The Dodgers were the best team in baseball yesterday and they remain baseball's best today. But they did not get Lance Lynn. They did not get a relief pitcher. They did not get a veteran bench man in the David Freese mold. They did trade struggling starter Ross Stripling for the proverbial players to be named later, however, in a deal announced an hour after the trade deadline.
As a fan I'm disappointed, because like a kid at Christmas I wanted a new toy that wasn't there the day before. But this isn't Christmas; it's August 31, with four weeks of baseball remaining before what should be a wild postseason. I said prior to the deadline that I'd understand if the big boss chose to stand pat and I support Andrew Friedman's decision to stand pat now. I trust him, now more than ever.
Club management is telling the men assembled the same thing: "We trust you. We think you're good enough to win a World Series exactly as is." That's a message that resonates because it's precisely the truth. They are good enough to win as is.
Los Angeles excels in two of the most important and fundamental categories that exist. They're tops in the sport in runs with 205 and they're the National League's best in fewest runs allowed at 114 (no, the Cards don't count because they've only played 25 games; L.A. has played 36). And they blow the league away in run differential, at +90. The next closest team is the White Sox at +42. The 26-10 Dodgers hit the baseball, they pitch the baseball and they field the baseball. They make pitchers work, they run the bases and steal runs. The bullpen is the best in recent memory. And distant memory. They're on pace for what is the 162-game equivalent of a 118-win season. What more do you want?
Expect to hear the following from Dave Roberts: "We love the men in the room," "we love the compete," "we're not worried about what the other teams did" (see Padres) and "we're ready for whatever comes next." Words of wisdom, sports fans. Words of wisdom, even if the skipper does use the word "compete" as a noun, which is his way.
Here's how I think things will play out in short order:
1. Walker Buehler will return from the blister list this week, pick up where he left off in his last outing August 21 (6 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks) and be exactly where he needs to be come the first round.
2. With renewed oomph on his fastball, Clayton Kershaw will be ready to take the next step in his postseason career.
3. With Stripling out of the starting rotation and the deserving Tony Gonsolin in, the baseball world will watch as Gonsolin and Dustin May give playoff opponents all they can handle. And a look they've seen rarely if ever up close and personal.
4. Kenley Jansen will allow a homer or two and blow a game in October, but the Dodgers will find a way to win all the same.
5. Cody Bellinger will continue his 2019-MVP-like surge. Expect his performance going forward to look something like it has in the last two weeks: .298/.411/.745 with six home runs and 11 RBIs. He's had his slump; he's not going to have another one.
6. Right-hand bats that weren't there last October -- Mookie Betts, A.J. Pollock (figuratively) in particular -- will be there this October.
Yeah, like you, I'd thought the club needed to add a RHB at the deadline, but with the DH in play this year, there are fewer pinch-hit opportunities to go around. Betts, Pollock, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Will Smith and Kiké Hernandez will suffice (and yes, I know Kiké is hitting .172/.226/.310 versus left-handers so far in 2019). Six RHB vs. a lefty starter, four or five LHB vs. the righty starters. Roberts will pick his pinch hitting spots carefully.
The Dodgers' depth is the genuine article, with no last-minute overhaul of the roster being required to take their best shot. And no team -- regardless of the improvements made prior to 1:00 p.m. today -- can match that depth.
7. The players to be named later acquired in the Stripling trade are likely PTBNL because they are not on the Jays' 60-man player pool, and therefore cannot be traded during the current season. But not necessarily. There are other reasons for a PTBNL to be a PTBNL. So while it's doubtful that one or both of the new Dodgers will appear in a game this year, it's not entirely impossible.
8. Don't be surprised if Gavin Lux makes a name for himself down the stretch and beyond.
9. Don't be surprised if Keibert Ruiz makes an unexpected impact somewhere along the line.
10. Dave Roberts will continue with the quick hook. There's no stopping that. So we're just going to have to learn to live with it, which sounds a bit more like "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" than I'm comfortable admitting. But whatareyagonnado? Maybe May and Gonsolin can get some advice from Kersh on how to talk their way into staying in a game.
11. The Dodgers win their first World Series since the Reagan Administration, with the 60-man player pool exactly as it is today. There is enough talent in the pool to jump in a pool. Padres, Schmadres! This is the year.
And remember, glove conquers all.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.
Video courtesy of Spectrum SportsNetLA/Los Angeles Dodgers.