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Thank Goodness for Mookie Betts

August 20th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Generally, when I hear about an athlete getting a contract with lots of years and enormous numbers, I heave a sigh.

“He can’t possibly be worth all that money.” And generally the athlete is not. Teams get excited and offer big deals based on last season, or the last few seasons, and give insufficient attention to what the athletes might be reasonably expected to do going forward.

The Angels can tell you about this. They gave Albert Pujols a 10-year, $240-million contract, ahead of the 2012 season, figuring they were adding one of the best players in the game.

Well he had been one of the best … but within a few years, as Pujols got into his mid-30s, his production fell off markedly, and these days, advanced statistical analysis suggests any average ballplayer could help the Angels win as much as does Pujols.

So, when the Dodgers signed Mookie Betts, whom they had traded for in the offseason, to the second-biggest baseball contract ever — $365 million for the next 12 years — I heaved a sigh …

But then I mulled it a bit more, and thought about how much Mookie has done in recent years … and I decided, “You know, I’m willing to roll with Mookie on this one.”

This was supposed to be another season where the Dodgers rolled to another National League West championship, but someone forgot to mention that to a big chunk of their team.

A baseball writer for the website fivethirtyeight.com noted that several of the Dodgers’ most prominent players have not played up to expectations. Starting with 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger and continuing with Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Walker Buehler, Ross Stripling, Joc Pederson and Clayton Kershaw …

The gist of the story is that Mookie has been carrying this team, which is awfully thoughtful of him to do, given he just got to Los Angeles.

He is on pace for a monstrous WAR (wins above replacement) total of 11-plus victories … and if not for his outstanding overall play, the Dodgers might have found themselves mucking about in the middle of the NL West pack.

He is showing he can do just about anything.

Much of Mookie’s game is based on qualities we associate with youth. Speed, quickness, ability to catch up to fastballs.

Some of that will go away, absolutely, over the next 12 seasons. Mookie is 27, and he won’t be playing right field a decade from now. But we could see him doing the Rod Carew shtick and moving to first base for the fading years of his career.

But here and now … Mookie is tearing it up and making the baseball world think the Dodgers are as good as ever … when they (so far) are not.

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