In preparation for a 2020 season that looks like it might actually happen, I’ve been going around the major leagues to write mean things about each team. This time, I’ll talk about a team that, despite many opportunities to do so, can’t seem to win the World Series: The Los Angeles Dodgers
Brief history of the franchise
The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and were immediately successful. They played in nine World Series from 1958-1988, winning five of them. Since that time, winning the World Series has proved quite elusive for the Dodgers. Sure, they make the playoffs regularly enough, but over the past 32 years, they’ve fallen short of the ultimate goal every time.
What happened in 2019
The Dodgers won the National League West only to (any guesses?) lose in the playoffs. However, they decided to mix it up a bit this time, and lose in the NLDS instead of the World Series. The ultimate loss in that series came in extra innings after they blew a 3-0 lead at home.
Someone: You think the Dodgers gonna choke again this year?— Jacqueline Martinez (@j_guizado) October 7, 2019
Former manager Don Mattingly was fired after five seasons, even though the team made the playoffs in the final three. Then again, it still isn’t entirely clear if he was fired, or quit, or something else. Dave Roberts is now entering his fifth season as manager, and despite having a talent-laden team at his command, has a similar lack of championships.
Yes, he has captured two National League pennants, and the team has won over 100 games in two of the past three seasons. But when a team is in as much of a win now mode as the Dodgers clearly are, it makes you wonder how much slack he really has.
This is why Dave Roberts hasn’t won the big one. You can’t get fired, if you don’t win a World Series .— Chad (@ChadK34) January 22, 2020
Bellinger and Kershaw: The Choke Brothers
A big reason why the Dodgers lost in the playoffs is because two of their best players came up extremely small. Cody Bellinger deservedly won the 2019 MVP award, but he’s lucky that voters don’t take the postseason into consideration. He batted a robust .211 in the series, with one extra base hit in 21 plate appearances.
Bellinger has only been in the league for three seasons, but he’s already built up a solid reputation as a playoff choker. His career playoff OPS is a not-so-valuable .560.
Me and you reading this combined for the same number of RBIs as @Cody_Bellinger in the NLDS— Casey Purtle (@casey_purtle) October 11, 2019
As bad as he’s been, Bellinger has a long way to go to match the postseason flameouts of teammate Clayton Kershaw. Kerhsaw is likely going to end up in the Hall of Fame one day, but if any voters are undecided, his postseason exploits aren’t going to help his case.
Kershaw made two appearances in the 2019 NLDS. His first was a mediocre start in which he gave up three runs in six innings. In his second appearance, he was brought into game five as a reliever, as the Dodgers were trying to hold onto a two-run lead. How did that go?
Anthony Rendon : 3-5, 3 runs scored & an RBI— Lee Harvey (@AyeThatsLee) October 10, 2019
Juan Soto : 2-4, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI & drew a walk
(Both hit back-to-back solo HR's off of Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the 8th inning) pic.twitter.com/yYQ0HiHtMD
Now let’s talk about Jonathan Broxton!
Kerhsaw isn’t the first prominent Dodgers pitcher to repeatedly choke in the playoffs. You may remember a fellow named Jonathan Broxton. In 2008 he was considered an up-and-coming young closer. And then this happened:
To his credit, Broxton shook off that failure to have a strong season in 2009. In the postseason, the Dodgers once again faced off against the Phillies in the NLCS. In game four, he was asked protecting a one-run lead in the ninth. He did not succeed.
What to expect in 2020
The Dodgers appear determined to throw as much talent at possible at that pesky not winning the World Series problem. They added Mookie Betts and David Price in an offseason trade, in the hope that they’ll be enough to put the team over the top.
Before Dodgers fans run out to pre-order their championship gear, they should be reminded that Betts (.654 postseason OPS for his career) and Price (4.62 postseason ERA) are no strangers to playoff failures. On the bright side, if the team chokes yet again, Bellinger and Kerhsaw might not have to take the brunt of the blame for it.