When all is said and done, I still love this game
Once again, the Dodgers end the season agonizingly close to the playoffs. Not as close as last season (last year they still had a chance coming into game 161 of 162, I believe), but still…the last week is pretty dang close.
So, my hometown team won’t be showing off its fabulous pitching staff in the World Series this year, but there’s always next season. Manager Jim Tracy will be back, with his entire current coaching staff, and as long as the pitching stays good, and Shawn Green and the hitters are healthy…watch out. At the end of last year, I was writing off Kevin Brown as the injury-cursed All-Star who would never match up to his talents of old. I was wrong.
In any case, the Dodgers are out of contention, and although I’m disappointed, all I have to do is think of the Red Sox and Cubs fans. At least I can be grateful to have experienced my hometown team winning the Series in my lifetime, and while I was old enough to watch. But for fans of the Red Sox and the Cubs…they haven’t tasted the Series in years, particularly Chicago: 58 years. And they haven’t seen their team win the World Series in four generations. Boston: 85 years. Chicago Cubs: 95 years. Now that has to hurt.
So, although I’m a Dodgers fan, when all is said and done, I’m still a baseball fan. It’s true that I wasn’t for a long time. But I came back to the game, and I was cheering and exhilarated watching the World Series of 2001 (one of the best series I have ever seen in my life), when Luis Gonzalez hit that game-winning RBI single against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 to give the Diamondbacks their first World Championship. The same went for the ALDS of 2002, when those pesky Angels upset the Yankees in five games.
Perhaps it was the team with which I grew up: during my conscious life, the Dodgers never powered their way to the playoffs. They were never the favorite. In 1988, they stunned everyone by beating the heavily favored Mets in a dramatic NLCS, and plucked out enough victories against the (also favorite) A’s to win the Championship. We all have seen the images of an injured Kirk Gibson, coming up to pinch-hit in Game 1 — which would turn out to be his only at-bat in the five-game series — the Dodgers down by two runs in the bottom of the 9th, two out, and driving that game-winning home run off of the A’s closing ace Dennis Eckersley, hobbling around the bases and pumping his arm…it’s the stuff no one would believe if it were fiction. Well, that’s just one dramatic example of the scrappy Dodgers of ’88. So maybe that’s how I learned to root for the underdog. To have faith. To never believe the numbers or polls because in baseball, anything is possible.
So ideally — not statistically, or logically — here’s what I would like to see happen in this year’s playoffs:
ALCS: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees. Who doesn’t want to see this matchup? If I truly wanted to root for the underdog, I’d love to see Minnesota make it, but in terms of drama and rivalry, there isn’t any comparison. Fans of both teams would eat it up.
NLCS: Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants. Again, not that I’m particularly a Giants fan <cough>, but Dusty Baker facing his old team…Sammy Sosa vs. Barry Bonds…it’s really a no-brainer. Plus, former Dodgers Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek will experience the postseason. I’m not as excited about this matchup as I am about Boston and NYY, though. But as long as the Cubs are in it, I’m happy. Stats dictate that Atlanta will be one of the teams in this series. A true underdog NLCS: the Cubs and the Marlins.
World Series: Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox. Let the clubs with the longest, historic droughts win their respective pennants, then meet and duke it out. The fans have waited long enough.
Of course, this is just my ideal scenario. For the Cubs to actually get to the Series…for the Sox to actually get to the Series…requires some true baseball willpower.
Update: Florida takes all, winning the series 4-2 over the Yankees, with Josh Beckett throwing a championship-clinching complete game 6 shutout (2-0).
|Team in 2003 postseason||Last league championship||Last world championship||Total world championships|
Red Sox (AL)
|Oakland Athletics (AL)||1989||1989||4|
|Minnesota Twins (AL)||1991||1991||2|
|Florida Marlins (NL)||2003||2003||2|
|Atlanta Braves (NL)||1999||1995||1|
|New York Yankees (AL)||2003||2000||26 (record)|
|San Francisco Giants (NL)||2002||n/a||0|