Did the Dodgers Disappoint Again?

AJ Pollock walks off the field after he was the final out of the series (LA Times)

On the night of Saturday, October 23rd, the Atlanta Braves got themselves sweet revenge: a National League Championship, a trip to the World Series, and a playoff series win against the Dodgers. The Braves played a well-fought, impressive 6 games and you really got to hand it to them. The Dodgers ended up inching out a win over the Giants, but that was only to fall to the Braves in the NLCS. Unfortunately, the Dodgers’ talent, high payroll, and big-name players were not enough this season.  

After a dominant performance in the 5th game of the NLCS, which left the series standing at 3-2 (Braves), Chris Taylor’s historic three home run performance reignited hope in the Dodger clubhouse. The Dodgers could once again come back from a multi-game deficit against the Atlanta Braves. But, this time, their efforts fell short. The team displayed similar patterns in this series to what they did in all the games prior. One night, they’d score 11 runs, and then the next, they’d fail to tally three. Their offense’s inconsistency was truly this team’s downfall. That and the fact that many of their several high-paid, star players failed to show. The likes of Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger killed their chances of going back-to-back in the World Series.

Ever since the Dodgers allowed their biggest rivals, the San Francisco Giants to pass them in the NL West Standings, I knew the team didn’t have it. This team follows patterns, it’s in their blood, and one of those patterns is choking when it matters most. Honestly, I’m not even sure how they managed to muster a championship last year. Maybe it was the shortened season or maybe it was the added personality and chemistry that Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez brought to the team.

One thing is for certain, though; whatever element they had in 2020 was nonexistent this year. The team had several chances throughout the season to overtake the Giants, to reclaim their reign over the division, but there was always something that happened. It was Corey Seager making a defensive error, Cody Bellinger’s horrid offense, Kenley Jansen blowing a save, or just the whole team paralyzed by its inability to score runs. 

The 2021 payroll for the Dodgers stood at the mighty, record-breaking $267,200,832. Their payroll is more than double the league average ($130,783,744) and puts them over $60 million more than the next highest paying team, the New York Yankees. The Dodgers’ payroll and star power are astronomical, which means that the team should have an impressive showing consistently. In Game 5, an elimination game, Corey Seager, Mookie Betts, and Trea Turner went a combined 0-11. Dodgers writer Blake Harris reported on Twitter the Dodger’s four best hitters of the series: Corey Seager (.167 AVG), Mookie Betts (.174 AVG), Will Smith (.217 AVG), and Trea Turner (.240 AVG). Comparing those statistics to their hitting averages in the regular season, a significant drop-off could be seen. Those are the players you need to hit—the ones you rely on to bring you runs​​—but when it mattered most, they could not provide.

Los Angeles was a team that was supposed to have strong depth, but they were caught off guard after injuries began piling up in the regular and postseason. On opening day, the Dodgers starting pitcher rotation was projected to be Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and Dustin May. By the end of the regular season, only two pitchers remained: Buehler and Urías. At the trade deadline, the team did add Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer, along with Trea Turner, who greatly assisted the team in their postseason run. When Max Muncy, Clayton Kershaw, and eventually Justin Turner were taken out on medical, the team’s replacements didn’t have the stuff to muster a win.

Time and time again, when the Dodgers needed something, it never appeared. Their biggest downfall? The offense’s inconsistency. That inconsistency was on full display in the NLCS, NLDS, and regular season. One night, hitters would demolish a team scoring nine runs, but the next game, they would get one or two hits. Had the team been able to score consistently throughout all their games, their ending would have been different.

After coming off a championship season, and being the world series favorites, the Dodgers were expected to win it all again. Falling anywhere short of that, like they did, is considered a disappointment by many fans. The Dodgers management will have some difficult decisions to make in the upcoming weeks and months. Notable Dodger free agents include Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, and Albert Pujols. Walker Buehler said in some of his season closing remarks, “I hope everyone is back, but that’s not the reality of this situation.”