For the second straight year, the Los Angeles Dodgers were bounced in the NLDS despite winning 100+ games. And outside of 2020, every other season has largely been deemed a disappointment because there's really been no cathartic finish (the World Series coming during a shortened campaign didn't provide enough satisfaction).
Across the country, a star-studded Wild Card team in the Philadelphia Phillies is on track for its second straight NL pennant. The last team to do that in the NL? The Dodgers back in 2017 and 2018. But ever since then? Again, outside of the 2020 season, massive disappointment.
And some Dodgers fans can't help but slowly realize that these Phillies runs should be theirs, but they were partially betrayed by the baseball gods, the Dodgers' front office, and ill-timed performances/decision making/injuries.
Much of this, however, could be attributed to the front office, which has seemingly made this team worse since 2020. The Trea Turner/Max Scherzer deadline trade represents the lone cutthroat, blockbuster move that made a discernible difference. Everything else, outside of adding Freddie Freeman, has been mediocre at best.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have been among the most active big market teams in free agency and on the trade market. Even prior to Dave Dombrowski's arrival, Philly managed to sign stars like Zack Wheeler and Bryce Harper -- two targets that very much were in the Dodgers' crosshairs (or should've been).
Then, Dombrowski arrived, and all hell broke loose. He re-signed JT Realmuto. He signed Kyle Schwarber. He signed Nick Castellanos. He signed Trea Turner. He signed Craig Kimbrel and Matt Strahm. He traded for Jose Alvarado, Brandon Marsh, Gregory Soto and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
Dodgers watching Phillies become what LA was supposed to be is crushing
The Dodgers have their fair share of big moves. The Mookie Betts trade and extension. The Freeman signing. The Scherzer/Turner deal. But there have been far too many whiffs.
Every injured reliever they've brought aboard has failed or stayed injured, with the exception of Corey Knebel for one single season. Trevor Bauer was one of the worst signings of the modern era. They extended Austin Barnes for some reason. They've let franchise icons Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Kenley Jansen and Kiké Heranandez just ... leave. They traded for Joey Gallo. Then they let Trea Turner go after seemingly acquiring him to succeed Seager. They gradually destroyed their depth and longstanding rock of a clubhouse.
Many die-hard Dodgers fans would argue the team has somehow gotten worse since 2018. They always kind of lacked the clutch gene, but it's now been fully nonexistent for two years ... and it'd be three if not for Bellinger in 2021.
The Dodgers' death knell has probably been avoiding the bigger financial splashes, especially long-term contracts. Betts is on a 12-year contract, but next up is Freeman at six. Behind him? Chris Taylor at four. Freeman is the lone major free agent signing (outside Bauer) for quite some time. Do we even count the Taylor, JT, Kenley Jansen and Kershaw deals? Those were all extensions. AJ Pollock was the next largest at four years and $55 million. They've signed zero star pitchers.
Cutting payroll to prepare for a run at Shohei Ohtani is understandable, but how has it gone on for this long? How did they not right the Trevor Bauer wrong? Why did they try and get fancy with a four-year offer for Bryce Harper? How could they pass on both Seager and Turner? They had interest in Schwarber and Castellanos but didn't pull the trigger. They never really expressed interest in Wheeler for some reason. They got out-bid on JT Realmuto when the Phillies swiped him from the Marlins.
Had the Dodgers went for the jugular after 2018, or signed the right names after 2020, or identified a greater need to acquire players who rise to the occasion on the biggest stage as they deconstructed a locker room of influential voices, we could be talking about a dynasty here.
Instead, time has passed them by, they've slowly gotten worse regardless of the regular season success, and their rivals have ran circles around them in free agency and on the trade market (for the most part).
This second Phillies run, in particular, hurts the most. The way the bats are humming. The way the home crowds are unrelenting. The take no sh-t attitude. The good vibes. The star players who could've just as easily been Dodgers.
Hopefully the organization has done a lot of reflecting since the NLDS sweep, because something is gravely wrong when comparing the game's other top contenders to LA.