It was only three weeks ago when we talked about the Los Angeles Dodgers becoming World Series champions. It was only three weeks ago that the Dodgers were 89-36, coming off a 1-0 extra-innings loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. An extra-innings loss, of course, that saw Rich Hill lose his no-hitter…in the 10th. And it was only three weeks ago that the Dodgers were far and away the best team in baseball.
We know what happened next. Los Angeles took the next two (against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, respectively) before dropping five in a row. They then salvaged just one game of a four-game set against the San Diego Padres, who currently sit at 65-79. All the while, we’ve been told it’ll be okay. We’ve been assured that it really doesn’t matter, but it could start to, maybe?
Which begs the question: when will it begin to matter?
Before this tailspin, the Dodgers took 52 of 61 contests. Not only is that absurd, said stretch would see them winning at a clip of 85 percent. But all of the tables would begin to turn.
The discarded and rusted T-800 models of the NL West became sentient as their beatdown and brutalization of the newer, faster T-1000s suddenly seemed commonplace (No “Terminator” film exists after 1991). All but two of their last 16 losses have come against NL West opponents. The Diamondbacks swept them…twice. The Padres took three of four. Colorado completed a four-game sweep. And now, San Francisco just took the first of a three-game set.
If there is good news for the Dodgers, though, it’s Arizona cooling off a little bit—losing three of their last four. Plus with 18 contests remaining, their NL West lead still sits at nine. So right now, the Dodgers need to worry about two things. First, they need to win a dang baseball game. Apparently that’s easier said than done. But secondly, the Washington Nationals are breathing down their neck—sitting just 3.5 games back of holding the best record in baseball. Meanwhile Cleveland, thanks to their 19-game winning streak, are just four games behind.
Remember, the All-Star Game no longer decides home-field advantage in the World Series. Once again, the team holding the best overall record does. Right now, that belongs to the Dodgers. But for how much longer? Surely Cleveland won’t win forever just as the Dodgers won’t lose forever.
Yet on a similar note, just because the Nats have clinched the NL East doesn’t mean they’re going to start taking it easy. Sure there’s still no timetable for Bryce Harper’s return, but Washington can afford to ease him back. They have the division title to fall back on. They’re in, they just haven’t had their path determined yet. Unlike the Dodgers, they’re playing competent baseball. Unlike the Dodgers, there’s no pressure on them right now.
That begins in October, when they’ll once again attempt to actually win a playoff series.
As for the Dodgers, we all know what will make people (mostly) forget about this slump. We all know nobody will care that much about their streaky nature if they accomplish the one goal that all baseball teams ultimately set out to accomplish. The Dodgers need to win a championship, but somehow they may have just unintentionally put more pressure on themselves than ever before.
They’ve gone from challenging the best record in MLB history to not being able to win a game in record time. Will the Dodgers continue to be the club that, despite their extraordinary wealth, cannot finish?
If the answer remains yes, this losing streak matters more than we’ve been letting on. And if there isn’t a championship at the end of the season, this losing streak will be the only thing most people will ever care to remember.