of narratives in Major League Baseball that deserve a retrospective.
So, let’s go back to examine the bizarre mix that constituted the 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers roster. This was a team with three clear groups of players:
- Young Guns – Players about to “pop” and become All-Stars
- Not So Primetime – Players who should have been in their prime but had already achieved most of their success
- Elder Statesman – Players on the other end of 30 wrapping up their careers
THE YOUNG GUNS
- Clayton Kershaw (20) – 68.8 WAR from 08-present – 8 All-Star Selections, 3 Cy Youngs, MVP in 2014
- Matt Kemp (23) – 20 WAR from 08-20 – 3 All-Star selection, #2 in NL MVP in 2011
- Chad Billingsley (23) – 11.8 WAR from 08-15 – 1 All-Star selection
- Jonathan Broxton (24) – 106 Saves from 08-12 – 2 All-Star selections
- Russell Martin (25) – 31.1 WAR from 08-19 – 3 All-Star selections
- Andre Ethier (26 years old) – 18 WAR from 08-17 – 2 All-Star selections
This was a very promising group for the Dodgers in 2008 and produced a combined 16.6 WAR during the season. These players were by far the most successful of these three groups even with the best days for players like Kershaw and Kemp were still a few seasons away.
Fun Facts = Billingsley led the Dodgers in 2008 with 4.5 WAR and Martin was the team’s lone All-Star that season.
THE NOT SO PRIMETIME PLAYERS
- Juan Pierre (30) – 389 Stolen Bases before 2008 – -0.1 WAR in 2008
- Rafael Furcal (30) – 28.2 WAR before 2008 – Rookie of the Year in 2000 – 2 WAR in 08
- Brad Penny (30) – 97 Wins before 2008 – Went 2-0 in 2003 World Series – -1 WAR in 08
- Andruw Jones (30) – 61 WAR before 2008 – 10 Gold Gloves before 08 – -1.6 WAR in 08
Typically, this would have been a group that drove the success of the team considering all these players were still in their prime. Unfortunately, this was clearly not the case as they combined for -0.7 WAR. This is just bad.
Not So Fun Fact = This was Jones’ first season out of Atlanta and was by far the worst year of his career.
THE ELDER STATESMAN
- Nomar Garciaparra (34) – 43.7 WAR before 08 – Played one more season after 08
- Chan Ho Park (35) – 16.9 WAR before 08 – 113 Wins before 08 – Played two more seasons after 08
- Estaban Loaiza (36) – 23 WAR before 08 – 125 Wins before 08 – Retired after 08
- Manny Ramirez (36) – 60.7 WAR before 08 – 510 HR before 08 – Played less than 200 more games after 08
- Jeff Kent (40) – 55.4 WAR before 08 – MVP in 2000 – Retired after 08
- Greg Maddux (42) – 104.9 WAR before 08 – 4 Cy Youngs and 353 Wins before 08 – Retired after 08
- Joe Torre (67) – 2,000+ wins – 4 WS Titles – Managed two more seasons after 08
Maddux, Ramirez, and Torre lead this group as they were three absolute legends at the end of their careers. This was also Torre’s first season since he left the Yankees and Ramirez was traded from the Red Sox halfway through the year. The rest of the players in this group had very respectable careers though too.
Kent won an MVP and Nomar looked headed to the Hall of Fame before his wrist injury derailed his career. Loaiza and Park were both rotation staples for several seasons, and Park is a key part of one of the best All-Star Game moments ever (even if he’d like to forget it).
So, what happened?
It shouldn’t be surprising this was a nearly .500 team (84-78) with such an underwhelming core of players in their prime. What is surprising is that was good enough to win the NL West in 2008. And this team was also good enough to sweep the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.
This was not a fairytale season though as the Dodgers fell in five games in the NLCS to the Phillies, who would go on to win the World Series. But even though this team didn’t win it all, it did win the hearts of baseball historians as being one of the all-time odder collections of talent on any division winner.
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