Dodgers enter off-season of soul searching after early playoff exit

Oct 15, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts talks to the press after being defeated by the San Diego Padres during game four of the NLDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

LOS ANGELES, Oct 17 (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Dodgers' historically great season came to a heartbreaking end on Saturday when the title favorites crashed out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round and now face major personnel decisions this off-season.

After winning a franchise record 111 games this season, the Dodgers fell to the Padres after Game Four of the best-of-five series as their bullpen gave up five runs in a nightmarish seventh inning in the eventual 5-3 loss in San Diego.

"It's hard to even think about it right now," Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said after Saturday's game. "If you don't win the World Series, it's just disappointment."

The Dodgers have made 10 consecutive post-season appearances with their lone title during that stretch coming in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Frustrated fans were quick to point the finger at manager Dave Roberts.

As he has in post-seasons past, Roberts came under fire for his management of the pitching staff, especially during the seventh inning when he made a mid-at-bat pitching change to bring in reliever Alex Vesia, who did not get sufficient time to warm up. He went on to give up the go-ahead run.

The LA Times, citing a source, on Sunday reported that Roberts is expected to return in 2023 for his eighth season to try to lead the team back to the promised land.

"We didn't accomplish our goal, and that's the bottom line," Roberts said after the game. "Yeah, this one hurts."

PAINFUL CHOICES

The front office led by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will also be faced with plenty of painful choices to make going forward.

The Dodgers will need to decide whether to bring back veteran third baseman Justin Turner, who will be 38 in November, and former NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who struggled mightily at the plate in the last two seasons and was benched for Game Three and Four of the playoff series.

There is also the case of speedy shortstop Trea Turner, who is set to become a highly sought-after free agent this off-season.

Teams are expected to offer Turner big money and long-term deals and the Dodgers will have to decide whether to match those offers or spend their money elsewhere.

It also remains to be seen whether left-handed starter Clayton Kershaw will return for another season or retire. The 34-year-old future Hall of Famer said he was leaning towards coming back but made no guarantees.

"I think so. We'll see what happens," he said.

"Going home and being around and being a full-time dad changes your perspective on things but, as of right now, I will say I'll play again."

Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ken Ferris

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