During the recent Major League Baseball regular season, many fans praised the Dodgers for putting together a lineup with zero holes. In reality, 2019's National League MVP Cody Bellinger was a giant, dinosaur-killing crater in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup.
Bellinger slashed .165/.240/.302 (all career-lows) for an OPS+ of 45 (100 is league average) in 2021. He was bad, and if Max Muncy hadn’t gotten hurt prior to the start of the postseason, there was a strong chance that Bellinger might have been relegated to pinch-hitting or late defensive substitution duties. Well, Dodgers’ fans are probably glad that didn’t happen now.
In the winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLDS with division rival San Francisco, Cody Bellinger laced a single off Giants’ flamethrower Camilo Doval through the shift, driving in Justin Turner for what would end up being the game-winning run. It was Bellinger’s fifth hit of the postseason and third RBI.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is Bellinger’s awful 2021 doesn’t matter anymore. He just had the most pivotal hit of the season. It doesn’t matter what he did in the regular season. It doesn’t matter how many runners he left in scoring position or how many times he struck out with fewer than two outs and a runner on third. None of that matters anymore. Bellinger just won the Dodgers the series. They took down the top seed in Major League Baseball, and Dodgers fans should be throwing flowers and roses at Bellinger’s feet.
As a Giants fan, it was a little disheartening to see the Dodgers take the series, especially after that checked swing call to end the game. However, it felt good to see a player who received such a large amount of criticism during the course of the season come up clutch in the most pivotal moment of the series. It doesn’t matter what he does now. He should be a Dodger legend for life.
Take it from a Giants fan who watched Travis Ishikawa hit a three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS to send the Giants to the World Series. Ishikawa was never a strong hitter. He wasn’t some great player with the leather either, and no one expected him to end the game at that moment. But Ishikawa came through and created one of the most iconic moments in Giants history. For that alone, he will always be remembered fondly by Giants fans despite only hitting 17 home runs throughout parts of six different seasons in San Francisco.
Yes, I know Bellinger is being paid over $16 million so anything less than All-Star caliber seasons is viewed as a disappointment, but the Dodgers may not have won the NLDS if not for Bellinger. It doesn’t matter how poorly he does in the NLCS or potentially the World Series. You can’t compete in either of those if you don’t win the NLDS. He could go 0-for his next 100 at-bats and he should still be one of the most beloved players on that team. Lest we forget last year’s heroics snatching a homer away from Fernando Tatis Jr. and homering himself in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Winning a playoff series doesn’t come easy, so if you want to criticize Bellinger for when he does poorly, be sure you praise him when he comes through with moments like we saw last night.