Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2021
Everyone, who follows the Los Angeles Dodgers somewhat or knows someone who does, knows the team is in a sharp downward spiral. On social media, so-called Dodger fans have badmouthed everyone associated with the Dodgers.
This is not correct! Everyone is disappointed about the Dodgers’ recent performance, particularly after members of the media billed the Dodgers as “the best baseball team in history. However, badmouthing the Dodgers does not encourage them to play better.
The Dodgers look like a team that is under enormous pressure to win, and no team that feels pressure wins much. Yesteryear, when the Dodgers were either in a pennant race or in the postseason, their offense became nonexistent. Now, the same thing is happening.
The Dodger fielding statistics are the fourteenth best in the National League, and no team can win many games with poor defense. The NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager is in a defensive slump with diminished range and inaccurate throws. Fans are mad at him for his poor play both offensively and defensively, but they like to forget Seager plays with both new second basemen and center fielder. During his career, he had played with mainly Kiké Hernàndez, Max Muncy, or Chris Taylor. Hernàndez, now with the Boston Red Sox, is a defensive wizard. Muncy plays mostly a masterful first base. In 2021, Taylor has played mostly center field. While Gavin Lux, Zach McKinstry, and Sheldon Neuse are good second basemen, it will take time for Seager to establish communication with them. In addition, perhaps, Seager plays with a minor injury, not bad enough to put him on the IL.
The catching situation is troubling for the Dodgers. Both Will Smith and Austin Barnes are great at pitch framing and working with pitchers, important aspects of any team, but they have struggled to throw out potential base stealers. While the Dodger pitching staff has not held on runners well and the second baseman and Seager have not perfected the tag, both Smith and Barnes have not thrown well. Smith has not been blocking pitches in the dirt well, and he already has two passed balls, one more than in 2020 when he played twelve more games than this season. Catching is the backbone of every baseball team.
While many Dodger fans want the Dodgers to play Keibert Ruiz since the rookie has shown promise as a power hitter, he has not proven himself defensively yet. The Dodgers have many young pitchers, particularly in the bullpen due to injuries. They need a veteran presence behind the plate.
During this young season, the Dodgers have not performed well off the bench. Injuries have depleted their depth, making Taylor play daily. Off to a great start to his first season in the Major Leagues, McKinstry strained his right oblique, putting him on the IL exactly when the Dodgers began their losing ways. While it was exciting to see both Neuse and Luke Raley blast their first Major-League home run, they clearly are not ready to play at the Major-League level. Having no Minor-League games during the abbreviated 2020 season has damaged the young players’ development, and this hurt the Dodgers’ incredible depth.
After Edwin Rìos impressed the Dodger organization and their fans with his incredible power, they are surprised that he could not hit a lick. Many so-called fans have verbally attacked Rìos on social media, which is not called for at all. During the Chicago Cubs’ sweep of the Dodgers, it was revealed that Rìos had right shoulder inflammation, and the Dodgers put him on the IL. Hopefully, when he returns to the active roster, he will perform as he did during 2019 and 2020.
Thursday, the Dodgers finally activated Joe Kelly, who underwent shoulder surgery to remove cysts that weakened his shoulder, and put Scott Alexander, one of the most reliable Dodger relievers this season, with left shoulder inflammation on the IL. Kelly should strengthen the Dodger bullpen, which has been decimated by injuries. They have young relievers pitching in roles that they are not ready for or accustomed to, causing many late-inning heart-breaking losses. Unless some injured relievers can return to the active roster, Dodger President Andrew Friedman should trade for relievers at the trading deadline.
The Dodgers are a much better team than they have shown in the last seventeen games. They need to relax and have some fun. When Cody Bellinger and McKinstry return, the offense and defense will improve.