Dodgers fans spent the offseason defending Mookie Betts' 2022 campaign and long-term pact, which wasn't a terribly difficult thing to do, considering he finished fifth in the NL MVP race and posted a 140 OPS+, paired with Gold Glove defense.
Still, the 111-win Dodgers came up short. Betts' body type doesn't exactly scream "prototypical slugger"; instead, he's been compared to Andrew McCutchen as a cautionary tale. Maybe he was ... peaking two years into a 13-year extension? Maybe the average was as high as it'd ever get? Maybe these loud demons were echoing in Betts' ear, too.
That's why he decided that "good enough" wasn't good enough -- even though his definition of that phrase looked like a top-10 season in the game.
Instead of patting himself on the back, Betts altered his offseason training regimen entirely after 2022, calling his previous two seasons in LA "trash" before reworking his swing. That harsh assessment has resulted in a summer surge that's flipped the NL MVP race from "foregone Acuña conclusion" to "too close to call".
Dodgers star Mookie Betts changed everything after "trash" season with .873 OPS
Imagine being literally Mookie Betts and believing your 2022 season, during which you hit 35 bombs with an .873 OPS, should be classified as "trash"?
Then again, Betts clearly heard the chatter. The general public questioned the Dodgers' long-term commitment to him. They questioned the aging curve. They wondered whether he would ever hit .300 again, or .280, or whether he'd just become a "launch angle guy" (dismissive voice) or a modern superstar. They wanted to predict Betts' downfall, even if they didn't believe he was already in the middle of it.
Combine his mega-star high standards, the likes of which the rest of us wouldn't understand, with a playoff flameout, and you're left with a top-tier talent who still believes he isn't close to unlocking his personal best. That's how you get 2023 Mookie Betts. Someone who works like they believe an All-Star output is a trash heap.
The wildest part is that while no one in their right mind would call Betts' 2021-22 seasons "trash," he's improved so much in 2023 that those two years now pale in comparison to his new peak. A .611 SLG, which leads the league. A 1.021 OPS. A 172 OPS+. A career-high 36 bombs, a mark set with over a month left to play. The versatility to play second base repeatedly without missing a beat.
Hopefully, Betts appreciates this as much as we do, but knowing him, he'll probably find a way to dismiss these stats, too, when the season is over. Back to the drawing board. How can we dominate next?