You kind of knew it was over for the Dodgers the minute they acquired Lance Lynn. Lance Lynn? This is the Dodgers, for Christ’s sake! When they need help in the rotation, they go get Zack Greinke, or Yu Darvish, or Max Scherzer. They shop at the supermarket that plebs like you and I aren’t even allowed to look at from the outside. Lance Lynn is the 70s recliner left in the alley. He was torch paper for the White Sox. This is what the Dodgers had to resort to?
The Dodgers are once again done before the World Series, and certainly before winning it, which they’ve only half-done in this decade of running over the NL West (except for that one time. And that other, kinda). They will be lumped in with 90’s Atlanta or the Bills, or may even be the new standard bearer of regular-season monsters who always seem to fall victim to the vicious, capricious nature of the postseason that renders whatever else they’ve accomplished moot. Or so goes the story.
To be fair to this particular version of the Dodgers, despite the 100 wins, it is perhaps the most handicapped Dodgers team to enter the playoffs. Tony Gonsolin was hurt. Dustin May was hurt. Walker Buehler never made the post. Julio Urias proved himself to be an abusive dickhead. Clayton Kershaw is old and fragile and looked both in his one postseason start. They were always battling with maybe 40 percent of a rotation worthy of a World Series contender. The Diamondbacks may not be all that good (though they probably will be soon), but they do sport one Cy Young contender (Zac Gallen) and one very solid No. 2 (Merrill Kelly). That was an enormous advantage even if there was a canyon between the two teams in the regular season. That canyon shrinks to a mere creek in the Division Series when Gallen and Kelly get to throw such a large percentage of the innings in it.
And the Dodgers didn’t hit, especially with runners on. Just like they didn’t last year against the Padres. It’s pretty simple. The Division Series doesn’t let you wait around to click back into gear like May does.
But the baseball universe doesn’t want to hear that. It doesn’t want to hear that every Dodgers defeat is kind of unique. In 2013, 2014, and 2016, they lost to superior National League teams. In 2015 they got deGrom’d. In 2017 and 2018 they lost to better AL teams, though one was cheating, and only beat them in a coin flip Game 7.
In 2019 the Nationals were able to pare down their roster to use basically six pitchers, three of them starters, turning them from a wildcard team into a behemoth. Atlanta was Atlanta in 2021. They’re all explainable if not defendable.
But amass this many October defeats, and the conclusion from everyone has to be that there’s something internal that’s rotting. There’s a shortcoming that they can’t find. We thought it was Dave Roberts for a while, and maybe it was. Not much he can do about a team that has no starters and can’t hit for part of a week, though. The playoff losses that have doomed them are a very small percentage of the thousand-plus games they’ve played the past 10 years. Barely a ripple, and yet they’re the ones with the most weight attached. Over that long of a timeline, they’re essentially inches away from multiple World Series wins.
But they’re not and they didn’t. And they’ll always be judged against their contemporaries in Houston, who rose to prominence at the same time and have two actual Series wins instead of the fun-size one the Dodgers have. They very well may add a third in a couple weeks. That’s seen as more legitimate, even though in total the Dodgers have won more games over the past 10 years.
Is there something internal? Or is it that in the past two falls they’ve faced Gallen, Kelly, Snell, Darvish, and Musgrove, and sometimes those guys are just going to keep you down? Sure, you have to beat good pitching to win in October, but other than the Astros coming up against a top-of-the-rotation guy every day is no better than a 50-50 prospect. Hey, even the Astros were hypnotized by Pablo Lopez just a couple days ago. They didn’t have any answers for Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin in 2019 either, nor Atlanta in 2021, or the Red Sox in 2018. Boy, these resumes are starting to look more alike, aren’t they?
It is freakish that the Dodgers keep coming up snake eyes in the playoffs, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. It doesn’t take that many factors to build it up like this — injuries here, a banging trash can there, another team on NBA Jam fire to boot — and suddenly the years roll by.
Eventually, Buehler will be back. So will May. Ohtani may be on the way. Nick Frasso and Gavin Stone are probably names we should get used to.
And it could all go pear-shaped again come October ‘24. Nature of the thing. Take something like a baseball season and team that’s meant to play out over a long stretch and suddenly throw it into a tiny cauldron and any kind of chemical reaction is possible.
We’ll all claim that a couple playoff losses here and there undoes the hundreds and hundreds of wins surrounding them. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. It’s just a silly system. Silliest for the Dodgers though, which is just weird.
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