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    Alexander: Dodgers’ stuff isn’t working in these playoffs
    • October 10, 2023

    LOS ANGELES – There are moments in the postseason – and as Dodger fans will attest, plenty of them in Games 1 and 2 of the National League Division Series – when the words of Billy Beane from two decades or so absolutely resonate.

    “My (stuff) doesn’t work in the playoffs,” the longtime Oakland A’s team-builder said then, as Michael Lewis related in his 2003 bestseller, Moneyball, only Beane didn’t exactly say “stuff.”

    “My job is to get us to the playoffs,” he added. “What happens after that is (freaking) luck.”

    That’s relatively accurate, totally honest and undoubtedly infuriating to the true believers of so many franchises – particularly the one that plays here – who consider a World Series championship the goal and anything less a failure.

    Then again, that’s life in the big city. And by those standards, high ones but not unreasonable, the Dodgers are 27 outs from failure after Monday night’s 4-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks put them in an 0-2 hole going to Phoenix for Games 3 and 4.

    To reiterate: Beane was a brilliant baseball mind in an organization forced (or choosing) to pinch pennies. His searches for market inefficiencies that could be exploited helped the A’s reach the postseason 11 times in 21 years, but they only won two playoff series in that span.

    The philosophy he spawned, piggybacking on the likes of Bill James and others willing to challenge baseball’s entrenched thinking, is now a staple of the game. One of its noted practitioners, Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman, made his bones in Tampa Bay, another impoverished franchise, with the philosophy that no potential edge is too small to be at least considered.

    So when the Dodgers are accused of overthinking – as they customarily are in the postseason – and those plans don’t work, you know where it comes from.

    We probably shouldn’t take for granted the Dodgers’ 11 straight postseason appearances, or 10 division titles in that span, even though only one season to this point has ended in the ultimate triumph.

    After all, you could be a Seattle Mariners fan. That team’s president of baseball operations, Jerry DiPoto, told his fans this after the Mariners had their streak of postseason appearances snapped at one, following a 20-season playoff drought:

    “We’re actually doing the fan base a favor in asking for their patience to win the World Series while we continue to build a sustainably good roster.”

    Logical, I suppose. But I can’t imagine that went over well.

    Consider, in contrast, the Diamondbacks. Two seasons ago they lost 110 games, and they are now the third team ever to go from 110 losses to the postseason in three years, joining this year’s Orioles and the 2015 Astros. This year Arizona’s young, aggressive roster overcame a midseason slump to get to the postseason, swept Milwaukee in the wild card round and got the jump on the Dodgers in this series, first driving Clayton Kershaw to cover in the first inning of Game 1 and then taking advantage of Bobby Miller’s playoff inexperience in Game 2 while Arizona starters Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen did what they usually do.

    They seem to revel in the underdog role.

    “We are so proud of what we do every single day and we fight the same fight every single day,” manager Torey Lovullo said Monday afternoon. “… We hear the talk. We hear that we’re maybe like the little brother that everybody can beat up on. We take that personally. We embrace it. We understand that we haven’t done a lot compared to the Dodgers or the Astros or some of the teams that are getting some of the notoriety. But we’re here and we’re ready to compete and we like it that way.”

    The start of these playoffs has favored the underdogs, as was the case last year in the first test of the 12-team postseason format with its three-game wild card series and five-day byes for the top two division champs. As the Dodgers and D-Backs battled, road teams (i.e., lower seeds) were already 5-2. And after three of the four higher seeded teams lost in last year’s Division Series, there are reasons to question the fairness of those five-day breaks.

    When Dave Roberts was asked before Game 1 if he’d rather been playing during those days off, he started, “Yeah, I think that I would rather …” and then bit his tongue.

    “It’s nice to get into the Division Series, certainly,” he continued. “I don’t think that five days is ideal, but that’s the playoff structure. So the world’s not perfect. A couple-day break would have been nice. Five’s a little …”

    Then his voice trailed off again before he added: “But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

    Maybe winning 100 or so games is a bad idea from now on, or at least until the format changes to again reward excellence. In the era of the wild-card game, the winner may have had momentum going into the Division Series but also had to burn some of its pitching and usually had to face its opponent’s ace in Game 1. That at least provided a legitimate motivation to win your division.

    But it’s the system we have, and it’s important to keep the following in mind, too.

    “In my mind, once you’re in the postseason, every team is as good as any other team,” Max Muncy said Monday afternoon. “You see it every year. It’s not necessarily always the best team that wins; it’s the team that plays the best that goes out there and performs, the team that gets the hottest. Really that’s all that matters.”

    Luck’s not always involved, either.

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    ​ Orange County Register