With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Dodgers squad each day this week. Today's topic: The perfect season.
LOS ANGELES -- The Tom Lasorda Managerial Achievement Award was presented to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts at last month's Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation Banquet, although Lasorda first had to whisper something to the recipient before actually presenting the trophy.
"I just got a talking to that I better win a championship," Roberts revealed.
He had just been reminded that finishing first in the National League West isn't enough for a franchise that hasn't won a World Series, or even been to one, since Ronald Reagan was president (and Lasorda was manager) in 1988. In the history of the franchise, the Dodgers have never gone this long between World Series appearances.
They missed by only two wins in 2016 and management determined this was no time to swing a wrecking ball at the roster and start over, so it re-signed key free agents Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill. It made one major acquisition, trading for second baseman and leadoff hitter Logan Forsythe, and found a late-inning bullpen veteran in former Giant Sergio Romo to help set up Jansen.
The roster is deep with extra starting pitching and outfielders, positioning the Dodgers to make trades and withstand injuries, not that the club wants anything close to a repeat of last year's disabled list epidemic.
There was nothing perfect about that, especially losing Clayton Kershaw for 2 1/2 months with a herniated disk. Kershaw's health will be an immediate focus when Spring Training starts, because any relapse would likely signal a long-term issue, although from all indications, he comes to camp healthy.
Aside from Kershaw, a perfect season for the Dodgers would include Yasiel Puig's return to stardom. After a meteoric arrival, injuries and behavior hampered his production and earned a demotion to Triple-A last summer. The Dodgers keep hoping maturity kicks in before his immense talent declines.
Speaking of immense talent, a perfect season could include Julio Urias and No. 1 prospect Cody Bellinger following in the impactful footsteps of Corey Seager as further endorsement of management's sustainable model of developing from within, although Urias' innings will be limited and Bellinger seems headed to Triple-A, at least initially.
Perfection also would include continued high-level performances from Jansen, Turner and Hill, each having just cashed in for the payday of a lifetime. Expectations that come with those contracts can do weird things to the psyche, and it's the rare player that actually responds by upping his game (see: Kershaw).
A perfect season also would find both Seager and Roberts avoiding the dreaded sophomore jinx, as opponents now have a thorough book on their tendencies and corresponding adjustments.
And to really get over the top, the Dodgers will see Hyun-Jin Ryu regain the quality he had before shoulder and elbow operations wiped out the last two seasons.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.