Mookie Betts: Is he the key for the LA Dodgers to win the World Series?
Fresh-cut grass and the crack of the bat, man oh, man, isn’t it great to be back? It’s late October, and as the leaves start to fall and the smell of pumpkin spice fills the air, it means we are in the middle of the World Series.
For the third time in four years, the Los Angeles Dodgers are back in the World Series after an upset loss in the NLDS to the Washington Nationals, the eventual 2019 World Series champions. The team remained relatively unchanged over the four years as they took on the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw remained dominant in his thirteenth season. The 2017 National League (NL) Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger still leads the team with outstanding defensive play and a red-hot bat. The big changes: Kershaw lost a few recognizable starters in exchange for bullpen help, and Bellinger received a partner in Mookie Betts, sending them on the path to Gold Glove nominations.
Betts is the most meaningful improvement in the Dodgers clubhouse. Betts is the missing piece to the puzzle. His addition will help the Dodgers get over the hump to hoist the trophy at the end of the series and end a thirty-two-year drought.
Before Mookie Betts ended up in Los Angeles, he spent six seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He had an outstanding career in Boston – earning a .301 batting average, 126 stolen bases, and a 41.8 wins above replacement (WAR). Betts was a premiere talent worthy of signing a massive contract to keep him in Boston for many years until Boston traded him to the Dodgers.
In the shortened 2020 season, Betts scored sixteen home runs (HR) & thirty-nine runs batted in (RBI). If you estimate his stats for a full season. Betts scored 30 HRs, 101 RBIs, and a 4.8 WAR – up almost 2 points from his actual 2020 WAR.
Betts was the offseason pick up the Dodgers needed. Before even playing a single game, the Dodgers signed Mookie Betts to a twelve-year $365 million contract. The deal is a massive risk because $115 million of the contract is deferred, meaning he’ll be paid through 2044 regardless if he is still in the league or on the team.
It’s the same deal the New York Mets are on the hook for with Bobby Bonilla, paying him $1.2 million every year from 2011 until 2035. The Mets bought him out of his contract after a disappointing year – his third stint on the team in ten years – and agreed to an 8% interest rate. The only difference is Mookie Betts has exceeded expectations.
How did Betts end up in Los Angeles?
The Red Sox traded Mookie Betts away in February, and Boston’s chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom called it one of the most difficult decisions he’s had to make. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2018 and missed the playoffs the following season. The team was missing depth in every position and had an astronomical payroll.
The Dodgers were willing to take Mookie Betts & pitcher David Price’s massive contract in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo & two prospects. Verdugo is a promising young outfielder with fourteen HRs & forty-nine RBIs in 158 games over three seasons with the Dodgers. At every at-bat, he proved himself as an incoming player worthy of building a team around.
Mookie Betts’s leadership
Mookie Betts came into an already successful Dodgers team. Bellinger won last season’s NL MVP, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove awards. The Dodgers also lead the NL in home runs & RBIs. In the shortened season, the Dodgers smoked the league in HRs with Betts and second in RBIs.
Betts contributes to the stat & score sheet every game, but his true contributions are in the clubhouse. Betts leads by example and sets the tone for the lineup. He came into Los Angeles from the team that crushed them in the World Series two years earlier and was a leader in a locker room full of all-stars he barely knew.
According to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez, “[Mookie Betts] led in a manner that was sincere and organic, not forceful and contrived.” Gonzalez added, “he makes the mundane drills competitive,” goes out of his way to coach up players no matter how many years they’ve been in the majors, and is a motivator during adversity.
The Dodgers’ identity with Betts
Mookie Betts offered the Dodgers a new identity. Los Angeles was known for power hitting & home runs over the last few seasons. This season, with Betts and their incredible depth, the Dodgers were an unstoppable behemoth with the league’s best record only. They won or tied every series except one and never lost more than two games in a row.
Betts showed his worth with momentum-changing plays in the outfield & batters box. His presence, work ethic, and leadership were the kickstart the Dodgers needed to get over the hump. Going forward, the Dodgers should be World Series contenders every year as long as Betts stays in Los Angeles.
We predict the Dodgers will win the World Series 4-2. What are your predictions for the World Series? Let us know!