Mookie Betts
Dodgers superstar outfielder Mookie Betts grew up and still lives in Tennessee, yet his immediate goal is to win a World Series for his new big-city team.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The Mookie Betts Effect

The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the 2020 World Series. While Mookie Betts was not the best player on the team during the playoffs, his effect on this team should not be understated. 

Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million contract in July. He ended the shortened MLB season with 16 home runs, 39 RBIs, and a .292 batting average and followed up the regular season with similar numbers in the playoffs

While Betts’ numbers alone may not justify his contract’s size, his overall influence on the Dodgers’ organization certainly can. After competing in two straight World Series in 2017 and 2018, the team was ousted from the playoffs early in 2019 by the eventual champion Washington Nationals. This marked a low point in the organization’s recent history. 

Even though the Dodgers were full of talent up and down the roster, they did not believe that they could win. Manager Dave Roberts questionable decisions in previous years, star pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s playoff mishaps and widespread concern over bullpen depth all contributed to a cloud of doubt over the team.

The Betts trade and the subsequent contract signing changed everything. Other than Angels’ center fielder Mike Trout, there is no better player at his position than Mookie. However, quality play was not the most crucial variable that came with these moves. The all-in commitment to acquiring and signing arguably the best player in the game came with an attitude change. Acquiring Mookie Betts made everyone in the Dodger organization believe this was their year. And it was. 

Becoming Champions in 2020

The Dodgers were on cruise control through their 43 regular-season wins and after sweeping the first two rounds of the playoffs. The first real test came when they fell three games to one against the Atlanta Braves. Previous Dodger teams may have completed the choke job. Not this year. This was the Dodgers’ year. 

After completing the comeback, multiple Dodger players confirmed that the team knew for a fact they would win the series even when they were down 3-1. This was not just an interview cliche. The team genuinely believed that they were the best time in the league, had the best player in the league, and could not lose a series to any other major league baseball team. 

This truly is the Mookie effect. Acquiring a winner turned a successful organization into champions. The opposite effect is sometimes true for other teams. For instance, the Washington Nationals lost Bryce Harper and then won the World Series during the following season. This was the case of a team rallying around each other to prove the world wrong when expectations were low. 

The Dodgers needed the opposite push. They were already expected to be among the best in the majors. The Mookie effect allowed the team to believe that they were invincible. Whether it was an extra push on a stole base, an extra inch on a pop-up leap, or an extra bit of force on a home run swing, the entire team got better because they knew that they could and should be better.

Mookie Betts’ stats may not have lived up to his contract. The World Series rings that are coming to the fingers of all his teammates, however, will suffice to justify any amount of money spent on the new LA sensation.