Whicker: Enjoy the Dodgers’ journey with Mookie Betts without fretting the destination

first_imgBut why even go there? Every bullpen is a roulette wheel.The Nationals had a witches’ brew until the postseason, when they out-relieved everyone they played.The Yankees assembled more relief than FEMA last year, a historic flotilla of late-inning weaponry. They still lost the ALCS on the final pitch of Game 6.Relievers are like field-goal kickers and goalies, a box of chocolates with jaw-breakers mixed in.But the Dodgers will ride to October having made themselves louder and faster and much more fun. Once they get there, all Betts are off. How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco His off year was 2019, when he had an OPS of .919. He led the league with six more runs than he scored in 2018, when he also led the league. He drove in as many runs, walked 16 more times and had only three fewer homers than he did in that MVP season.Some Red Sox fans, firmly rooted in perspective, have likened Betts’ departure to that of Babe Ruth. It’s not quite that, but Betts, at least this year, is certainly more than the sum of Pederson and Alex Verdugo, the departed outfielders.Betts will see at least one familiar face. First-base coach George Lombard was his first professional manager in the Gulf Coast League.Betts showed up in 2011 after a long contract negotiation. He actually played in only one game for Lombard, and proved he was an 18-year-old.“He was playing shortstop then and he threw a ball to our first baseman, who couldn’t come up with it, and he’s out there saying, ‘How come?’’’ Lombard said. “Then he flips to the second baseman, and that play doesn’t get made, and he’s upset about that.“I had to have that sit-down talk, and tell him this is professional baseball and we don’t show up our teammates on the field. We laugh about it now when I see him.”A couple of years later, Betts was playing at Class A Greenville (S.C.) and Lombard was a minor-league coordinator. Betts started slowly but hit .297 there.One day he approached Lombard and said, “I owe you an apology.”Lombard wondered why.“I didn’t run out that ball the other night and I didn’t give my best effort,” Betts said.At that point, Lombard suspected Betts would be all right.“I really thought he’d be a Gold Glove second baseman back then,” Lombard said. “He made some of the best plays I’ve ever seen.”Betts played his first major-league game three years later.His arrival also means that Jackie Robinson’s franchise will have an African-American star. Or player, for that matter.He brings almost everything, in fact, except a guarantee.David Price is coming because the Sox wanted to lighten their contract load. He has turned in over 2,000 innings and is coming off wrist surgery. Although he made only 22 starts last year, his 10.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio was the best of his career. Still, no one should expect Price to match what Hyun-Jin Ryu did in 2019.The caveat in the room is still the bullpen, without Kenta Maeda grumbling his way into the postseason and then dominating, at least when allowed to.Related Articles The Dodgers are more versatile and watchable than they were Tuesday.The Dodgers have fortified their todays and protected their tomorrows.The Dodgers are no closer to their first World Series championship since Wayne Gretzky’s first season with the Kings.All three can be true. Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies center_img Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start When it comes to predicting the 2020 World Series winner, you might as well be using an Iowa-based app. Who knew that Washington would be the last team standing in the season after they lost Bryce Harper?We do know that Mookie Betts, at the very least, will remove the pointlessness of the spring and the summer and the early fall.The Dodgers should have the National League West safely pocketed by Flag Day. They spent last summer stat-packing and experimenting and thumb-twiddling. Remember Joc Pederson trying to play first base?They never dispelled the ultimate dread that was justified when the Dodgers lost the NL Division Series to the Nationals. Even though they led the National League in runs and homers, they had been softened by a season of mismatches. They weren’t ready to hit the best pitchers or get the toughest outs.Betts is 27. Over the past four seasons, he has won four Gold Gloves and finished second, sixth, first and eighth in American League MVP voting. He has had at least 40 doubles in each of the past five seasons. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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