The Dodgers suck right now. Sure, they’re just three games under .500, but let’s be real: This team isn’t performing anywhere near anybody’s expectations nor their talent level.
Things came to a head on Sunday, when Cody Bellinger was benched for a perceived lack of hustle on a ball he hit 394 feet into Triples Alley at AT&T Park. Dave Roberts pulled Bellinger from a game in which the Dodgers were trailing by just two runs with nine outs remaining. Here’s what Roberts said to the media following the game:
Dave Roberts: “There’s certain expectations about the way we play the game. When you don’t abide by that, we’ll get somebody in there who will.”
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) April 29, 2018
Dave Roberts indicated he spoke with Bellinger earlier this week about other instances involving his effort.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) April 30, 2018
Here’s the play:
Here’s the double in question in regards to Bellinger’s benching.
— Chavez Ravine Fiends (@RavineFiends) April 30, 2018
And here’s Bellinger’s response in the media:
Cody Bellinger explanation for being benched: "I've always played the game hard, I took a big swing on the CB ended up on my knee and we're down 4 runs, I'm not trying to make an out on the bases trying to go to third."
— David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) April 30, 2018
Bellinger led off the top of the fifth inning with that double. Being one of the fastest Dodgers, it was a bit surprising he didn’t end up on third base. In the end, though, it didn’t really matter. All it did was to show that tensions are a bit high because the team is vastly under-performing.
On the surface, it seems Roberts did the right thing. No one player should be above the team, especially if he’s had a discussion with Bellinger about this previously. On the other hand, Bellinger made a good point about not wanting to risk getting thrown out and the fact he literally went to his knee to hit the ball almost 400 feet. It really just seems like Roberts got frustrated not just at Bellinger for not running full-bore out of the box, but as overall frustration for the season to date. Everything — especially the little things — are magnified when a team is struggling.
The Dodgers aren’t this bad. We know this. Walker Buehler has pitched in two games in the majors this season and the Dodgers have won both of them. They also just recalled Alex Verdugo because Yasiel Puig landed on the disabled list. Outside of them and should-be Monday starter Brock Stewart — he’ll probably be the first one to relieve a sure-to-be-short-outing by Ross Stripling, through no fault of his own — there isn’t that magical fix coming like Bellinger last year. The team is going to have to work out of its season-long funk with the players in-house. And there is ample talent, even while the team is missing Justin Turner, Rich Hill, Logan Forsythe, Yasiel Puig, Tom Koehler and others.
Sure, they’re going to make a trade or two at the non-waiver deadline. They always do. But what we see now is basically what we’re going to get for the rest of the season. It’s going to be up to the young veterans (Bellinger, Corey Seager) and established veterans (Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, etc.) to start playing up to their skill level. If they don’t, then the struggle will continue and it won’t matter if the bullpen is dumping gallons of gasoline on the mound seemingly every time its called into action.
Things are a bit rough right now, but the Dodgers have been in this situation before, as recently as last year. They have some of the most talent in baseball, and betting on talent is always the best play. If the team is playing this poorly in June, then it might be time to re-evaluate things.
Until then, it’s mainly baseball at its best/worst.