I refer to one of my annual rituals that takes place at some point during the first couple of weeks of the season as my Norman Thayer moment. Norman Thayer is a character played by Henry Fonda in the 1981 film “On Golden Pond”, and he utters one of my favorite baseball references in a non-baseball film. His wife and the mailman are engaging in a conversation that Norman wishes to ignore so he picks up the paper and begins to read the baseball standings. Suddenly he exclaims “Look at the god-damn Orioles! Baltimore’s always been a sneaky town!” It perfectly captures that moment early in the season when you look at the standings (we look at the standings every day but some days you LOOK at them) and see something that you just weren’t expecting to see.
This year there are several things to be surprised about, but my Norman Thayer moment comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have begun the season 9-1 for easily the best start in baseball. I had them 4th out of 5 in the West. The question in the month of April always has to be is it for real, because April is the month for overreactions about both good and bad starts. It’s almost like April is the month that fans are allowed to forget that the season is 162 games. In May, it will all sink in. The answer for the Dodgers, I think, is a little bit of both. They are going to be better than I thought. Kemp seems primed for a monster year and looks like he might get some support. The pitching staff is going to be more than just Kershaw. But of their first ten games, seven were against the Padres, who are easily one of the three worst teams in the league, and the other three were against the Pirates, who while improved, have not shown much ability to get their offense moving against any of their opponents this season. This week the Dodgers face the Brewers and the Astros, so it might be awhile before we can truly judge how good the Dodgers are. A great start can lead to great things though, so they are a team to be watched.