Mookie Betts is polarizing LA media, Dodgers fans after up-and-down 2022
So whose fault was it, Los Angeles Dodgers fans? Manager Dave Roberts? The disappearing offense? Trea Turner’s shaky defense at shortstop? The injuries that prevented this 111-win team from being at full strength for the NLDS?
Take your pick. But one thing that’s adversely affecting Dodgers Nation is the discussion surrounding Mookie Betts, who led the NL with 117 runs scored and finished with a career-high 35 home runs.
Yes, Betts’ season was buoyed by two very strong months in May and August, where he hit 21 of his 35 homers and batted in 45 of his 82 RBI. But you’re going to fault him for a slow start to the season after a lockout? And then a dip during a month where he hit the injured list and then had to get back up to speed after recovering?
The only valid criticism here is Betts disappearing in September and October. He hit .222 with a .703 OPS in his final 31 games of the season, and then .143 with a .492 OPS in four games against the Padres in the NLDS.
But, as for the postseason discussion, this is nothing new. Betts was never an October performer before arriving in LA, and his one outlier showing was the shortened 2020 season, which featured a massively truncated campaign and no fans in the stands until the World Series.
Mookie Betts is polarizing Dodgers fans and the LA media after 2022
Earlier in October, we called out an egregious criticism of Betts that claimed he was an inconsistent player and “not focused enough on baseball” because he was seen bowling at some point. What’re we doing here?
Looking back on Betts’ career, he’s the definition of a consistent player. It just so happens he dealt with nagging injuries in 2021 and finally got stuck with the first true up-and-down campaign of his career in 2022.
And now, LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke went off on Betts when appearing on “Petros and Money” recently:
"“Mookie Betts didn’t show up. Mookie Betts has barely showed up. For all the money he’s making, he’s a big disappointment on the team. I know he was good in 2020 during the postseason, but he had two good months and disappeared under pressure.”"
Between last year’s NLCS showing and this year’s NLDS showing, there’s reason to express frustration with Betts. How can there not be? But you’re going to pin this on him when the team went 5-for-34 with runners in scoring position? Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Will Smith and Trayce Thompson were dreadful. Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy and Trea Turner had some nice counting numbers, but they all played a role in the team falling short, too, whether it was an untimely strikeout, a failure in a clutch situation, or lackluster defense.
Sure, if Betts caught fire, the Dodgers win this series. If anyone else catches fire, they win the series, too. Betts is one of the highest-paid players in the league. You’d like to see more out of him in these situations. It’s a valid ask. But that’s never what he’s been known for.
The Dodgers falling short in the playoffs long precedes Betts. And regardless of how you view 2020 in regard to the championship’s validity, the Dodgers don’t win that without Betts. They don’t win the 2021 NLDS without him, either. So, yeah, he’s 2-for-4 at this point.
There’s plenty other concerning blame to go around, which makes more sense than targeting the low-hanging fruit and creating an unnecessary stir among the fanbase.