The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking a bit sluggish after a month of baseball. Their closer is blowing saves, their offense is sputtering, and even the untouchable Clayton Kershaw has looked, well, fairly human in recent outings. They have grinded out a 12-15 record, and sit 7.0 games behind the surging Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts apparently felt someone had to be made an example of, and that someone was Cody Bellinger. After the Dodgers first baseman hit a double in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against San Francisco, Roberts benched him once the inning was over. Apparently he was angry to didn’t try to turn it into a triple.
“There’s certain expectations about the way we play the game. When you don’t abide by that, we’ll get somebody in there who will,” Roberts said when asked about the incident. He also mentioned this isn’t the first time he’s spoken with Bellinger about his level of effort.
Here’s a clip of the play:
I don’t know about you, but I have serious doubts that Bellinger would have been able to leg out a triple on the play. Giants outfielder Austin Slater played the ball perfectly off the wall and has it in his hands as Bellinger is rounding first base. At that point, Bellinger probably realizes that he’ll never beat the cut-off throw to third and just settled for a well-earned double.
Bellinger tried to take the benching in stride:
“I got in the dugout, and he said I was out of the game,” Bellinger told reporters after the game. “I didn’t know any reason. Just put on my jacket, went up to the railing and watched the game.”
“I’ve always played the game hard,” Bellinger continued. “I kind of took a big swing on the curveball, ended up on my knee. We’re down four runs. I’m not trying to make an out on the bases going to third. He saw what he saw. It’s all good. I’m never going to dog that. Obviously, it’s ‘Triples Alley.’ That’s what they call it. We’re down four. … That was my reasoning. … It was his decision. I can’t say anything against it.”
Bellinger was a breakout rookie star in 2017, mashing 39 home runs, 97 RBIs, and hitting .267/.352/.581. So far in 2018, he’s hitting .291/.351/.476 with three home runs. It’s not exactly like he’s slumping, even though the Dodgers — one of the most expensive teams in all of baseball — is under performing.
Bellinger seems fine with being the whipping boy, especially if it somehow leads to a jump start for the rest of the clubhouse.
“Yeah, it could have [just been Roberts sending a message],” Bellinger said. “Like I said, I’m always hustling to beat out ground balls. I feel like I’m always hustling. I don’t know — it just kind of didn’t make sense to me. But I get it as well. He’s trying to prove a point. Being the young guy, I got to hustle.”
The Dodgers start a four-game series against the Diamondbacks on Monday evening, so perhaps Roberts was just trying to muster up some extra motivation for an important stretch of games this early in the season.