Another year has come to a close, and with it memories of what has been tend to creep in. Even though it didn’t end the way Dodger fans wanted it to, it still was a very memorable year.
Aside from the 2020 season, which ended in a championship, this 2021 season will probably be the most memorable for awhile, with all its ups, down, and everything in between.
THE NEW FACES
The 2021 had more additions, and more high profile additions than any one other season that I can ever remember.
The season started with the most controversial addition of them all, the three year signing of starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. Fresh off a Cy Young season with the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer was one of the most high profiled free agents, even through teams knew he would come some baggage. Bauer just happened to being more baggage than anyone thought, although many fans were not surprised.
Accused of sexual abuse by multiple women, Bauer did not make a start from July on after being placed on administrative leave. It is still unclear whether he will ever pitch for the Dodgers or in MLB ever again.
Some players were acquired but never made it to the field to play for the Dodgers. Cole Hamels and Danny Duffy both tried to make a comeback as pitchers, but neither could get healthy enough to actually take the mound.
But a few really made the season better.
First, Albert Pujols was signed after he was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels. Tío Albert, as he became affectionately known as in the clubhouse, seemingly regained his childlike joy for the game. Batters could not wait to get to the dugout after hitting a home run, so they could be enveloped into a massive hug by Pujols. Many batters fittingly hit those homers using one of his bats. And the last, heartbreaking photo of him for the season was him practically carrying Justin Turner down the dugout steps after he pulled his hamstring.
The biggest addition of the season was that of both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade, sending the Dodgers’ top two prospects of Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz to the Washington Nationals for the All-Star pitcher and shortstop, respectively. Scherzer bolstered the pitching staff, and Turner handled second base, if somewhat bumpily at first, for the rest of the season. Scherzer has now moved on to New York to play for the Mets, but Turner looks to continue his NL batting champ ways as he will now slide over to his more natural position of shortstop.
THE CHASE FOR THE DIVISION
The reign of the Dodgers winning the NL West came to an end in 2021, but it was a race right down to the last weekend of the regular season, and carried into the NLDS with a rivalry show down for the ages. The San Francisco Giants were not projected to be as good as they were, but they won 107 games, beating the Dodgers by one game, who finished with a 106-56 record.
After the Dodgers took the Wild Card game from the St Louis Cardinals, they took on the Giants in the NLDS. The Dodgers lost the first game in SF, unable to score any runs. They made up for it the next day, plating nine runs in a 9-2 win. The series then shifted back to L.A.,with the Dodgers again unable to score any runs, losing 1-0. But with their backs to the wall, again, the Dodgers were able to win the next two games, with the final game being a nail biting, tension filled game. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth on a single by Cody Bellinger, who had struggled all season at the plate after having off-season shoulder surgery. It was then closed out by Max Scherzer, on a called strike three of a questionable did-he-go-or-did-he-not swing by Wilmer Flores. It seemed fitting as there was the same questionable call against the Dodgers with the Boys in Blue on the losing end that could have changed the standings in their favor.
There were so many great moments to the season, as there always are. There were some personal favorites of mine. Watching Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw together on the same team was a dream come true. I have always admired the fire and intensity of Scherzer, and watching him abs Kershaw, both some of the greatest pitcher of their generation, was a gift. Also not to be discounted, was Scherzer’s hilarious reaction to Kershaw getting a base hit in his first at bat after coming off the Injured List when Scherzer did not collect a single hit the entire season.
Mookie Betts had a quieter season than his first season with the Dodgers, but still provided amazing plays and thrills. His three home run game stands out to me as the most special of the season.
Watching Trea Turner slide is definitely a delight, and something to look forward to next season. The smoothest pop-up slide I’ve ever seen, and Trea makes it look effortless.
Both Phil Bickford and Justin Bruhil, players I had never heard of before this season, stepped up and made an indelible mark on the bullpen. Kenley Jansen also seemed to find some of his former glory.
The 1+4 game, where the Dodgers hit four home runs in the bottom of the eighth to begin a 11-9 comeback against the San Diego Padres with four games to play. The crowd was just electric.
But most special were two postseason performances turned in by Chris Taylor. First, CT3 hit the walk-off home run to advance the Dodgers from the Wild Card round to the NLDS. Second, in the NLCS, Taylor hit three home runs in what could have been an elimination game against the Atlanta Braves. With Taylor choosing to stay in Los Angeles for the next four years, hopefully we will be more postseason heroics from the mild mannered, super utility guy.
But maybe the best thing of all is that the Dodgers are still poised to win the NL West, and perhaps get another championship. Yes, the starting pitching staff is in flux, not knowing if Kershaw will decide to return and if Bauer will be allowed to return. Still, most of the core is still there, and the future still looks as good as the past.
Happy New Year, Dodger fans! Let’s hope 2022 sees a quick resolution to the MLB lockout and baseball is back again soon.