The Dodgers will clinch a playoff spot at some point this week. Entering Wednesday, their magic number for guaranteeing a postseason berth is two, with any combination of Dodgers wins and both Rockies and Brewers losses the results to track.
The Dodgers could clinch a playoff spot on Wednesday with a win in San Diego coupled with both a Colorado loss to the A’s (12:10 p.m. PT start) and a Milwaukee loss to the Cardinals (a doubleheader, starting at 2:10 p.m. PT).
But clinching the playoffs isn’t the main regular season goal for the Dodgers. Winning the National League West for an eighth consecutive is what they are striving for, and to that end they lead the Padres by 2½ games, with a magic number of nine to clinch the division.
Though watered down by the increase in postseason teams from 10 to 16 this year, a playoff berth is still an accomplishment the Dodgers plan to savor.
“I am all about celebrating things, whatever it might be, small victories or something as far as clinching a postseason spot. There’s nothing guaranteed,” manager Dave Roberts said last week. “I do believe that it’ll be a little bit more tempered, and we’ll be mindful of the social distancing, of course. But I hope our guys want to celebrate because it’s nothing that we should take for granted.”
We saw this just two years ago, when the Dodgers were fighting for their postseason lives in the final week of the season. They clinched a playoff spot on the final Saturday of the regular season, and celebrated accordingly in San Francisco. It took until a 163rd game on Monday to clinch the division, which brought with it another celebration.
“I think clinching anything is something worth celebrating. You don’t know how many times you’re going to have the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth, a division, or moving on to the next round of the playoffs,” Justin Turner said on a conference call Tuesday. “It’s something that we don’t take lightly. We appreciate and understand how hard it is to win, and clinch, and move forward.
“It’s something we all want to celebrate and spend that time with each other, because we know all the sacrifices and the time and effort that we put into getting to that point.”
With social distancing requirements in place during a pandemic, the celebrations don’t figure to be as wild this season. After the Dodgers’ first walk-off win this season, the team jumped around in place at home plate around Cody Bellinger, who hit the game-winning home run.
“The celebration at home plate, it was weird. It kind of felt like a Wii sports game,” Bellinger explained. “Just jumping up and down, throwing your hands up in the air.”
Postseason and clinching celebrations figure to be even more muted. Joel Sherman at the New York Post reported this week that MLB plans to remove alcohol from the equation:
Still, MLB recognizes it can remove one vital element from any stadium celebration — alcohol. The teams supply it in celebratory moments and MLB is going to forbid its presence. MLB also can, to a large extent through the teams, control the clubhouse. To that end, the league is going to ask players to celebrate on the field and to mask up as soon as it’s possible to do so. Commemorative shirts and caps are likely to be distributed in a way to limit contact with as many people as possible.
You can tell MLB is serious about limiting the celebrations, so much so they’re willing to give up that sweet, sweet sponsorship revenue from Budweiser. It will be interesting to see just how limited these celebrations will be, given the emotions of the moment, especially as we get deeper into the postseason.
“I get the the social distancing part of it. I don’t know how much correlation there is with alcohol for adults in a room,” Roberts said Monday. “But I hope we get three or four celebrations, and a chance to have those non-alcoholic celebrations.”