It’s really quite incredible, in some ways, how this Dodgers season has been the complete antithesis of last season.
Last year was truly something special, maybe not fully recognized while we were in the midst of it. The Dodgers probably played a bit above their heads, but it was something to behold.
There was no quit in that team, and this year there is no fire. Last year, there was a run where only a full game shut out by Clayton Kershaw against the Padres was what would get the Dodgers a win. But that was just a two-week span. This is what this whole season has felt like.
Last year, there were also a ton of injuries, but the next person just stepped in and did their job. This team is slumping across the board. Or, maybe more accurately, only one part of the team is clicking at one time and not enough to pick up the parts that are not. Most recently, the starting pitching has been stellar while the bullpen and offense are there to let us down.
And while no two seasons are the same, the success of last season left all of us unprepared to deal with the mediocrity of this season. As fans, how do you deal with being so close to winning it all, to maybe not even making the playoffs? And as players, how do you deal with that same exact thing, while your front office seems intent to only add bits and pieces to help you out?
Now, I’m in no way calling Manny Machado and Brian Dozier bits and pieces. But the biggest problem at the deadline was relief pitching, and the front office only added John Axford, who had one horrendous outing, then got himself together only to land on the DL. The whole bullpen is just pitchers rotating on and off the DL, Kenley Jansen included. While Kenley’s stint was life preserving as opposed to a phantom injury stint like some others, the inconsistency of a solid ‘pen doesn’t help anyone.
A lot of fans are arguing for a more consistent lineup, too. In 128 games, the Dodgers have constructed 125 different lineups. Last year’s team used 110 total, but the top core of the lineup was relatively consistent. Now, they didn’t have to deal with the injuries this team has, with respect to Corey Seager and Justin Turner. But the front office has tethered themselves to the belief in matchups above playing the hot hand, and so far it’s not working. We’ve seen so many examples of players getting hot, and then riding the bench for the next five games, and guess what. Not so hot anymore.
There also seems to be a lack of consistency to approaches to hitting. It’s incredibly frustrating as a fan to sit and watch the Dodgers strand runners night after night after night. Remember that fun game a week ago when the Dodgers had five runs in the first inning without an extra base hit? No one was swinging for the fences. They just went with the pitch and sent it to where a defender wasn’t. But that game was an anomaly. Something is happening when runner get on base—batters either start swinging for the fences or freezing up and watch strike three down the middle.
The other night on MLB Network, Frank Thomas proposed a new lineup to help the Dodgers break out of their offense slump –
It’s intriguing, to say the least. Puig leadoff could wreak havoc on the basepaths. Cody, lately, has become the most consistent hitter. There’s some power through the middle and Dozier and Grandal have power and contact ability. It definitely would have things up, and who knows, maybe revitalize the bats.
But the truth is, that won’t happen. This managerial staff and front office is steady eddy in their approach – don’t get too high, don’t panic when there’s lows. It’s worked last year during the 11 game slump. The problem is that this season, I doubt that will be the recipe they need. They needed to be more proactive in Game 7, and they need to be more proactive now.
And by now, I mean NOW.
There isn’t much time left, but it can be done. Otherwise, there will be no playoffs. That will save some of our wallets, and livers, from abuse. But I want to see if there’s any fight left in this team. Maybe it’ll be September call-ups. Maybe someone will step up and call a players meeting. Maybe something just will click. Or maybe, they will limp into the offseason and we will once again spend the winter wondering what might have been.