Look Upon the Dodgers and Despair

The Dodgers are a machine. They’re star-studded, of course — Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw. I almost don’t know where to stop naming Dodgers. They’re deep, too — their role players could start for most teams, and their development pipeline keeps churning out relievers and shockingly good catchers, more than any team has a right to.

This is an article about Game 3 of the Dodgers-Padres NLDS, during which Los Angeles eliminated San Diego to advance to the NLCS. Don’t worry, there will be a tick-tock of who swung at what, who caught what, and when the damage was done. But I couldn’t stop thinking of a very old poem when I was watching the Dodgers, and honestly, that poem has more drama in it than this game did.

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias is, in theory, about hubris. Heck, it’s about hubris in practice, too. As every high school English teacher in the world can tell you, the imagery of an old, decrepit statue proclaiming its greatness even as it slowly crumbles into nothingness is a lesson in humility — you might think you’re great, but time wounds all heels. Soon enough, it will all be in the past.

Someday, that will be true of the Dodgers. Bellinger and Betts will get old and retire. Kershaw will be an old-timer who shows up at the stadium once a year for a celebration of his career. Julio Urías or Dustin May might leave the team; the Chris Taylors and Max Muncys will stop panning out quite so well.

As of yet, however, the Dodgers haven’t declined. They’re at the peak of their powers, Ozymandias in his own time. They towered over the Padres, made them look small. Baseball isn’t the kind of sport where you can dominate your opponent; on any given night, the margin separating victory and defeat is small and largely made of random chance, whether a ball eludes a glove or a bat misses the sweet spot by a fraction of an inch. And yet, the Dodgers just seemed better, like San Diego was accomplishing something merely by keeping even.

The onslaught started in the second with a Will Smith double — second and third, no one out. Adrian Morejon and the Padres rose to the occasion; one run scored on a grounder to second, but Joc Pederson and Taylor struck out to end the threat. The Padres even took the lead! Adam Kolarek, one of the endless parade of above-average Dodgers relievers, didn’t have his best stuff last night; Dave Roberts compounded things by intentionally walking the bases full before Kolarek walked in a run. Trent Grisham followed with a run-scoring single to take a 2-1 lead.

You can’t fight gravity for long, though, and the Dodgers clawed inexorably back. They wore San Diego out in the third; walk, single, single, two-out intentional walk, single, single — five runs scored against Morejon and Craig Stammen before Luis Patiño entered to hurriedly shut the barn doors, the horses having already vacated the premises.

That would have been enough, because Urías was masterful — six strikeouts and only one hit in five innings of relief. But the Dodgers wouldn’t stop. Betts doubled to lead off the fourth before Smith drove him home with a single off of Tim Hill, the fourth Padres pitcher. Dan Altavilla came in to replace Hill in the fifth and promptly got ambushed — two singles and a sacrifice fly pushed the Los Angeles lead to 8-2.

While San Diego repeatedly went down in order (they did so in the third, fourth, and fifth innings), the Dodgers kept the pressure on. Even when they didn’t score, they forced extra high-stress pitches, kept the carousel of baserunners moving. Smith and Bellinger reached in the sixth against Matt StrahmAustin Adams had to come in and put out a fire. Turner, Muncy, and Smith loaded the bases against Drew Pomeranz to start the eighth, necessitating another pitching change before Garrett Richards wiggled his way out of a jam.

The game wasn’t over yet, though the prognosis for the Padres looked grim. Manny Machado scored on a balk in the sixth inning to cut the lead to 8-3, but he, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Eric Hosmer, the heart of the San Diego lineup, simply couldn’t do enough against Urías or the pitchers who followed him.

The Dodgers weren’t done, either. They ground San Diego’s bullpen to dust over the course of the game; eleven Padres pitched last night. They combined for 203 pitches. The last of them, Trevor Rosenthal, found the lineup just as destructive as his predecessors. Walk, HBP, walk, double, triple — Smith and Bellinger put a capper on the night with matching two-RBI extra-base hits to push the lead to 12-3, a mauling disguised as a baseball game.

Dylan Floro closed things out with a scoreless ninth, but the game was a foregone conclusion long before that. It was simply another Dodger highlight reel, and though Tatis and Machado were bright stars this year, they looked dull compared to their opponents, an endless parade of hitters who wouldn’t be denied and pitchers San Diego couldn’t solve.

Ozymandias is about how foolish pride can look in retrospect. In a week, or two weeks, the Dodgers might resemble that crumbled statue of Ramses II, the pharaoh who inspired the poem. Even should they win the World Series, time will come for them eventually. Baseball simply isn’t built for juggernauts. The vagaries of a round ball and a round bat ensure that.

At the moment, though, the Dodgers aren’t faded. They’re at the peak of their powers, standing head and shoulders above the rest of baseball in terms of sheer dominance. Ozymandias said it best: “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!” After their performance in this series, it’s hard to picture opponents looking at the Dodgers and doing anything else.





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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Antonio Bananasmember
1 year ago

If the Dodgers are Ozymandias, then are the Yankees Dr. Manhattan?

And who are my Braves? Nite Owl? Rorschach?

sadtrombonemember
1 year ago

You kids…back in my day, we memorized Percy Bysshe Shelley while trudging up the hill both ways in the snow and we LIKED IT.

Antonio Bananasmember
1 year ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Watchmen comic is a legitimate literary work.

Now that I think about it, the Astros are definitely Rorschach

MorboTheAnnihilator
1 year ago

The Astros are the Comedian.

cartographermember
1 year ago

This comment may go over the heads of people unfamiliar with nerd culture but I loved it.

hughduffy
1 year ago

Rorschach. “You’re locked in here with me!”