MLB

Justin Turner Just Set the Dodgers’ Bar Shockingly High for the 2020 Season

This version of the Los Angeles Dodgers was supposed to be about opening a years-long window of legit attempts at a World Series title. After their early 2019 exit, that window is almost entirely closed. Justin Turner knows it. And, uncharacteristically for the third baseman who never seems to have a bad word reserved for his organization, he’s openly anxious about it.

The dominant Dodgers keep coming up short

A mix of savvy draft picks and big contracts turned the Dodgers into the biggest threat in the National League. Fresh faces like Cody Bellinger combined with veterans like Chase Utley. Low-cost bets on struggling players like Turner and Yasiel Puig paid off handsomely under the organization’s wing.

Those types of moves left room to spend big. Such as getting the ace pitcher of the modern era, Clayton Kershaw, tied up through 2020 for $35 million a year.

Manager Dave Roberts led the team through an explosive run of winning seasons, deep playoff runs, and World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018. 

They lost both. 

Then 2019 brought another dominant season — 106 wins — punctuated by an NLDS loss to the team that went on to win it all, the Washington Nationals.

The window’s nearly closed now. Modern baseball teams usually have only a handful of years to keep a contending team together. Familiar names are already disappearing from the roster. That’s probably why Justin Turner is more openly anxious than ever before.

Justin Turner’s bold statements on the Dodgers’ World Series prospects

The story of the last decade for the Dodgers is all about going big until the very last moments of the postseason. Kershaw’s pattern best exemplifies their woes. He is undeniably one of the best pitchers on Earth. Until October rolls around, and his body appears to have enough.

Kershaw’s late-season issues are likely related to his chronic back problems. Why the backbone of the Dodgers as an organization appears to go out around the same time, however, is a mystery.

Justin Turner’s radio interview on AM570 is clearly the third baseman’s frustration with this phenomenon finally going public.

Los Angeles Dodger third baseman Justin Turner says another NL West title and deep playoff run just won't cut it in 2020.
Justin Turner throws across the diamond. | Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“Going out in the first like that, that wasn’t supposed to happen — having to watch baseball for the first time in two years sucked,” Turner said. “We want to be the last team standing, but honestly, we’re running out of excuses here — we gotta get this thing done.”

Other players said similar things after their NLDS loss. Turner rarely became quite so direct and emotional about the struggles. Until now. It’s do or die time for the Dodgers.

Do Justin Turner and the Dodgers have a chance to win the 2020 World Series?

The Dodgers haven’t made any splashy trades so far in the wake of their loss. The Yankees wooed ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. Across town, the Angels signed Anthony Rendon away from the Nationals. The Dodgers didn’t do much of anything. 

Their 2019 postseason performance was the worst of the current iteration of the club. But they’re in an awkward position. How do you justify dismantling the core of a team that won 106 baseball games?

The answer so far appears to be no. Roberts isn’t going anywhere; he wins too many games, and his deference to the team’s analytics department endears him to the front office.

So it’s up to the players to figure out what needs to change among themselves. Unless one of the rumored big trades pans out in the offseason, it’s all about the existing core solving their October woes.

It’s possible. But after 2020, the window is most likely closed. Justin Turner knows it, which is why he’s through with the excuses and wants to see results.