Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Los Angeles Dodgers, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
You came oh so close, but you were bested by the Houston Astros in the final game of the season. It was a brutal way to go, and the loss takes away from your otherwise tremendous year.
There will be plenty of questions here. How could a team with this much money fail? Why didn’t Clayton Kershaw start Game 7? What happened to the bullpen?
Those are all fair, but they take away from the awesome season the Dodgers put together. For a while, they were on a historic pace. Only a terrible slide in August kept them from turning in one of the truly dominant regular seasons. They flexed that muscle early in the playoffs too, annihilating the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs.
In the end, they ran into a tenacious Astros team that wouldn’t quit. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s baseball.
The Dodgers will be back stronger than ever in 2018. The team simply has too many resources to just quietly go away. They’ll use the World Series loss as motivation, and that might make them even more dangerous next season.
Let’s take a look at the season that was in Los Angeles:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers front office pushed just about every correct button leading into and during the 2017 season. They finally put together a rotation that didn’t hinge entirely on Clayton Kershaw. They put together a filthy bullpen that was dominant until exhaustion seemed to take over in the postseason. The lineup was well balanced thanks to the rookie breakout of Cody Bellinger and the emergence of Chris Taylor. They were baseball’s best team for basically the entire season. They did everything right short of winning the World Series. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
The Houston Astros were just a little more resilient when it mattered most. You could nitpick pitches or decisions by Dave Roberts that cost them in the World Series. But the bottom line is Houston just made a couple more plays, a couple better pitches and came through with a couple bigger hits. Losing Games 2 and especially Game 5 with Clayton Kershaw on the hill were just too much to overcome. But this is a Dodgers team that’s built for success and it’s not going away anytime soon. (Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
In a season full of a lot of highlights, we’ll succumb to recency bias. After years of trying, Clayton Kershaw finally got to pitch in the World Series. His first time out, he didn’t disappoint. He shut down the dominant Astros offense over seven tremendous innings. Kershaw gave up only one run on three hits. He struck out 10. It felt like a significant moment in his legacy, even if the Dodgers didn’t win the World Series. (Chris Cwik)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
The Dodgers are really set up well to compete for the next couple seasons. While they are losing some key contributors, Darvish’s departure could sting the most. The rotation is still strong without him, but the team needs to protect against injuries to Rich Hill and Alex Wood. Neither has proved to be durable. In order to make sure they can get by without them again, the Dodgers would be wise to find another replacement in the rotation. Maybe that’s Darvish. Maybe it’s someone else.
The bullpen may also need work, with Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson on the way out. The Dodgers did a good job finding cheap talent there before 2017, so they could go that route. The bigger issue might be making sure all their guys are at full strength come next October. (Cwik)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
Things are still pretty good in Los Angeles. The team is not only still made up of talented youngsters, but that talent could still be supplemented by prospects in 2017. The team featured three players on Baseball America’s top-100 midseason update. Both pitcher Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo may start in Triple-A, but seem destined for more work in the majors. Pitcher Yadier Alvarez could be up later in the season.
Look, the Dodgers will be good again next year. The team not only has a strong core, but can combine that with a crazy payroll and decent prospects still in the system. They can go a lot of ways here. They can pay for elite talent, or trade away pieces to get over the hump in 2018. Expect them to do something big. After coming so close, the team won’t want to falter again. (Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES
San Francisco Giants | Philadelphia Phillies | Cincinnati Reds | Chicago White Sox | New York Mets | San Diego Padres | Atlanta Braves | Detroit Tigers | Pittsburgh Pirates | Oakland Athletics | Miami Marlins | Toronto Blue Jays | Baltimore Orioles | Seattle Mariners | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels | St. Louis Cardinals | Milwaukee Brewers | Minnesota Twins | Colorado Rockies | Arizona Diamondbacks | Boston Red Sox | Cleveland Indians | Washington Nationals | Chicago Cubs | New York Yankees