Once again, Major League Baseball will not have a repeat champion as the Los Angeles Dodgers were eliminated by the Atlanta Braves in six games in the National League Championship Series. It was a grueling, taxing year for Los Angeles that didn’t end the way anyone with ties to the organization wanted but the writing was on the wall before the elimination game.
Throughout the season, the Dodgers battled countless injuries and it was a miracle they were able to win 106 games in the first place. Starting from the offseason when the front office decided the best course of action was to sign Trevor Bauer to a record free agent deal, the Dodgers season may have been doomed. Bauer pitched well in his starts with Los Angeles before assault allegations hit him and he was placed on a permanent leave. It remains to be seen what exactly will happen with him but for the Dodgers sake, they should cut ties all together and view the signing as a brief disaster in time.
The Bauer situation may have caused a slight distraction within the Dodgers clubhouse, but the team rallied around its other leaders and Bauer become an afterthought to many. Moving on from Bauer became easier when the Dodgers acquired ace Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. This added to the Dodgers already loaded team and put them as the favorites to win the World Series.
However, fate had other plans in the form of pure exhaustion and key injuries at the wrong time. Now every team playing in the playoffs deals with injuries and for a team like the Dodgers excuses can’t be made, but the Dodgers lost a few of their key players towards the end of the season and weren’t able to adapt as quickly. Additionally, they were essentially left with a two-man starting rotation by the end of the championship series.
Right before the playoffs, pitcher Clayton Kershaw was ruled out for the postseason after battling back from an injury that kept him out for a good portion of the regular season. On the final day of the season, infielder Max Muncy got injured and was ruled out for the playoffs in what could have been the most influential since Muncy was arguably the best hitter in the Dodgers’ lineup all season. Adding in the fact that they lost Dustin May early in the season, the best rotation in baseball was down a few starters and their depth was now being relied on rather than used as a luxury. The Dodgers on paper have the best roster in baseball and their payroll allows them to have strong depth in case of injury but after such an injury plagued season, it finally took a toll.
Mookie Betts missed time this year, Corey Seager missed a chunk of time, Kershaw as mentioned, Dustin May lost for the season, and many more injuries that tested the Dodgers depth all season long. As mentioned, all teams deal with injuries, but it was an injury-battled season for Los Angeles and due to their strong depth. they still had the second-best record in baseball. Add in the grind it out, forced to win every game situation they found themselves in against their archrival San Francisco for the division crown and you could tell when watching this team, they were gassed. The chase of the Giants was taxing for the Dodgers and for the Giants, who admitted they felt pressure to win every game as well.
For the Dodgers, they entered the playoffs as the wild-card team and fought a tight game against St. Louis where they walked off on a Chris Taylor home run. The reward for winning the wild card game was a showdown against the Giants in what ended up being a great division series. Both teams battled as hard as they could leading to an epic five game series between the rivals but the Dodgers just barely prevailed. It seemed like beating the Giants took everything out of Los Angeles after an emotional, tough series after chasing San Francisco all season long.
Next up was the Atlanta Braves, whom the Dodgers beat in last years playoffs but this time around, the Dodgers couldn’t muster up enough to beat Atlanta. They left many runners in scoring position and their bullpen couldn’t hold a few leads which doomed them in the end. By the end of the series, the Dodgers had lost Justin Turner and Joe Kelly to injury and were down to an exhausted Walker Buehler and Julio Urias as their starters since Max Scherzer was dealing with a “dead arm”.
What once was a position of strength for this Dodgers team became an issue. However, once again their depth was tested and after a grueling season, they couldn’t overcome it. Hats off to Atlanta for winning the series and advancing to their first World Series since 1999. For the six games, they played like the better team and now have a shot at a ring.
For Los Angeles, after such a rough season they enter the offseason with many questions and a bad taste in their mouths. Key players are due to be free agents such as Corey Seager, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor, Joe Kelly, Max Scherzer and longtime ace Clayton Kershaw. I’d expect the front office to try and keep this core together since it has seen much time together and has won a lot of games. But the looming contract of Trevor Bauer may play a factor in their decisions depending on what is allowed to happen.
If they can, the Dodgers will gladly release Bauer and not pay him another cent for content detrimental to the team, but it remains to be seen how this plays out. They know they were the better team and should have probably beaten Atlanta but that’s just how baseball works sometimes. Baseball playoffs are often a crapshoot, and the best team doesn’t always win.
It’s hard to win a championship and especially repeat as champions. However this offseason plays out, the Dodgers will come into 2022 with one of the best front offices in baseball, a loaded roster, and will likely be back in contention for another World Series.
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