If you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, you can’t be happy that your team once again failed to bring home the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1988. Speaking of 1988, the Dodgers eliminated the heavily-favored New York Mets to reach that Fall Classic, before shocking the Oakland A’s. Is it ironic that the last real postseason heroics that matter to fans of the Dodgers, was 27 years ago to the day, yesterday? Kirk Gibson hit the memorable home run off of Dennis Eckersley to lift the Dodgers to a Game One win, and propelled them to that last title. And as we all know, the Mets eliminated the Dodgers on that anniversary, in the very same ballpark where the magic occurred in what must seem like a lifetime ago.
What happens now? Rest assured, if Dodgers’ management has the same mindset as the fan base, manager Don Mattingly will be clearing out his belongings before the end of the weekend, if not the end of Friday by the time this article hits the Internet. Are the failures of this Dodgers team squarely on Donnie Baseball’s shoulders? How many fans were screaming at their televisions when he used Chase Utley to pinch hit for Joc Pederson last night? How about Mattingly’s questionable bullpen moves throughout his tenure?
For a team that has a payroll that is leading the big leagues, and it’s not even close, a first round knockout won’t be acceptable. The Dodgers outspent the New York Yankees by close to $100 million dollars, and have just as much of a shot of winning the World Series as the Bronx Bombers do at this point. Over $88.5 million of this year’s payroll went towards starting pitching, but yet when push came to shove, it was Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and hope for a rainout. It’s reminiscent of those 1980’s Yankees’ teams, that spent and spent and spent, and had little to nothing to show for it. This is a team that spent close to $110 million of their payroll on position players, yet didn’t have a single 100-RBI guy in the every day lineup, and only two players with 20 or more home runs.
No, this roster was flawed from the beginning, and plastering close to $320 million dollars of payroll, wasn’t going to buy a title no matter how much Guggenheim, Stan Kashen, Magic Johnson, or Andrew Friedman thought it would. Those around the Dodgers say that Mattingly and Friedman don’t have the same baseball philosophy. Let me ask you this: how well did Moneyball with actual Monopoly money work when Paul Depodesta arrived from Oakland, and tried to use sabermetrics with cash attached, to build a World Series winner? Yeah, 1988 seems like a lifetime ago.
This Dodgers’ team could look drastically different when spring training opens for pitchers and catchers next February. Assuming Mattingly gets fired, the roster has some holes and some questions entering this off-season. Will Greinke see the sinking ship and opt-out and try to raise up his dollars in free agency? He will most likely either win the Cy Young Award, or finish a close second to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta. While Chase Utley will return next season, Howie Kendrick could walk away. Utley’s longtime double play partner, Jimmy Rollins is also a free agent.
That leaves the Dodgers will three under-performing outfielders in Yasiel Puig (injuries), Carl Crawford (over the hill), and Andre Ethier (attitude issues) returning in 2016. NL Rookie of the Year candidate Joc Pederson struggled badly with his batting average during the second half, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds during his second year in the bigs. Corey Seager should start in Los Angeles for the next 15 years, and is also a bright light and most likely Rollins’ replacement. This is a team that needs to cut down on their strikeouts (1127 for positional players), and increase their ability to get on base (551 bases-on-balls), yet everyone in Dodgerland wondered why they couldn’t get runs in key situations in a short series.
The starting pitching needs more depth. It was a huge blow to lose both Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu to season-ending injuries. Brett Anderson was abysmal in the postseason, and youngster Alex Wood simply looked overmatched at times. Do the Dodgers open the wallet to keep Greinke, pursue free agents-to be David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir or Jordan Zimmermann? Do they move Seager over to third base and pursue Ian Desmond? Do they trade Puig or find a taker for Ethier? This team has to build around their young stars in Seager and Pederson, keep Greinke in the fold with Kershaw, and hope whomever is the next manager to fill out the lineup card in Los Angeles, isn’t under the pressure of managing for his job from the minute his press conference ends.
Regardless of how or why the Los Angeles Dodgers failed in 2015, there is plenty of blame to go around. From the failures of the players to play to the back of their baseball cards, to the manager’s questionable moves, to the front office’s inability to add key pieces at the trading deadline, this Dodgers’ team simply wasn’t built to advance beyond a National League Divisional Series, and that sadly, is the reality.