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Dodgers' 2020 lineup: Best in franchise history?

@kengurnick
February 19, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers' offense last year was one of the most explosive in franchise history. Then Mookie Betts joined the lineup, meaning the 2020 version could be the best Dodgers offense since … “Ever,” said Charlie Hough, who pitched in the Majors for 25 years and now serves

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers' offense last year was one of the most explosive in franchise history. Then Mookie Betts joined the lineup, meaning the 2020 version could be the best Dodgers offense since …

“Ever,” said Charlie Hough, who pitched in the Majors for 25 years and now serves as a special assistant in the Dodgers' player development department. “Probably more depth than ever.”

High praise for a franchise that had the first quartet of 30-homer hitters in 1977 (Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith), back when hitting 30 home runs in a season was an achievement.

The current edition, which also has four 30-homer hitters (Betts, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson), shapes up as potentially the best Dodgers lineup since the Boys of Summer, which had four members enter the Hall of Fame (Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese).

The Dodgers last year set a National League record with 279 home runs. The club scored a Los Angeles-record 886 runs, a total which also led the National League. In Dodgers franchise history in the modern era (since 1900), only the 1953 Dodgers scored more runs (955) than the 2019 team.

Several senior staffers at Camelback Ranch compared the potential of this year’s offense to the best they’ve seen over the course of their careers.

“The Big Red Machine,” said Pat Corrales, a special assistant to the GM and former big league manager, who played for a Cincinnati team that featured Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.

“The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, with Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie and Ted Simmons,” said former Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, now a special assistant to the team.

“The Pirates of the 1970s, with Al Oliver, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bob Robertson,” said Hough. “There have been some really good lineups over the years, but I don’t think there’s been one with the depth that we have. We’ve got really, really good hitters on the bench.”

“The 1988 Mets,” said broadcaster Orel Hershiser, who won the Cy Young Award that year and beat the Mets in Game 7 of the NLCS, to send the Dodgers to the last World Series they’ve won.

Hershiser said the addition of the right-handed hitting Betts balances a lineup that made great strides last year in adding a patient, grinding mentality to their slugging ways of previous seasons.

“That’s why we went through the A’s in the World Series easier than the Mets,” said Hershiser. “The Mets team beat us 10 out of 11 that year.”

Clayton Kershaw said he wouldn’t want to be an opposing pitcher preparing to face his teammates.

“The combination of patience, not striking out and power,” said Kershaw. “There’s no – this guy swings, you can get him out early. No – this guy has a huge hole, you can get him out here. There’s no stopping the lineup one through eight and that’s super hard. You don’t get to come up for air much.”

Honeycutt helped Kershaw and every Dodgers pitcher of the last 14 years game-plan for opposing lineups.

“You add a guy like Betts to the top of the lineup – not quite a burner like Rickey Henderson – but adds that similar ability, something we’ve never really had,” Honeycutt said. “Now, there really isn’t a break. When you have that depth, you don’t have an easy inning.”

Hough, who has mentored every young Dodgers pitcher since Kenley Jansen, wouldn’t want to face this squad either.

“It’s just a bunch of guys that can rip you,” he said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.