The Lakers, scared out of their minds of both missing the playoffs and being demoted to Runt of L.A., traded for Anthony Davis and the pressure was immediately turned up from 10/10 to 800/10. What happened? Both teams are championship contenders, but the Lakers are the No. 1 seed in the West. Not only is their throne atop the standings safe, but the city is still firmly theirs — at least until they inevitably meet up in May. The Dodgers have completed those first two steps: disappoint, change. Now, they can’t afford to fail on the third, by far the most important: win. I thought their window had closed. I thought they’d choked away (and, to be fair, been cheated out of) the last of their championship opportunities. I thought they’d cemented their status as the second biggest joke of an organization in the Major Leagues. Honestly I thought they might have been Southern California’s second best team. (Side note: I wrote this column before the rumors came out that the trade isn’t a done deal yet, but let’s assume all parties involved figure it out.) Of course, the same is true with baseball. It’s the Dodgers, then the Angels. Recently, that disparity has consistently been reflected in the standings, but this offseason made things a lot more interesting. The Angels got Anthony Rendon. The Dodgers got older. The Angels got Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy. The Dodgers sat on their ass. No longer a lock to win the division or even to be better than the “crosstown” rival — and having come off an insanely pathetic choke job against the Washington Nationals in the NLDS — the Dodgers were in trouble. Don’t get me wrong, the Betts trade was a no-brainer for the Dodgers — especially because it only cost them Alex Verdugo and Kenta Maeda as of now and especially because David Price is a nice throw-in, even if he’s not the ace he was once supposed to be. Nathan Ackerman is a sophomore writing about sports and sociopolitics. He is also an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Courtside,” runs every Friday. Then they traded for Mookie Betts and returned the Los Angeles baseball scene back to normalcy — for now. The Dodgers, by trading for Betts, undoubtedly made their team better. But they also turned the 2020 season into a ticking time bomb. The pressure is on. And they can’t afford to screw it up again. Ah! That’s it! L.A. is still Dodger town, and it always will be! Hallelujah! A couple days ago, I had already written the Dodgers off. Take a quick glance across the city and you’ll notice a similar situation that has dominated NBA headlines for the past year. The Lakers, L.A.’s historical powerhouse and supposed A-team, were fresh off an unspeakably disappointing season with LeBron at the helm, and the up-and-coming Clippers were poised to challenge and overthrow them as the city’s best. Let me know if you’ve seen this movie before: The Dodgers are arguably the best regular season team in baseball, fall short in the playoffs, make a big offseason move. “This year is our year! This puts us over the top!” Repeat. How much longer can they stick to this tired cycle and still claim the unofficial title of “L.A.’s team?” With that other team — the one that’s not really L.A. but calls itself L.A. — already having the best player of all time and now pairing him with one of the best hitters in the game in Rendon along with the improved pitching staff, my guess is not much longer. That kind of collapse is what they absolutely cannot do this year. But it’s also undeniable that if before there wasn’t any pressure on the Dodgers to win — and win it all — this year, well, it’s title or bust for them now. In this city, each professional sport has an A-team and a B-team. There’s the Lakers, then there’s the Clippers. There’s the Kings, then there’s the Ducks. There’s the Rams, then — wait, who’s the other team again? Then, Mookie. Red Sox general manager Chaim Bloom decided to celebrate the barely-over-100-year anniversary of the Babe Ruth trade with a move eerily similar to the one that cursed Boston for the next 85 years, and Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman realized his team wasn’t good enough to avoid another playoff disaster. But that’s the part that eludes them every time it seems to be their year; every time it should be their year. They win 100+ games in the regular season, get to the World Series and lose or fail to make it in the first place because of some combination of Clayton Kershaw and Dave Roberts — not exactly the baseball equivalents of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in terms of coming through in the clutch. And if it turns out to be the latter? That problem in L.A. will only become more glaring. And if Trout, Rendon and Co. have anything to say about it, this city might not belong to the Dodgers for much longer. Not so fast.
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- Courtside: Pressure is on the Dodgers now more than ever with Betts