I suppose I should say something about the 2014 baseball season, since it’s now over for the team I love.
Part of me is sad but part of me is relieved that its over. The older I get the harder it is to take the suspense of a Dodgers’ playoff game. Mentally, I think this won’t be the case the next time we get into the postseason and I feel confident about the team’s chances. In this century, however, every time the Dodgers have made the postseason there was always a big chance it wouldn’t work out, and none of those teams possessed anything special to give you faith that they could surmount the odds.
This year’s team was not much different from that. They have an amazing amount of talent, and they were a pleasure to listen to (because of the continuing failure of the organization to get on TV I only “saw” about 10 games). But they consistently lacked anything that really brought the team together. You might think this is inconsequential in baseball, as long as every individual player does his part at the right time. In the long view of a 162-game season I think that is true. In the postseason I think the team that can work as a cohesive unit is always going to be the winner.
This year’s team had a fairly consistent inability to win the big game or to produce in a clutch. We were uneven for most of the season and the timing of that unevenness was really visible to most, even those who don’t follow the NL West. What saved us was that we were in the weakest division of baseball where the only other team that was worth anything was fairly similar to us. That team is still around, of course. Their big difference? Well, Bruce Bochy is the best manager in professional baseball.
It’s an odd postseason now, and not just because the Dodgers are out of it. In August, I was fairly confident the Dodgers would have what it takes to top the Giants for the season. But I didn’t think they’d go far in the playoffs. We were a weak road team and we were a weak team against all the major players in the East. Milwaukee was the surprise for me. In August I was fearing having to face them, the Nationals, or the Cardinals in the postseason. No matter how you cut it, we were bound to face one of them.
And now where are we? Milwaukee–who held on the first place from something like the 3rd game of the season until late summer–faded away and didn’t make the postseason. The best team in the NL is done. And the hands down favorite in the AL is done. Who is there in the NL are two teams with some experience in the postseason, experience that goes a long way. I think St. Louis is the stronger team by players but Bochy the better skipper in these situations. It’ll be interesting. Kansas City seems to be the Cinderella team everybody’s getting behind. I’ll probably join that train. At least the color’s right.
The Dodgers will make some changes over the break. Mattingly is definitely done. He’s never been the manager I wanted and he’s rarely been the manager they needed. This will be a good change. The Dodgers have some holes in the bullpen and and some other aging parts of the starting squad to think about. One hopes the starting rotation will be in a better position next year with the return of Chad Billingsly.
The best part about the Dodgers is the future. The farm system is stacked with an assortment of future superstars. Any weakness on the field right now has one to two players in the hopper who will soon be ready to jump in. That’s something to look forward to. We also have plenty of bats. They just need to work better together and find the secret of consistency when it comes to the clutch.
When I was a kid, the baseball season lasted as long as the Dodgers were in it. I remember keeping all hope alive until that final game when they would be mathematically eliminated. Even after that, I’d think “Well what if _____ get in a plane crash?” thinking there might still be hope, even after it was logical. In the postseason it was the same kind of focus and investment. I remember the 1981 World Series victory. My mom got home after the game had ended and I rushed to tell her what happened. She said “Congratulations,” like I had something to do with it. In my mind I did.
Part of me is still that kid. Maybe I’m better about tucking him away every fall and winter and bringing him back every spring. This year didn’t go the way he would have hoped, but it did go about as well as the grown up me expected.
But next year is a whole new season.