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Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — It was not so long ago the Dodgers were drowning in the depths of financial despair. Dejected, depleted, bankrupt.
Loyal, enduring fans stayed away in unprecedented numbers as the quality of the club and the tight grip of a debilitating owner choked the life out of Dodger Stadium. Even the Dodger dogs didn’t taste quite the same.
But along with the spirit of the game itself, the Dodgers pulled themselves up from the desolation of hopelessness, and, with the help of a new ownership group, are preparing to present themselves as contenders for the 2013 season.
What was recently an exhausted franchise now gives the boys in blue opportunities no one dreamed about three years ago. No one dreamed about Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and Mark Walter. No one dreamed about two former Cy-Young winners in the rotation. No one dreamed about having more talented outfielders than the front office knows what to do with.
At the forefront of this transformation is 22-year-old Cuban outfielder, Yasiel Puig. Puig is the perfect representation of what the Dodgers are now, and where they are going.
Puig, who attempted to defect from Cuba, and failed, before finally succeeding in 2012, also represents what the Dodgers have been through.
A young ball player, with thunderous talent and boundless potential, freeing himself from the clasp of frugality, with the dream of unleashing a dormant greatness.
The Dodgers, over the past few seasons, have found themselves platooning players in key positions, primarily left field. Now, there are three MVP caliber players filling the outfield at Chavez Ravine.
This was something unforeseen when the Dodgers signed Puig to a 7-year, $42 million contract last year. And now the club finds themselves with the best kind of problem to have; they have more talent than they can put on the field at one time.
The duo of all-stars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, added Carl Crawford, who came over to the Dodgers last season in the blockbuster August trade with the Boston Red Sox. On paper, they are one of the best outfields in baseball.
Kemp, who signed an 8-year, $160 million extension after the 2011 season, is recovering from shoulder surgery, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day on April 1.
Andre Ethier is coming off a solid .284 season with 20 home runs and 89 RBI. Although he struggled with a strained left oblique and blisters last year.
Carl Crawford is coming off Tommy John surgery, and has yet to play a regular season game for the Dodgers. He has started hitting in Spring Training, but is not quite up to the proper shape he needs to be in to show off his tremendous speed. He is also in the process of rebuilding his arm strength, with nerve irritation that is believed to possibly prevent him from being ready by Opening Day.
The point is, if any of these injuries prove to be troublesome in the outfield throughout the 2013 season, the Dodgers have plenty of colossal, albeit expensive, talent to fill the holes.
The question is, at what point would you stop ignoring what you are seeing in front of you, and consider the possibility for him to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Puig went 3-for-3 with a double and two singles Saturday night against the White Sox to extend a massive 10-for-11 run; the most recent display of natural talent in the terror that has been Yasiel Puig’s 2013 Spring Training.
He blasted a 2-run homer and a triple in 4 hits in an exhibition against the A’s on March 19, falling just a double short of the cycle.
He is currently batting .547 in Spring Training, and showing no signs of slowing down.
At 6 foot 3, and 215 pounds, Puig is built like a linebacker that moves like a track star. He had 8 stolen bases in 23 minor league games last year.
There are generally two theories when it comes to Yasiel Puig: Keep him in AA for a while and let him develop, or bring him up now and see if he is, or may someday be, the Dodgers’ answer to Mike Trout.
It may be that there is no incorrect choice, but one thing is certain — for both the Dodgers and Yasiel Puig – its no longer 2010, and fewer and fewer Dodger fans are predicting, “Wait ’til next year!”