The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the most storied franchises in all of American sports. A big part of that story is the great players, including 13 MVPs, 12 Cy Young winners, and 17 Rookie of the Year winners.
Some of the greatest and most important players of the 20th century were Dodgers (Brooklyn and LA), including: Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major leaguer; Sandy Koufax, the first three-time Cy Young winner; Don Drysdale, who set the record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched; and Roy Campanella, a former Negro League player who would go on to win three MVPs with the Dodgers. The 21st century has been no different. Current players such as Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager have upheld the great tradition of Dodgers baseball.
Of course, like any story, there are highs and lows. Here are the best and the worst from the past 17 seasons in Dodgers history. There are Hall of Famers, All-Stars, Gold Glove winners, and a few MVPs—and not just on the “best” side.
15 BEST: Corey Seager
With just over a year’s worth of MLB service, shortstop Corey Seager still has a long way to go before proving himself as one of the Dodger greats, but he’s off to a great start so far.
At just 22 years old, he already looks like a seasoned veteran, putting up impressive numbers at the plate, including a .312 batting average with 30 home runs and 89 RBI in 184 games. In 2016, not only did he take home the NL Rookie of the Year, receiving 100% of the first place votes, but he was also in serious contention for the MVP, which would have made him just the third player in MLB history to win both ROY and MVP in the same season. Not to worry, though; at this rate, there’s bound to be a lot more hardware in Seager’s future.
14 WORST: Orel Hershiser
Before grabbing your Internet pitchforks, keep in mind that this is the best and worst since 2000. No one’s arguing that Orel Hershiser isn’t one of the greatest players in Dodgers history, but the same cannot be said of his performance in the 21st century.
Orel spent 12 successful seasons in LA from 1983-94, putting together some of the greatest seasons pitched in the late 20th century, including an ’88 Cy Young campaign that saw him go 23-8 with 15 complete games and eight shutouts. However, after spending five seasons away from California, he returned in 2000 to end his career where it had begun. Unfortunately, it would not end on a high note, as he would go 1-5 with a 13.14 ERA in 10 games.
13 BEST: Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez's best years in the majors might have come before he landed in LA, but he's remained one of the game's most productive hitters well into his 30s. In a little over four years with the Dodgers, he's hit .283 with 98 home runs and 418 RBI, including a league-best 116 in 2014.
Averaging just 28 home runs per 162 games, Gonzo doesn't exactly put up gaudy numbers at the plate, but he regularly leads his team in RBI and contributes with Gold Glove defense at first base. More importantly, he's been one of the most consistent performers of the 21st century. In 11 full seasons, he has never hit lower than .275, with a high of .338.
12 WORST: Milton Bradley
Talent-wise, Milton Bradley was a great baseball player, hitting .275/.358/.446 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI in 216 games for the Blue Crew, but his notoriously bad attitude negated anything good he did on the field.
In 2004, he had two of the most epic meltdowns in MLB history. The first took place on June 1. After being ejected for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Terry Craft, he proceeded to empty a ball bag on the field before storming into the clubhouse. A few months later, while playing the Rockies at home, he made an error in the outfield, which led a fan to throw a beer bottle near him in right field. Bradley then picked up the bottle and smashed it back into the stands, leading to an ejection and his second suspension of the season.
11 BEST: Shawn Green
Shawn Green doesn’t get enough credit for his play, perhaps because he played during the steroid era of the late '90s/early 2000s. Not only did he hit 328 career home runs, but he also had three seasons with more than 40 homers, two of which came back-to-back with the Dodgers.
From 2001-02, he hit .291/.379/.579 with 91 home runs, finishing in sixth and fifth for NL MVP voting, respectively. His power dipped after 2002, but he continued to put up solid numbers at the plate for the remainder of his career.
Green retired in 2007 behind only Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg for home runs and RBI by a Jewish player.
10 WORST: Marquis Grissom
From his rookie season in 1990 to 1996, Marquis Grissom was one of the most dynamic outfielders in the game, with the ability to hit home runs, steal bases, and play Gold Glove defense. But by the time he arrived in LA, he was no longer stealing bases, his range in the outfield had diminished, and just about all he was good for was hitting the odd home run. And to be fair, he did hit quite a few of them in his two years with the team, including 21 in 2001, but he also hit just .221 that season and combined for an on-base percentage of .281 while in a Dodgers uniform.
9 BEST: Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre’s long, successful career began in LA, where he played for seven seasons. His first six years in the majors, he hit just .262 while averaging 16 home runs a year. But in 2004, his final season with the Dodgers, he broke out in a big way, finishing second in NL MVP voting after hitting .334/.388/.629 with a career-high 48 home runs and 121 RBI, arguably the best season put together by a Dodger player in the 21st century.
Since leaving LA, Beltre has gone on to have success with Seattle, Boston, and most recently Texas. He has finished in the top-15 for MVP voting every year since 2010, making a strong case for his induction into Cooperstown.
8 WORST: Andy Ashby
Andy Ashby spent 14 seasons in the majors, some of which were pretty good, including back-to-back All-Star seasons in 1998 and ’99. His time in LA, however, was anything but good.
