Column: Dodgers’ dominance means only one thing — they must win the World Series
By now, the years are starting to blend together, the decade-long renaissance making one season indistinguishable from the last. October baseball is now taken for granted in this city.
The consistency shouldn’t be mistaken from the lack of variety. Some Dodgers teams were better than others.
One-hundred-eight games into their season, this year’s Dodgers are separating themselves from the majority of their forebears.
They casually dismissed the latest challenge mounted by the San Diego Padres, completing a three-game sweep of their visitors from Port Loser in a 4-0 victory. They remain on track to become the fifth team in the sport’s history to win more than 110 games.
The Dodgers have a 15½-game lead over the Padres in the National League West. This level of dominance is unusual, even for them. So is the opportunity in front of them.
Days after losing the Juan Soto trade-deadline sweepstakes to the Padres, the Dodgers sweep the San Diego Padres to reaffirm their NL West dominance.
This is their year to win the World Series. This has to be their year, and not just because manager Dave Roberts has guaranteed it repeatedly.
When Andrew Friedman was handed the keys to the baseball operations department after the 2014 season, he spoke about winning multiple World Series championships.
He remains stuck at one.
As many regular-season games as the Dodgers have won under Friedman — they have a .621 winning percentage in eight seasons — they haven’t claimed any more championships than they did under Fred Claire and Al Campanis.
Friedman’s Dodgers have been as unpredictable in October as they have been dependable from April to September, their postseason failures threatening to make them the Stan Kasten Atlanta Braves of this generation.
Like those Braves, these Dodgers have only one World Series.
Like those Braves, these Dodgers won their World Series in a shortened season.
Like those Braves, these Dodgers have Kasten as their president.
The Braves were a dynasty, but they aren’t viewed as such. They’re not the Derek Jeter New York Yankees or the Buster Posey San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers can be. This season is a prime opportunity for them to join that class.
Their offense is as fearsome as it was expected to be when they signed Freddie Freeman, who now follows fellow All-Stars Mookie Betts and Trea Turner at the top of the order. Will Smith is the best hitting catcher in baseball. Gavin Lux has emerged as a legitimate threat. Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy are sources of occasional power.
The Dodgers lead the NL in scoring at 5.29 runs per game.
Their other historically high-scoring team in recent history, the 2019 team, suddenly went cold in October. That team was eliminated in the NL Division Series by the Washington Nationals.
The current Dodgers figure to be less volatile, as Betts and Freeman have proven themselves as dependable postseason performers.
A chance like this might not come around again.
Turner will be a free agent at the end of the season. Betts turns 30 in October. Freeman will be 33 in September.
Their best pitcher, Julio Urías, will be a free agent after next season. Walker Buehler, who is sidelined with a strained elbow, will be eligible to test the market the winter after that.
The Dodgers will also encounter greater competition in their division in the coming years. The Padres now have Juan Soto, who is 23 and already looks Hall-of-Fame bound. He will be paired with veteran Manny Machado and fellow rising star Fernando Tatis Jr., who started a rehabilitation assignment over the weekend. The Giants should have the financial resources that former Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi can use to vault them back into contention.
Home runs by Will Smith and Max Muncy propel the Dodgers to their seventh consecutive victory and a series win over the San Diego Padres.
While a more competitive NL West would create some meaningful regular-season matchups — “It’s great for the sport,” Roberts said — it could also wear down the Dodgers. Last year, the Giants won 107 games and the Dodgers 106. The Dodgers were beaten in the NL Championship Series by the Braves and Roberts later acknowledged the toll of their regular-season battles with the Giants.
Facing this shrinking window of opportunity, the Dodgers didn’t make any significant moves at the trade deadline.
“I was kind of pretty persistent in saying I don’t think we needed to do anything,” Roberts said.
He better be right. His championship guarantee now feels more like an ultimatum. Either the Dodgers win the World Series, or they’ll be forgotten, lumped with other recent October disappointments.
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