Get Gerrit Cole, bolster your pitching staff, make other solid offseason moves and put yourself in a position to make another World Series run.
Sure, the disappointment of leaving a potential championship on the table leaves a sting as the Dodgers, with the highest payroll in baseball, now have all winter to think about what may have been following yet another devastating end following their 7-3 loss to Washington Wednesday night in the best-of-five National League Divisional Series.
The core of their lineup will be returning next season, but players like infielder David Freese, catcher Russell Martin and pitchers Hyun Jin Ryu and Rich Hill could be gone to free agency or retirement in Hill’s case.
Cory Bellinger, who didn’t have great numbers against the Nationals, looks to be the league’s MVP, Max Muncy, with his big bat, has become a star, Justin Turner is as good as they come at third, and Joc Pederson is a solid lead off hitter. They all return next season, bringing hope that the Dodgers will be back in the postseason limelight.
Pursuing Cole, who has pitched lights out for Houston, after the season and making a bid for Cleveland free agent Francisco Lindor, the Indians’ superstar 25-year-old short shop, are potential acquisitions that make sense.
Looking back, what’s most disappointing is that expectations for the Dodgers to win their first world championship since 1988 were so high, considering they won their 7th straight National League Western Division title, a franchise record 106 regular season games, had 12 walk-off wins and were, perhaps, the best team ever assembled in club history.
Losing to the Nationals, being up in the series 2-1 going into Game 4, will make for a long offseason. But despite the setbacks of not winning it all, they’re a team that likely will always be in contention to reach the playoffs. They’re doing it right, winning games – lots of them – just not the key ones following the regular season.
Give credit to the Nationals, a team that came out of a 19-30 hole at the start of the season playing without Bryce Harper who left for Philadelphia, went on to beat Milwaukee in the wild card matchup – trailing 3-1 in the eighth before coming back to win – and took the NLDS series against the Dodgers to a deciding fifth game and won it 7-3, helped by a grand slam by Howie Kendrick in the 10th Wednesday night.
It may be their time to win it all, while the Dodgers can only ponder another disappointing finish, as manager Dave Roberts will be questioned into next season for some of his decisions, many wondering why he brought in Clayton Kershaw, who gave up two homers in the eighth with the Dodgers leading 3-1, and watched as the future Hall of Fame pitcher continue to struggle in the postseason. The failure of reliever Joe Kelly, who loaded the bases in the top of the 10th, giving up the grand slam to Kendrick, will leave many asking what about Kenley Jansen or Kenta Maeda in that situation?
“It’s one of those things, we got beat and I’m just disappointed for our team,” Dodger manager Dave Roberts said after the game.
Added Kershaw, a standup guy who took all the blame, after giving up back-to-back homers, making it 3-3. “It’s a terrible feeling, there’s no excuses, didn’t make pitches and guys hit it over the fence twice. I had one job to do. Just get three outs. Got one out and didn’t get the other two. Went over the fence and cost us the game right there. It’s a terrible feeling. No excuses. Just didn’t make the pitches and the guy hit it over the fence, twice.”
“It’s just tough,” said and emotional starter Walker Buehler, who pitched into the seventh, handing the ball to Kershaw with two out with the Dodgers leading 3-1.
Yet it wasn’t all pitching that ended the Dodgers season. The biggest players in the biggest game of the season didn’t come through with everything on the line. Bellinger was just 4 of 19 with seven strikeouts against Washington, all singles. Offseason acquisition A.J. Pollack struck out 11 of his 13 at bats and was replaced in the starting lineup.
On the positive side, Muncy hit three homers in his 5 for 19 performance, with seven RBI.
A two run lead in the 8th, with six outs to go, playing Game 5 at home, it’s disappointing because the Dodgers live at a high standard expecting to win every year.
With all the money to get top players, a solid fan base bringing in more than 3 million every year, and all the success they’ve had, yet not winning it all for a long time, the Dodgers are viewed on a different level.
Losing out year after year like they have means criticism, justified or not, will come their way. It hurts, because of the dollars behind the team and the talent pool are there, and not winning it all for the Dodger faithful is simply unacceptable, meaning the long wait for a world championship continues.