All good things must come to an end, and as such this season, and this rendition of Dodger baseball, shall too.
We as Dodger fans have most likely seen the end of this amazing group of core, homegrown players who when augmented by stealth trades and big signings have made one of the best runs in modern history. Eight straight division titles, with the ninth just out of reach by one game, after winning 106 games. Three World Series appearances, and one Championship. But it still doesn’t feel like enough.
For all that it was, that time and this season in particular felt like a slog. So many bad playoff losses, a championship stolen. Limping into a another World Series only to lose again, and then another tough, early exit from the playoffs only to win it all in a pandemic shortened season with no fans.
This 2021 season started off with a maybe home run that had players criss-crossing on the base paths and the weirdness just kept going from there. While other team also lost many players to injury, the Dodgers really did have their vaunted depth tested. The crazy deep starting rotation was dwindled to just three starters by season’s end, after Tommy John surgery was needed for Dustin May, and Clayton Kershaw dealt with elbow issues and fatigue all season.
The biggest off-season signing was credibly accused of sexual assault, putting the controversial Trevor Bauer on administrative leave from the beginning of July until the end of season. Whether the huge gamble President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman took will ever pay off is unclear, and it seems dubious at best at this juncture.
And right at the end of the season, Kershaw was shut down for good, and Max Muncy was lost on the last day of the season and would not play a game in the playoffs.
And yet. And yet the 2021 Dodgers won 106 games. They won the Wild Card. They came back and won two straight elimination games against the rival San Francisco Giants, a team they had been chasing most of the season, to win the NLDS. In the end, however, the injuries and losses were too much to overcome to repeat as World Champs.
Watching Tío Albert joyfully give every batter that hit a home run a huge hug afterwards was heartwarming. Watching Scherzer gut-out performances was awe inspiring, especially for someone who has always wanted to watch him on her team. Watching Cody Bellinger struggle all season to see him finally start to find his groove in the playoffs gives hope for another MVP caliber season next year.
Baseball, and all sports really, rarely work out like you want them to. Growing up as a huge Dan Marino fan, it pains me that he never got that ring. Playoffs are a crapshoot, with so many different factors at play. The Dodgers at least got their ring, even though the most bitter will want to call it less-than because of the circumstances. But the fact remains, the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers will always be World Series Champions.
While this core group of players probably deserved at least one more ring (and will have always earned it in 2017 in my eyes), the fact that they have that one is enough.
Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen, Kershaw, Pujols, and Scherzer are all free agents when the season ends. Some, I’m certain, will be back, like Kershaw, should his injury not be serious and he doesn’t choose to retire. Others, time will tell, and it will be a long winter of uncertainty, especially if the players decide to strike.
And regardless of which players the Dodgers maintain, a lot of the group will still be there, along with an impressive group of prospects that will be close to debuting at the big league level. While the Dodgers may not win 106 games next season, they still will be favorites to win the NL West again.
There will be time to delve into the minutiae of whether this or that player should be re-signed and if so, for how much. For now, it’s okay to just stay in the mind of the incredible group of players that have been Los Angeles Dodgers in the most recent past, and worry about the future another day.