With the 2018 Dodgers season in our rear view mirror, the Dodgers Nation Staff will be conducting ‘Exit Interviews’. These will highlight our high points and low points, and we will do our best to sum up what was one of the wildest seasons in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
This was my first season covering the Dodgers for Dodgers Nation. While it was an amazing experience and an incredibly interesting season to watch unfold—I can’t help but feel like 2018 lacked the same magic of last season’s World Series run. In 2017, in big-moment after big-moment someone new stepped up in the clutch and delivered for the team. Every night it felt like there was a new hero. The Dodgers tore through the regular season, breaking records on the way, and dominated the National League field in the Postseason. All of it culminated in a tense, euphoric, and ultimately gut-wrenching Game 7 loss in the World Series.
In 2018, having brought back largely the same group of guys, I was well-aware that this was a talented and deep roster capable of winning a sixth straight Division Championship and making another deep run into the Postseason. Instead, we stumbled out of the gate, were hampered by injuries, saw key players regress, lost important games to last-place teams, were historically un-clutch, and at the end of the day we’re just plain unlucky. For me it was quite the reality check. We spent virtually all season trailing the Diamondbacks in the standings, and we were counting on a few unlikely players to grind out wins—thank you Max Muncy, Matt Kemp, and Ross Stripling. Ultimately, the team battled their way into a Game 163, where Walker Buehler emphatically reminded everyone that we were indeed the most talented team in the NL West.
Despite beating a young Braves team and then grinding their way through a tough opponent in Milwaukee, for me, the playoffs were a reminder that we hadn’t shaken the woes of the regular season. The reliance on the long-ball, struggles with RISP, strikeouts in key situations, sloppy defense, and inconsistency in the bullpen were characteristics of the team and, ultimately, the reason why the Red Sox beat us in commanding fashion.
Regardless of your feelings towards the Front Office, they do have a knack for discovering the “diamond in the rough”—Max Muncy turned quite a few heads this season. After a quiet April call-up, with little name recognition and few expectations, Max put on a historic offensive display and became our lineup’s biggest power threat. He finished off his impressive 2018 campaign with .263 BA, 79 RBI, 4.2 WAR, and 35 home runs.
Muncy had several memorable home runs this season. His 9th inning blast against All-Star closer Edwin Diaz to tie the game, as well as his 2-run shot in Game 163 come to mind as highlights of the season. That said, my favorite moment this season, and probably his too, was the 18th-inning walk-off home run in Game 3 of the World Series. It was Max’s stamp in Dodgers’ history.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 27, 2018
For me, it was the moment that spurred Ross’ steep descent into oblivion—and his eventual absence on the Postseason roster. After a phenomenal first half, it really seemed like Ross had put the pieces together and made the leap into a formidable front-of-the-rotation starter. In Kershaw’s absence, Ross became an anchor in the rotation, leading the starting staff in Wins and ERA. Unsurprisingly, Ross was selected to his first ever All-Star game.
Rather than being a positive and memorable moment for a promising young arm in the Dodgers’ rotation, his appearance in the All-Star game was an unfortunate reminder of the previous year’s failure.
— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2018
When I Knew It Was Over
As a Dodgers’ fan, I never like counting them out or betting against them. As a baseball fan, I was cognizant of the talent in the American League and the historic seasons that both the Astros and Red Sox put together. Having watched our inconsistency manifest itself throughout the course of the season, and even into the playoffs, I knew it was going to be a difficult, uphill battle to beat either team.
After Kershaw’s struggles in Game 1, I abandoned what little hope I had coming into the series—Boston was far too good of team to beat without our #1 starter on his A-game, our defensive miscues, and our exorbitant strikeout numbers.
Puig’s electrifying home run in Game 4 was the first point I actually felt like we had a chance to win the series. And as quickly as it came on, it was gone.
What Did I Learn About Loving/Covering The Dodgers?
Covering a team so closely over the course of the season tends to remind you that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. On a dime, players turn their seasons around, and teams gather momentum to make an exciting run. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of “right now” and either lose hope in the team or be blindingly optimistic. Ultimately, it’s impossible to predict how a season’s going to go. Unlikely stars emerge, consistent guys falter and, amazingly, entire seasons can come down to handful of plays.
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