Somehow, in three seasons with the Dodgers, he managed to put together a miserable .378 win-loss percentage on a team that won more than 54% of their games.
In particular, Ashby’s final season with the team was a train wreck. At 35 and quickly nearing the end of his career, he went 3-10 with a 5.18 ERA and a -10 runs better than average (RAA).
Worst of all, Ashby was the third-highest paid pitcher on the team in 2003, despite being the second-least valuable (after Odalis Perez) according to RAA and WAA.
7 BEST: Matt Kemp
After hitting .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs, 126 RBI, and 40 stolen bases while playing Gold Glove defenense, Matt Kemp came within a hair’s breadth of winning the MVP in 2011 (and he arguably should have won), losing out to Ryan Braun by just 51 vote points.
Kemp’s eight other seasons in LA might not have been quite as impressive as his MVP-runner up year, but he did enough to earn his place among the best of the century, hitting .292 with 182 home runs and 170 stolen bases.
Kemp left LA on a high note, winning player of the month in September 2014 after hitting .322 with nine home runs. He signed with the Padres the following season and was traded to the Braves in July of 2016.
6 WORST: Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins came to LA in 2015 with four Gold Gloves, three All-Star selections, a World Series ring, and an NL MVP, but all he left with was a blemish on his impressive career. As a Dodger, Rollins put up career-lows in batting average and on-base percentage while driving in just 41 runs, his second lowest RBI total for a full season.
At 36 years old, not much was expected from Rollins, who told the Los Angeles Times that his role with the team was to be more of a clubhouse leader than a stats leader, but, still, even for a player in his twilight years, his numbers were awful. His -1.9 wins above replacement put him dead last on the team that year.
5 BEST: Eric Gagne
Steroids or not, Eric Gagne was the most dominant closer of the early 21st century, saving 152 games (including a record 84 consecutive) from 2002-04 with the Dodgers, picking up the NL Cy Young in 2003.
Gagne’s post-Dodgers career was a different story, however. Due to arm and back injuries, he was unable to maintain the record-breaking pace he’d set for himself and was out of a job by the age of 32.
He attempted a comeback with the Dodgers in 2010, signing a minor league contract, but he asked for a release before the season started and announced his retirement on April 18.
After five years away from the game, Gagne returned to professional baseball in 2015 by joining the Trois-Rivieres Aigles of the independent Can-Am league.
4 WORST: John Ely
As an amateur, John Ely was one of the best pitchers in the country, earning all-state honors in high school and all-American at the University of Miami. His success at the amateur level, however, did not carry over into the pros—at least not at the big league level.
After starting his career with two successful outings, the Chicago Sun-Times referred to him as a “genuine pride of the South Side”(referring to his upbringing just outside of Chicago) and “a human wrecking ball.” The Sun-Times should have reserved their praise, however, as Ely proved to be more of a train wreck than a wrecking ball. He spent all three of his major league seasons with the Dodgers, combining for a record of 4-13 with a 5.70 ERA and a 1.509 WHIP from 2010-12. In his only full season, he went 4-10 with a 5.49 ERA.
3 BEST: Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke won his lone Cy Young Award when he was a member of the Royals, but his best seasons came when he was in LA (with the Dodgers, not the Angels). Kershaw might have been the ace, but Greinke made a strong case for being the team’s best pitcher in 2015, when he went 19-3 with a league-best 0.844 WHIP and a ridiculously low 1.66 ERA, the lowest ERA since Greg Maddux’s 1.63 in 1995.
Not only is he one of the best pitchers in the game, but he’s also one of the best fielding and hitting pitchers, with three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger to his name.
Greinke’s 51-15 record, 2.30 ERA, and 1.027 WHIP with the Dodgers earned him a huge payday with the Diamondbacks in 2015.
2 WORST: Andruw Jones
Five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones will deservedly go down as one of the best Atlanta Braves players of all time, but he certainly won't go down as one of the best Dodgers.
Jones arrived in LA after a down year with the Braves, but he was still regarded as one of the game's most talented all-around centerfielders, just a few seasons removed from a 51-homer, 128-RBI MVP-runner up campaign in 2005. But after signing a two-year, $36.2 million dollar deal, he came into town in the worst shape of his career, which led to diminished performance and an eventual injury.
After hitting just .158 with three home runs in 75 games, the team released him at the end of the season before his contract was up.
1 BEST: Clayton Kershaw
Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher to come around in years. His numbers (126-60, 2.37 ERA, 1,918 Ks in 1,760 IP) are even better than that of all-time Dodgers great Sandy Koufax.
In nine seasons, Kershaw has finished with an ERA lower than 2 a third of the time, which is especially impressive when you consider that no pitcher had finished with a sub-2 ERA since Roger Clemens in 2005.
Clayton only seems to be getting better with age, too. In 2015, he struck out a career-high 301 batters, while last year he was on pace to have his best season yet before a nagging back injury caused him to miss more than two months of action.
Should he maintain his current pace and remain healthy, Kershaw has the potential to go down as one of—if not the—greatest pitcher of all time. In fact, several sportswriters, including Les Carpenter of The Guardian and Dan Rubenstein of SB Nation, have suggested that the lefty from Texas can already lay claiming to being the greatest hurler ever.
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