ESPN's Buster Olney blogged about the 10 best lineups in baseball and the Dodgers didn't make the cut in a list that started with the beefed-up Angels and ended with the aging-but-still impressive New York Yankees.
Let's assume for the moment the Dodgers lineup looks something like this by May 1 or so, when everyone figures to be recovered from surgery:
Carl Crawford LF
Mark Ellis 2B
Matt Kemp CF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Hanley Ramirez SS
Andre Ethier RF
Luis Cruz 3B
A.J. Ellis C
The Dodgers would have former All-Stars in six spots in their lineup. They would have five players who routinely hit 20 or more home runs. They would have one of the fastest players alive, Crawford, leading off and two of the best pure hitters in the game, Kemp and Gonzalez, in the middle. They would have ideal and rare lefty-righty balance, making it hard for opposing managers to defuse the action late in games.
There is a lot to like. Maybe they'll even be able to go one offseason without firing their hitting coach.
However, there are also reasons to think this could be an overrated -- and certainly overpaid -- bunch. Crawford, 31, is coming off elbow surgery and has batted .260 with a fairly brutal .292 on-base percentage since 2010. Gonzalez still drives in runs, but his raw power is slip-sliding away. He hit 40 home runs playing at cavernous Petco Park in 2009, 31 the next year, 27 the year after that and 18 last season. Sensing a trend?
Ramirez peaked at age 25 in 2009 and has come nowhere close to equaling that MVP-caliber production. Since then, the only number that has held steady is his home run totals. Nobody has been able to convince him to stop swinging for the fences as his other skills have atrophied.
You don't have much to worry about with Kemp other than whether his surgically repaired left shoulder will hold up, but that's no trifle. Ethier is steady as long as the pitcher agrees to throw with his right hand. The most you can expect from the two Ellises and Cruz is a solid season, though you can hope they surprise you.
Most of the Dodgers players are either at their projected peak, age-wise, or beginning the downslope, so you probably can't assume a drastic improvement from anybody. The best-case scenario is that they are who they thought they were and, if so, that's not too shabby.
So, top 11, maybe?