Shaikin: Winning a division might be routine for Dodgers, but it should still be treasured

Among the salty pearls of wisdom bequeathed to us by the late, great Tommy Lasorda: “This [bleeping] job is not that [bleeping] easy.”

We would do well to remember Lasorda’s words today. The Dodgers have won the National League West, again, and Los Angeles greets the news with a shrug. The Dodgers have been so relentlessly successful that the 162-game grind has been popularly reduced to something akin to six months of preseason play.

Your team might start its season in April. Our team starts its season in October.

“I think people who aren’t involved in it every day think it’s a rite of passage,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s a lot of work on all fronts to have this type of consistency. But, like with anything, when you’re consistent, it gets redundant and people expect it.”

Roberts isn’t complaining. Better to manage a team expected to win every year than a team never expected to win.

In “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks described baseball this way: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Winning a division is not supposed to be easy.

“I think it’s really hard,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “Not many teams can do it.”

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw works against the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 7 at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, working against the Giants last Wednesday, says of winning a division title: “You can celebrate for one night and then focus on the bigger picture.”

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

For the Dodgers, this marks nine division titles in 10 years. No other team has won more than five in that span, although the Atlanta Braves would get to six if they win the NL East this season.

In the same decade, eight teams have gone 0 for 10. By the end of this season, it is entirely possible that half of the 30 major league teams would have won no more than one division title in those 10 years.

The Dodgers are on pace to win 113 games this season. In each of the last two full seasons, they won 106.

Only once has a team won at least 106 games three times: the New York Yankees. The Yankees stand alone, for another week or so.

“I think it’s really hard. Not many teams can do it.”

— Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw on winning a division title

In 147 years of major league history, the Dodgers are on pace to become the first team to win at least 106 games in three consecutive full seasons.

Include the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the Dodgers’ winning percentage over the last four seasons is .672 — that is, an average of 108 victories per season. The last NL team to win 108 games in one season? The New York Mets in 1986.

Winning all those games is terrific, but in the postseason the Dodgers could be taken out in as few as three games and …

“And it’s looked at as a lost season,” Roberts said.

The hot take, already warmed up: If the Dodgers lose in their first postseason series, blame the week off — a reward for winning so many games, yet a disruption of their rhythm and routine.

The Dodgers do not play their first postseason game for another four weeks. Take a deep breath now and appreciate this standard of excellence. These are the Dodgers’ glory days.

“I think that we’re here for one reason, and that’s to win the World Series,” Kershaw said. “But at the same time, I think there are certain things you don’t take for granted, and that includes celebrating with your teammates. It is a special thing for people to do for the first time. It is a special thing for me to do.

The Dodgers' Justin Turner, right, is congratulated by Will Smith after hitting a grand slam against the Padres.

The Dodgers’ Justin Turner, right, is congratulated by Will Smith after hitting a grand slam against the Padres on Sunday in San Diego.

(Derrick Tuskan / Associated Press)

“You might never get to do it again. That’s what I always tell people: You never know if it’s the last time you’re going to get to do something like that. You’ve just got to enjoy it. You can celebrate for one night and then focus on the bigger picture.”

Josh Bard, the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, played 10 years in the major leagues. His teams won one division title. He walked me through the lost years of his career: “Missed by a game … play-in game … we stunk … we stunk … .500.”

Bard won his only division championship with San Diego as a catcher for the 2006 Padres. Roberts was the leadoff batter for that team.

“I used to love beating the Dodgers,” Roberts said.

The Padres have not won an NL West title since then. To Dodgers fans, this might be just another summer of getting the job done. But the Friar Faithful could tell you the same thing Lasorda did: This [bleeping] job is not that [bleeping] easy.

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