By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In the wake of sign-stealing findings and accusations about the 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox, some folks in Los Angeles wanted Major League Baseball to retroactively award those World Series titles to the Dodgers. Those folks were slightly misguided.
Now, in the wake of the Dodgers landing Mookie Betts and David Price, some folks want to proactively award the 2020 World Series title to the Dodgers. They may be equally off the mark.
To be sure, Mookie is pretty much universally known as the second-best player in the sport. There is simply no doubting his skills and abilities. He’s won four straight Gold Glove Awards, he’s been a Silver Slugger winner in three of the last four years, he has an MVP Award and an MVP runner-up to his name, and he’s legitimately on a Hall of Fame track as he enters his age 27 season.
Adding Mookie makes a baseball team better. Duh.
Stillllll, the immediate reaction to Tuesday night’s deal may have included some people going a little overboard.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 5, 2020
That’s … strong.
The story itself was more tempered than the promotional tweet (thus making it a very successful promotional tweet for a story), but it did end with a picture of the World Series-champion Dodgers visiting the White House:
In time, the storyline may turn to whether the Dodgers plan to visit the White House – depending on who’s in office.
That is, of course, is a debate for another day.
For now, the Dodgers are back to being the kings of the National League, at least on paper.
See you in October.
That wasn’t the only such story, of course.
From the LA Times, it’s already late October.
Dodgers swing hard at their critics, hit home run with Mookie Betts, they wanna win now https://t.co/uDed0cOCg6
— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) February 5, 2020
From the story:
Man, did they ever jump, leaping all the way from February to deep in October.
More important than all that, in Betts they may have finally found their missing championship piece.
It might seem as if they’ve made this type of blockbuster addition before, but this time it feels different. This impact feels enormous. This hope feels real.
This is not the 2017 midseason trade for the pressure-racked Yu Darvish. Betts has a championship ring after homering against Clayton Kershaw in the clinching Game 5 of the 2018 World Series.
Mookie Betts, after all, was acquired to be more than just their new leadoff hitter and right fielder.
He has come to be their closer.
Optimistic, and rightfully so. But still slightly presumptuous.
Joel Sherman’s New York Post headline blares: “Dodgers’ brilliant Mookie Betts trade puts them on Yankees collision course.”
From the story:
So if you are doing winners and losers this offseason, think about Fox Sports, which might just get the first Yankees-Dodgers World Series since 1981.
That story, too, was tempered with “long way to go before that happens” language, but the thoughts in early February were very clearly already on late October.
And while Betts is a tremendous player, and while Price is sometimes (but not always) a tremendous pitcher, this is all understandable.
Still, it might all be a little premature.
While there will be no stories out of Boston trying to earnestly dampen excitement in L.A. after this particular blockbuster deal (I did absolutely nail that one, though), there are some matters worth mentioning.
Like, for instance, the playoff resumes of both Betts and Price.
Certainly, regular-season success has not been an issue for the Dodgers in recent years, as they’ve averaged 101 wins over the past three years. They’ve made the playoffs for seven straight years, they’ve reached the World Series twice, and they’ve reached the NLCS twice more.
The issue has been finishing the job.
On that … Betts and Price may not be the men for the job.
First, Mookie: He’s played 21 postseason games, with 99 plate appearances. He owns a .227 batting average and .654 OPS, a significant drop from his career regular-season marks of .301 and .893.
In the playoffs, Betts has struck out in over 17 percent of his plate appearances, compared to under 13 percent of his regular-season plate appearances. His OBP in the regular season? It’s .374. In the playoffs, it’s .313.
In the 2018 ALDS, Betts ranked eighth among Red Sox regulars in OPS.
In the ALCS, he ranked seventh. In the World Series, he ranked seventh again.
In the playoffs overall, among Red Sox with at least 25 at-bats, he ranked ninth in batting average, eighth in OBP, and eighth in OPS. He had the ninth-most RBIs on the team, and his 12 strikeouts were fourth-most on the Red Sox.
In 2018, Betts’ best season for which he won an MVP, his numbers looked like this:
Reg. Season: .346/.438/.640
That’s … significant.
By comparison, Joc Pederson — whom the Dodgers traded away on Tuesday night — posted a slash line of .205/.262/.385 in that 2018 postseason for L.A.
One of the L.A. writers cited Betts’ Game 5 home run in Los Angeles as evidence that Betts can help deliver a title. That home run, though, came after Betts had gone 4-for-21 with just one extra-base hit to start the World Series. He had hit .217 with a .584 OPS on just two extra-base hits (both doubles) in the ALCS, and he batted just .188 with a .566 OPS in the ALDS against the Yankees, going 3-for-16 with one double.
Suffice it to say, if the idea is that the Dodgers got Betts to get them over a postseason hump, he’s going to need to clear his own playoff bugaboos to complete the job.
On Price, well, that story’s been told. He did manage to put forth a tremendous performance late in the 2018 postseason, and he realistically deserved World Series MVP honors. In that World Series against the Dodgers, he allowed just three runs over 13.2 innings, going 2-0, and striking out 10 batters in 13.2 innings. Going back to the ALCS, he finished that playoff run with a 1.73 ERA and a 0.814 WHIP over 19.2 innings. He was nails.
Of course, from the 2010 postseason until the midpoint of the ALCS in 2018, Price went 1-9 in the playoffs with a 5.72 ERA and a 1.311 WHIP. It was a minor issue for a guy who won a Cy Young and had three other top-six Cy Young finishes during that time.
It’s possible that something magical clicked within Price during that 2018 season, when he elevated himself to the level he belonged that whole time. But then … he made just 22 starts in 2019, posting a 4.28 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP. His “unique elbow” led to an early IL trip, before a wrist cyst effectively ended his season in August, save for one brief appearance in early September.
After Aug. 1, Price threw a total of 4.2 innings last year. As such, even at a steep discount, his contributions for 2020 and beyond remain a major question mark. So surely, anyone spouting Buehler-Price-Kershaw as a postseason rotation at this moment in time would be jumping a gun or two.
Performing in the postseason brings with it an added weight. Performing in the postseason as a superstar carries even more. Performing in the postseason as a superstar brought in almost exclusively to be the difference-maker in October, just months before becoming a free agent and hopefully landing the richest deal ever written? Well, that’s a whole lot of pressure.
None of this is meant to distract from the massive loss for the Red Sox, as teams with deep pockets typically want to keep their home-grown stars throughout the bulk of their primes. Sending Betts away for scraps and having to pay half of Price’s bad contract is a loss for the Red Sox no matter which way you slice it.
But is this the deal that finally gets the Dodgers over the proverbial hump with regard to bringing home a World Series trophy? It’s a question that, despite all of Wednesday morning’s optimism, is no closer to being answered than it was 24 hours earlier.