The concourses at Dodger Stadium have never been more crowded than they were for the home club’s four games during the 2017 World Series.
The stadium was packed, of course, but the stadium’s been packed many, many times. What made those games different was this: The lines of people waiting to enter the official team store or kiosk locations — lines that meandered through the already somewhat narrow concourses — were borderline insane. Thousands and thousands of people waited for more than an hour for the privilege of spending their hard-earned cash on Dodgers merchandise with the World Series logo firmly affixed. The lines started minutes after the gates opened and continued long after the first pitch was an October memory.
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Dodgers fans hadn’t had the chance to purchase new World Series gear in almost 30 years — the unforgettable 1988 title was the franchise’s most recent World Series experience — and they were not going to let that opportunity pass.
flashback: the lines for the Dodger Stadium team shop were insanely long during the 2017 World Series pic.twitter.com/tkA62QvXs9
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 26, 2020
Funny how things have changed since then, isn’t it? The Dodgers are in the World Series for the third time in four years, and it’s probably easier to find new(ish) LAD merchandise with a World Series logo than without it.
And if they finish off this World Series — they’re up, 3-2 on the Rays heading into Game 6 — Dodgers fans will finally be able to buy merchandise that wasn’t available after the 2017 and 2018 World Series trips. Yep, World Series champions merchandise.
Quick aside: Winning Game 5 to grab a 3-2 series lead seems huge, but history shows us this series is likely far from finished.
In the past 40 years, the World Series has been tied, 2-2, 16 times.
The team that won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series won the WS eight times, and the team that lost Game 5 won the WS eight times.
Yep, an even split. There’s hope, Rays. pic.twitter.com/cMpyJNVSeP
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 26, 2020
And if the Dodgers win the 2020 World Series, that would be the most significant building block for the foundation of what very well could be baseball’s next great dynasty.
And, yeah, “dynasty” is a subjective term. World Series championships are a must, but they’re not everything. To be a dynasty — not a term that should be thrown around lightly — you should be a dominant team.
For example: Are the Giants of the 2010s a dynasty? They won three World Series titles in five years, which is amazing and incredible and awesome, but they only won two division titles and averaged just 87 wins during those five years. That feels more like a Diet Dynasty and not a Dynasty Dynasty by my subjective measure.
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The Dodgers have the ingredients to be a Dynasty Dynasty, maybe the first true dynasty since the Yankees of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those Yankees reached the World Series six times in eight years, winning four championships. Before that, you probably have to go back to the Oakland A’s, a team that won three consecutive titles, in 1972, 1973 and 1974 (and won the AL West titles five years in a row, from 1971 to 1975).
And then, of course, you have a couple of other Yankees dynasties — they won 16 World Series titles and reached the World Series a total of 22 times in 29 years (1936-64), which you’re free to split up however you want — the Cardinals of the 1940s (three World Series titles and four NL pennants in five years) and the Philadelphia A’s of the 1910s (three WS titles and four AL pennants in five years).
The Dodgers could absolutely join that list.
Mookie Betts, one of the two or three best players in the sport, is in his prime and under contract long term. Walker Buehler and Cody Bellinger are around for the next several years (though they will get arbitration-expensive quickly). Max Muncy’s under contract for a couple of more seasons. Will Smith isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2023.
And the farm system is stacked; Baseball America ranked it No. 5 overall in its mid-August update.
But how history ultimately judges the Dodgers won’t be known for a long time. Think about how history looks at the Braves of the 1990s. It’s one giant “yeah, but …” conversation.
From 1991 to 1995, the Braves won four NL East titles and made the World Series three times in four years (there was no World Series in 1994, obviously). They lost the first two trips to the big dance — much like the current Dodgers — and won it all in 1995. At the time, there was no reason to believe that Atlanta’s reign would end anytime soon. They’d finally gotten over the hump, they had a great core of stars, a great winning culture and a great farm system. Sound familiar, Dodgers fans?
In the four years after that 1995 title, though, the Braves failed to win another championship, falling twice in the World Series and twice in the NLCS, despite having brilliant teams that averaged 101.5 wins in the regular season. And then, October got even worse: Despite winning the next six NL East titles — running their overall streak to 11 in a row and 14 in 15 years (they were second to the Expos when the strike ended the 1994 season) — the Braves not only failed to reach the World Series again, but they failed to make it out of the NLDS in five of those six years.
Those Braves, with one World Series title in 15 years, will forever be looked at as underachievers. It’s not likely that these Dodgers will wind up like those Braves, but then it wasn’t likely that those Braves would end up like those Braves.
The first step toward dynasty, and away from disappointment, is finishing off the Rays in the 2020 World Series and giving those Dodgers fans new merchandise to buy.