GLENDALE, Ariz– The scene inside the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch early Monday morning suggests the Los Angeles Dodgers, one win away from a World Series title in 2017, might be even more dangerous this summer.
They still employ Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, and Cody Bellinger. Their only major loss came with the departure of free agent pitcher Yu Darvish, who was only a Dodger for three months. They’re still the top dog in the National League West.
They’re also painfully familiar with that gut-wrenching feeling of coming one win away from being on top of the baseball world.
In Glendale, at roughly 8:30 in the morning, the Dodgers are laid back. A ping pong tournament is being played on one side of the room, while others leisurely chat with teammates before a day of work.
Rich Hill talks with Peter Gammons for a good half hour. They look like friends catching up after a decade of lost time.
It’s hard to tell who’s controlling the clubhouse music, but Matt Kemp approves. He sings along to Justin Bieber at his locker and toys with a new glove. Kiké Hernandez lip syncs on his way out of the room, drawing laughs from Alex Wood and Trayce Thompson.
On paper, the Dodgers are poised to make another run into late October.
Their 104 wins in 2017 marked the most in franchise history since the 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers, who finished 104-50. They’ll also look to win more than 100 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1941-42 Dodgers.
They have the pedigree and makeup to do so.
Kershaw, despite a nagging back injury, finished behind the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer in National League Cy Young voting. The soon-to-be 30-year-old finished 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Bellinger and Seager are two of the game’s finest young players. Puig bats a career .281 and looks to be cementing his Dodgers legacy as the set right fielder for years to come.
A formidable platoon behind the plate, Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes provide a good amount of offense on any given night. Turner packs a punch at the hot corner. Weaknesses are hard to find on this 25-man roster, especially after the World Series Joc Pederson put together.
When manager Dave Roberts fielded a few questions from reporters before workouts began Monday, he talked about the the plan for pitching prospect Walker Buehler this season, who will likely throw 140-150 innings.
“And is he going to start Game 3 or 4 of the NLDS, Dave?” a reported playfully asked.
Roberts’ eye roll was so detectable you could see it through his dark Oakley shades.
But, seriously Dave, what is it? You know this is a decision you’ll very well have to make with the roster you currently have.