In other words, propose something you think will happen in the upcoming season that spits directly into the wind of conventional wisdom. Such as this one from early-February: The Dodgers will win more games than the Angels in 2012.
To better set it up, let's quickly flash back to just before the onset of spring training, when the Los Angeles area's two teams were in this contrasting juxtaposition:
Hamstrung by their messy ownership situation, the Dodgers could do nothing more than add a couple of veteran, back-of-the-rotation arms to an offensively challenged team that had to rally to finish 82-79 in 2011.
Meanwhile, an 86-win Angels team had been bolstered by the big-money signings — $317.5 million, to be exact — of free-agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, not to mention the possibility of 20-year-old Mike Trout's emergence as one of the game's new stars.
Ah, but as the two teams head into this weekend's showdown at Angels Stadium, the standings read: Dodgers 42-28, Angels 38-32, and one correct (so far) "no-way" proposition.
Truth is, the Dodgers' surprising lead is narrowing. The Angels are 12-6 in June and 20-7 since May 21, while the Dodgers are 10-8 in June and 12-14 since peaking at 30-13 on May 22.
But the point is, both teams have good reason to believe they'll be part of an expanded postseason field, and baseball hasn't been this good in SoCal since 2009, when both the Angels and Dodgers lost in the LCS round.
The Angels are becoming the team everybody thought they would be back in spring training, when they stormed through the Cactus League, with Pujols leading the way. Adjustments? What adjustments? Pujols just raked: .383/.437/.850 with seven homers and 20 RBI in 63 at-bats.
Then came April, when he scuffled along at .217 with no homers and four RBI, dragging the Angels down with him to a terrible 8-15 first month.
Pujols still isn't back to his peak-efficiency numbers, but June has been a lot more like it: .292/.375/.538 with three homers, 15 RBI, seven doubles and 10 walks in 18 games. And as for what happened in April, he's willing to admit to pressing too much, and a lack of patience at the plate, if nothing else.
"I continue to fight; there's a lot of time left,'' Pujols said recently. "When we were going through the losing stretch, I was chasing pitches out of the zone. Now I'm taking walks. I'm a guy that walks 100 times a year, and only had (six) in April. You have to take what the other side is willing to give you.
"I've done that, and the numbers look better. I don't feel like I have to do everything. In April, everybody was pressing. Not just me. But we have been able to come through it.''
Another big reason why is the transformation of the back end of the Angels bullpen, which has stabilized since the acquisition of Ernesto Frieri from the Padres. And for that, the Angels can thank the bullpen acumen of general manager Jerry Dipoto, an eight-year big-league relief pitcher.
"(The bullpen) is never very far down my list of priorities,'' Dipoto said.
To that end, Dipoto — with the aid of big-league scout Tim Schmidt — zeroed in on Frieri, who had quietly but efficiently filled a setup role for the Padres over the last one-plus seasons while they gave save opportunities to Heath Bell, Huston Street and others.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"Sometimes, you have to get a little lucky,'' Dipoto said of the deal. "Ernie doesn't have that career history (of a dominant closer), but he has brought stability. He's allowed Scott Downs to pitch when Scott Downs needed to, and not when he had to. And Jordan Walden got a chance to breathe, and let his stuff play the way it can. We think we have three legit back-end of the bullpen guys.''
And there is no questioning the impact both Trout and Mark Trumbo have had since being installed as regulars. Trout jumped to second in the AL batting race upon qualifying last week, already leads the AL in stolen bases, and scored 40 runs in his first 48 games. Trumbo leads the Angels in hits, homers, RBI, slugging and OPS.
Jered Weaver is back from a DL stay, Ervin Santana's scheduled Friday start will be his first since a one-hit shutout, and Garrett Richards should be able to step in for Jerome Williams, so the rotation has stabilized. In fact, the Angels' staff ERA currently is the AL's lowest, and the 90-plus-win season that looked bleak on April 13 now looks attainable.
The Dodgers weren't going to play nearly .700 baseball all season, so the 12-14 stretch since their 30-13 start really isn't that alarming. The schedule has toughened up a bit, they still are playing without Matt Kemp, and the great first two months of Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis have turned into struggles in June.
But the Dodgers still have the NL's best record and run differential, and 4-to-5-game cushions in the NL West and wild-card races. They're scoring just enough runs (ninth in the NL) — although trending downward — and the staff ERA is second in the NL only to Washington's.
Kemp and underrated contributor Mark Ellis won't be out forever — both likely will be back around the All-Star break — and it's no secret that the capacity and motivation to add payroll is there, so expect a significant addition or two before July 31. And don't underestimate this roster's resourcefulness and self-confidence that manager Don Mattingly says began to take hold in a 34-20 final two months of 2011.
The expanded playoff field will keep more teams in the wild-card chase longer, but already in seller mode are the Cubs, Astros, Padres, Rockies, Twins, Mariners and A's. The Royals, Brewers and even the Phillies could be there before July 31. So there will be options for Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to land at least one bat (first base, third base or left field), a starting pitcher and a second left-handed reliever to join Scott Elbert.
But to make quality upgrades, the Dodgers most likely will have to part with some of their highly regarded pitching prospects, as they are thin on position-player prospects.
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