After a decade of unprecedented regular-season dominance but all-too-known disappointment in the playoffs that continued Saturday night with their National League Division Series elimination, the Dodgers are in a familiar place as this offseason begins.
Trying to maintain success, which included winning a franchise-record 111 games that year — but building a team that’s more consistent in October, where they won just one World Series championship in 10 straight postseason appearances to have.
One thing that is unlikely to change is the manager.
Dave Roberts is expected to return in 2023 for his eighth season as Dodgers manager, initially as part of the new three-year contract extension he signed ahead of last season, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly .
But after a disastrous NLDS loss to the San Diego Padres last week, sealed when the Dodgers gambled away a three-run lead in Game 4 on Saturday night, there are plenty of other unknowns for the club to deal with .
“The goal is to win a championship,” third baseman Justin Turner said after the Dodgers’ elimination on Saturday. “Missing that on any lap doesn’t matter, it’s not a good feeling.”
During the NLDS defeat, some common themes emerged.
Their powerful offense went into a postseason drought, morphing from the top scoring unit in the major leagues during the regular season into an overwhelming, inefficient group that managed just seven runs in three straight losses after Game 1.
Their pitching staff also failed to maintain their strong regular-season performance, as they faltered too often in key situations against a Padres team the Dodgers had beaten 14 times in 19 tries in entering the series that year.
The Dodgers’ collapse in the seventh inning of Game 4 on Saturday summed it all up.
Their lineup managed just one run after the bases loaded with no outs and missed an opportunity to further extend a three-run lead.
Their bullpen imploded against the Padres’ opportunistic offense, who scored five goals in front of a raucous San Diego home crowd.
And the Dodgers couldn’t recover the rest of the way, suffering one of the biggest upsets in baseball playoff history and becoming the sport’s first 110-win team not even to make its league Championship Series.
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the longtime face of the franchise, said, “It’s just another good regular season.”
Followed by another playoff heartbreak.
How are the Dodgers fixing this? How can they reverse their postseason agony with the 2020 World Series, which they won during a season curtailed by the pandemic, still being their only respite in October?
That’s something that the team’s decision-makers at the front office, beginning with President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, will be pondering over the coming days.
Roberts appears safe despite being criticized for multiple decisions in Saturday’s fateful seventh inning.
“We didn’t reach our goal and that’s the bottom line,” said Roberts after the game. “Yes, this hurts.”
No manager in major league history has managed more games than Roberts with a win ratio better than his career mark of .632. His 653 overall wins are the fifth most in franchise history.
He and the core of his current staff, including pitching coach Mark Prior and hitting coaches Brant Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc, also helped the team capture its 2020 World Series title.
However, they have now overseen early eliminations for the past two postseasons, the latter of which included a crucial communication hiatus during Saturday’s seventh-inning debacle.
Hoping to give assistant Alex Vesia an extra moment to warm up, the Dodgers dugout signaled pitcher Yency Almonte to praise a pickoff to first base. The sign was missed, however, as Almonte instead delivered a pitch to the plate, resulting in the Dodgers making a risky pitching change mid-shot.
Moments later, the Padres took the lead with a goal.
“I don’t know how it got lost in translation,” Roberts said.
It wasn’t the team’s only problem over the past week.
Although Friedman has built a consistent regular-season winner with rosters built on big stars, homegrown talent and unheralded arrivals, his teams continue to show a tendency to push in October, particularly at the plate.
“We did it to ourselves,” said Mookie Betts, the team’s $365 million right fielder, who had just two hits in the series. “They played well, but there were some situations where we didn’t execute.”
For all their composed professionalism, the Dodgers also sometimes seem to lack the confidence and swagger of other title contenders — including this year’s Padres team, which adopted the goose that landed in the outfield of Dodger Stadium during Game 2 as its unofficial series mascot.
“They had great bats all series and made big pitches when they had to and they played better than us,” Kershaw said. “It’s hard to admit sometimes, but that’s the truth. They just beat us.”
And after this latest setback, the Dodgers face a question-filled offseason.
The club must make decisions about Turner, who has a $16 million club option entering his season at the age of 38. and formerly NL Most Valuable Player Cody Bellinger, who, despite renewed troubles this season culminating in his bench press for Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS, is likely to receive a $17 million raise in arbitration if the Dodgers give him one offer contract.
Shortstop Trea Turner is leading a collection of unsigned free agents, with pitchers Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and Tommy Kahnle also set to enter the open market without a new deal.
So does Kershaw, although the 34-year-old left-hander and likely future Hall of Famer must first decide whether to continue his career.
“Yeah, I think so,” Kershaw said when asked if he wanted to play next season. “Let’s see what happens. Going home and being around and being a full-time dad changes your perspective on things. But for now I’d say I’ll play again.”
If Kershaw stays with the Dodgers, he will be part of a club that should still be a contender in 2023.
The offense continues to be led by former MVPs in Betts and first baseman Freddie Freeman. Cy Young Award nominee Julio Urías will be the ace of the pitching team. And there’s little questioning Friedman’s ability to build a successful team from April through September — and Robert’s ability to lead it.
But for a franchise now homing in on October excellence, the Dodgers will have to wait another 12 months to get their next title shot.
“It was super cool to win so many games [in the regular season]’ Betts said. “But it means absolutely nothing if you lose in the postseason.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-10-16/dodgers-nlds-loss-dave-roberts-to-return-next-season Dodgers might make some changes, but Dave Roberts is staying