Monday, October 11, 2004

Requiem for a Heavyweight

A crushing workload the past week has kept me from updating the site recently, but rest assured, I was still finding time to follow the final lunging, desperate convulsions of the Dodgers' 2004 season.

With the obvious exception of emerging victorious in the World Series, the season came to an end in the best manner possible. The Dodgers fought gamely and valiantly, but lost to a team that was just simply superior. I wouldn't be saying that if the Dodgers had lost to the Braves or Astros, but the Cardinals are a tremendous team, and one that deserves to go all the way. We didn't get upset, or fail to show up, or choke away a sure thing. With all the consternation over Odalis and the weak showing of our starting pitching, the fact remains that the Cards are an offensive monster and our starters just weren't good enough to stop them. True, when we needed him to step up and be the dominant pitcher we all know he can be, Perez just couldn't come through. But Dodger fans' rosy reflections of 1988 might be clouding the judgment of some. That year was an aberration; 99% of the time, the better team wins.

I've got no regrets. This was by far the best Dodger season since '88. The 53 come-from-behind victories made this the most entertaining team I've ever followed. Eric Gagne's save streak made us all proud of our homegrown bullpen ace. Adrian Beltre's emergence gave us our first homerun champion of the LA era. Jose Lima's masterpiece on Saturday electrified a Dodger nation starved for postseason thrills. Steve Finley's grand slam against the Giants on Oct. 2 gave Dodger fans a moment we can treasure for decades. There's no way I can have hard feelings about this season.

Under the O'Malley ownership, the Dodgers were far and wide recognized as one of the classiest organizations in baseball. That reputation is in tatters after the neglect of the Fox era, and management's current string-jerking of Ross Porter and Nancy Bea Hefley isn't doing anything to repair it; however, Jim Tracy's gracious move of having the team come onto the field and shake hands with the Cardinals was one of the finest displays of class and sportsmanship I've seen on a baseball field. In my clinical cynicism, I'm waiting for the morons to jump up and down on the Dodgers for shaking hands and congratulating the team that just eliminated them (too bad I can't listen to LA talk radio today, although maybe that's a good thing). Plaschke, of all people, nailed it today:

Strange, indeed, for a Los Angeles professional sports team with a history of championships to behave this way.

Stranger still that it makes sense.

If these were the Lakers, and they lost in the first round of the playoffs, then congratulated their opponents, then appreciated their fans, then hugged each other, we would question their fire.

But on this unlikeliest of Dodger teams, that fire has long since been confirmed, on the wick of 53 comeback victories, in the torch of a West Division championship won by a team whose heart had been gutted two months earlier.

Of course, this is Plaschke we're talking about, so anything intelligent has to be immediately followed by something moronic:

But, appropriately Sunday, it came down to the two issues that have clouded this special season like a mist rolling in over the right-field pavilion.

The starting pitching, and The Trade...

"To me, this totally shows how our general manager does not deserve the criticism for trading for a starting pitcher, because he knew that element would be necessary," Tracy said.

To me, Sunday totally revealed just the opposite.

The Trade bit the Dodgers for the final time after Perez went down and was replaced by Wilson Alvarez.

So Plaschke himself says that starting pitching was one of the Dodgers' fatal flaws, provides a Tracy quote backing up that assertion, then continues to excoriate the general manager who pulled off the deal made specifically to bolster the starting pitching.

Yes, I too thought that Brazoban should've been brought in to face Pujols. But the lack of Mota in the bullpen had nothing to do with that move, or non-move, as it were. Without the trade, we might never have seen Brazoban until September, too late for him to make the postseason roster. (Besides, Mota was worn down, posting a 5+ ERA for the Marlins in September.) Also, without the Trade, we never would've been able to acquire Finley, and without Fins, the Giants almost certainly would have ran down the Dodgers in the stretch. Plaschke is determined to hold DePodesta's feet to the fire, even if logic, reason, and an unexpected division championship all need to be summarily dismissed for him to make his case.

Over 200,000 fans attended sporting events in Los Angeles on Saturday, and they saw USC, UCLA, and the Dodgers all win. This was one of the times I've truly been sad to not be in LA anymore. I wish I could have been around to experience some of that atmosphere. My busy schedule will likely keep me away from blogging for awhile longer, but college football, the Lakers, and the hot stove league will be commanding my attention soon enough. Hopefully, I won't overdose on Yankees-Sawx blather over the next week or so.

Thanks again, Dodgers. It was a great season, and I'll expect more of the same in 2005. How about a World Series appearance this time?


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