Dodgers’ new ‘Big Three’ might be best of all-time

The Sporting Tribune's Arash Markazi writes the top of the Dodgers' lineup might feature the best collection of stars ever.

LOS ANGELES – Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman.

In a sports world where the term “Big Three” gets thrown around more often than it should, the Dodgers’ new “Big Three” might be one of the best baseball has ever seen and they showed why in their 7-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day. They combined for five hits, four RBI and two home runs in a preview of things to come for opposing pitchers.

“It’s tough to navigate three times through for a starter,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “These guys hit really good pitching and then waiting in the wings you got Will Smith, who continues to take good at-bats.”

Oh yeah, the fourth batter in the Dodgers’ lineup is Will Smith, who just signed a 10-year, $140 million contract. Then again, it’s hard to get lost when the three guys in front of you are in the conversation for MVP. All three of them have already won an MVP and are still in the prime of their careers.  

“In any discussion you can argue that (those three) are the best hitter in baseball,” Roberts said. “They’re in that conversation and we’re fortunate to have three of them in at the top order. The first word that comes to my mind is daunting when you look at those three guys.”  

Ohtani, who signed a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason is the biggest star in a galaxy full of them in the Dodgers’ lineup. While he has been in the news recently for a gambling scandal involving his former translator, all of that was momentarily forgotten when he entered the batter’s box and a sold-out crowd and an overflow press box stood up to catch a glimpse and capture the moment on their phones. Ohtani smiled as he talked to the media after the game about his performance compared to his two MVP teammates at the top of the order.

“I was the only guy who couldn’t hit a homer but overall, I thought I had a pretty good game today,” Ohtani said. “Overall I had quality at-bats just with the last at-bat, I wanted to make sure Freddie got his at-bat. That was something I wanted to do.”

Ohtani’s first at-bat would have been a stand-up triple if he didn’t have Betts in front of him but Ohtani overran second and caught himself in a pickle after sending one down the right-field line. Ohtani missed the sign from Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebal, who had signaled for Betts to stop at third.  

“I just passed by the bag quicker than the lead runner so I wasn’t able to pick Dino on time,” Ohtani said. “It’s a situation I hadn’t encountered in spring training so I conferred with Dino after and we’ll make the adjustments.”

It was the only critique Roberts had of Ohtani all day but even that was peppered with a compliment.

“He can run very fast but he has to understand that there’s a guy in front of him too,” Roberts said. “It was certainly a stand-up triple but when he has Freddie behind him, you don’t want to make that first out at home plate so you have to keep your head up to.”  

Betts and Freeman didn’t want to single the top of t he lineup when asked about it postgame, deferring to their teammates and

“I don’t know, we’re just doing our jobs and having fun and playing the game,” Betts said. “There’s a lot of expectations from the outside but not internally. No one excepts anything more than what Freddie, Mookie, Shohei, Smitty and everybody down the lineup can do. We just do what we can.”

Betts will do more than most this season, switching from shortstop after playing outfield and second base last season. It hasn’t affected his play defensively or offensively as he already been on base 11 times and leads the league in batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS through three games.  

 “It’s impressive,” Roberts said. “I learned a lot from Mookie last year when he said he really separates the offense from the defense when he went from the right field to the dirt. He obviously had an MVP caliber season last year and so this is one of those things where he just does a good job of separating the defense from the offense. It’s clearly the toughest position to handle on the defensive side but to not have any drop-off offensively, he’s just a unique player.”

After the game, Roberts was asked about his thought process in batting Ohtani second in the order and he just smiled.

“I like Shohei in the two because Mookie gets on base,” Roberts said. “To have somebody on base ahead of Shohei It adds stress to the pitcher and I like the idea of him getting five at bats a night so I think he’s comfortable right there and I like Freddie Freeman behind them. For me it looks right.”

As long as Betts, Ohtani and Freeman are at the top of the lineup, the Dodgers are going to look more than just right this season.