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Dodgers' Mookie Betts: 'I'm not going to be lost' when playing career ends

Bill Plunkett, The Orange County Register on

Published in Baseball

Mookie Betts is surrounded by positive affirmation.

Since his breakout MVP runner-up season in 2016 at age 23, Betts has been listed among baseball’s elite, often in the discussion as one of the best players in baseball when analysts or his peers debate the topic.

But he has to be reminded of that.

“I don’t think he understands how good he is,” says Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez, Betts’ close friend since their shared days in Boston. “I think he believes it. But sometimes he doesn’t really express it.

“I think it’s a double-edged sword for him because I think that’s what makes him great too. I think every great player has a little insecurity. They’re always going out there trying to prove something – there’s a chip on their shoulder or they’re thinking it’s going to go away. That’s kind of what keeps him working hard.”

Freddie Freeman has seen the same dynamic at work since joining the Dodgers last season, particularly in the batting cage.

 

“I don’t know what’s going through his head,” Freeman says. “Last year, it was during his May when he was on fire. We were in the cage and he was, ‘Oh, I’ve lost it.’ I was, ‘Wait a second, you hit a home run, like, five straight games.’ I don’t know why but sometimes you have to remind him that he’s Mookie Betts, an MVP and one of the best players in this game.”

Betts says “I’d be lying” if he said he always believes them. He looks at his numbers with the Dodgers and doesn’t see the consistency required to be listed among the game’s elite.

A transformative force in 2020 when the Dodgers won the World Series, Betts was hampered by injuries in 2021. His 2022 season featured two outstanding months – May and August – separated by long stretches of far lower production.

This year, he has 11 home runs, 30 RBIs and 37 runs scored – excellent numbers from a leadoff hitter. But his .255 batting average at this point would be a career-low. His on-base percentage and OPS are also below his career averages.

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