LOS ANGELES -- It says a lot about the Dodgers' 2012 season of transition that the top five moments took place off the field and not on it.
On the field was a disappointment, the result of too many injuries and not enough production. For the third consecutive season, the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs, even with a midseason influx of established stars.
Oddly, the bargain roster played better in the first half than the upgraded version in the second half. The club spent all but nine days in first place before the All-Star break and only nine days in first place after the break. It wasn't until a late September 7-1 run that the new-look roster showed what it was capable of, but that was too late to catch St. Louis for the last Wild Card spot.
In fairness, 2011 MVP runner-up Matt Kemp was never the same after suffering a May hamstring injury, and neither were the Dodgers. Kemp was injured again running into the fence at Coors Field on Aug. 28, ultimately needing shoulder surgery.
Kemp was one of 21 players that spent 29 stints on the disabled list, undergoing 12 surgical procedures. Ouch.
Chad Billingsley missed six weeks with an elbow injury and is hopeful of avoiding Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly got off to the best start of his career, only to miss four months with a shoulder injury and ultimately need surgery. Reliever Matt Guerrier missed four months with a sore elbow, Javy Guerra had knee and shoulder surgery, Mark Ellis nearly lost his leg in a freak injury that required surgery, Kenley Jansen had heart surgery and on and on it went.
There were bright spots. Clayton Kershaw nearly duplicated his Cy Young season and overcame a right hip scare, leading a pitching staff that more than did its part.
Catcher A.J. Ellis proved wrong the doubters in his first full season, handling the club's excellent pitching staff while providing more offense than even the club expected. Luis Cruz, previously a career Minor Leaguer, took over third base and delivered two solid months to earn a chance for 2013. Brandon League worked out a mechanical flaw after his acquisition and emerged as the closer, while Ronald Belisario rebounded from a year off and drug issues to reclaim his role as setup man.
5. The goliath: While the transformed roster never jelled and failed to secure a postseason berth, management dominated the free-agent market in December by signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract, a record for a right-hander, and making an international splash by committing $62 million to secure Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.
4. At the mikes: The new owners also understood the value of the franchise's treasured voices, announcing in late August that Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin would return for 2013, in Jarrin's case extending his contract through 2015.
3. The money: The Dodgers dealt away prospects in a bold, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to win a title immediately, picking up more than $300 million in future payroll obligations. Having earlier signed Cuban free agent Yasiel Puig for $42 million and tacking an additional $85 million to Andre Ethier's contract, the jaw-dropping trades to reshape the roster with marquee names showed that new ownership would walk the walk.
2. The trades: The most expensive purchase in American sports history led to a pair of transformational player transactions, the July 25 trade with Miami for Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate, then the Aug. 25 trade with Boston for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. The club also added League, outfielder Shane Victorino and pitcher Joe Blanton.
1. The sale: Each moment was defined by a transaction, triggered by the mother of all baseball transactions, the $2.15 billion bankruptcy sale of the franchise from Frank McCourt to Guggenheim Baseball Management that was announced March 27 and closed May 1. The new owners brought the deep pockets of Guggenheim chairman Mark Walter, Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton; the sports management expertise of CEO Stan Kasten; the iconic popularity of Magic Johnson; and the entertainment acumen of Peter Guber.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.