One win. One stinkin’ win. The slimmest of margins separated ecstasy from agony. Thrill from despair. Victory from defeat. Dwell not though, kids. This isn’t soccer, and we’re not talking about the U.S. Men’s National Team, which has to wait four long years for another shot at World Cup qualification, after epically failing this year. The Dodgers’ next World Series run begins in just a few months when pitchers and catchers report, and things are looking pretty rosy!
Here’s why the Dodgers are virtually guaranteed to be back in the Fall Classic again in 2018:
- Their starting rotation returns, virtually intact. This group, led by Clayton Kershaw, finished among the National League leaders in nearly every meaningful stat and metric in 2017, and minus deadline acquisition Yu Darvish, returns intact. Additionally, wunderkind Julio Urias is expected back around May.
- The same rings true about the bullpen. Kenley Jansen is probably the best closer in baseball. His supporting cast isn’t too shabby either. And while postseason workhorse Brandon Morrow is likely to have a Brinks truck of cash backed into his driveway by another team this off-season, most other key contributors still list Stadium Way as their home field address. And who knows, maybe the Dodgers will re-sign Morrow to bring the gang back together.
- Furthermore, the kids are all right. Quick, what do Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor have in common? Apart from being awesome, you dingus! Right. They all still get carded when they buy alcohol. If you’re a believer in Joc Pederson and/or Austin Barnes, you can lump them in here too. That’s five huge contributors who are still approaching their primes, let alone entering them.
- There’s more where THAT came from! Even though big names like Bellinger and Seager have graduated, the Dodgers’ farm system still ranks among baseball’s best – featuring names like Alex Verdugo, Walker Buehler, and Yadier Alvarez, any one of whom could be the team’s third consecutive Rookie of the Year award winner.
- The front office pulls all the right strings. Getting Darvish for pennies was a masterstroke. Getting CT3 for Zach Lee was a step above that. Plucking the aforementioned Morrow off the free agent scrap heap was genius. They’ve got that Midas Touch thing going, where all they so much as brush against turns to gold.
- So as you can see, it’s pretty clear the Dodgers are going to dominate.
Unless of course, they don’t. Here’s how it all can go horribly wrong:
- The rotation crashes and burns. In consecutive years, Kershaw has given up a career high number of home runs. Rich Hill and Alex Wood were awesome, but what are the odds they combine for 50+ starts again, with their dubious durability track records. Yu is likely gone, and while everyone remembers his World Series disaster, he was pretty damn excellent before that. Where is his production going to come from?
- The same rings true about the bullpen. As awesome as Jansen is, who else is gonna get outs? Someone has got to, since Dave Roberts rarely lets any starter not named Kershaw go more than 5 innings. Morrow is likely gone. So is Tony Watson. If the thought of Pedro Baez pitching high leverage innings makes you uncomfortable in your seat, you’re in good company.
- The kids are bound to regress. As great as Seager is, he wore down at the end. Bellinger was exposed against good pitching in the World Series, and is a prime candidate for a sophomore slump. And where did that 5+ WAR season come from by Taylor? There’s no way he can repeat that. And it’s far more likely you get the Joc from the regular season than you do the guy that hit 3 dingers in the World Series, and that guy sucks. Sure seems like we’ll be looking up at the Padres.
- No land in sight. For all the talk of how good Verdugo, Buehler and company are, they sure looked overmatched in their September auditions. Not only does this mean that if someone struggles (see: A-Gon, 2017) there isn’t a plug and play-ready replacement, the prospects aren’t good enough to flip for big names at the deadline.
- The front office is TERRIBLE! Sure, they’ve gotten a few lucky hits with aforementioned players, but can you really count on the guys who signed Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir to multi-year deals to make good roster decisions? How about the guys that traded a blue chip prospect for Logan Forsythe? The ones that so badly bungled the development of Urias that he got demoted and wrecked his shoulder?
- So as you can see, we’re screwed!
What in the world is he talking about, you might be wondering. Honestly, I am wondering myself. I started writing this a few days ago, and have had quite a few beers since then. If I had to guess though, I probably wanted to make the point that nobody knows what is going to happen with the Dodgers, or any team for that matter, until it actually starts happening. Not the perpetually rose-colored glasses-wearing folks who already bought their 2018 World Series tickets. Not “Fraudman Twitter”, who would figure out a way to hate it if the Dodgers pulled off a mega 4-team trade to acquire Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Nobody.
So how about we just hope that Spring Training hurries up and gets here so we can see how it all plays out. Did I miss any key items? Let me know on Twitter @thestainsports.