“You know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured it will be time for Dodger baseball.” It happened last year and again in 2018, the Dodgers went to the World Series and went home empty-handed. But, as Vin Scully once said, there will be a new year and a new season. Right now, it is autumn for the Dodgers. The leaves on the Dodger tree must fall off, giving way to new ones, for next year, when the tree will fill with leaves once more. With new leaves comes a new tree and in baseball, it will be up to the Dodgers to grow that tree, ready to get back to the promise land.
There is no way to be pleased with this season. It all started with the biggest skid in franchise history, a 26-36 start that saw the Dodgers lose their best players to injury and saw the fans lose hope.
After the worst start to any season came success. The Dodgers owned the National League but the winning had an asterisk next to it. The Dodgers won certain games but lost the ones that mattered. The “easy teams” got the best of the squad that was supposed to be the best in baseball.
The Dodgers got to the All-Star break and could not take second place any longer. They acquired Manny Machado and the season was supposed to be saved. Machado took the field in blue but the season woes continued. A move that bought the team a star, did not shine as bright as the front office had hoped it would.
The team trudged on for the next month, winning games, sure, but in second place nonetheless. At the deadline, fans hoped, prayed even, that the Dodgers would acquire at least one big name reliever but again, they were let down. Brad Hand was the dream, Ryan Madson and John Axford were the reality.
Brian Dozier was the next move. The Dodgers wanted a second baseman and in Brian Dozier, a trade target for more than three years, they trusted. Dozier disappeared. In 143 at-bats, he hit just .182 with five home runs and an OPS+ of 77, 23 points below league average.
So the deadline moves were busts outside of Manny and the Dodgers were left wondering what they needed to do to take the division lead. In the 163rd game of the season, they found their answer.
The Dodgers were division winners for the sixth straight year but this was like an empty present on your birthday. It meant nothing until the team delivered on the big stage for the first time in 30 years.
The NLDS came by, the Dodgers were lights out. They won in four games over a promising Atlanta Braves team and headed to Milwaukee where they would face the toughest team the NL had to offer. In seven games, the Dodgers earned a second trip to the Fall Classic just hoping that this time, they would deliver.
Game one, game two, game four and game five. The Red Sox came, they saw and they conquered. The bats went to sleep, the pitching ran away from the challenge, and Dave Roberts proved his haters right.
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But like I said earlier there will still be a winter which will ultimately give way to spring. The Dodgers have four months to grow this tree of baseball or a team that can compete in the World Series and at the moment, they do not have that. When your bullpen is reliant on one man, it is not a problem with the manager but a problem with the roster. When your shortstop does not run out ground balls that is not a problem with his talent but with his attitude. When your manager puts in the same, wrong pitcher, time and time again, that is a problem with his judgment.
So this winter it may be time to take a new approach. The Dodgers’ front office has looked at this team every year as if they were a Ryan Madson away from a World Series when in reality they needed a superstar. This front office has looked at this team and has been timid to trade the prospects to grab a star. They have been hesitant to spend the big money and it costs them every season.
Getting to the World Series is great but when you lose it you are no better than the team that came in last place. Team number 30 and team number 2 have the same thing to show for their seasons: nothing.
So this offseason, the Dodgers should be aggressive. Do not add guys that can just round out the roster, add guys that can change it. The Dodgers need to be able to compete differently than they have in the past and this has nothing to do with the numbers and analytics because to this point, they have gotten this team nowhere.
Winter will give way to spring. The Dodgers will be back and they will be champions one day. But, heartbreak after heartbreak, a lesson must be learned. The Dodgers must create change in this roster and if they do, next year, they have as good a shot as any team to bring home a trophy that has eluded Chavez Ravine for three decades.