Since 1988, they’ve won it once. Over the same span, the Marlins have won it all more than once. The Giants won it more than once. The Astros won it more than once, though there’s an asterisk attached. Since 1988, the Braves have won it more than once, though we Atlantans would have nothing to say if we weren’t griping about how bad the Braves are in October.
This isn’t to begrudge anything the Dodgers have done. They bought the best player on the market, who was among the best players on any market ever. They’ve made so many transactions they’ve had to double their front-office staff to keep up with what we used to call paperwork.
They’ve done everything a baseball team can do to guarantee itself a realistic shot at winning the World Series, but what’s the one thing we know about baseball?
A “realistic shot” is never a guarantee. Baseball is not like other sports.
In football, the team with the best quarterback – once Tom Brady, now Patrick Mahomes – tends to win the Super Bowl. In basketball, the team with LeBron James has often (though not always) won. Baseball has no equivalent. Baseball has nothing close to an equivalent.
Back to those 100-win Dodgers. Three of those teams were eliminated in the Division Series. Last year’s Dodgers were swept in three games without ever holding a lead. Only one of the five made the World Series. It lost in Game 7 to the *Astros.*
The Dodgers’ only World Series win of the past 35 years came when they trailed the Braves 3-1 in the NLCS – and trailed in Games 5 and 7 – and that was the season shortened by COVID. One year later, the 106-win Dodgers faced the 88-win Braves in the NLCS. The Braves won in six.
That the club has loaded up in a way few teams have ever loaded up tells us that even the most pragmatic of organizations has decided to leave as little to chance as is possible, but therein hangs a tale. When’s the last time the team that “won” the offseason got handed the big trophy come fall?
The Padres have had their load-ups under A.J. Preller. The first was over the winter of 2014-15. By July, Preller was selling what he’d bought. This time a year ago, we wondered if the Padres would – with Fernando Tatis, Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado and Juan Soto – ever make an out. They finished sixth in the National League in runs. They missed the playoffs. Soto is now a Yankee.
The 2023 Padres were only the second-most-hyped team of the spring. The Mets were seen as a colossus – until they started playing. By midyear, they’d dumped Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, on whom they’d lavished separate fortunes. They went from being the alleged best team in the history of the sport to the team that won 26 fewer games than it had the year before.
The Dodgers aren’t about to turn Mets-like. The Dodgers will be good. They’re always good, and they’ve added Shohei Ohtani and Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. They might win 110 games. (They won 111 in 2022, you’ll recall.) They shouldn’t run short of pitching the way they did last year. But for all they’ve done, are they the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series?
Nope. In baseball, there are no overwhelming favorites. Entering every postseason, you’d do better backing the rest of the field against the team with the shortest odds – because those odds are never really short. The 2021 World Series was won by the playoff team with the worst record. The 2023 World Series matched a No. 6 seed against a No. 5.
We close by saying that everything we’ve said about the Dodgers – except for the part about adding Ohtani, Snell, et alia – applies to the Braves. They should be good again. They’ve been good for the past six years. Their five best teams over that span didn’t make the World Series. The worst of those six won the World Series.
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