The Los Angeles Dodgers spent $1.073 billion in free agency. That is not a typo — billion with a B. And we aren't done yet. There's still time for the Dodgers to strike up another deal or two before spring training starts in a week.
Last season ended in disappointment for the Dodgers, a disappointment many non-Dodgers fans relished. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman finished second and third in NL MVP voting, respectively. Any team with Los Angeles' combination of star power, market location, and regular season success (100 wins) is bound to inspire widespread hatred.
This free agency period only amplified the Dodgers' villainous status in the baseball world. Shohei Ohtani is the greatest player of his generation. LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes — these are the most respected players in sports, but also the most widely lambasted. If the Kansas City Chiefs lose in next Sunday's Super Bowl, you know a large portion of the NFL fandom is going to dance in the streets.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat superteam were the most dreaded force in basketball for half a decade. The Dodgers are built similarly. Ohtani, Betts, Freeman — it's borderline unfair. Plus, the Dodgers piled on pitching talent with the Tyler Glasnow trade and the Yoshinobu Yamamoto signing. On paper, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. The villain status is inherent.
Rather than shying away from ill-wishers, the Dodgers appear ready to embrace it. Betts spoke candidly to SportsNet LA about his expectations for the 2024 season and how Los Angeles will be perceived around the league.
"It's World Series or nothing," said Betts, h/t CBS Sports. "We're all trying to do the same thing, but we can't add extra pressure to do it. Adding extra pressure only does more harm than good. We just gotta play the same game we're gonna play. You know it's gonna be tough. Every game is gonna be the other team's World Series. It is what it is, but we signed up for it. We have to embrace that."
Both — and truthful — words from the seven-time All-Star.
Mookie Betts embraces Dodgers' status as MLB villains
He's saying all the right things. The Dodgers have no choice but to lean into the superteam persona. The Dodgers have to express confidence in their ability to win at the highest level. But, most importantly, the Dodgers also have to back it up on the field. That is the double-edged sword of spending over $1 billion in free agency. If Los Angeles doesn't win the World Series, it will be perceived as an unequivocal failure.
Betts is certainly shining a bright and unforgiving spotlight on the Dodgers' pedestal, made worse by Los Angeles' god-awful NLDS loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in October. His comments also led to what I humbly submit as one of the best tweets in recent memory.
Betts struggled during the Dodgers' postseason ouster, going hitless with a walk and two strikeouts in 12 plate appearances. Los Angeles was swept, 0-3, and the Diamondbacks went on to represent the National League in the World Series. The Dodgers cannot afford another postseason meltdown. Betts is an undeniably great player — a two-time World Series champ — but he has some recent history to flush out of his system.
Only time will tell if the Dodgers can deliver on the hype, or if the legions of fans praying on their downfall will eventually get rewarded.