I’ve had a few weeks to digest since the Dodgers were eliminated from the NLCS by the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers certainly had some memorable moments in 2021, but I have come to the conclusion (after many nights of reflection) that the Dodger’s 2021 season, was indeed a failure.
Even though the club won 106 regular season games tying the franchise record previously set back in 2019, the Dodgers didn’t win bupkis. For the first time since 2012, they have no flag to hoist above Dodger Stadium. They didn’t win the division for the first time in eight seasons, which was won by the rival Giants by a measly game. The Dodgers didn’t win the pennant, or the World Series. No Dodgers won any awards as well. Max Scherzer finished third in the NL Cy Young voting, Walker Buehler finished fourth. Julio Urias placed in the top ten. Yet no Dodgers won anything this fall.
Sure they did have a deep run into the postseason. They did eliminate their archrivals Cardinals and Giants. The Cardinals they eliminated in the National League Wild Card game, (thanks to a Chris Taylor walk-off home run) and the Giants were knocked out in a thrilling five-game grueling division series. Otherwise, they didn’t do much else. They didn’t win the pennant, they didn’t defend their World Series title.
Winning consecutive championships is one of the hardest things to do in sports. But the Dodgers made things very hard on themselves by running out of pitchers in the second month of the season. The starting rotation was decimated by injuries to Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, David Price, and Tony Gonsolin. Yet the Dodgers had nearly no pitching depth, and did not have one starting pitcher in the minors that was worth calling up. At many points throughout the season they did not have one pitcher in the entire organization that could start a baseball game. So they had to constantly use bullpen games. The poor strategy put way too much stress and additional innings on the arms of the relievers. The Pen was great in 21, but we saw multiple relievers drop like flies due to injuries.
Not only did the Dodgers run out of pitchers, but they also ran out of position players. Forced to completely rebuild their minor league system after Covid wiped away the 2020 minor league season, the Dodgers chose poorly and haphazardly filling the triple-A and double-A rosters with useless utility bums. Regularly throughout the season (due to injury), the Dodgers were forced to call up and play guys that could not, and did not hit above the Mendoza line. Some of them could barely hit above .150. Players like Luke Raley, Sheldon Neuse, Andy Burns, Zach Reks, Steven Souza Jr. and many other bums were regularly not only wasting roster spots, but getting important at-bats.
There were some other bright spots while those utility bums were flailing through the Chavez Ravine night. There was the shrewd acquisition of legend Albert Pujols, and the trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Otherwise there was not much else that went on.
Who knows what the 2022 Dodgers will look like. They have many key players reaching free agency, and the Dodgers may not bring any of them back. Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor among others are all hitting the open market this winter. The product on the field next season may be significantly weaker than it’s been in a long time.
The failures must be documented just as much as the successes. The utility bums, minor league retreads, bullpen games, hoards of injuries, and poor managerial strategies are the reasons why the Dodgers did not win anything in 2021. The Dodgers had an admirable title defense this year, but let’s remember and acknowledge these failures. In the meantime, let’s hope the Dodgers bring back all of our favorite and iconic players next season. Have a great thanksgiving everyone!