By: Hayden Cunningham
Two heartbreaking seasons and they’re restless. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the heavy favorites to be the National League champions this year, which would mean their third consecutive World Series appearance.
Easily on their to way to a seventh consecutive Division title, the Dodgers of today resemble the winning spirit of teams of the past. The 2017 team, one of the best the franchise has seen since moving to Los Angeles, had almost no weaknesses and lost in a disappointing game seven of the Houston Astros. The 2018 team was good, but their National League success was largely due to the lack of competition.
This year’s team is a combination of both. The lineup is lethal. The starting rotation is unstoppable. And on top of that, no other National League team posses a real threat to Los Angeles. The success is largely due to the emergence of the new and improved Cody Bellinger. Not only has he replicated his home run power from his rookie season, he can hit for average as well. He nearly has the same amount of walks as strikeouts. He leads in outfield assists. Now put him in a lineup with the consistent Justin Turner, rookie sensation Alex Verdugo, and the new A.J. Pollock. Not to mention Max Muncy‘s efforts to show he’s not a one-year wonder, and Corey Seager who has much to prove after missing almost all of last season to Tommy John surgery.
While no team has been able to completely contain the lineup, there is one flaw that teams are taking advantage of: the bullpen. The Dodgers have been known for their long history of elite pitchers. And although they have long-time ace Clayton Kershaw and ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu, their relief pitchers have been unreliable in any high leveration situation. Kenley Jansen is not the closer he used to be and Pedro Baez has been overused. Joe Kelly has not lived up to the hype he was given during the offseason, and Julio Urias is not in a starter role only because he’s needed more in the bullpen.
Fix the bullpen and a world series win is guaranteed. It’s that simple. But for the Dodgers front office, they’d rather be competitive every year and not make it all the way then win a ring and be weak. For instance, look at the future World Series contenders. The Detorit Tigers, San Fransico Giants, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, and the Boston Red Sox put it all on the line for a chance at winning the World Series. And while some of them did in fact win, the next few seasons showed a complete loss of true competitiveness.
For the Dodgers, they may need to roll the dice and go all-or-nothing. Their farm system is ranked 3rd in the MLB and they don’t have a need for any lineup improvements. A trade for two or three elite relievers could be the difference. The fans are restless and eager for a bullpen upgrade. Baseball is a game of inches, and finding closers who can shut down elite batters in the post season is key.
The problem finding these coveted relievers is the competition in the National League. Nearly every team except the Miami Marlins finds themselves in a respectable distance away from playoff contention. We may not see many trades before the July 31st deadline until July 30th. Look at pitchers like Tony Watson, Will Smith, Brad Hand, and Shane Green to be in rumored trade talk with Los Angeles.
Dodgers management could be largely to blame for the consecutive World Series losses. Dave Roberts have made many postseason calls that were criticized by fans and even the President of the United States. It comes to a point where a loss isn’t just put on the players, but the organization as well.
Of course we want to see the boys in blue win a World Series. But being able to watch your team in a World Series is something to appreciate. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to root for your team throughout the entire postseason. This year may be different. After two failed attempts, we want to see a championship. And I’d be willing to enjoy a World Series now and watch them be less competitive for the next few years than to watch defeat for the third year in a row.