The Los Angeles Dodgers finally overcame the hump in 2020.
The hump, however, was not the only obstacle conquered by the club in Dodger blue.
The hump and the hype were all too apparent for the Dodgers’ right from the get-go. Since winning the National League West in 2013, Los Angeles was expected to not only repeat their division success but vie for a World Series title as well. Through the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and company, a World Series title, to some, would seem like a very likely certainty over the next half-decade.
2013, however, would roll into 2014. Then 2015. And 2016. As the years progressed, the lack of a World Series title became more of a talking point. The hype of the team, through its talent, youth, prospect and financial surplus, was still there, but the hump was becoming more and more of a glaring problem.
Over the years, the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals all became banes to the Dodgers’ Commissioner’s Trophy aspirations. Kershaw’s postseason performances became more of a running gag for memes than a memorable experience worth talking about at sports bars. The offense collected nice hits but did not have the long-term consistency for an entire postseason campaign. The bullpen became allergic to leads. The managerial position for the club became a question mark.
All of the concerns reached a climax during the 2020 season, as pundits and casuals alike recognized the issues could glare their ugly heads once more. Then, of course, there was the additional obstacle of a global pandemic.
The hype was still there for sure, but the hump certainly was, too.
The regular season for the Dodgers’ went as expected. A 43-17 record during the regular season was good enough for the best record in all of baseball, in addition to the first-overall seed in the National League.
After sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Round and the San Diego Padres in the Divisional Round, the Dodgers were forced to contend with another youthful and high-upside team in the Atlanta Braves for the Championship Series. The postseason slumps, however, reared their ugly head once more, as the team quickly fell behind a 3-1 series hole. The hype was aging like milk.
The Dodgers, however, rattled off three straight victories to send the Braves packing.
Then came the World Series, where Los Angeles would square off against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays in the American League. After winning two of the first three games in the best-of-seven series, the Dodgers were one out away from putting Tampa Bay in a 3-1 series deficit. A double error from Chris Taylor and Will Smith, however, saw Tampa Bay walk it off with an 8-7 win.
What could have been a 3-1 advantage swiftly became a 2-2 stalemate.
The hump was coming back, and the team looked like they would underperform to the hype once more.
Just like in the Championship Series, the Dodgers cranked it into gear. After a painstaking loss in Game 4, Los Angeles rebounded with a gritty 4-2 win in Game 5. All of the pain would finally pay off with a 3-1 win in the series-clinching Game 6.
Throughout the World Series and the entirety of the postseason campaign, the hump was slowly vanquished. Kershaw overlooked the heat and delivered gritty performances on a bad day, and dominant performances on great ones. The offense, spearheaded by Corey Seager and Mookie Betts, showed more consistency and explosiveness. The bullpen bent but did not break under the pressure. And then there was Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who stuck with his gut and was rewarded with just enough wins to make it matter.
After years of waiting, and recent failures, the Dodgers finally overcame the hump.
More importantly, they lived up to the hype.