Thursday night, the Dodgers kept their season alive with an 11-run outburst in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. They still trail the Braves three games to two heading back to Atlanta, but with Walker Buehler and possibly Max Scherzer set to pitch in the final two games of the series, I wouldn’t bet against LA reaching their fourth World Series in five years.
“What does this all have to do with the Yankees?” you might ask. I have long admired the Dodgers’ front office and their modus operandi when it comes to roster building and yearly mission statement. They aren’t afraid to include top prospects in trades for impact, win-now players. They leverage their financial muscle the way a big market team should. And all of it is in the name of contending for a World Series every year. That is why I am rooting for the Dodgers to win the NLCS.
The Yankees love to vocalize their purported goal of winning a World Series each season. Actions speak louder than words. It’s hard to reconcile that objective with their efforts to remain below the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold to reset their tax rate. Every move they made this season ultimately had to satisfy that financial directive, whether that was handing Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox for the right not to pay him, attaching Luis Cessa in a trade to get out from under Justin Wilson’s piddling $2.575 million luxury tax number, or including extra prospects when acquiring Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo, and Andrew Heaney to entice their former clubs to foot the residual salary bills. I’m fully convinced that none of those deadline deals would have happened had the dealing clubs not agreed to eat the remaining money.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers in the last few years have traded for and signed Mookie Betts to a record $360 million extension. They signed the top available free agent pitcher last winter despite already having one of if not the best starting rotations in the game. Finally, they traded their two top prospects for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, all while having reigning World Series MVP Corey Seager at short and multiple aces in the rotation.
All of these moves were made without the first thought toward the CBT, resetting tax rates, or saving money. It is for that reason I believe a Dodgers World Series appearance would be in the Yankees’ best interest. LA identified these last few years as their prime window of contention, and so they’ve done everything possible to capitalize on the opportunity, even if that means potentially sacrificing wins somewhere down the road. They’ve proven to the Yankees that investing in one’s club is worth it — be that increasing payroll or trading prospects for proven major league talent.
That is also why the alternative — the Braves winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series — represents the worst case scenario. When Ronald Acuña Jr. went down with a season-ending knee injury, it looked like the kiss of death for the Braves. Instead, they took advantage of a laughably weak NL East and snuck into the playoffs with the worst record of any postseason team. Now they’re a game away from the Fall Classic.
If the Braves make it to the World Series, it reinforces the narrative that the Yankees top brass so loves to repeat — that the playoffs are a crapshoot. Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, and Co. can point to Atlanta and say “See, this why we don’t need to increase payroll, this is why we should cling to our top prospects at the trade deadline.” As a fan, I would hate to see them cite the Braves as justification for maintaining the status quo, for just rolling it back and hoping things go better next time.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s admirable what the Braves have done to put themselves in this position. They made shrewd deadline additions to shore up the depleted outfield and their pitching staff has held the scariest offense in baseball in check for three out of five games. However, from a Yankees fan’s perspective, I would much prefer the Dodgers make it to the World Series. Show the Yankees that the playoffs are not a crapshoot once you’ve tilted the odds heavily enough in your favor.