Sports

Dodgers need to win the World Series to avoid being compared to the ’90s Braves

This is going to be silly. this is getting old

The Dodgers enter the 2022 season with arguably the best team in baseball, obviously one of the best in baseball history, and seemingly destined for a World Series title.

Still, the Dodgers are entering the 2022 season as a team on the ropes.

They’ve made the playoffs nine straight years, but in that streak they’ve won just one World Series title played on a neutral field in a 60-game season.

This is not a dynasty. This isn’t history. That is not enough.

How many more times can a team tease their town with April dreams turning into October nightmares? How often can glowing spring forecasts turn into bleak autumn realities? How many more seasons can a generous ownership group and competent front office fill the dugouts with greatness that breeds frustration, that breeds failure?

Since Andrew Friedman became President of Baseball Operations the winter before the 2015 season, he and Guggenheim Baseball Management together have spent more money and garnered more stars than anyone else in the sport. Still, they didn’t win a title in a 162-game season, they didn’t survive a postseason of hostile crowds, they didn’t rise to the heights they were built to.

You are stronger than this. You are deeper than this. You are better than this.

At least they should be better.

Bolstered by four former MVPs and two former Cy Young Award winners, and more combined postseason experience than any current team in any sport, the Dodgers head into another star-studded summer with huge expectations and a sobering challenge.

Heard about must-win games? This is a mandatory championship season.

The Atlanta Braves celebrate after defeating the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series.

The Atlanta Braves celebrate after defeating the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. It was the Braves’ only World Series championship during their consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005.

(Andrew Innerarity/Associated Press)

Want a nickname like the Big Red Machine, Murderer’s Row, or the Swingin’ A’s? Do they want to be remembered forever like the 1996-2000 New York Yankees or even the 2010-2014 San Francisco Giants?

Or do they want to be a one-trick act like the Atlanta Braves, who won 14 straight division championships from 1991 to 2005 but only won one world championship during that time?

There is much debate as to whether this Braves team represented a dynasty. The correct answer is they didn’t.

The Merriam Webster definition of a dynasty is “A succession of rulers of the same lineage.” Unless you win a number of World Series championships – at least two, OK? – then you do not rule.

It’s probably not fair and it sounds a little harsh, but their 2022 mandate is clear.

Complete the task.

Before you dismiss this as an exaggeration, listen to what Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on The Dan Patrick Show a few weeks ago.

“We’re going to win the World Series this year, hold on to it. … I publish it. I put it in the universe,” Roberts said.

When reporters were later given an opportunity to retract his testimony, Roberts said he stood by his words.

“That’s me,” he said, running the guarantee. “I’d be crazy if I didn’t do it. I believe in this organization. I think we’re going to put ourselves in that position and we need to finish it this year. Everyone in this organization had better believe that.”

Roberts will be hearing about that statement throughout the summer. This columnist made a similar leap in this area last year, opining that the Dodgers of 2021 would be the best team in baseball history, and the flack is still flying over it. Though “the best team in baseball history” set a franchise record with 106 wins, it wasn’t even the best team in its own division, and then they followed their usual death-defying postseason exploits with their usual late meltdown.

Cody Bellinger yells for the Dodgers' dugout after driving against the San Francisco Giants in the go-ahead run.

Cody Bellinger yells toward the Dodgers dugout after driving in the go-ahead run against the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS in October.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Taylor exited the St. Louis Cardinals in wild card play. Cody Bellinger beat the Giants in the ninth inning of the Divisional Series. Then all of that pressure and passion proved too exhausting, and the Atlanta Braves stomped all over them.

“We were gassed,” Roberts admitted to reporters this spring. “Having to play tooth and nail to ultimately cede the division to the Giants … and then play a game for life … then go to the Bay and play five games … And then go to the streets and play Atlanta, were.” we gassed.”

It’s a familiar litany with these Dodgers in the playoffs. They reach a crucial moment and a demon grabs them by the neck and they are amazingly plunged into submission.

The only time they could survive an entire postseason with all their whims was in 2020 when their experienced arms had the advantage of playing just one 60-game season. This shouldn’t belittle the title, everyone played by the same rules, but it should also give them an incentive to endure an entire summer and fall to win their first championship in 34 years that involves a busy schedule.

Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Walker Buehler and Shohei Ohtani side by side.

Preview of the 2022 MLB season

These Dodgers need to win at least one more title for the fans that couldn’t be in the stands, the parade that couldn’t happen, the city that couldn’t celebrate, the recap that still feels incomplete, and to buffer a legacy worthy of their greatness.

These Dodgers have yet to win to forget…

Forget 2019 when the Washington Nationals shockingly hit Clayton Kershaw from the bullpen.

Forget 2018 when they won an 18-inning game and still couldn’t weave past the Boston Red Sox.

Forget 2017 when they were blatantly cheated out of a championship by the Houston Astros.

Forget 2016 when they couldn’t get over the Chicago Cubs’ karma.

Forget 2015 when Corey Seager forgot to cover third base against the New York Mets.

Forget 2014 and 2013 when St. Louis and St. Louis, Kershaw and Kershaw.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout during the team's loss to the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLDS.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout during the team’s loss to the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLDS.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Their loss to the Braves last season felt all too familiar, another demon. Roberts was right, they were gassed so badly that ace pitcher Max Scherzer was knocked out of the deciding game in what is probably their most shameful postseason chapter.

However, Roberts stressed that he had no excuses, saying: “We lost to a better team and we played better. But that’s an incentive to play at home and take days off and set your rotation, all that stuff.

With the new playoff format this fall, the incentive for the Dodgers is to finish not only as a division winner, but as one of two division winners with the best record, earning a bye from the wild card round. They are clearly the best team in the National League, now they have to spend the whole season tackling that challenge while also dealing with the pressure that seemed to weigh on them in the past.

“Every time we play someone, they’re trying to beat the Dodgers,” Roberts said. “It is what it is. People love to beat the Dodgers. And our goal is to win the World Series. It’s every single year. So, not to shy away from it, run away. And when guys think “That’s too much pressure, then we have the wrong players. And I don’t think we’re going to do that.”

Oh again, they have the right players. Gosh, just look around the field, they have baseball’s best lineup again, especially after replacing the late Seager with the great Freddie Freeman and the late Kenley Jansen with the enduring Craig Kimbrel.

Will Smith is one of the best catchers in the game. Freeman is one of the best players in the game. Max Muncy is a homemade machine. Chris Taylor is a team MVP. Trea Turner is a potential league MVP. Justin Turner is her fiery heart. Mookie Betts is a quiet cornerstone. Gavin Lux is a rising star.

Cody Bellinger is…well, check back in a month, no one’s so sure yet.

On the Hill, two Cy Young favorites lead the rotation and neither is named Kershaw, who takes on supporting roles from Walker Buehler and Julio Urías. The bullpen is closed by perennial standout Kimbrel, fielded by one of the game’s best assists in Blake Treinen last year.

Yes, it’s all there, the power, the fielding, the pitching, and even Roberts has a new three-year contract extension to give him stability in the clubhouse. Yes, for the tenth straight year, the Dodgers were set to make the playoffs, taking nearly four million fans on another wondrous summer journey in the process.

But this time they must end the journey.

Everyone knows the Dodgers have a shot at becoming one of the greatest dynasties in sports.

It’s about time they behaved this way.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-04-04/atlanta-braves-1990s-dodgers-world-series-dynasty-comparison Dodgers need to win the World Series to avoid being compared to the ’90s Braves

Andrew Schnitker

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