When your two best players -- and undisputed MVP candidates -- combine to go 1-for-21 in the NLDS, chances are you're toast. The Los Angeles Dodgers learned that in the most excruciating manner possible when the Arizona Diamondbacks swept them on Wednesday night.
The lone hit between Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman was an infield single. The Dodgers scored six total runs across three games, while the D-backs notched 19 with an inferior offense. LA and its star players folded once again, and that 2020 World Series title is feeling less and less meaningful.
The Dodgers cannot finish the job during a 162-game season over the last 10 tries with this championship window. And there have been almost the same amount of early exits as deep runs, but then again, what are the "deep runs" without holding a trophy at the end of it?
Social media took aim at Betts and Freeman after the loss and the two veterans could do nothing other than be blunt in their postgame interviews. They were honest. They were accountable. But it was extremely depressing for fans to see after their worst fears materialized right in front of them.
Though it's comforting to hear players take responsibility for their shortcomings, this is largely a trend dating back to 2019. So what can be fixed?
Depressing Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman postgame interviews hit Dodgers fans hard
Doesn't sound like much. The Dodgers' best players disappeared when they were needed most. They shrugged. They had no words to express the pain. They had no answers for their talents being zapped when the stakes were elevated.
In 2019, the Dodgers lost to a Wild Card team in the Nationals at home. Bounced in the NLDS. In 2021, the 88-win Braves swiftly dispatched them in the NLCS. In 2022, the 89-win Padres bounced them in four games in the NLDS. In 2023, the 84-win Diamondbacks who barely made the playoffs swept them in the NLDS. It's all gotten progressively worse, with the 2020 World Series and shortened 60-game season proving to be an outlier (and could've been another disaster if the Braves didn't blow a 3-1 lead in the NLCS).
There's a lot of blame to go around. The starting pitching was horrific. Dave Roberts made some questionable decisions. The offense once again inexplicably shut down. Betts is the biggest culprit, too. It's his third straight playoff series pretty much accomplishing absolutely nothing.
Freeman did all he could last year before the Padres bounced the Dodgers, so he at least has that recent series to look back on. Kershaw's last two playoff starts couldn't get the job done. One was historically terrible. And he didn't play in 2021 due to injury. If you're a serious contender, all of these star players cannot vanish simultaneously.
We have no answers. They have no answers. Another offseason of reflecting, but how will 2024 be different? Until proven otherwise, Dodgers fans will be looking over their shoulder when the playoffs arrive, and that's a bad feeling to carry year in and year out.