Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 7/24/13
When Guggenheim Partners purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers during the early part of the 2012 season they sent a message to everyone who would listen: they were bringing baseball back to Los Angeles.  Unlike past owner Frank McCourt, the new owners put their money where their mouth was, signing Andre Ethier to a long-term deal, acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins, obtaining the rights to a raw talent out of Cuba known as Yasiel Puig, and taking on big-money contracts from the Boston Red Sox in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  Crawford had also been a target of the cross-town Angels just two years earlier, so that move was even sweeter for Dodger PR. The Dodgers even made a run at Cliff Lee. But for all their swagger, LA joined four other teams among the top 10 in payroll to miss the playoffs in 2012. Despite an opening day payroll of $239 million dollars, the Dodgers sat at just 23-32 at the close of play on June 2. From that point until the All-Star Break the club went 24-15, charging their way up the standings into second place in the NL West. Rookie sensation Yasiel Puig hitting .391/.422/.616 over that span helped things along, of course.  But so did Hanley Ramirez. The shortstop, who had played just four games all season between two trips to the disabled list, hit like his heyday with the Marlins: .379/.438/.672. If you’re following along, yes, Hanley was actually better than Puig during the run up to the All-Star Break.  This is more like the player who won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 and finished second in MVP voting in 2009 while winning a batting title. If Ramirez’s health and interest in playing winning baseball have returned, the Dodgers have finally added the impact player they sought to acquire from the Marlins in 2012. Somewhat overshadowed by the performance of their rookie outfielder has been starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu. The southpaw pitched to a 3.09 ERA in the first half, his first eighteen starts in Major League Baseball. In those starts Ryu tossed at least six innings all but two times.  While his personal record was 7-3, the Dodgers won twelve games started by Ryu, who kept his team in the game by allowing more than three runs just once. Slotted behind perennial Cy Young contestant Clayton Kershaw and free agent acquisition Zack Greinke, Ryu has solidified the Dodgers rotation in a year without Chad Billingsley. Kenley Jansen ascended to the closer’s job and has allowed just three runs since May 25. He’s been supported by former closer Brandon League, now in a role with less pressure, and two dominant setup men, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez in front of him.  Like Puig, Rodriguez signed with the Dodgers in 2012, only he was acquired through the draft rather than the international market. While the big trades get most of the ink, GM Ned Colletti has made the most of his farm system in both trades and promotions, which is notable as he stretches his resources to assemble a contender. The week after the All-Star Break complete, the Dodgers stand at 52-47, only half a game behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West. What is amazing is that Sunday July 21 was the first time this season that the Los Angeles had Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Hanley Ramirez in the lineup together.  With all three stars battling health issues this season it is understandable that the Dodgers would fail to live up to expectations. What is surprising is that the team made up lost ground without Matt Kemp, a player just one season removed from a 39-home run, 40-steal campaign and a fantastic start to the 2012 season before injuries derailed that year as well. Over the weekend the Dodgers made their statement: sweeping the Washington Nationals. The Nats put their best foot forward for the second half and started their top three pitchers, each among the best in baseball: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann.  While the first two contests were close, Dodger bats exploded for nine runs on Sunday and welcomed back Matt Kemp, who chipped in with a home run as part of a 3-for-4 day returning from the disabled list. While Kemp sprained his ankle in his return to the lineup, the Dodgers don’t expect their center fielder to miss much time. The Dodgers, based in Los Angeles, surrounded by hype and incredible expectations, failed to live up to any of it in April and May. When the calendar turned to June their reinforcements arrived and players returned from the disabled list, the massive payroll and talent on the field began to perform.  With the Giants and Padres reeling, the Dodgers are making their push. And if they decided another part is needed to get the team into October, well, money is no object. By: Mike Carlucci Twitter: @MikeCarlucci

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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