It's not complicated. If a team wants to be a champion, it has to beat the best.
This has been an ongoing problem for the Dodgers, who specialize in beating up on the scrawny and foundering against the robust.
Sometimes a team can still make it to the playoffs with this formula, but when it gets there you know what's waiting. Not a team from the lower dregs of the standings, but one from its top. The last two consecutive seasons the Dodgers advanced to the postseason, only to be brushed aside by the Cardinals like some minor annoyance they're forced to deal with.
This season the Dodgers are 46-22 against losing teams. A very impressive record, and no doubt, good teams need to beat up on the bad ones. But if they want to play deep into October, they have to be able to defeat the very good ones, too. And the Dodgers are 16-24 against winning teams.
That's a sad number for a team with World Series ambitions. One that doesn't speak well to their potential playoff chances.
The Dodgers need to mature, as a team to grow to another level, one that includes flexing their stuff against other would-be kings. No better time to start than now.
The Dodgers open a three-game series tonight in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are 62-44, the second-best record in the National League. It's a potential playoff preview.
Time for the Dodgers to elevate their game, to develop some swagger with that record-setting payroll. It would hardly hurt their confidence. The Dodgers know they're a good team, but they haven't proven to be a great one. Not to themselves or anyone else.
They thought they were the best team in the league last year, too, but the Cardinals showed them otherwise. It was a humbling experience and I'm not certain their self-esteem has yet to completely recover.
They need to take that next step and the calendar reads Aug. 7. Games are growing more significant. A championship team doesn't just think it can beat anyone, it deep down believes it. No better time for the Dodgers to start developing that belief than this weekend in Pittsburgh.