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Owning up for declaring the Dodgers done after 42 games

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I was wrong.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

You know that feeling when you know you’ve screwed up and have to admit it? Yeah, that’s me right now.

Back in May, I proclaimed the Dodgers’ season over after they got off to a 16-26 start. At the time, I was frustrated. I’ve been in a weird place with my fandom since Game 2 of the World Series last year. I’ve chronicled that on my podcast, but I’ll give you the short version:

When Corey Seager hit that homer off Justin Verlander, I felt an excitement I had never felt in my Dodger fandom. It felt like it couldn’t get any better. Then the rest of the game and series played out and the rest is history. It was gut-wrenching. It was heartbreaking. It was almost the end of my baseball writing “career.”

I don’t believe I’ve ever stated this publicly, but I was considering giving up blogging/writing about the Dodgers. I was feeling that way even before the end of the Series — regardless of the outcome. I was wrecked for the winter. I felt ambivalent for most of the offseason, and that spilled over to the regular season. Then the poor start, coupled with all that, led to me writing that article back in May.

Luckily (unluckily?), I didn’t walk away.

I’m not excusing the article. I’ll own it 100 percent. I’m just trying to give you, the reader, a glimpse into my psyche at the time.

———

Let’s look at a few of the statements from that article and dissect them.

“They’re hitting the ball harder and higher, but the balls aren’t going over the fence. Through 43 games last season, the Dodgers had a .168 ISO and 49 home runs, compared to 39 this season. Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor haven’t been the same hitters they were in 2017, and Corey Seager wasn’t exactly lighting the world ablaze before his season-ending elbow injury. The aforementioned Puig has also struggled, but he has started to heat up of late. Oh, and that Justin Turner guy is back. Perhaps the offense gets on track, but it has to play a lot of catch up.“

Since May 18, the Dodgers have a .205 ISO and have hit 107 home runs — both second in baseball in that time to the Yankees. This is thanks, in part, to Bellinger and Taylor, but it’s mostly thanks to Max Muncy (1.006 OPS), Joc Pederson (.951 OPS) and solid contributions from Matt Kemp (.838 OPS) and Yasmani Grandal (.851 OPS).

A lot of the turnaround was possible because of the guys in the organization remembering how to play baseball well. I was skeptical that would happen after the miserable start.

“Without any significant reinforcements coming from the farm or from outside the organization, the Dodgers are going to have to rely on the talent they have on the roster. There are still some quality players, but with the way some of them have performed this season, well, I wouldn’t hold my breath.“

Man, was I salty.

The guys mentioned above did start playing well and the season was saved by the likes of Muncy and Stripling. And the Dodgers added to the squad ahead of the trade deadline in a big way. Manny Machado was the big prize, while Brian Dozier (two home runs in his first two games) could be a great get. They also added John Axford to the bullpen. All of them could and should be key contributors down the stretch.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pitching and its struggles early on. But since that time, the Dodgers own a 3.22 ERA, 3.49 FIP and a 18.8 K-BB%. The bullpen, which was really bad early on, has been among the league’s best. It has a 3.20 ERA, 3.60 FIP and a 17.5 K-BB%. This is thanks to Kenley Jansen figuring things out, Caleb Ferguson performing well, and Scott Alexander — after a trip to Oklahoma City — looking more like peak Zach Britton of late.

The bullpen lost Ross Stripling to the rotation, but his All-Star performance, coupled with Walker Buehler looking — at times — like a future No. 1 starter — helped the Dodgers get by while Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill were hurt. Kenta Maeda’s ascendance, thanks to the addition of a changeup, The Dodgers’ worst starter since May 18 has been Alex Wood, who has a 3.93 ERA, 4.23 FIP and a 13.2 K-BB%. Speaking of Kershaw and Hill, they’ve both been excellent since their early season struggles. Both are looking like the pitchers we’re used to, even if Kershaw’s velocity hasn’t returned (and may not at this rate).

———

The key takeaway here is I was wrong. Unequivocally. There’s no excusing the hot takeness of the original article. I was mad, frustrated and, probably most of all, sad. I’m still cautious about jumping all the way back into this team with both feet, but things are better now.

There have been a number of unsung heroes so far this season. With guys like Stripling, Kemp and Muncy regressing a bit, the new additions — and guys coming back from injury — should help pick up for things evening out.

If I’ve learned one thing from this, it’s to always keep a level head. Sometimes it’s difficult, but sometimes emotions take over. Either that or wait until at least June to fire off the hottest of takes.

I’ll wear this one for as long as it takes. I’m not sorry for it. I’m not sorry for anything I’ve ever written, but I will admit it was hasty and, in hindsight, a really bad take.

It’s going to be really funny when the Dodgers are hoisting the World Series trophy at the end of October and I get my menchies flooded with people linking to the May article. And you know what? That’d be just fine with me.