Losing is never easy to handle in any dosage. But when the goal you’ve worked hard to achieve your entire life is seemingly within your grasp two years in a row, it can be soul-crushing. The Dodgers know the feeling all too well.
“Disappointed. Yeah, just disappointed, I think,” Clayton Kershaw said minutes after the Dodgers were sent home for the winter without a World Series championship. “There’s only one team that can win and we know that but it just hurts worse when you make it all the way and get second place. “
“So having done that two years in a row now, it doesn’t make it any easier.”
The Red Sox outplayed the Dodgers in every facet of the game, winning four of the five games over the last week. The best team in baseball during the regular season imposed their will on each of their three opponents to win their fourth title in the past 15 seasons.
Kershaw started two of the five games, losing both. The lefty would end up being charged with nine runs in 11 innings pitched.
“They’re a great team,” Kershaw said. “They beat two teams that also won a hundred games in the postseason. And then beat us four games to one. So they’re a great team, obviously. They have a lot of depth up and down the lineup.”
It may not have looked like it at times, but the Dodgers were also a really good team in 2018. Sometimes the underwhelming results and lackluster play took away from how good they were. The fact that they rallied to win their sixth consecutive division title and made it back to the Fall Classic should be testament enough.
“I can’t say enough about our ballclub, the fight, the compete,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday. “All year when it didn’t look so good, our guys stuck together, stayed the course and believed in one another, and put ourselves in a chance to win a championship.”
“There’s a lot of hard work that comes with it, a lot of sacrifice and you’ve got to have good players. And we did that this year. Our backs were against the wall numerous times and there were markers and points where we could have went the other way, but we found ways to win baseball games.”
The loss springs the Dodgers into an offseason of change that has the potential to be substantial. The luxury tax restrictions the Dodgers have been angling to avoid are now behind them, as they have successfully reset the penalty for going over that tax threshold.
Will that send the Dodgers on a spending spree trying to get over the hump and win that well sought-after title next season? It’s too early to tell, but changes could be coming.
The most pressing item on the checklist will occur within the first three days of the offseason that begins Monday. Kershaw has three days to decide whether to opt out of the remaining two years of his contract, which would make him a free agent.
“I know the future questions are obviously coming for myself,” Kershaw said. “I don’t want to take away from tonight, obviously, and what everybody is feeling. I never want to put the focus just on me or anything like that. This was a tough one for us tonight, it really was.”
“I’ve got three days now to think about all of that stuff before anything happens. And so it will be an eventful three days for me, and I’ll try to figure it out.”
It’s hard to imagine Kershaw in any other uniform after the 30-year-old has poured his heart into the Dodgers for 12 years since they drafted him in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2006 draft.
“Clayton is the Dodgers,” said teammate Rich Hill. “He’s the heart and soul of this organization. He’s a guy who’s put it on the line for so many years and has had so much success as a Dodger. I just hope they do the right thing.”
Kershaw isn't the only one who has a pending status for a return to the Dodgers next season. Roberts’ three-year deal with the team is up but there is an option the Dodgers can pick up for 2019 if they don’t want to extend him.
“We have a really good working relationship,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said to media back in September. “I think both sides expect to work together for a long time. We’ve had conversations and I think it’s one of those things where all of our focus is on winning a championship and picking that up when we get to the offseason.
“I think because the relationship is so strong and the communication – I get it being a question. But it’s not really a concern for any of us because of the relationship in place.”
Los Angeles has gone 287-200 during Roberts’ time at the helm, making the NLCS in all three seasons. The team could sign him to a multi-year extension soon.
“My plan is to manage the Dodgers,” Roberts said. “I love the city. I love the organization. Everything that it’s about. And I love the high expectations. And that’s the way it should be. I can always get better.”
“Obviously I understand my job is to ultimately lead us to a championship, and we haven’t accomplished that yet. But like I said, the whole body of work, I’m proud of what we’ve done.”