2021 Los Angeles Dodgers
2021 Los Angeles Dodgers / Franchise: Los Angeles Dodgers / BR Team Page
Clinched Wild Card: September 24, 2021, vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Managed by Dave Roberts
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off a World Series win, started the season as the consensus favorites to repeat. The only question was whether they would be able to hold off the San Diego Padres, the brash young kids on the block who had been very active in the off-season to build up on an already strong foundation. The Dodgers had not stood idle either, signing the most desirable pitcher available on the free agent market, Trevor Bauer, to a huge contract.
At first, it seemed that no one would be able to catch the Dodgers. After stumbling on Opening Day, April 1st, and losing a bizarre game to the Colorado Rockies, 8-5, that featured Cody Bellinger losing a home run because he inadvertently passed a runner on the basepaths, they reeled off 12 wins in the next 13 games to build a 4 1/2 game lead on their nearest pursuers. However, to every one's surprise, they started stumbling after that, and by the end of April had fallen to 16-11, still a good record, but surprisingly, they had fallen into second place, being passed by the San Francisco Giants. The strange twist was that they were never able to catch the Giants: even though they tied the highest win total in franchise history with 106, it was still one fewer than the Giants, who set a franchise record with 105.
There were some momentous developments during the season, most important being the loss of Bauer who was suspended indefinitely in June after allegations of sexual assault were made against him. The allegations were severe enough that he never returned, and as the season ended, his career was in jeopardy. They suffered through a huge slump by Bellinger, who hit only .158 on the season, compensated to an extent by an excellent year by 1B Max Muncy, and a tremendous first half by IF-OF Chris Taylor, while RF Mookie Betts and 3B Justin Turner were their usual solidly reliable selves. However, it was clear that the bench was not as solid as in previous years and that Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson, who were important contributors to the World Championship and to the string of division title winners in previous seasons, were not adequately replaced after leaving as free agents. In particular, top prospect Gavin Lux, who was expected to take over as the regular second baseman, was a disappointment. The Dodgers did not stand pat, however in the face of these problems: they signed veteran 1B Albert Pujols after he was released by the cross-town Los Angeles Angels, and he proved to still have some useful power in his bat, even at 41, the on July 31st, they pulled off the biggest deal of the trading deadline, acquiring P Max Scherzer and SS Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals in return for a package of prospects. Both players were outstanding down the stretch, with Scherzer going 7-0 and Turner, who was moved to 2B to play alongside Corey Seager, winning the batting title.
Just as the Dodgers seemed to be ready to make another deep run, the season ended with some bad news. First, as mentioned, they failed to catch the Giants, in spite of playing well, meaning they would need to go through a tense Wild Card Game against the St. Louis Cardinals, who had also been outstanding down the stretch. Then they lost long-time ace Clayton Kershaw, who had never been in top form all season, for the entirety of the postseason, and worst, Muncy was injured in a collision at first base on the final day of the regular season, also making him unavailable for the playoffs. They still had three great starters in Scherzer and young home-grown starts Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, the latter the only 20-game winner in the majors, but there was no other true starting pitcher available behind them. This became clearly apparent in the postseason, when some ill-advised decisions to using Scherzer and Urias in relief roles at key points had a snowball effect, forcing them to use a bullpen game on three different occasions, and also shortening the outings that all three frontline starters could make. That was in spite of the fact that they had an excellent and very deep bullpen, and that there was really no need to play around with pitcher roles in the postseason. In any case, they did manage to defeat the Cardinals in the Wild Card Game, but it took a 9th-inning homer by Taylor, and they squeaked by the Giants in the Division Series in what was just as tense an affair as everyone anticipated, not decided until the final inning of the fifth and final game, before they ran out of miracles against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, in a repeat of the previous year's match-up. Once again, they fell behind three games to one, but this time they could not pull off the three straight wins needed to advance to the World Series: they did win Game 5 at home when Taylor hit three homers and A.J. Pollock and Pujols combined with him on a tremendous performance from the bottom of the line-up, but a short and ineffective from Buehler in Game 6 was too much to overcome, and the season ended in disappointment.
Awards and Honors
- Rory Carroll (Reuters): "Baseball: Dodgers still hungry, look to repeat as World Series champs", Yahoo! Sports, March 30, 2021. 
- Jorge Castillo: "Dodgers clinch their ninth consecutive playoff berth", Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2021
- Bob Nightengale: "Dodgers, with three of the top 10 highest-paid players, are sitting atop the payroll mountaintop in 2021", USA Today, April 1, 2021. 
- Bill Plaschke: "Right now, the best team in baseball history stinks", Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2021. 
- Bill Plaschke (Los Angeles Times): "Grueling season and injured cornerstones left Dodgers too beat to reach World Series", Yahoo! Sports, October 24, 2021. 
- Juan Toribio: "How They Got There: LA's 9th straight clinch", mlb.com, September 15, 2021. 
- Juan Toribio: "Dodgers' fate sealed as NL Wild Card hosts: L.A. will face Cardinals in win-or-go-home game Wednesday", mlb.com, October 3, 2021.