California News

Dodgers’ Mookie Betts has started planning a life after baseball, but winning remains his top priority

Mookie Betts is surrounded by positive affirmations.

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

But you have to remind him.

“I don’t think he understands how good he is,” said Dodgers designated hitter JD Martinez, a close friend of Betts since their split days in Boston. “I think he believes in it. But sometimes he doesn’t really express it.

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

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

“I don’t know what’s going on in his head,” Freeman says. “Last year was during his May when he was on fire. We were in the cage and he was, ‘Oh, I lost him.’ I was, ‘Wait a second, you’re hitting 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 would be lying” if he said he still 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 standout months — May and August — separated by long stretches of much lower production.

This year he has 11 homers, 30 RBIs and 37 runs batted in – great 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.

“I feel like I’ve had so many ups and downs, man,” he says. “The lows are the times I really remember. But also, I don’t really think of things in those terms. I’m thinking about what I need to do to get back to helping the team win.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily that I get depressed as a pity party. It’s more that I’m frustrated because I’m not helping us. I feel like I’m proud of the weight I have to carry. Freddie has weight. We all do. I’m proud of it.

“It’s really about the guys who can be the most consistent. These are the ones who, in quotes, are the best in the game.”

But Betts says his priorities have changed. If he was playing to make his mark as an individual early in his career, now “It doesn’t matter if I’m the best,” he says.

“I kind of did a lot of the things that I set out to do – which is winning MVP, winning the World Series, winning awards and so on,” he says. “So now you’re playing the game to win.”

But Betts acknowledges there are other priorities now as well. At 30, he is married. Her second child (and first son) was born last month. And his wife, Brianna, opened his eyes in another way.

“My wife said to me two years ago, ‘You’re going to have a midlife crisis and you won’t know what to do,'” Betts says. “Since she said that – obviously father and husband, those hats stay. The baseball cap stays in place. I won’t let anything get in the way of baseball because that’s how I get all the opportunities I get.

But he wears other hats now.

He started a YouTube channel last year. Among other business activities, he is a partner in One Media/Marketing Group, which produced a documentary about Jackie Robinson last year and is developing other projects including a scripted series and game shows. Earlier this month he started hosting a podcast – “On Base with Mookie Betts”. Two other former league MVPs, Christian Yelich and teammate Clayton Kershaw, were among his first guests.

” What do I have ? – nine more years, 10 more years and when that time comes, I will not be lost,” he says.

“You don’t play this game all your life. So it would be crazy for me not to think about what’s going on. It would be a mistake. Yeah, doing a podcast, being a dad, being a husband – yeah, it’s gonna take time. If I want to do what I say, which is to be around, to become a billionaire one day, to be in business – I have to do these things. And all the people who do these things are my age.

“Yeah, I have to split time between going to do a podcast or going to a business meeting or going to do that — then when I get on the field, I’m all baseball. That’s what comes with it. L “Argument is what if it took baseball away? Okay, well, if you want to be lost when your career is over, you know what I’m saying?”

Such long-term thinking carries a danger. This could dampen the dynamism that makes a player “the best in the game”.

“It depends on who you are,” Betts says to that. “It could. It really depends on who you are. For me, I don’t think it takes the edge off.

“I want to win and I know I’m a big part of the team if we want to win. I’m proud of it. I don’t run away. I know that if I had a bad game, I probably could have done something to help us.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has said things this season that could be interpreted as an acknowledgment that Betts’ engine isn’t always running at that elite speed.

Playing Betts in the infield “keeps his interest going a little more,” Roberts said. While acknowledging that “it’s tough when you play every day and I understand that”, the manager also offered that “there’s an extra level of focus” that some players can summon, but Betts “didn’t not always that”.

When Roberts’ comments are read to him, Betts accepts the criticism – unintended or not.

“If that’s how he feels, cool,” Betts says. “I know for me personally, I don’t feel that. But maybe he’s saying something he sees. I don’t know. I’m not saying he’s wrong. Maybe he sees something.

But to expect Betts to be, say, the player he was in the 2020 playoffs or last May every day over the course of a long season is “rough … that’s a lot.” Betts said. But that “doesn’t mean you don’t try”.

“You ask for the stars and you land on the clouds,” he says. “I want to be that guy 100% of the time. Now you see where the frustration comes from. Just because I’m sad doesn’t mean I’m not playing well. No it’s not that. It’s not about me at this point. My legacy, it’s all going to revolve around my team. That’s all I care about. I want to be here for my team and if he says maybe I need to have that focus all the time, then maybe I just need to focus all the time.

California Daily Newspapers

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button