Despite media hype, the game’s highest payroll, and a .717 regular season winning percentage, the Los Angeles Dodgers — winners of three of the last four National League pennants — still haven’t completed their mission.
And they had to desperately claw back from 3-1 down in the NLCS to eliminate the injury-riddled, poor-base running Atlanta Braves Sunday night.
After facing a 29-31 Milwaukee team and a San Diego squad lacking pitching depth earlier this month, Los Angeles now faces a real pitching test against American League champion Tampa Bay in the World Series, starting Tuesday night in north Texas.
Manager Dave Roberts has won five consecutive division titles, amassing a .615 regular season win percentage, but has so far come up short every October.
The Dodgers have been best team in the NL, and maybe all of baseball, each of the last four seasons, yet have gone 32 years without a world championship. Many feel this is the best team of GM Andrew Friedman's era that began in 2015.
I see three big question marks:
Clayton Kershaw, arguably the most dominant left hander of this era, is 11-12, with a 4.31 playoff ERA. He pitched poorly in his NLCS start and will likely start World Series Game 1.
Mookie Betts, the highest paid player in baseball, played great defense last week, but hit no homers and knocked in just one run against incredibly-inexperienced Braves pitchers during seven games.
Betts also has zero homers and five RBI in 12 playoff games overall. He only has one career postseason big fly and a paltry nine RBI in 33 career October games, along with a .255 average.
The Dodgers will be the “home team” and undoubtedly have the Globe Life Field crowd on their side; but if Los Angeles hitters struggled against their prior three playoff opponents, facing the AL's best pitching staff won't be easy.
AJ Kaufman is an expert political analyst, who covers matters of national importance, as well as baseball and collegiate hockey for KACMEDIA.