On Sunday afternoon the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their 10th NL West title in the last 11 seasons and superstar Markus Lynn Betts aka Mookie led the way.
The team under the watchful eye of skipper Dave Roberts came into the season with five players ranked in MLB’s Top 100.
They include the aforementioned do-it-all Betts and sweet swinging first baseman Freddie Freeman, both NL MVP candidates. Also, catcher Will Smith and ace pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías.
That’s about as strong a quintet of stars as you’ll find on any team. But we all know championships are won with unsung heroes and role players, and that’s exactly what the Dodgers got when they signed longtime outfielder Jason Heyward (who everyone assumed was retiring) last December and added him to their 26-man opening day roster.
A move, that at the time didn’t gain much pub, has been a godsend for the Dodgers.
Heyward Provides Dodgers Versatility
The longtime Braves and Cubs defensive wiz who looked like his career was over after his seven-year run in ChiTown has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Dodgers. The 6-foot-5 and 240-pounder has been used primarily against right-handed pitchers, and he’s flourished.
Batting a respectable .283 with 15 home runs and 40 RBI, Heyward’s unexpected emergence has allowed the aforementioned Roberts to move Betts around the field on defense. Betts has 54 games at second base, 16 at shortstop and 98 games in right field. That’s no small feat because anywhere you can use Betts and not lose a lot in his original spot is a win for the Dodgers.
During a recent series with the rival San Diego Padres, Heyward told reporters, “It’s been a fun year of baseball,” when asked about his resurgent season.
Heyward’s Leadership And Work Ethic Afforded Him This Opportunity
Being known as a hard worker and clubhouse leader opened the Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes eyes to the possibility of signing Heyward, who was released by the Cubs in August 2022. Gomes recently opened up on the partnership, and how he knew it’d work.
“It felt like the perfect marriage between our culture, what he could bring on the field, off the field in the clubhouse, and his ability to just get to work with our group and kind of a trust fall for what they for him,” Gomes said. “And now we’re seeing him perform at an incredibly high level.”
Heyward has overly exceeded expectations in this specific role the Dodgers have etched out for him this season. The adjustment in his swing, how he now attacks right-handed pitching and of course his positive influence on the clubhouse.
“The beauty of it is, it’s a collaborative effort,” Gomes said.”
A collaboration that he and all of Dodger Nation hopes nets them a second World Series title in four seasons, and a parade around the city this time around as COVID-19 robbed them of that joy in 2020.