The Dodgers won another division title on Tuesday night, but the postgame reaction wasn’t full of the usual exuberance we’ve seen in recent seasons. There were no fans in the stands to provide the energy at Dodger Stadium, and Major League Baseball has neutered celebrations this year in a nod to the COVID-19 pandemic that shortened the season and led to these odd conditions.
“It’s not as fun,” said Max Muncy, who hit one of four home runs in Tuesday’s win. “One of the best things about baseball is when you clinch your division, you get champagne all over the place, and it’s just one big party. It’s very unfortunate we don’t get to do that.”
At first the Dodgers milled around on the field, put on their MLB-issued postseason T-shirts, and posed for a team photo, but in front of cardboard cutouts and piped-in noise instead of 50,000 fans.
“It’s really strange,” said A.J. Pollock, who homered on Tuesday. “You know, we’re on the field, and the crowd’s going nuts. And then you’re kind of looking at each other, and you’re like, ‘Wait a second, we’re the only ones here.’”
The team then went into the clubhouse and according to Corey Seager, who also homered Tuesday, there were some speeches and champagne toasts, but nothing raucous.
“It’s a moment you need to celebrate, and we talked about enjoying the ride and all that stuff,” Seager said, “but to be able to have champagne showers, beer showers and stuff like that is fun, so it sucks to not be able to do.”
There could also a little bit of incremental championship fatigue. After all since Dave Roberts took over as manager the Dodgers have won five division titles in five years and five postseason series. Add in the playoff berth clinch in 2018 before the division title, and Tuesday was the 12th different celebration in five years. But they haven’t been able to celebrate the big prize, a World Series championship, yet.
“It’s just one step to where we want to be,” Mookie Betts told Alanna Rizzo on SportsNet LA.
That’s not to say the Dodgers didn’t diminish the accomplishment of winning the division. Quite the opposite.
“I let it be known that this needs to be appreciated, because it’s not easy,” Roberts said.
It’s just that they have bigger goals.
“I think we got a special group here, and we all realize that,” said Chris Taylor, who also homered Tuesday. “I think probably the most complete team I’ve ever been on, and we’re just excited going forward. We’re happy to clinch the division for sure, but we know we have more in store.
“We’re going to enjoy this, but this isn’t it for us. We’ve got some work to do.”
Perhaps the celebration was also muted by the fact that not everyone realized right away the Dodgers clinched.
“Truth be told, there were some guys that didn’t even know we had a chance to clinch,” Roberts offered, without naming any names.
That didn’t stop some folks on Twitter offering their guesses of which Dodgers player or players this might have been.
So Bellinger. Who else?— Tre de (@Lakesdods2223) September 23, 2020
Just say Cody Bellinger, Doc https://t.co/n2CQwJWgrV— David Rosenthal (@_therealdrose) September 23, 2020
Even if certain people didn’t know, you can probably just chalk it up to another weird notch in 2020’s belt. It’s been a weird year all around, with playing during a pandemic and health and safety protocols making a day at the ballpark, or a night on the road, unlikely any other year in recent baseball history.
“When you’re going through something this bizarre, you’ve got to really like the guys that are next to you. I think we just have a great locker room,” Pollock said. “I think we have a really good group that just said, ‘You know, it doesn’t matter, whatever the situation is, we’re going to go out there and play for each other and play hard. And I think we’ve done a good job of that.”