The Dodgers won on Sunday. Which really isn’t news, they do that a lot. Beating the Miami Marlins isn’t really cause for celebration either, as it’s far more of a function than an accomplishment. And yet, zoom out and it is pretty startling what the Dodgers have accomplished.
It was the Dodgers’ 87th win of the season, out of 125 games. Their win percentage is .696. They’re on pace for 112 wins. It will be their fourth 100+ win season in the last five full seasons (we’re throwing out the 2020 season-in-a-can at the moment, but we’ll come back around to it). Should they even get to 104 wins, it’ll be their fourth season of a .640 winning percentage for a season out of the last five. Quite simply, this has never been done in the modern age.
The late 30s Yankees did it. But baseball in the late 1930s was a couple stars surrounded by guys with consumption and missing half a foot. And of course, Jackie Robinson hadn’t integrated the game yet. The early 40s “Gashouse Gang” Cardinals had three straight .640 seasons, but again, it was the 1940s. Each league had eight teams full of guys who looked like orcs (the small ones, not the Urukai). Orcs who were constantly drunk.
We haven’t seen this level of dominance for over half a century. And not as baseball looks now, with its far greater and more stressful and draining travel, the far larger player pool, and of course, the overall quality of players. And the Dodgers routinely piss on it all simply to keep themselves entertained.
Certainly, they are better at what the game requires than everyone else, which is player development. They haven’t needed to tank, and yet they keep coming up with the next ass-kicker extraordinaire. They can even let a former MVP like Cody Bellinger deflate like Yokozuna sitting on a whoopie cushion and barely bat an eye. Gavin Lux or Julio Urias or Tony Gonsolin are brought through and put their foot in the ass of baseball sideways. Tyler Anderson or Justin Turner or Max Muncy are scraped out of the dumpster of baseball and rehabbed as the league’s best. And they still have enough in the reserve to trade for Mookie Betts or Trea Turner.
And of course, they’re the only team — other than the Padres whom they keep giving a typewriter to — that is willing to open the checkbook to keep Betts around or lure Freddie Freeman west.
Which is part of the reason they won’t be remembered along with other Yankees teams or maybe even the Braves of the 90s. They’ll be seen as having a financial advantage that no one could approach, the other owners will make sure the pen-holders record it that way. It was the same for the Yankees back in the day until the Red Sox chased them down.
Of course, the shit-cloud that hangs over the Dodgers’ legacy really is the one World Series title, which came in that 2020 season that is hard to view in the same way as any other season. Their playoff failures, which came in a sample size that’s barely a ripple on the sea of games they’ve played, will mark them out unless they correct that this October, and maybe not even then.
Small factors you can play over in a 162-season matter so much more when it comes down to five or seven games, or sometimes even one within that. You can run up against a team cheating in the most grandiose fashion the game has seen (maybe). Or a 108-win opponent. Or everyone gets hurt. Or teams can alter themselves over a short series with its buffet of off days to only throw their five best pitchers, which makes them a 110-win caliber team instead of the more modest one they were over the regular season. The Dodgers can’t juice themselves in the same way to be an enhanced version. They are the enhanced version over six months. Every baffling Dave Roberts decision matters in the playoffs in a way it wouldn’t on a July night.
They’ve created the greatest monster in baseball as we know it (obviously literally in the case of signing Trevor Bauer). And they’ve done it far more organically than most want to recognize so as not to study why their team hasn’t done the same (it’s within the reach of most if they simply wanted it).
Maybe that’s the stain the Dodgers can’t wash out, that they have lorded over an era of baseball that contained so many teams that didn’t even want to try or weren’t willing to go the last step to be on the same plane as them. There’s been a lot of cadavers for the Dodgers to feast on the innards of. And only the rare foe that wanted to look them in the eye, and never for more than a season or two. The Cubs, the Nationals, the Red Sox have all bested the Dodgers at some point. All faded into the background quickly after. Only the Astros with a similar development system remain in the penthouse, and they’re still only too happy to let any free agent walk.
Perhaps it’s that lack of anything more than a World Series that keeps the Dodgers going, though one gets the feeling they wouldn’t cash it in and ride out the buzz like the others have. A game here or there in a sea of hundreds, which the Dodgers have won a greater percentage of than anyone, will define them.
Hardly seems fair, but no one said baseball had to be fair. In fact, its unfairness is rather the point.
I’ll have more on L.A. Galaxy’s Riqui Puig and what his signing means for MLS in the wider picture, but perhaps to tantalize you here’s the kind of pass he’s capable of, which seemingly finds a wormhole through the Revolution’s defense:
You can hear the Revs tear open like velcro if you turn your volume up.