Cody Bellinger, in the midst of a dismal season, smacked a fat pitch for a go-ahead ninth inning single Thursday in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS. Max Scherzer, the $34 million pitcher acquired by the Dodgers to bolster their chances, closed out the game.
And with the help of an absurd check swing call, the plucky Wild Card Dodgers finally caught a break and managed to overcome the division champion Giants.
What did we learn? I guess the biggest thing is that money won again. When you need one more player or one more play, it sure helps to have nearly endless resources, something this postseason is proving again — and something I talked about on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Three of the last four teams standing in the postseason have payrolls in the top five of MLB this season. The Dodgers, at No. 1, dwarf everyone: $64 million more than the next-closest team, and at $267 million more than twice the league average ($130 million) and $150 million more than the Twins.
If you are inclined to point to teams that occasionally outperform their payroll and succeed despite the inequity, you are doing it wrong. The Rays have never won the World Series. They tend to get swallowed up by bigger payroll teams in the playoffs, as happened this year against Boston. Same with the "Moneyball" A's.
And the Twins? You probably need no reminder that they've lost 18 straight postseason games.
Bellinger was the 2019 MVP with 47 home runs and an OPS over 1.000. He came back to earth last year but was still productive as the Dodgers won the World Series. This year? He was one of MLB's worst players — a .165 batting average and .542 OPS in 350 plate appearances. It didn't matter. The Dodgers still won 106 games and could afford to still run Bellinger out there in the playoffs.
Imagine that happening to the Twins' best player. Actually, remember when it happened: Joe Mauer was the AL MVP in 2009, leading the Twins to the playoffs. When his production plummeted two years later, the Twins lost 100 games instead of winning 100.
That's a bit reductive, but it's also the margin that payroll affords you. Don't forget that as you watch the rest of this postseason — and try to imagine the Twins getting back there, let alone winning a game or two.