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Why Dodgers -- despite it all -- can still win the NL West

Matt Kemp
Because they play in a division where there is always hope. Every season, for most every team. Like it's required.

Parity hasn't simply arrived in the National League West, it's taken up residence. Not some shingle temporarily hung on the wall, but carved in granite at the front door.

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished last in the NL West in 2010 and then won the division last season. In five of the last six seasons, an NL West team coming off a losing season advanced to the postseason the next year.

The Dodgers are filled with "ifs" and crossed fingers and gambles. Not unlike every team in the division.

If Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe return to form, if James Loney hits like he did in the second half, if Matt Kemp approaches his 2011 season, if Juan Rivera can keep up his RBI form, if Dee Gordon can perform over a full season, if young closers Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen can keep it going, if new starters Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano pitch effectively ... then the Dodgers win!

There is no juggernaut in the NL West, no powerhouse team, nothing even approaching a dominant club.

The NL West may have been busier than any division in baseball this winter, but the comings and goings were lacking in sex appeal. Nothing to shake up the division, nothing to make one team an obvious favorite.

So the Diamondbacks may still be the team to beat after bringing back Joe Saunders and adding outfielder Jason Kubel and right-hander Trevor Cahill. The Giants were quiet -- mostly just adding outfielders Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan -- but are counting on the return of catcher Buster Posey. The Rockies have been so busy reshaping themselves it's hard to know how good they’ll be. The Padres added outfielder Carlos Quentin and closer Houston Street, and flipped starter Mat Latos for Edinson Volquez.

It's the NL West, where every team has made at least one postseason appearance in the last six years. Where even a team in bankruptcy, with a shrinking payroll and on the brink of an uncertain ownership change can still win it.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Matt Kemp. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
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