Hey guys, Dodger girl is back. And she is NOT happy. Why? Well, the season has just started, and already so much has gone wrong. Is she over-reacting? Not really. Will this article be filled with rhetorical questions? Probably. Do I sometimes refer to myself in the third person? Most definitely.
Let’s back up a little bit. Mookie Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million extension with my Los Angeles Dodgers just days before the season started. Obviously, I was overjoyed. I mean, we have Mookie in LA through 2033 or something insane like that, so what could go wrong? We’ll get to that later. Anyway, Mookie signed, Andrew Friedman finally (FINALLY) got the guy we’ve all been dreaming about, and we couldn’t stop celebrating.
So we’re jumping up and down, screaming and yelling and cheering “forget about just one title” and “this lineup will be historic” and “60-0” until our masks fly right off of our faces. And then what happens? Just 24 hours later, Clayton Kershaw is placed on the IL for back stiffness. Uh-oh. Before we even had time to take “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled off repeat, red flag #1 creeps into our consciences. “Could Kershaw be hurt before the season even starts?” we wonder as we pray that My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay” won’t be the next song we feel compelled to load into the Spotify queue. But we press on, still (if with a lukewarm twinge) excited that baseball is finally returning and we still have that lineup, right?
So now we gear up for Dodgers-Giants. A rivalry that may have lost its bite over the last couple of years due to each team’s divergent statuses as contenders in the division, but still a familiar foe that we love beating every time. And game 1 wasn’t a disappointment. The result was favorable; the offense was slow to get going, but that was to be expected. And once they clicked, we got a taste of what this season was to become. And same with Game 2. But then they lost the next 2 games in typical Dodger fashion: leaving men on base, not being clutch, and all that jazz. An all-too-familiar story for a fandom that wouldn’t care about these two games in the first place if a) every game this season didn’t matter and b) this offense should be the last thing we need to worry about, especially against a rebuilding team like the Giants.
So all of a sudden, we’re a .500 ball club. And yes, that just means 2 and 2. And yes, as of writing this there are still 56 games to be played. And yes, some of the key members of this offense that so far have produced under expectations (last year’s MVP Cody Bellinger and Betts himself come to mind) will (hopefully) wake up. But there are a few nagging issues that, after this so-so start, I just can’t seem to shake.
Number 1: Will Mookie for the Dodgers become the next Albert Pujols for the Angels? Goodness gracious, I hope not. I mean, wow, how typically Dodgers would that be? We finally get the guy we’ve been itching for for the past 5+ seasons, and he ends up being the dud of all duds. That would suck, I’ll just say it.
Number 2: Will the Dodgers 7-year division winning streak come to an end in hugely disappointing fashion? I can only fear the worst. The Padres look pretty good early, folks, I won’t lie. And their loaded farm system (I know, you’re just as sick of hearing about it as I am of talking about it) is bound to produce at some point, so why not during this shortened season?
Number 3: Is the Dodgers window for title contention somehow CLOSED? It’s something I worry about every year. Fortune has been on our side for many years now, and I have this ugly feeling that the uneasiness we feel at the beginning of this season will only grow as the season continues. I mean, do we have enough starting pitching? Is our bullpen really as good as we want it to be? Was Bellinger’s MVP campaign a 1-year wonder? Will Corey Seager finally get a ball to land without a defensive opponent making a gold glove caliber play for the unlucky out? I can go on, but I will stop here.
Number 4: And finally, will this year be just like so many others before it, where our hopes are sky high just to be dashed by the Cubs, or the Cardinals, or the Astros, or the Nationals, or the Red Sox, or the Yankees, or literally any other team that they could possibly encounter in a play off scenario? I’m sure I join many Dodger fans when this whole best-of-3 first playoff round thing has me running for the hills. If I’m being honest, I don’t see the Dodgers EVER winning a series with high stakes like that attached to it. I guess I’ve just seen them crumble too many times to feel that they could actually show up when push comes to shove, and—for once—finish the job. And by finish the job, I mean actually FINISHING. Like, as in winning the ever-elusive World Series, and shutting crazy fans like me up once and for all.
As I’m writing this, I’m anticipating how this Dodgers-Astros series will go. And I think back to 2017, when everything seemed to be going our way. And then it was over, just like that. And I worry that similar expectations are being placed upon this year’s Dodgers squad, only more so because Belli, Corey, and Walker Buehler are progressing towards their primes, that Betts signing happened, and all of their other key pieces (Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner come to mind) are another year older, deserve to win a championship, and won’t be wearing Dodger Blue forever. But it all starts now, as the Dodgers go into Houston with an unconvincing 2-2 record and a MAJOR chip on their shoulders.
So once again, am I being histrionic when I say that this early, underwhelming version of the Los Angeles Dodgers could spell trouble for a season that is already holding on by a string in the midst of a pandemic? I don’t know, you tell me. All I know is that if this season does play out in its entirety, I will be holding on to every game like it’s game 7 of the World Series. And so far, I can’t say I love what I’m seeing. But you know what I would love? For my Boys in Blue to prove to me that I’m being nuts, that all my worrying was for naught, and that when October rolls around I can finally break out the champagne and blast DJ Khaled until the neighbors glare at me from their living room windows. I’ll keep the MCR queued up for now, but hopefully not for long.
Cover photo courtesy of Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
I am a recent UC Santa Barbara graduate and currently on the writing and marketing teams for The Bullpen. My background is largely in sports broadcasting and social media marketing, and I have been a passionate Dodger fan since I was little. I am very excited to be a part of this baseball media conglomerate, and I can't wait to take The Bullpen to the top!