With the conclusion of the NHL regular season, we saw the longest playoff streak in North American sports break as the Pittsburgh Penguins missed the postseason for the first time in 16 years. The next longest active streak belongs to MLB’s own Los Angeles Dodgers who have made it to October in the last 10 seasons. That, however, is another streak that I believe will be broken by the end of the season. Here’s why:
When you think of elite baseball franchises, the Los Angeles Dodgers are always brought up. Los Angeles has won seven world series championships including one as recently as the 2020 season. Their lineup includes talents like Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith, while their rotation hosts Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw. So why do I question the ability of what many consider a postseason lock? Let’s look into their division.
San Diego and Arizona made strong additions to their respective teams, which I think play a factor in the Dodgers postseason chances. The Padres emptied their bank account on free agents this year, signing Xander Bogaerts, Nelson Cruz, Matt Carpenter and Michael Wacha. The Padres also got superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. back from his PED suspension and inserted him into a lineup featuring Juan Soto and Manny Machado. Arizona made a huge leap this off season in my opinion, mixing developing rookies with talented veterans. Speedy Corbin Carroll gets his first full season at the Major League level playing alongside veterans Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Evan Longoria.
Both these teams have the potential to win the division and play for the three wild card spots in the national league. The bad news for the Dodgers: they have to play each team 13 times. Arizona and Los Angeles have already met with the Diamondbacks, winning five of their first seven matchups while San Diego and Los Angeles won’t play until May. It is going to be a battle to get out of the NL West and the moves Arizona and San Diego made set them apart from the Dodgers.
Los Angeles was able to re-sign Clayton Kershaw which plays a big role in keeping the rotation competitive for 2023, but none of their other moves jump off the page. Pitcher Noah Syndergaard signed a one-year $13 million dollar deal for this year — a decent player but not in line with the blockbuster moves we’re used to the Dodgers making. Syndergaard brings postseason experience as he’s pitched in two different world series (2015 and 2022), but he was an average pitcher last year at an ERA+ of 103. Los Angeles hasn’t won in any of his first four starts with the team, but his 4.91 ERA so far can be attributed to one bad start. The same goes for when they signed designated hitter J.D. Martinez on a one-year $10 million deal. Martinez is coming off a season in which he was down in the power department and struggled with runners in scoring position. The designated hitter only hit 16 home runs, his lowest in a full season since 2013. He hit .218 with runners in scoring position in 2022, bringing in just 62 RBIs which is also his lowest in a full season since 2013. When shortstop Trea Turner signed with Philadelphia, he was replaced by Miguel Rojas from the Miami Marlins. Rojas has struggled in his return to Dodger blue, and he is currently on the injured list batting .125 in 11 games.
This is a Dodgers organization that went out and acquired Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Mookie Betts over the last few seasons, except they haven’t made that big of a move recently. With losing their shortstop, many thought that they would take advantage of loaded shortstop class that had Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson and Carlos Correa but they made a small trade. The current roster doesn’t really have the same star level as it did during their 2020 world series run, but that can be attributed to losing a few long-time players.
Clubhouse chemistry is an overlooked factor and the Dodgers have been losing a lot of long-tenured players recently. Just this offseason, they lost Justin Turner (9 seasons) and Cody Bellinger (6 seasons) to free agency, one year after losing shortstop Corey Seager (7 seasons) to the Texas Rangers. The roster turnover isn’t egregious, but many who were considered staples in the Dodgers’ lineup for years now play elsewhere. One might not think that’s important, but it definitely impacts the interactions between players that we as fans don’t really get to see.
Injuries are the final reason I lack faith in Los Angeles this year. At full strength, the Los Angeles Dodgers have arguably a top-five roster in the entire MLB, but they are not going to be at that level in 2023. Starter Walker Buehler is still recovering from two surgeries he received in 2022 while infielder Gavin Lux tore a ligament in his knee during spring training that sidelines him for the season. Currently, Los Angeles has nine pitchers on their 40-man roster alone that are on the injured list, an area in which health typically determines success.
Los Angeles is always one of those teams that can make a run at the postseason every season. This is a different team than the one who made the postseason the past 10 years, but they still have a decent chance. The roster still has solid players and rookie outfielder James Outman has wowed many, hitting .311 in 23 games along with seven homers and 19 RBIs. However, their division teams have caught up to their level of play and they’ll be competing against strong NL East teams like the Mets, Braves and Phillies for wild card positions. This will be one of the toughest years for Los Angeles to make the postseason and it may be the first time since 2012 that they won’t be there.
After a season filled with inconsistency, the University of Connecticut tennis team won their first-round meet in the Big East Tournament against Seton Hall before falling in the second round at the hands of Creighton. Their first win was dominant, and their second was within reach, but they just couldn’t close the gap against a stronger foe. https://dailycampus.com/2023/04/25/tennis-the-huskies-season-ends-in-bet-second-round/
Cubs fan here. After watching them play 7 games last week, I agree that the Dodgers aren’t the superpower we’ve thought them to be over the last few years. But I think their veterans (Kershaw, Betts, Muncy, Urias) combined with their newer players (Outman, Vargas) and prospects are going to be enough to get them in the playoffs. They’re still good.