The Los Angeles Dodgers, for so long, have been expected to do great things. Though they've fallen short far too many times to the dismay of fans, they still remain a consistent force and an undisputed contender year after year.
But 2023 has an entirely different feel to it. In years past, most notably 2021 and 2022, the Dodgers were "the" team. Even as the Houston Astros continued to roll through the AL, so many pundits, reporters and talking heads felt as if it was the Dodgers' mountain to topple and nobody else's.
They fell short of a division title in 2021 when the Giants inexplicably won 107 games to the Dodgers' 106. LA triumphed against SF in the NLDS, though, which erased the Giants' flukey season, but the Dodgers were bounced in the NLCS fairly easily by the Atlanta Braves. That stacked roster, which had just acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, ultimately disappointed. They were set to lose a number of stars (and did) that offseason, too.
Then came 2022. The Dodgers won the division by a large margin and set a franchise record for wins with 111, but got dispatched in the NLDS by the San Diego Padres, who fell 20 games short of them. For the second year in a row, an 80-something win team booted a 106-plus win team from the postseason. The Dodgers came up shy yet again, facing another offseason exodus.
Here we are in 2023, though, and the Dodgers boast a significantly worse roster, yet are on pace for 100 wins and have captured another NL West title fairly easily despite the presence of three other contenders in their backyard.
Dodgers' 2023 division clinch is their best achievement since 2020 World Series
The Padres might have the best roster on paper. They won't make the playoffs. The Giants whiffed on multiple star free agent acquisitions in the offseason and sit two games back of a Wild Card spot. The Diamondbacks should make the playoffs, but they succumbed to a cold streak that pretty much negated their impressive start to the year as their roster revamp takes shape.
Though the Dodgers maintained their core of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Clayton Kershaw, they battled through more adversity than almost any other team in baseball. They lost their starting shortstop before the season began. The pitching staff has been suffering injuries on a consistent basis since spring training. The departures of Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger were thought to have an impact on the clubhouse. Julio Urīas got in trouble with the law again. Replacement-level players and rookies were relied upon to produce. Clayton Kershaw had a Cy Young season interrupted with another injury.
This year, the Dodgers were overshadowed by the Padres. They very much downgraded in the offseason after losing Trea Turner, Bellinger, JT, Tyler Anderson and Chris Martin. The Trevor Bauer stench was still lingering. They weren't supposed to do what they're doing at the moment, which makes their 2023 division clinch their most meaningful accomplishment in quite some time. JD Martinez, Jason Heyward, Bobby Miller, James Outman, David Peralta and even Miguel Rojas have stepped in to replace superior production that was lost. Think about how many other teams out there used tight-budget acquisitions and rookies to build a division winner.
Think about it. As a Dodgers fan, are you clinging to the 111-win season because it made history, or are you disappointed they were an early playoff exit? Are you still pumping your fist about eliminating the Giants in 2021, or are you still sour they lost steam once the NLCS arrived? In 2023, are you going to be disappointed by the Dodgers falling short again, or will you tip your cap to a roster that overachieved in the most inspiring way possible?
And still, the Dodgers aren't expected to run the table in the postseason like in previous years, so they're entering October with a dimmed spotlight. We figured this was part of the plan all along, but it's certainly coming into focus in some manner and shifting perspective.
Don't get us wrong, the fan base is still demanding. But there's a more relaxed feel and renewed sense of accomplishment with the 2023 Dodgers, which should give fans a reason to reminisce rather than scowl, regardless of this year's outcome.