LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – After winning last season’s World Series in a COVID-shortened, 60-game sprint, the Los Angeles Dodgers are confident they have the roster, and the hunger, to repeat as champions when their marathon 162-game campaign begins on Thursday.
The Dodgers ended a 32-year title drought in Arlington in October and hope to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the New York Yankees won three straight between 1998 and 2000.
Outfielder Mookie Betts said the team, who added hard-throwing Trevor Bauer to their already fearsome starting rotation in the offseason, had the personnel to get it done.
“We’re working hard and doing our best to repeat because it hasn’t been done in so long,” Betts told reporters this month.
“I think we have the roster to make it happen, now it’s just time for us to go play.”
The Dodgers, who have won the National League West eight years running and appeared in three out of the last four Fall Classics, also have plenty of firepower with the bat, such as World Series MVP Corey Seager and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger.
And while plenty of championship-winning teams have suffered hangovers the following season, the fact that the Dodgers did not get to play in front of fans or hold a parade due to COVID-19 restrictions makes them all the more hungry to win it all again.
“The focus on winning feels the same as it did last year, which is awesome and all we could ask for at this point,” Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman told MLB Network.
“In our minds what we accomplished last year was incredibly special but we didn’t get to celebrate the way that teams historically have gotten to. The life memories that come from that, like the parade.
“That’s something everyone is really focused on. Just doing everything we can to enjoy that hopefully this October and November.”
Standing in their way in the NL are the steadily improving San Diego Padres and the loaded Atlanta Braves, while the Yankees are favored to win the American League pennant.
The Dodgers begin their season on the road with a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies and a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics before hosting the Washington Nationals in their home opener on April 9.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)