By Don Wanlass
Eight division titles in a row is quite an accomplishment, no matter what sport you play or who your competition is.
The Dodgers clinched their eighth straight National League Western Division title Sept. 22, defeating the Oakland A’s 7-2 while the Angeles were defeating the San Diego Padres 4-2.
That’s eight years in a row of post-season baseball, but it isn’t enough for the Dodgers or most of their fans.
It’s World Series or bust this time, just like the last three years when the Dodgers went bust in October. Despite what you might read on social media, eight division titles in a row is a remarkable run, one the entire Dodgers franchise — from the ownership group to the front office and from manager Dave Roberts and the coaching staff to the players — should be proud of.
Every season, the five teams in the division start with the same goal — winning the division title. For eight straight years, only the Dodgers have accomplished that goal in the National League West.
It is something to celebrate and respect, but too many fans these days aren’t satisfied with just winning the division, probably because the Dodgers just need to show up to the games to win the division.
It’s kind of like making the Major Leagues. Getting there is hard. Staying there is even harder.
Winning a division is harder than it looks, even in the National League West. Moving on in the playoffs is harder, as the Dodgers learned last year when they ran into a hot Washington Nationals team.
Not only did the Nationals upset the Dodgers in the National League Divisional Series last year, they went on to surprise everyone else on their way to a World Series title.
The Dodgers did the same thing the last time they won the World Series. In 1988, the Dodgers played the New York Mets for the right to advance to the World Series. During the regular season, the two teams met 11 times. The Mets won 10 of the 11.
The Mets won 100 games that year. The Dodgers won 94.
The Mets were overwhelmingly favored to win the series. The Dodgers beat them in seven games and advanced to the World Series where they faced the Oakland A’s.
The A’s were the best team in baseball in 1988 with 104 wins, 10 more than the Dodgers. The A’s were overwhelming favorites and the Dodgers’ best player, Kirk Gibson, was hurt.
The Dodgers beat the A’s in five games.
That is the beauty of sports in general. You have to play — and win — the game.
Atlanta Brave fans might know what Dodgers fans are going through. The Braves won 14 of 15 National League East Division titles between 1991 and 2005. They won 11 division titles in a row and were a dominating team.
They won one World Series in that time. They got to the series two other times.
In football, the Buffalo Bills are the only team to play in four straight Super Bowls. Lots of teams have played in two straight. The Miami Dolphins in the 1970s played in three straight Super Bowls, but no one but the Bills played in four in a row.
But nobody celebrates those Bills teams because they lost all four. It was still an incredible accomplishment.
The Bills lost to the Dallas Cowboys twice and the San Francisco 49ers once. Both the Cowboys and 49ers are considered dynasties of that era. Not the Bills.
That’s the society we live in.
The Dodgers will open the expanded National League playoffs Sept. 30, possibly against the San Francisco Giants. They will probably have more wins than any other team this year.
But once the playoffs start, they will need to win 9 games to get to the World Series and another four once they get there.
They have the team to do it, although the starting rotation isn’t as strong as it looked in spring training six months ago in March. Same for the bullpen.
Fans hold their breath every time Kenley Jansen has to save a game, but there is no one manager Dave Roberts would rather use in that role. Joe Kelly, Pedro Baez, Brustar Graterol and Joe McGee might have more stuff these days, but it takes a special person to be an elite closer and no one else but Jansen has been that on this staff.
Clayton Kershaw is the only one in the starting rotation having a better than average season, but I will take my chances with Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. The three young right handers all throw hard. They just need to learn how to pitch in clutch situations,
Mookie Betts and Corey Seager have had great seasons offensively, but Cody Bellinger has slumped during the entire shortened season. So has Max Muncy.
Justin Turner is nursing a pulled hamstring that could blow at any time, which would end his season.
He might be better off being used as the designated hitter the rest of the season. He might be able to limp off the bench and hit a dramatic home run a la Kirk Gibson.
Sometimes it takes a little Cinderella magic to push a good team over the top.
Maybe that is what it will take for the Dodgers to win a World Series for the first time in 32 years.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Lakers weren’t going to sweep the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Conference Finals, so it’s a good thing they got that loss out of the way Sept. 22.
Down 0-2 in the series, the Nuggets needed the win badly and played like it. They gave more effort than the Lakers and were rewarded for it with a 114-106 victory.
As usual, LeBron James and Anthony Davis provided most of the offense for the Lakers, with 30 and 27 points, respectively. Kyle Kuzma (11) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) were the only other Lakers in double figures.
Game four is Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. and game five is Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. It could be over after that. …
The Rams have a chance to be 3-0 for the third year in a row under coach Sean McVay when they travel to Buffalo Sept. 27 for a 10 a.m. game. The Rams did a good job Sept. 20, winning on the road in Philadelphia.
Jared Goff seems to have regained the form he lost last year and the Rams are running the ball with their running-back-by-committee style.
The Bills are 2-0 also and think this could be the year they threaten New England for supremacy in the AFC East. A win over the Rams would be a big boost to them and it’s awfully tough to win back-to-back games on the East Coast.
The winner of this game will make a big impact on the power standings in the NFL. …
Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert wasn’t supposed to see game action this early in the season for the Los Angeles Chargers. Yet, there he was, starting at quarterback Sept. 20 against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Chargers’ first game at SoFi Stadium.
Herbert played well, too, completing 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the Chargers’ overtime loss to the Chiefs, 23-20.
Herbert was inserted into the starting lineup because regular quarterback Tyrod Taylor was having trouble breathing before the game. He was having trouble breathing because a team doctor reportedly punctured a lung while giving Taylor a pain-killing shot so he could play with injured ribs.
Head coach Anthony Lynn said Taylor would return as the starter, once he is healthy. There was no word whether the Chargers were checking the waiver wire this week for a new team doctor.
Don Wanlass is the managing editor of Wave Newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.