Month: July 2021
OK, the timing and subject of this piece might seem weird considering there are bigger fish to fry today, but hear me out …
First things first: In the world that I’d prefer to live the rest of my life, I still don’t want to see the designated hitter in the National League, primarily for reasons I discussed here. But I’m going to admit that over the past year, I’ve been worn down on this, partly because so many pitchers themselves have completely given up on trying to hit, partly because there are newer, even more cockamamie rules that I’m more eager to get rid of. (Maybe later this year, I’ll write about my grand distaste for the year-old runner-on-second rule in extra innings.)
But in the wake of the exciting reports Thursday about the Dodgers’ apparent acqusition of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner — reports that others are covering at length — I have a more selfish reason to want the DH to arrive in the NL by 2022.
It might be the only way Corey Seager returns to the Dodgers.
We can all acknowledge the value of adding depth to the Dodger pitching staff, let alone the thrill that someone like Max Scherzer would bring,
But some of the Dodgers’ most important midseason trades haven’t been superstars like Yu Darvish or Manny Machado. I’m thinking about guys like Marlon Anderson, Ronnie Belliard, Chase Utley and David Freese. Guys who were role players and/or past their prime, but had a huge domino effect.
This is Dave Roberts’ managerial record with the Dodgers through 162 x 5 games:
2016: 91-71 (.562), NL West champion
2017: 104-58 (.642), NL champion
2018: 92-71 (.564), NL champion
2019: 106-56 (.654), NL West champion
2020-21: 104-57 (.646), World Series champion in 2020
Total: 497-313 (.614), five division titles, three pennants, one World Series
Since 2019, Roberts has essentially produced back-to-back seasons of more than 100 wins, including a World Series title. He has won at least 100 games three times in the equivalent of five seasons. At present, he ranks seventh in major-league history in winning percentage. This week, he will likely win his 500th game, all before turning 50.
The Irony Committee-approved irony about publishing a story about Roberts’ record today is that he would have already hit the impressive 500-win milestone, if not for last week’s unfortunate Dodger meltdowns.
In this year’s new edition of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, you won’t find very many hot takes. Depending on how you feel about things, you might not find any.
But maybe the closest that I come to offering one is in the book’s new chapter on Roberts, when I make the case that the Dodger manager is on an early path to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Yeah, that’s right.
Let me qualify things in a hurry. First of all, “early” is “early.” Roberts still has a lot to do before he would even be considered for Cooperstown. For all I know, his managerial career could end in three months, and this discussion becomes a speck of dust on the basepath of life.
Second, whether Roberts would be elected is a separate question from whether he is deserving. He could be elected without being deserving, and he could be deserving without being elected.
Nevertheless, it actually seems pretty obvious to me that on his current trajectory, Roberts would be enshrined in the Hall, and the only controversy inherent in this news is that it will come as a shock to a number of fans — perhaps Dodger fans more than any others.
And maybe, just maybe, that means there’s more to Roberts than the managerial decisions that infuriate so many.
To back up my belief, here’s what I wrote about Roberts in 100 Things Dodgers before the season began. I’ll add more thoughts after this excerpt.
Here is a list of every starting pitcher over the past 25 years (two or more starts) that the Dodgers have acquired at midseason, along with the players the Dodgers gave up to get them:
So, the novel that I first described here in 2018 and updated here and here and here in 2019 and here at the end of 2020 … is done. Or, at least, it’s as done as these things get before someone agrees to publish them.
And that’s where things are right now. I have an agent who has begun to pitch the novel to editors, and I’m in the rather nauseating stage of waiting for one or more to bite. I even wonder whether it’s bad luck, bad karma or bad form to talk about it at this stage, but here I go.
On the one hand, 12 Dodger teams have won more of their first 91 games than the 2021 Dodgers have. On the other hand, only one of those 12 teams won a World Series, so it’s not a significant measuring stick.
More to my point, while it’s easy to be disappointed that the ’21 Dodgers haven’t matched the pace of the ’20 Dodgers or the ’21 San Francisco Giants, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this year’s Dodgers have excelled. Playing .615 ball heading into the All-Star Break is no small accomplishment.
In a sense, the question is to pick your poison. Is it better for your postseason dreams to be a 47-40 team with a four-game lead in your division like the New York Mets, or a 56-35 team with a two-game deficit like the Dodgers? Would you rather be a better team but face a higher chance of Let them eat wild card?
A.J. Pollock is hitting better against right-handed pitching this season (.819 OPS) than Gavin Lux (.769 OPS).
And Pollock is destroying left-handed pitching (.911 OPS), while Lux is downright Joc Pederson-esque (.414 OPS).
Pollock is a streaky hitter — Lux might be as well — and as we’ve learned the hard way, a lot can change while waiting for a player to come off the injured list. But right now, it looks very much like that Lux is going to be the one who will be essentially displaced from the starting lineup when Corey Seager makes his way back to the Dodgers, sometime this month if all goes to plan.