Hi everyone. Dodger girl is back, and she’s feeling uneasy today. Why? Well, the 2020 MLB regular season, despite taking forever to get off the ground and hitting major bumps along the way, is coming to an end. And you know what that means: IT’S PLAYOFF TIME! And she feels, well, so/so about it.
Reader, you’ve taken this journey with me for two months now, and together we’ve been through it all. At the start of the season, there was the initial angst that OF Mookie Betts wouldn’t produce as a Dodger (was that just me?), the looming threat that the upstart Padres would make some noise this season (they did, and likely still will—I’ll get to that later), and the fear that LA’s bullpen options were underwhelming at best (well, I can’t be right about everything). Much to my satisfaction but not surprise, we saw the Boys in Blue win some series this season. And while certain players still haven’t produced up to expectations, the Los Angeles Dodgers still rank in the top tier of MLB teams in nearly every facet of the game. All good stuff. Fast forward to now, and they are on the verge of clinching their eighth consecutive division title.
Yay, right? I mean, I guess.
Listen, you can’t blame me for not breaking out the booze just yet. I know how this story goes — right around now is when we all get super excited. The Dodgers end the regular season well, they clinch home field throughout most of the postseason, they do their thing. We all get super antsy because we know in our hearts that the regular season is a mere dress rehearsal for the big show, and they are only a few games away from finally winning it all. And while we are mentally debating which shoes will be most comfortable during that glorious World Series championship parade, we start to bracket watch to see who our opponent will be from the first round on. We root for some teams to win and other teams to lose because we know that matchups are everything, and we pray extra hard for the health of all of the guys we know will produce for LA in October. And then, when the first game is just hours away, we get that all-too-familiar yucky feeling. The one where we think maybe, just maybe, this postseason might be a disappointment. That the moment will be too big for this team, and that so-and-so other team is hot right now. That this player will come up short, or that player hasn’t looked good this season, or our opponents will have the edge as they have for so many years before. But we wave that off. We decide that our white high top converse would look great with our Kershaw jerseys, and we settle in, believing with all of our blue-bleeding hearts that this is our year. Because one year has to be our year, and this, we have determined, is the one.
Ahhh, late September. Very blissful, a little nerve-wracking, but mostly exciting. You’ve been there, I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. But this year, I just don’t know. Here are a couple things I don’t know about.
- The San Diego Padres
Gosh, what can I say that hasn’t already been said loudly by Padres Twitter? They’re probably the toughest competition we would have to face in order to make it to the World Series, and they’re good, there’s no denying it. They have everything the Dodgers have, minus the lack of postseason experience. But as we’ve seen before, sometimes that matters, and other times it doesn’t. It’s all a crapshoot. Losing to them has been my biggest fear all season (like, I’ve had night terrors about it. Ask my fellow Bullpen staffers if you think I’m joking), and I would rather the Dodgers fall to any other team than San Diego. Let’s just hope that the Manny Machado prediction from a few years back doesn’t come true.
2. Kenley Jansen
Again, and I say this with the most exasperated of sighs: some things just don’t change. Some nights he’s good, other nights he’s really not. I don’t know. Dave Roberts loves him, the team loves him, and I guess he has to be on for us to have a chance at the title anyway. Like, he’s not going to not pitch. So fingers crossed, I guess?
3. Our lefty bats
I’ve been plenty vocal about my love for OF Cody Bellinger, and I’m not going to sit here and say that my infatuation is any weaker than it was when he was hoisting that MVP trophy not too long ago. With that said, certainly by this point I was hoping his bat would’ve caught fire. But he’s not alone. INF Max Muncy hasn’t been very good, OF Joc Pederson has been even worse, and 2B Gavin Lux’s fielding is somehow worse than his hitting. While guys like Chris Taylor, AJ Pollock, and Will Smith have been pleasant surprises on the right-handed side of the plate—and of course we still have Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner hitting at the top of the order—we will need all of our guys to produce offensively if we expect to have a shot at the ultimate prize.
There are many other things I don’t know about. How about the starting pitching, for one; will Walker Buehler be ready/healthy enough to go deep into postseason games? Will Kershaw be the ace that we all know he can be? Will Julio Urias not allow a billion runs in the first inning? Will the young guys be able to handle the big moment? I will go out on a limb and say that our bullpen is strong enough to handle possible rotation shortcomings, but even saying that is difficult. Bottom line, they are way passed overdue to get the job done, like done done. And I can’t sit through another Dave Roberts postgame press conference (yes, he’s another concern) with his all-too-familiar line of “We had our chances but just couldn’t get it done” or the even sadder “We’ll learn from this and be better next year.”
Yes, things will have to be clicking on all cylinders for the Dodgers to get their 2020 World Series rings. But that’s every team every year (unless you get trash cans involved), and as we’ve seen time and time again, the hottest October team isn’t always the one that’s favored to win it all. As of now, the Dodgers are the Vegas favorites, and they’ve been in that position before. So my fellow LA diehards, my recommendation is to keep your expectations low. Don’t let that same excitement you feel every year blind you from the fact that there is no benefit to being the best team in baseball, and that come October, every team is 0-0. To get to and win the World Series, they will have to face some tough opponents, and if you ask me, I’m f-ing terrified. I don’t want to cry in the corner of my bedroom with the lights off after the Dodgers are eliminated in whatever round that happens this year, but I will. And I’ll hate the world. And I’ll curse the Baseball Gods for allowing me to care about a group of men wearing identical jerseys as much as I do. But then I’ll cool off, social media will become more manageable, the front office will add a shiny piece in the offseason, and the toxic cycle will repeat itself.
Dodger fans everywhere, you won’t hear from me again until LA’s 2020 playoff run has ended, at whatever point that may be. So I will leave you with this thought: I, more than anyone else in the world, want them to win the championship this year. I want this whole anxiety to be over, and I want to be celebrating with my mom, grandma, and all of my Dodger-fan friends when this postseason is all said and done. But as always, I have my doubts. I just don’t want to be right for once, and let’s hope for my sanity, and for all those around me, that I’m not. Be strong, blue bleeders, and prepare for a wild ride ahead.
The white high tops are ready — are we?
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!