“I feel as if we’re in it,” was his response.
In it to win it, as it turns out.
Bauer pitches for Roberts next season, at the top of a rotation for the defending champs that already includes the great Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler and David Price. And the Dodgers aren’t just the defending champs, they are also the winners of eight consecutive National League West titles who have played in three of the past four World Series. Los Angeles spent a lot of long green on Bauer for a short-term deal. The rich still got richer on the Friday of Super Bowl Weekend.
At the start of this weekend, as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs aimed for two Super Bowl wins in a row and set themselves up to be a budding dynasty, the Dodgers basically do the same with Bauer. A year ago at this time, they added Mookie Betts. Now, they add the reigning Cy Young Award winner from their league.
It guarantees Los Angeles nothing, of course. The Padres are loaded, and the Cardinals got a lot better when they got Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. The Mets improved when they landed Francisco Lindor, even though they lost the Bauer Sweepstakes. The Yankees never go anywhere. But the Dodgers -- current heavyweight champs of the sport -- got better. Even though that isn’t the best news for any team trying to knock them off in 2021, the Bauer signing happens to be great news for baseball.
I think any sport is more interesting when there is a Big Team. Even though the Giants won three World Series over the past decade, nobody thought of them that way. The Red Sox have won four World Series since 2004. We can debate what dynasty means in sports and how long one should last. For my money, though, the last baseball dynasty was Joe Torre’s Yankees, who won four World Series in five years between 1996 and 2000 and nearly made it five in six years in '01.
But the Dodgers sure look like they have a chance now. Los Angeles already thinks it should be working on its third World Series title in five years in 2021 and feels as if it would be if the Astros hadn’t been stealing signs in the 2017 World Series. Now, the Dodgers have three great starters, David Price, who opted out of last season, Julio Urías -- one of the pitching stars of the last Fall Classic, waiting in the wings -- and three great players in Roberts' lineup:
Betts and Bellinger are former National League MVP Award winners, and Seager was the MVP of the 2020 NL Championship Series and the World Series. The oldest of the three is Betts, and he's 28. Even Kershaw, a former MVP Award winner himself and three-time Cy Young Award winner, doesn’t turn 33 until March. But for now, Buehler, Bauer, Betts, Bellinger and Seager are in their prime. They once called the Reds -- Bauer’s former team -- the Big Red Machine. Cincinnati couldn’t pitch like the Big Blue Machine that has been assembled at Dodger Stadium.
As talented as the Dodgers are, there are still holes. They don’t have a dominant closer. Even though people expect Justin Turner to return to third base, Los Angeles could still use an impactful right-handed bat at this point. But as good as they were before they got Bauer, including having one of the best managers in baseball (and someone who might be on his way to being called the best the Dodgers have ever had), what is striking here is that ownership and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman decided not to sit back, especially in light of what the Padres had been doing down the Pacific Coast Highway with all of their own young talent.
The Dodgers took a big swing a year ago with Betts. It paid off, and they take another big swing now with Bauer.
We can debate another time about whether Blake Snell or Bauer has more upside in the short run or the long run. What is not debatable is that they were the best starting pitchers available, and after the Padres got one, the Dodgers got the other.
The Patriots being a Big Team -- one people loved or hated -- was always a great thing in pro football. Most recently in the NBA, the Warriors became that kind of team -- sometimes feeling like the biggest we had in pro sports -- until LeBron James knocked them off, and then it seemed like just about everybody broke down in the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
Now, the Dodgers look like that. They have everybody talking about baseball at the start of Super Bowl Weekend. Big Blue Machine. In it to win it.