We are still waiting for any news of the 2021 season, and what it will look like, especially for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But exactly one year ago was when their fortunes changed for the better.
Of course, the Dodgers’ fortunes had been pretty darn good for the seven seasons running up to 2020. Seven straight NL West Division titles and two trips to the World Series. Obviously, they hadn’t yet managed to win that elusive ring, mostly because of some extra help on behalf of the Houston Astros, but still, most teams would have been extremely happy with what the Dodgers had accomplished in the 2010s.
As discussed many times here and elsewhere, Los Angeles was still looking for that missing puzzle piece that would finally put them over the top. They tried to lure many a big name free agent to sign with them and were discussed ad nauseum in any and all intriguing trade scenarios. On February 4, 2020, they finally got their perfect fit when they acquired Mookie Betts and David Price via trade with the Boston Red Sox.
Of course, it would be awhile before the trade was official. It would be five days until the final incantation would be worked out, with the Dodgers having two separate trades with two different teams, as opposed to the three-team trade that was originally proposed. Regardless, everything worked out exactly as it should have.
The pandemic put a big halt to fans seeing Mookie play in a Dodger uniform past Spring Training. With the uncertainty of the season, some wondered if they ever would. Betts was only under contract for the Dodgers until the end of the season, and if baseball wasn’t played at all, the trade would’ve been for naught.
President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman had other ideas. While baseball was on a hiatus, Friedman worked with Betts and his agent to make the All-Star right fielder a Dodger for life. They signed Betts to a 12-year contract worth $365 million, making his total contract with the Dodgers 13 years, $392 million. Dodger fans everywhere rejoiced.
That move paid off right away. Betts took the helm at the top of the lineup and the top of the clubhouse guys and lead the team to a 43-17 record, which would’ve extrapolated to a 116-win season in regular times.
The Dodgers cruised through the Wild Card and NLDS rounds of the playoffs, only to hit a wall in the Atlanta Braves. Down 3-1, the Dodgers were sparked of their comeback by Mookie, who along with Cody Bellinger made spectacular catches to save crucial runs and finally mount the comeback to win the NLCS.
Betts’ speed on the base paths was something to behold, often working double-time to plate a run himself. It was his mere presence at the top of the lineup that caused Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash to pull Blake Snell, who had been cruising on just 76 pitches, out of Game 6 of the World Series. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, one man does not a team make; but with a team as already stacked as the Dodgers, it takes someone special to be dynamic, fit right in, and lead the way to the Promised Land. Mookie did all of that an more, helping players like Austin Barnes feel more comfortable at the plate to be more valuable than just Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher.
MLB Network has been counting down their Top 10 at every position throughout the last month and on Wednesday, they announced their choices for right field. While the discourse was between he and Juan Soto, Betts was chosen as the number one right fielder in all of baseball. And he will retire as a Dodger, and hopefully add another ring or two to his already expansive repertoire of awards.
And while Price has yet to pitch in a meaningful game for the Dodgers, as he opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns, the other player that joined the Dodgers from that trade scenario did make quick impact upon his new team.
Brusdar Graterol quickly became a fan favorite with his quick smile, his celebrations for his teammates, and his easy 101 mph fastball. He was a key part of the Dodgers’ bullpen throughout the playoffs and looks to continue to be so through the next few seasons.
We don’t of course know yet what the coming year will bring. Hopefully, more than 60 games of baseball, healthy players, and another Championship Title. Even though 2020 gave us one of the worst years possible, it still gave we Dodger fans a World Series and Mookie Betts.