Hernández: These Dodgers could be historic, or another October disaster in the making


The day before the Dodgers were set to open their season, New Balance released the signature logo it designed for Shohei Ohtani. The insignia unveiling was a reminder that as focused as Ohtani is said to be on baseball, he is also a one-man commercial enterprise, set to play an oversized role on and off the field for the team this year.

Baseball and business will come together Wednesday when the Dodgers officially unveil the most anticipated lineup in their history.

Mookie Betts.

Ohtani.

Freddie Freeman.

The first pitch of the game against the San Diego Padres is scheduled to be delivered at 7:05 p.m. local time, making this opening day an opening night. This is entirely appropriate. With the brand power of the Dodgers and the celebrity of Ohtani, this feels like the premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster.

“It’s a special opening day, in that we’re playing in South Korea and I’m playing for a new team,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I think the degree of my excitement is different [than it was for previous opening days].”

The atmosphere promises to be worthy of the event. The two exhibition games the Dodgers played earlier this week at Gocheok Sky Dome featured nonstop noise from the first pitch to the last.

“Very electric,” pitcher Tyler Glasnow said. “I hope we can adopt that back home. It’s great. It’s been really cool.”

Pop music blared from the public-address system through the entire game, even when pitches were about to be thrown. Dance teams were stationed along each of the foul lines, led by emcees who were part in-game hosts, part cheerleaders and part Vegas street performers.

Unlike when the Dodgers opened their season in Australia in 2014, they don’t have to sell baseball to an audience that knows nothing about it. Baseball is one of the two most popular sports in South Korea — soccer is the other — and two of the country’s greatest players here Dodgers: Chan Ho Park and Hyun-Jin Ryu. These fans will understand they’re watching a special team.

“Everybody enjoys the game, respects the game, which is super dope to be a part of,” Betts said.

The last team to have former MVPs batting 1-2-3 was the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies, who had Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt at the top of their lineup.

But Morgan and Rose were near the ends of their careers, with the 39-year-old Morgan batting .230 that season and the 42-year-old Rose .245.

The Dodgers’ Three Tenors remain in their primes.

Last year, Betts hit a career-high 39 home runs, Ohtani won his second MVP award in three years, and Freeman batted .331.

These Dodgers could be historic. They could also be another October disaster in the making.

The promise, and potential dangers, of this team is represented in Glasnow, its opening day starter.

A graduate of Hart High in Santa Clarita, Glasnow was acquired in an offseason trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and signed to a $136.5-million extension. The 30-year-old Glasnow, who stands 6 feet 8, is one of the best pitchers in baseball when he’s healthy. The problem is that he’s often not, the 21 starts he made last year representing the most he has ever made.

Pointing to how he was another season removed from the elbow reconstruction surgery he underwent 2½ years ago, Glasnow said he was hopeful his career was about to take off.

“I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now,” he said.

He better be.

Behind him are questions followed by more questions

Game 2 starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto has never pitched in the major leagues and registered an alarming 8.38 ERA in his three spring-training appearances.

Free-agent addition James Paxton is 35 and also a major injury risk. Second-year right-hander Bobby Miller showed elite arm talent last year but his inconsistency resulted in a postseason nightmare. Fellow second-year right-hander Gavin Stone has looked like a different pitcher than he was in his disheartening rookie campaign, but spring training isn’t the regular season.

Former All-Star Walker Buehler is expected to return about a month into the season but hasn’t pitched in a year and a half.

Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May could theoretically return late in the season, but the Dodgers probably shouldn’t count on either of them, considering they are recovering from major surgeries.

Another potential problem surfaced in spring training, which is that Gavin Lux, who previously had difficulties throwing the ball, once again had problems throwing the ball.

Lux, who was returning from a knee operation that sidelined him for all of last season, was projected to be the starting shortstop.

Desperate to keep the left-handed-hitting Lux’s bat in the lineup, the Dodgers moved Lux to second base and asked Betts to play shortstop. Betts hasn’t played shortstop regularly since high school and he has tried to compensate for that by taking an inordinate amount of grounders every day.

When the Dodgers have a perfectly capable shortstop in Miguel Rojas — albeit one who can’t hit — why would they risk wearing down Betts?

In other words, while they have positioned themselves to be spectacular in the wake of their $1.2-billion winter spending spree, they have also positioned themselves to be spectacularly disappointing.

They have produced plenty of drama in their history, but they’ve never had the reach they have now. The world has become their stage.

A season unlike any before it is about to start. Time will tell whether they become a blockbuster hit or a big-budget flop.



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