Justin Turner was undoubtedly one of the most important leaders and influential figures in modern Los Angeles Dodgers history. But all things must come to an end. And whether it was this year or the following, JT's time in LA wasn't going to last much longer.
So, in fairly excruciating fashion, the Dodgers pulled the plug this offseason. Do we agree with that way it was handled? Absolutely not. But do we object to the idea that it may have needed to happen? Also no. Remember, the Dodgers won 111 games in spite of Turner's declining defense and first three horrid months of the 2022 campaign.
His clubhouse/dugout presence likely helped everything keep chugging along, but how come some are acting as if his departure is going to force the Dodgers to unravel internally because he's no longer there to impart his wisdom? Cody Bellinger being non-tendered hurt, too, and while he was a fan favorite and integral to the team's cultural fabric, his last two dreadful years did more harm than good overall. And, once again, the Dodgers won 106 and 111 games with his -0.3 WAR dragging them down over that span.
The Dodgers already experienced a "lite" version of this when they kicked Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson to the curb after the 2020 season, followed by Corey Seager and Kenley Jansen after the 2021 season. Despite the postseason failures (both of which, one could argue, were heavily impacted by injuries), they remained the best team in MLB during the regular season.
So, with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in this clubhouse, how much will the Dodgers' culture really be affected?
Are fans exaggerating the cultural impact of Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger departures from Dodgers?
This isn't to take away from Turner's (or Bellinger's) leadership and adoration, but do we really think the Dodgers would move on in this manner if they didn't feel confident in the collection of voices they currently have? No, this will not be an overnight change, but Betts has been here for three full seasons and Freeman's one year in LA proved to be one of the best all-around campaigns in MLB (and his words this offseason clearly showed he's ready to take his leadership in this new environment to the next level).
Change is inevitable. And for as great as Turner was both on and off the field, the Dodgers only have one (shortened-season) World Series to show for it. How much worse can it get? Is there a belief among anyone, anywhere, that the Dodgers will crumble during the regular season because of these losses?
Betts is a two-time World Series champ. Freeman won as recently as 2021. Kershaw is a Hall of Famer. Julio Urías is one of the best starters in MLB and closed out the 2020 World Series. Noah Syndergaard has pitched in the Fall Classic. Will Smith has been around for the ride the last three years in LA. Taylor and Muncy are no strangers to the elevated stakes/brighter spotlight. Miguel Rojas is one of the most revered veterans in the game today.
Dodgers fans will miss Turner and Bellinger greatly and that feeling won't dissipate anytime soon, but the blueprint is in place for the team to move ahead seamlessly without the voices that were driving forces since at least 2017.