It seems to have become a tradition now. The Los Angeles Dodgers dominate their division, lay waste to most of the National League during the regular season, yet when the postseason starts they find themselves exiting through the gift shop weeks earlier than expected.
This is the curse of a huge market team with a massive payroll. This is the burden of fielding a constellation of All-Stars, MVP and Cy Young Award winners. Expectations are high, through the roof high, and it sure doesn’t help when your manager puts this on you before the season even starts.
“We are winning the World Series in 2022”— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) October 16, 2022
so uh… pic.twitter.com/5wn2R8ppUp
The Dodgers are all or nothing right now. If they don’t win the World Season, the six months and 111 wins that came before that mean nothing. It also means, for some LA fans, that the playoff system the Dodgers are forced to submit to is unfair, unjust, and designed to punish the better team by cruelly having them win more baseball games (which again with 111 WINS, LA has done better than anybody).
I’m not going to argue that the Dodgers losing a best-of 5 series to the Padres means they’re the lesser team. No one who follows baseball thinks that. The playoffs are a tournament and in tournaments, there are upsets and surprises. They’re an event, a spectacle riddled with oddities and human variables—if you want quantifiable results, cold hard and predictable statistics, then get yourself a calculator.
After 111 regular season victories, the @Dodgers must win their next two games to advance to the NLCS. The third place @Phillies are a game away from advancing to it. This is what's wrong with the @MLB playoff system. Total crap shoot that doesn't reward greatness.— Erik Sherman (@byErikSherman) October 15, 2022
I’m also not going to liken the playoffs to a coin toss, or “crap shoot”, dismissing them as completely random. Once the postseason starts, it’s not like teams compete by playing corn-hole instead of baseball. The Dodgers had a first round bye, a week of rest at home, and home field advantage while the Padres had to play three games 3,000 miles away from San Diego, facing two of the best starters on the planet, before flying back home to square off against the best team on the planet.
There are a lot of advantages given to a team with a better regular season record. No, it’s not a Disneyland FastPass to the World Series or an apologetic and submissive bow from the opposing team that some LA fans may have felt entitled to, but as the ol’ song goes: you can’t always get what you want…
And maybe certain Dodgers fans are getting what they need: some perspective.
So what if the only World Series you’ve won is a weird, alternate universe postseason. Focus on the positives! The best record in baseball! Division pennants up the wazoo! A 61.3 regular season winning percentage over the past decade with 12 playoff series wins. Consistently signing or trading for some of the most exciting baseball talent year after year. This exciting times to be a Dodgers fan so hang some more banners in Chavez Ravine to remind yourself. Go down to Kinkos and get wild with the pennants, LA! Best record in baseball. Best record in franchise history! Celebrate yourselves!
I do not think I have ever seen dodger fans this angry at the team in my life and I lived through the McCourt years. This is something.— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) October 16, 2022
Watching the San Francisco Giants win 107 games while earning first place in the West was some of the best baseball viewing experiences of my life. That doesn’t mean Cody Bellinger’s game winning single wasn’t a dropkick to the chest that I’ll never fully recover from, but nothing can take away that division title, the best record in baseball or the thrill of watching exhilarating good baseball day after day from April to October.
I get it though. It’s the divorce from the regular to post that can be hard to wrap your head around. Eric Stephen, writer for True Blue LA, articulated it well here: “The postseason is designed to determine one champion, but the grind along the way chews up and spits out the bones of eleven other teams who end otherwise successful seasons with a loss.”
Good and bad, playoff moments can be downright baffling. I’m sure Seattle Mariners fans are still disoriented from what just happened to them in their series against the Houston Astros. I’m still trying to figure out how the Giants won three World Series in five seasons. If someone came up to me and said San Francisco got lucky and didn’t deserve to win in 2014 and the Nationals were the better team, I’d shrug and then probably do something like this:
We’d both be right.
It’s not like the Dodgers haven’t had their years of inexplicable insanity. Winning in 1988 didn’t make much sense. The New York Mets had beat them 10 out of 11 times in the regular season before they met in the National League Championship Series. The Oakland A’s were heavily favored as well, but they still lost. Given the choice, would bitter fans present day choose to erase Kirk Gibson pumping his fist like a coupling rod as he rounded second from the collective baseball consciousness because the playoff format is “flawed.”
Was 1988 really 34 years ago?
The conclusion I’ve arrived at this year is that the MLB postseason is an opportunity to exorcise demons. Sure the postseason isn’t fair, but it is often poetic. Trent Grisham rising from batting average dud of the National League to notching a 1.329 OPS so far in the playoffs; or Blake Snell finally shaking off the early yank in game 6 by beating the Dodgers and bagging the win in game 3.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, seem to be collecting devils. It’s at the point now, where they’re playing against themselves. Complacency? Entitlement? Or something more specific? Dave Roberts’ bullpen management or his foot being in his mouth, or Freddie Freeman going 0 for 20 with runners in scoring position through the first three games in the series, or Trea Turner’s defensive bumbling.
At the end of the day, the Dodgers didn’t play well against San Diego. They lost and their season ended like this.