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Dodgers need to end the pattern of underachieving

The Dodgers have spread the gospel of baseball more than any other franchise, providing platforms for the likes of Jackie Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park. They have established the standard for pitching with rotations that have included stars such as Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw.

What they haven’t done much is win.

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Games, sure, they have won plenty of those. Championships are another story.

As much as their fans associate them with October glory, the actual history of the Dodgers is story of underachievement, especially in the last half-century.

Of the franchise’s six World Series championships, four were won in an 11-year period from 1955 to 1965.

In the 53 years since, they have won two.

The Dodgers owe their status as one of the sport’s signature teams to their iconic players, managers, broadcasters, stadium, uniforms and hot dogs — anything other than their October record.

Fifteen other teams have won as many or more World Series trophies than the Dodgers since 1965, including ragtag organizations such as the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins.

After winning the 1965 World Series, the Dodgers had to wait 16 years for their next championship. Their current titleless streak is at 30 years.

The franchise’s futility over the last three decades can be explained away as a byproduct of mismanagement. Peter O’Malley sold the Dodgers to Fox Entertainment, which was more interested in the team’s broadcasting rights than it was in actually running a baseball team. Fox unloaded the team to the McCourts, who were underfunded.

In the context of the last 30 years, the last few years count as a golden era of sorts, with Guggenheim Baseball Management fielding some of the most expensive baseball teams ever. The Dodgers have entered each of the last five seasons as one of the favorites to win the World Series and will do so again this season, reinvigorating fans who became disillusioned under the McCourts.

But with every season that ends without a championship, the pressure is mounting. How this era is remembered will ultimately depend on whether the Dodgers can win a World Series. If they do, everything up to this point, including the loss in Game 7 of the World Series last year, will be viewed as incremental steps that were necessary to win the Big One. If they don’t, fair or not, this period will be perceived like the last — a disappointment, only more so because of how much money was invested.

Some other thoughts and predictions on the upcoming season:

Shohei Ohtani is 23 years old. He was sidelined for the majority of last season with an ankle injury. And it’s not as if he found overnight success in Japan as a two-way player.

It wasn’t until his fourth season with the Nippon-Ham Fighters that Ohtani was an All-Star-caliber player as both a pitcher and hitter.

As an unfinished product, success for him shouldn’t be defined by his statistics. Rather, it should be defined by opportunity — specifically, whether the Angels continue to let him play both ways.

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That might not sound like much, but it is. These are the major leagues. Results are important and Ohtani will have to show the Angels something in the batter’s box in order to continue this experiment.

For the record, I like Ohtani better as a hitter than as a pitcher.

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We’re No. … 2?

Los Angeles typically doesn’t celebrate second-place finishes, but the Dodgers won’t let something like public opinion prevent them from honoring their runner-up team from last season. The organization will present National League championship rings to its players before a game against the San Francisco Giants on March 31.

“I have mixed emotions about it,” Clayton Kershaw said.

The Cleveland Indians had a similar ceremony last year. The New York Mets didn’t the year before that, deciding instead to distribute their NL championship rings behind closed doors.

Kershaw seemed like the right person to ask about this. As upset as the fans were about what happened in Game 7, he was more upset. At the same time, he’s always preached the importance of celebrating whenever offered the chance to do so by the unforgiving game of baseball.

“Basically, I would do whatever the fans would want to do,” he said. “I hope whoever’s making those decisions has a good pulse on what they would want.”

Most of the feedback from fans on social media was negative.

“I think as a team we’re not going to know how to feel,” Kershaw said. “It’s, like, are we celebrating that we won, are we celebrating our failure? Hopefully, I pitch that game. When is it?”

Before the third game of the season. Kershaw will have pitched two days earlier.

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On almost any other team, the uncertain condition of Corey Seager’s right elbow would have been cause for concern from the first day of spring training. The potential problem was overlooked in large part because of the depth of the Dodgers lineup, conventional thinking being that the Dodgers could overcome the temporary absence of their All-Star. With Justin Turner presumably sidelined for more than a month with a broken wrist, however, it has become all the more important that Seager remains healthy. Asking them to win without their two best hitters might be asking too much.

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You don’t expect players to have bounce-back seasons at 38, but look for Albert Pujols to be more productive than he was last season. Pujols said he dropped 13 to 15 pounds over the winter, which could be a positive sign about the condition of his legs.

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My pick for American League MVP is the same as it was the last couple of seasons: Mike Trout.

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