The saying goes, “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” That should, in theory, be the goal of every Major League team. Take the Houston Astros, for instance. Not expected to be contenders in any sense of the word, the Astros, in their second season in the American League, are taking the ball and running with it. They are on pace to finish with nearly 20 fewer losses than they did last year. That, as unflattering as it may seem, is an accomplishment.
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What, then, does it say, when a team projected to be the division leaders and considered one of the favorites to win the World Series starts shooting for lower aspirations? That, combined with a volatile, ego-filled clubhouse seems to be a recipe for disaster. The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in that situation, and the effects of being 7.5 games out of first place in the NL West is showing on the field. Last year, the Dodgers found themselves in the same place, but hadn’t yet discovered the “Wild Horse” in Yasiel Puig or adopted the name Kenley Jansen as the 9th inning guy. Those two catalysts would lead to a tremendous 42-8 record over the next 50 games.
In short, there is no spark to be found this year. The only spark might be found in the return of Carl Crawford from yet another injury and even that could be problematic as outfielders fight for playing time. Matt Kemp, who was benched for five straight games before the Crawford injury, has repeatedly said that he is not the fourth outfielder on this team, but so far, he has shown that he’s anything but the premier star on this team. That title, instead, goes to Yasiel Puig, who, on top of having an infectious personality, happens to be among the game’s best. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times asked Zack Greinke what he sees in this seemingly lethargic lineup.
"“We haven’t strung together tons of wins, but I feel we’re playing really well. If we continue to, we’ll compete against whoever for first place in our division,” Greinke said.“The wild card should be easily within reach.”"
The Wild Card is where the Dodgers would be if the season ended today. But has the season already ended in the mind and clubhouse of Don Mattingly’s team? With just a little under two-thirds of a season still to go, the Dodgers are far from completely out of the race, but if the team doesn’t see the destination, is the journey really going to be that much fun?