Los Angeles Dodgers’ MLB performance proof that money does not buy everything

The Dodgers have an abundance of everything from a loyal fan base to funds, but titles have not been so easy for the Los Angeles-based team to come by, writes Gregg Patton.

Cody Bellinger is the latest member of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system to be brought up to the big league club and make an immediate impact on their fortunes. Jason Miller / Getty Images / AFP
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The Los Angeles Dodgers are the team that have everything.

Except a recent championship. That, at this point, nearly three decades after their last World Series victory in 1988, renders their riches meaningless.

It is the great dichotomy of one of Major League Baseball’s legendary franchises. The Dodgers enjoy a lion’s share of the game’s peripheral advantages, yet continue to crumple just short of the finish line. They play in Dodger Stadium, a picturesque, classic ballpark where rainouts almost never occur. They have drawn more than 3.7 million fans each of the past four seasons, easily the most in MLB.

They were sold five years ago to a new ownership group, Guggenheim Baseball Management, that supports a more-than-generous, US$225 million (Dh826.6m) payroll.

This is the fourth consecutive year the Dodgers have paid their players the most money.

Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been recognised as the best for at least five years, and reliever Kenley Jansen has evolved into the No 1 closer in the game.

Their player development system has been adding key pieces to the big league roster the past few years, including the 2016 Rookie of the Year, when short-stop Corey Seager helped lead the Dodgers to their fourth consecutive National League West Division title.

Unfortunately, the year ended in the usual agony – elimination in the play-offs, this time one step shy of the World Series.

Los Angeles have reached the post-season eight times in the past 13 years and lost in the League Championship Series four times.

No matter how good they may be or promising the outlook, the big, powerful, shiny Los Angeles machine manages to get passed on the finishing laps each time.

If there is a certain resignation among the faithful that things may turn sour in the playoffs, at least they can count on the team getting there.

At the moment, the Dodgers are in a tight battle for first place in the NL West with the surprisingly able Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Los Angeles would own a Wild Card berth if the season ended today.

The better news is that the Dodgers have the best record in MLB, 31-15, since April 25, the day that Cody Bellinger made his big league debut.

The team’s top prospect was called up from Triple-A when first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was sidelined with an elbow injury. It was supposed to be a quick trip, while Gonzalez healed for 10 days.

Instead, Bellinger made himself indispensable with a power surge surpassing that of Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees rookie who has dominated MLB headlines all spring.

No one, not even Judge, has equalled the 18 home runs that Bellinger has clubbed over the past eight weeks.

The left-handed hitter also has driven in 40 runs.

Bellinger moved to the outfield when Gonzalez was activated, but returned to first base this week when Gonzalez hit the disabled list again with a herniated disc.

“He exceeded all of our expectations,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told the Orange County Register newspaper this week.

“It’s easy to say he’s only going to get better. But he keeps getting better.”

On Tuesday, Bellinger posted his fourth two-homer game. No one has ever done it as quickly – in 45 games. The blasts came off left-handers Andrew Miller and Boone Logan.

Miller had not surrendered a home run this season. Logan had not given up a home run to a left-handed batter since 2014.

Bellinger’s unexpected performance seems unfair, dropping in the laps of the rich and powerful Dodgers. After all, they are the team that, almost, have everything.

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