As the 2022 MLB season kicks off, the L.A Dodgers have the best record in the National League at 28-13. The addition of Freddie Freeman has had an incredible impact on L.A. However, the former MVP Mookie Betts has also been starting to heat up. Are the Dodgers finally getting the Betts they traded for?
A frustrating and injury-plagued season by Mookie Betts proved to be still quite valuable and productive, even if not up to his own standards, but also reminded us in glimpses of his full, unrestrained talent,” wrote Eric Stephen.
In the 2020 offseason Andrew Friedman and L.A’s front office made the trade for Mookie. By giving up up-and-coming star Alex Verdugo along with highly ranked prospect Jeter Downs, Dodgers were expecting Mookie to be the star he’s been all his career. In the 2020 season, Betts hit .292 with 16 home runs and 39 RBI’s. While his 2020 year was a great one, 2021 and the start of 2022 were hordneous for the superstar outfielder.
After coming off a World Series win in 2020, the boys in blue were looking to repeat. With the addition of Trever Bauer, the expectations were high for L.A. Also, the acquisition of Betts paid off as he finished second in the NL MVP race. But, his start to the 2021 year was not MVP caliber.
“Bad. This would be bad. I’m trying to turn it around and get this rolling,” Mookie said on his start to his 2021 season.
As the year carried on, Mookie was battling multiple injuries. Both to his hip and back, Betts’ body was not treating him well. After the season concluded, L.A. was knocked out of the playoffs in the NLCS. In the time they needed him most, Betts did not show up. In 2021, he hit .264, the worst in his career, with 23 home runs and 53 RBI’s. In the series against the Braves, Betts had a whopping .174 average. In a critical moment in game 6, where L.A. was facing elimination, the Dodgers had two runners in scoring position, and Betts was at the plate. At that moment, L.A. needed a big hit to tie up the game, yet Mookie struck out on a pitch right down Broadway.
“We’ve had some bad approaches with men in scoring position. We can always take the blame, but I think we should give them some credit,” Betts said.
After Betts and Los Angeles fell short of their title hopes, they went straight to work to improve. Betts had received a shot in order to ease the pain in his hip, which seemed to help. With the huge signing of Freddie Freeman, the star duo of Betts and Freeman was going to be dangerous, if Mookie played like himself. Through the first month of the year, Mookie struggled quite a bit. The star right fielder hit .230 with three home runs and 6 RBI’s. But, as May approached, Betts turned it up.
“I’ve been grinding since Spring Training. Just to know I can do it, reassurance always helps. I’ve been working hard, a lot. It’s like a sigh of relief,” Betts said after he had started to hit the ball better.
As the Dodgers entered May, Mookie felt much better. So far this month, the former MVP hit .345 with nine home runs and 24 RBI’s. By launching nine long balls, Mookie brought his home run total up to 12, which leads the National League.
“Over the last 30 days, it’s as good as anybody on the planet right now,” said manager Dave Roberts. “It’s as good as I’ve seen him scoring runs at a crazy clip, his on-base, he’s slugging at a ridiculous clip too, and he’s playing Gold Glove defense.”
As Betts starts to return to his old self, the Dodgers have become even more dangerous. Making a strong case for MVP, Betts is starting to prove his doubters wrong.