The Dodgers won the most games in franchise history in 2022, posting a remarkable 111-51 record that outpaced the next-best team by five games, the next-best in the National League by 10, and the next-best in the NL West by 22. Every time they accomplished something worth celebrating, the celebrations were marked by the same thing: every player saying something along the lines of, “This is nice, but it’s not our ultimate goal.”
Now, the Dodgers head into the NL Division Series beginning on Tuesday against that “next-best in the NL West” team, the San Diego Padres, who won just 89 games in the regular season but delivered a knockout punch to the Mets in the Wild Card Series in New York, defeating them two games to one.
If Los Angeles is going to win another World Series championship, they’ll have to beat San Diego, then either Atlanta or Philadelphia, and then whoever survives the American League side of things. There are more playoff teams than ever before, other than the one-year, pandemic-related expansion to 16 playoff teams that created the most grueling postseason in history, forcing the Dodgers to become the first team ever to have to win 13 postseason games on their way to a championship. More teams means more randomness, more opportunities for an inferior team to get hot and win it all.
In short, the Dodgers were the best team in baseball this year, and that has never mattered less. Still, star first-baseman Freddie Freeman is not allowing any nuance in his view of the importance of winning the World Series, as Jorge Castillo reports in the Los Angeles Times.
“Every season you don’t win is a failure in my eyes,” Freeman said. “I’ve thought that from the moment I got here. We could win 140 games … it doesn’t matter how many wins you have once Oct. 11 starts. No one cares about how many wins. If you don’t win a World Series, then all 29 other teams should view that as failure.”
From a player’s standpoint, it seems like the way to keep that competitive edge is to have that mindset. If you start letting yourself think you’ll be satisfied even if you don’t win it all, you won’t have that fire going into the postseason.
Clayton Kershaw is more philosophical about the question, as are Justin Turner and Andrew Friedman (all quoted in Castillo’s article). In fact, Kershaw essentially just refuses to answer the question about whether the season is a failure if they don’t win it all.
“I guess the best way to answer that is everybody is going to have their own opinion,” Kershaw said. “And so I think everybody is just going to have to define that for themselves. For me, personally, I’m just never going to define it. So it’ll be great.”
Let’s just win it, boys, and then we won’t have to grapple with the harder questions.
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