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One ring down, more to come for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who might even be better in 2021 than they were in winning the World Series last year
It was a moment years in the making, even if it wasn’t exactly as the Los Angeles Dodgers envisioned it. Last October, in front of a small but loud crowd at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Julio Urias struck out Willy Adames to send the World Series title back to Hollywood for the first time in 32 years.
Standing out in center field on that night, 156 days ago, was Cody Bellinger, who knows all about how tough it can be to capture the trophy. Bellinger joined the Dodgers in 2017, reaching the World Series each of his first two seasons in the big leagues but falling short both times.
He, along with Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Corey Seager and company, now has a World Series ring around their finger. But the Dodgers, loaded with talent, aren’t satisfied with just one. The lineup that prepares to take on the Colorado Rockies on Thursday to begin the 2021 season might even be better than the one that prevailed over the Rays in the World Series last October. Bellinger, speaking as part of a promotion for FLONASE, certainly thinks so.
“Probably the best, I would assume,” he said when asked how this year’s team stacks up to four previous ones he’s played for. “But you can play all the games on paper you want. At the end of the day, we all have to go out and play. We’re all confident. Everyone’s going to do their part to help this team win.”
Cody Bellinger makes a good point about the 2021 Dodgers
The group that led the Dodgers to the championship is mostly back intact. Turner re-signed in the offseason after testing the free-agent market. Mookie Betts is entering his second season in a Dodgers uniform and will be in the conversation for Most Valuable Player once again. Kershaw and Walker Buehler are still there at the top of the rotation. Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are a year older and with much-valued postseason experience on their resume.
As if that wasn’t enough for another run at the title, the Dodgers went out and added the top free-agent pitcher on the market. Trevor Bauer is mercurial and calculating. At times his behavior can seem odd, like when he pitched this spring with one eye closed just because he can, and attract a legion of doubters. The attention he gets for his antics can be distracting for a normal club. But the Dodgers aren’t any other club, and Bauer has fit right in during his short time in Los Angeles.
“Good, man,” Bellinger says about Bauer’s relationship with his new teammates. “He’s super quiet. From what I’ve noticed—and I’m not around the pitchers that often—he seems to keep to himself. He’s super in-tune with himself and what he wants to do to be successful. He’s super-in to the numbers. He wants to be really, really good. He wants to be great. It’s been a great addition.”
Last season, pitching for the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer won the NL Cy Young Award after leading the league with a 1.73 ERA. His 5.05 hits allowed per nine innings rate was the lowest of any qualified starter over the last 100 years; his 0.795 WHIP was the lowest in the NL in the Live Ball Era. On the Dodgers, though, he’s the second starter behind Kershaw. The rotation is so deep that David Price, a former Cy Young Award winner himself making $32 million this season, couldn’t even crack it and will begin the season in the bullpen.
The Dodgers didn’t get to celebrate their World Series triumph with their home fans. They, like the rest of the league, played the entire season in an empty and cavernous Dodger Stadium. That will change in 2021, as the club is preparing to allow 20 percent capacity to begin the year. It starts on April 9, when the Dodgers host the Washington Nationals and raise the World Series banner they spent so many years chasing.
“It’s going to be special,” Bellinger says. “Playing in Dodger Stadium with no fans is tough. It’s such a big stadium. We’re used to 40,000 every single night. Even 20 percent capacity is going to feel like a lot of people.”
The Dodgers had a Hollywood ending to their 2020 season. The scary thing for the rest of the league is they’re only getting better.