Did Dodgers signal end of Cody Bellinger era by benching him in NLDS?
Cody Bellinger sat on the bench and watched the Los Angeles Dodgers get eliminated from the NLDS against the San Diego Padres. He didn’t play in Games 3 and 4 — the latter of which was a bit of a shocker.
Manager Dave Roberts benched the slugger for Game 3 with left-hander Blake Snell on the mound, which was an understandable mismatch the Dodgers needed to avoid.
But Game 4 against Joe Musgrove? Sticking with Trayce Thompson, who had one hit across his first three starts of the series? Unsurprisingly, that made Bellinger upset. It was a do-or-die game for LA, and even though Belli has been on the struggle bus for a few years now, he still offers elite defense and was the better matchup play for Game 4.
This is a guy who played in 144 regular season games, too. If there was any sort of plan to further limit his playing time in the postseason, perhaps there should’ve been an indication when the opportunity was tailor-made to do so as the Dodgers were roaring ahead to 111 regular-season wins.
Bellinger also finished the season with three multi-hit games across the final six contests. He hadn’t done that since early April. The leash for Thompson should’ve been a lot shorter than Bellinger’s. Now it feels like Belli’s Dodgers career is over just like that. No closure. An abrupt and disappointing ending for all involved.
Did Dodgers sour relationship with Cody Bellinger by benching him in NLDS?
There were already questions surrounding Bellinger’s future in Los Angeles dating back to the end of last season. He had one of the worst statistical campaigns in the modern era in 2021 and it was unclear if he’d be tendered a contract since he was making $17 million after his first year of arbitration eligibility.
But the Dodgers and Bellinger avoided arbitration before the lockout with a one-year, $17 million deal. No raise from last year. Running it back to see if he can rediscover himself unencumbered with injuries that held him back in 2021.
Though the defense remained top-notch, not much else changed. He finished 2022 hitting .210/.265/.389 (.654 OPS) with 70 runs scored, 19 home runs, 68 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a 78 OPS+. Better, yes, but very much not enough from a former MVP, and not enough from somebody making the amount of money he was making.
He finished the year with a 1.1 WAR, which now gives him a cumulative 1.1 WAR dating back to the start of 2020. Now, heading into 2023 with a dire need for pitching, it’s unclear if the Dodgers will continue their relationship with Bellinger for one last, very costly season under his final year of club control.
If the Dodgers’ actions tell us anything, it’s that they all but officially cut the head off Bellinger’s tenure with the team. And in fairly excruciating fashion.
It might be hard to argue that he deserved better, given his output over the last three years, but his bat and defense helped carry the Dodgers in the 2020 and 2021 postseasons. For as bad as he was overall, he still came to play when it mattered.
So, yeah, Bellinger riding the pine as the fans’ lasting memory of his time in LA is unfair and disheartening, even if many were frustrated with him amid his unforeseen decline.