This is part of an occasional series comprising MLB season previews.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been one of the most consistent teams in baseball over the last decade. The last time they won fewer than 80 games was back in 2005, and they haven’t lost the NL West since 2012. That was also the year that the team got taken over by a consortium of bigwig investors including Magic Johnson and Warriors co-owner Peter Guber. The Dodgers have had Major League Baseball’s highest payroll in every season since the ownership change, which would seem to make them fairly compelling and hateable villains. Who would want to root for a galactically rich team of frontrunners like this?
And yet, the team is stocked with some of the best characters in baseball. Vin Scully—patron saint of the broadcasting booth, Southern California baseball, and, like, having a speaking voice—has hung up his headset after approximately 245 years at the helm, but he’s as synonymous with Dodgers baseball as anyone. Clayton Kershaw is the best and most famous Dodgers player, and he’s as easy to like as any current MLB megastar. If you rear end him, don’t worry, he’ll still take pics with you. If you don’t like Yasiel Puig, you either don’t love fun or you’re a Cardinals fan. Hell, rich as they are, their three best hitters last season were Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Joc Pederson, two homegrown talents and a dude they found in the free agency scrap heap.
The trick now will be getting over the hump. This is a team with World Series-sized ambitions, and they should be better this year. Vegas has them as the third-most likely team to win the Whole Shit, which seems fair given that their young guys will probably improve. Seager finished third in MVP voting last year, his first full campaign in the majors. The dude is 22 and looks like he’ll hit above .300 forever. Much like his teammate on the left side of the infield Justin Turner, Seager’s bat has some healthy pop to it.
The strength of this team is their rotation, anchored by Kershaw, old man Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda. Kershaw pitched 80 fewer innings last year than he typically does. Assuming he bounces back and Hyun-Jin Ryu gets healthy again, the Dodgers will have a very deep cast of starters. The team forked over a boatload of cash to re-sign Kenley Jansen this summer, and he’ll once again join Grant Dayton to form one of the best relief duos in the majors. Put simply, the Dodgers have the horses; how far they go will come down to their young dudes.
Besides Kenta Maeda’s hulked-out translator, nobody’s more intriguing than Julio Urias. The 20-year-old was the top pitching prospect in baseball last season, and he joined the Dodgers for 15 starts in the regular season and two appearances in the playoffs. He dominated the minor leagues, and put together a solid record last year, striking out 9.8 batters per nine innings. He’s probably not going to be on the roster on Opening Day, but he’ll get his shot this season, whether it’s in relief or as a starter.
Meanwhile, let’s check in on Yasiel Puig.
Not a GIF; don’t care.
Hell yeah buddy.
Trayce Thompson, who has the Trayce outline of a big boy beard.
They are going to be very good, per every baseball projection out there. In all likelihood, they will scuffle with the neurotic Giants for a while and eventually pull away when the Giants inevitably forget to hit for six weeks at some point in the summer.
Because you, a connoisseur, want to watch the best pitcher of his generation and arguably the best shortstop in the new class of elite shortstops. There’s no higher-level reason to cheer for them. You won’t get to watch Vin Scully this year, their owners are mega-rich and completely unsympathetic, and their local TV deal is so odious that the feds had to get involved. But on the field, they are good and cool and they’ll win a lot of games in a butt division.