It could have been the subtle change in the air signaling the transition from a stifling, humid summer to an airy, crisp fall, or just another testament to the resilient power of the human spirit in this weird and wacky year, but a couple of weeks ago I woke up on a random mid-week morning and felt more refreshed and hopeful than I had in months.
Already pleased that it had even started in the first place, I felt myself starting to feel really, really excited about the baseball season; specifically all of the fun storylines the Dodgers have been in the process of writing since the arrival of Opening Day. Gone was the daily dread that came with picking up my phone and fearing the worst – positive COVID tests threatening to end the season before it even got going, skeptics questioning MLB’s plan to forge on with a shortened season, and general doom and gloom on the Twitter timeline.
Mind you, we are still in a pandemic, that’s our current reality, but MLB with all of its other failures at the top has seemingly handled this well, and I’ve managed to block out most of the negative noise. Now that the playoffs are in sight with all signs point towards them actually happening —- well I’m ready to get really excited about the rest of the season.
And I will not lie — it also helps that the Dodgers are really, really good this year.
In that vein, on Friday night I asked our Twitter readers what your biggest pleasant surprise has been so far this season, in a year that has already seen so many. if Twitter polls allowed space for more than 3 plus the “Other” option, I could have easily provided 10 choices and received votes in each of them.
— Gail Johnson (@GJOH29) September 5, 2020
#1 – AJ Pollock is a beast
This is one my personal favorite stories of the year, which has seen Pollock not only rebound from an underwhelming Dodgers debut in 2019 by becoming one of the Dodgers most clutch performers, but also show a skeptical fan base who the real AJ Pollock is – the great teammate, family man, and wonderful human being that Andrew Friedman signed to a 3-year contract before the start of the 2019 season. In other words, a real Dodger.
For a man who experienced both a child being born 3 months premature as well as a COVID-19 diagnosis before the season even began, it would not have been unreasonable to expect little if anything from him this year…but he has shown incredible resilience and surprised us all. And it’s an incredibly delightful storyline.
"He's an impact player… he's in a great place … and he's a great clubhouse guy." Dave Roberts on AJ Pollock in 2020.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) September 5, 2020
Dbacks have the lefty warming with AJ Pollock due up, try to deke the Dodgers by bringing in the righty. First pitch, bang homer. pic.twitter.com/z7T2k6vG3C
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) September 4, 2020
# 2 – Mookie Betts is even better than advertised
A good friend of mine, a Red Sox fan who has been following Mookie Betts since his minor league days, told me I’d fully understand, once I started watching him play, why Red Sox fans were so outraged that the organization let him go in a trade. This could have easily not qualified as a ‘surprise’ since we knew he was great; we wouldn’t have gotten so excited about the off-season trade if he wasn’t. But now to see him play every night, I finally understand the hype, and though it’s obviously not my money, fully approve the Dodgers banking the future on this man. He’s a complete, perfect player. Often the impact of a truly great player goes beyond the numbers – even though he’s in the NL Top 10 in most offensive categories – and in the case of Mookie, he is all of that and more.
And he sure is giving us all a lot to look forward to for a long, long time to come.
I AM ABOUT THIS IDEA, GAIL.
— Clint Pasillas (@realFRG) August 18, 2020
#3 – Brusdar “Bazooka” Graterol is everyone’s new favourite Dodger
The man-child can throw, but it’s not just that. Brook Smith recently wrote a great piece about “Bazooka” and what Dave Roberts has revealed about him quickly becoming a clubhouse favorite, and his endearing bilingual mid-game interviews with Alanna Rizzo of Sportsnet ALA while he’s trying to learn English quickly win many of us over.
Thank you for not wanting him either, Red Sox!
?? Look at Cody (in the back). Look how he KNOWS what Brusdar's about to do (with his wrap-up ritual), and WAITS for it. Then, the big bro smile! pic.twitter.com/t9KoRZkVY0
— Will loves Dodgers (@WillLovesDodger) September 5, 2020
Brusdar Graterol, Fastball Movement. pic.twitter.com/hbtbBdg4k0
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 5, 2020
Honorable Mention / many “other” votes – Clayton Kershaw has turned back the clock
It goes without saying (actually, I’ve said it a lot) that there will never be another player for me than Clayton Kershaw. It almost felt like a betrayal not including him in the poll, but the reason for that is simple: nothing he does surprises me anymore. The man is already a legend and the greatest pitcher of many of our lifetimes, but youthful glory doesn’t last forever…except, apparently, if you possess the rare talent and work ethic of this man who I proudly proclaim to be my favorite human I will never meet in person. Watching him start feels extra exciting this year – almost like the clock has been turned back 5 or 6 years to those 2014/2015 starts where you were afraid to move until he gave him his first hit and/or became disappointed if he so much as walked a guy. He has somehow managed to elevate his game this season and further cement his place in the conversation as one of the greatest to ever stand on any pitcher’s mound anywhere.
Also, he smiles after starts now.
— trash (@owenfrom213) August 2, 2020
Buckle up for what is sure to be an exciting remainder of the ride, Dodger fans. I for one cannot wait to see what the rest of this wacky season brings us, and what storylines we will be talking about until the very end of October.