Dodgers Win 10th NL West Title in 11 Years, This One the Least Likely
L.A. lost its starting second baseman and 4/5ths of its rotation and still left a Padres team that was supposed to make the World Series in the dust.
It didn’t look good for the Dodgers in February when Gavin Lux tore his ACL. Or in May when Dustin May blew out his shoulder. Or in June when a clearly-injured Tony Gonsolin gave up seven runs in a game against the Giants. Or in July when the team’s major free-agent acquisition, Noah Syndergaard, was banished to the injured list with a phantom boo-boo because the club would rather have literally any Double-A pitcher take his spot in the rotation rather than give him and his 7.16 ERA another turn.
And it definitely didn’t look good for the Dodgers earlier this month when Julío Urías was arrested for his alleged second domestic violence incident, ending his season and his tenure with the Dodgers. Or when Gonsolin finally gave up on trying to pitch with a frayed elbow and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Or when Dave Roberts told reporters that even though Clayton Kershaw—who missed six weeks with a shoulder injury this summer—was back on the active roster, he would be a shell of himself for as long as he could stand to pitch through pain for the rest of this season, with his fastball topping out at 88, and his command and control of his pitches all over the place.
No, this was not a team I thought would run away with the division, let alone be a threat to finish with the best record in baseball on Sept.19. The Dodgers’ starting rotation is currently Kershaw, Lance Lynn and three guys who began the year in the minors. Mookie Betts is now the team’s best infielder.
And still, they rise.
Back when I made my 10 Bold Predictions for this MLB season, I picked the Padres to win the NL West, like everyone else. This wasn’t some kind of edgy selection. San Diego beat the Dodgers in the playoffs last year, then went and got better by adding Xander Boegarts to their already-stacked roster.
Why the Padres wound up being historically bad is a newsletter for another day, but Kevin Acee’s piece from last week about Manny Machado’s lack of leadership offers a clue. (I don’t think it’s fair to blame one player for an entire team catching The Ick, and as Acee fairly points out, this is a group that made the NLCS in 2022. But the difference between watching the Mookie Betts-and-Freddie Freeman-led Dodgers take fielding practice every day while the Padres frequently opt out of fundamental pre-game drills because Machado doesn’t find them necessary is… something.)
Anyway, I thought San Diego would win the division. But I also thought
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