Mookie Betts: Dodgers Embrace ‘Bullseye’ As Defending World Series Champions

After ending the franchise’s World Series drought, the Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2021 regular season looking to become the first team since the 1998-00 New York Yankees to repeat as champions.

Many projections have the Dodgers winning the most games in baseball this season and returning to the Fall Classic. The most recent came from ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle’s simulation, which saw L.A. break the all-time MLB wins record of 116 and capture back-to-back titles.

While it’s common for teams to have a World Series hangover the following season, Mookie Betts believes the Dodgers are even hungrier to get back to baseball’s biggest stage.

“I think we all have one goal in mind, and that’s to win again,” he said. “We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, we know there’s a bullseye on our back. But I would rather be playing with a bullseye on my back than trying to chase to get to the top.”

Betts, entering his second season with the Dodgers, knows the club has long had a bullseye on their back even before he arrived in L.A. “I think once I came over it made it bigger, if that’s even a thing. I think at that point, coming over, we pretty much had to win,” Betts said.

“We had such a good team here and return pretty much everybody, so we know we’re going to be tough to beat. We know we’re going to get everybody’s best, and I think that’s what makes it fun.”

One team in particular that hopes to challenge the Dodgers this season is the San Diego Padres, who are coming off their first playoff appearance since the 2006 season.

With an up-and-coming roster, the Padres were plenty active over the offseason, adding the likes of Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to a core that includes Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.

As the Padres and other teams come for the Dodgers this year, Betts believes it is important to keep the foot on the gas. “I think it just kind of gets tougher and tougher. Expectations are higher from the outside, and I think internally,” Betts said.

“I think we expect ourselves to perform well, make it back and win again. So I think in doing that, it gets tougher and tougher to prepare each and every day. It just gets tiring, but hey, it’s what we signed up for.

“We know what we’ve got to do. At this point it’s just mind over matter.”

Betts: Dodgers must match other teams’ energy for chance to repeat

Betts believes as long as the Dodgers play to their potential and match other teams’ energy, they will have a good chance of returning to the World Series. “Just knowing that it’s tough, man. You’re going to get everybody’s best,” he said of the biggest challenges with trying to repeat.

“You’re going to get everybody’s best and just know it’s other guys’ World Series in the middle of June. We have to match their energy. I know it’s kind of tough. We have a really good team, but we have to go out and play.

“You can’t just be good on paper, so we have to take that responsibility and go out and perform the way we can. We should be OK.”

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