Do you know that team that's always dangerous? Well, guess what? They're dangerous again. I always fall for this trip. Every year I convince myself this will be the "struggling" Dodger team. I use air quotes with "struggling" because the Dodgers' definition of struggling is winning 92 games and running away with the NL West. But for so much of the season, I did feel like that division was a bit more wide-open than expected. The Diamondbacks looked great in the first half, and the Giants played some really good baseball after getting off to a slow start. But the Los Angeles Dodgers in the regular season are inevitable. Despite many injuries and a decimated rotation, the Dodgers have once again established themselves as one of baseball's finest teams. They may be the only team that has a chance to knock off the Atlanta Braves in the National League.
From a regular season standpoint, we take the Los Angeles Dodgers for granted. There have been some Dodger teams that may have been better than others. But year in and year out, this team has an abundance of star players and usually a few Hall of Famers. They have two first-ballot Hall of Famers at the top of their lineup. Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman, two guys who have won MVP awards in the past, are having some of their best seasons in 2023. They have carried the Dodgers this season, especially when the rotation just hasn't held up the way it has in the past.
The Dodgers just fix people. Of course, players like Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts have never needed any fixing, but the Dodgers do a better job than anyone of maximizing talent. I remember thinking Jason Heyward's career was over in 2017. The fact that he's come out of nowhere and has had one of his better seasons in a decade is a testament to the Dodgers' ability to turn careers around. Lance Lynn had the worst year of his career with the White Sox. He comes over to the Dodgers, and suddenly he's lights out. They are a big market team that incorporates small market analytics. That's why they win.
You rarely have a Los Angeles Dodgers team that is the hunter, not the hunted. For the last decade, they've been the cream of the crop in the National League. I knew a few years ago they didn't win the division, but they won 106 games and came into the NLCS against the Braves as the odds-on favorite. That most likely will not be the case this year. Atlanta has been far away the best team in baseball this season. This may work to the Dodgers' advantage. Over the last decade, they have not played well as favorites in the postseason. I know people point to the Covid year championship in 2020 as the year in which all their demons got exercised. Still, an organization with this much talent needs to do more than win a Covid championship if they want to preserve their legacy. They've been the favorite in multiple playoff series, and they've spit it up.
The Dodgers have seen many players come and go over the last decade or so, but this era of dodger baseball has been the Clayton Kershaw era. There have been a lot of rumors about what will happen to Kershaw after this year. He could retire or sign a one-year deal with somebody else, though, damn, it would be weird seeing Clayton Kershaw wearing anything other than a Dodger uniform. He got his ring in 2020, and I was happy to see it, but it would be a tough pill for Dodger fans to swallow, knowing that was all they got out of the Clayton Kershaw error. They've bizarrely flown under the radar as a team this season, and maybe that's for the best. This may be the year they break through, not as the favorite, but as the underdog.￼￼