Wednesday, September 29, 2004

In a Year That's Been So Improbable...

Words fail to describe it, really. In a game where the Dodgers looked absolutely flat, dead, and buried, they pull off their first 4-run 9th inning comeback since 1962. That now makes 51 come-from-behind wins this year, one shy of the franchise record. Amazing what a shaky starting rotation, an opportunistic offense, and a never-say-die attitude can do for a team.

God bless the Rockies. Giant fans are apoplectic over this team's inability to hold a lead against the Dodgers, and they certainly have a right to be steamed. Since last weekend, Colorado has twice coughed up 5-run leads in Denver, a 2-run lead in the 8th on Monday, and worst of all, a 4-run lead in the ninth last night. For the Giants, those four games are the difference between a 3-game deficit in the division and 1-game lead. The Rockies have not been living up to their roles as spoilers. Not that I have a problem with that.

Of course, Colorado still has two opportunites to spoil things for the Dodgers, so I won't join the Rockies fan club just yet. And if Giant fans are irritated with the Rocks, then Dodger fans have a right to be pissed at the Padres. After mauling us for five wins in seven September games, San Diego has lost three of four so far to the Giants. So turnabout is fair play, at least when talking about crappy divisional rivals.

Obviously, there's no way to discuss last night's game without talking about Milton Bradley. Honestly, I don't care too much about Milton's behavior. We all know he has a temper, and we all know he's capable of losing it in spectacular fashion in the middle of a game. It's part of the Milton Bradley package. Leaving five runners on base, then making a costly error on a fly ball lost in the lights had Milton primed for an explosion. And then some moron threw a bottle at him...

And that is the worst part of the whole incident. What the hell is going on when Dodger fans, who used to be among the classiest fans in baseball, are throwing bottles at our own players? That's the kind of behavior I always associated with cold, empty nights at Candlestick Park in the 1980s. That's not supposed to happen at Dodger Stadium.

The only thing I can figure is that when fans are used to excellence, they behave excellently. When they become frustrated by the team's constant ineptitude, they start to behave poorly. Giant fans in the 1980s were the most wretched in baseball, but there's been a marked improvement up there, coinciding with this little "golden era" they've been enjoying in recent years (the opening of SBC Park, Barry's steroid regimen, etc.) By contrast, Dodger fans have endured frustration on top of frustration for more than a decade now, and it shows in the collective behavior at the Stadium. The Bradley incident was ugly, but last year, a Dodger fan killed a Giant fan in the parking lot after a game. Simply adding more and more security isn't the answer. (Nobody wants to feel like they're watching a game at a prison yard.) The problem is more systemic than that. When a team is first-class, it shows, from the top ranks of management on down to the fans. The Dodgers used to be like that in the O'Malley era. They got away from that in the wilderness years since, and it's up to the McCourts to restore it.

All this detracts from one of the Dodgers' most sensational games, in a year that's been filled with them. The division lead remains three, with five games to play. I hope Milton's suspension is light, and I hope the fan who threw that bottle is prosecuted, and barred from ever again setting foot in Dodger Stadium.

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