Yes, I know – it was a disappointing finish to the Dodgers season. However, by the end of October, you will be able to replace the word “Dodgers” in that sentence with the names of twenty-eight other Major League baseball teams. In the past decade, 290 teams have had disappointing finishes to seasons as opposed to only 10 who have been happy with the way things ended up. After every disappointing finish, newspapers and local sports talk radio feature discussions on what went wrong, who is to blame, and what should be done about it. For Dodger fans, this is no exception. People are talking about the failure of Chad Billingsley to pitch well in his two NLCS starts, the decisions that Joe Torre made in the series, and what needs to happen to make things better next year (including whether or not they should pay the hefty price to keep Manny Ramirez). As a counterpoint to the negative focus given to this season, I will instead focus on the positive.
All things considered, this past season was the best since 1988. The regular season record wasn’t the greatest but this team won playoff games. Not only did they win playoff games, they won four of them. Three of them came against a team that was expected to go the World Series. Yes, it was disappointing that they were eliminated in the LCS but that is what made this season so great. They were eliminated in the LCS! If you’re going to get eliminated, that’s where you want it to be. Dodger fans are tired of being eliminated during the regular season year after year, or face a quick exit from the Division Series in the four seasons that they do make it. This Dodger team took things to the next level and gave their fans something they haven’t enjoyed in a long time – winning baseball in October. The LCS loss was easier to take for many Dodger fans because with the nucleus of talented young players this team has, there is a feeling that this season is the beginning of many great ones to come.
Personally, I have enjoyed this season because I feel like the Dodgers have returned. What do I mean? I feel like the spirit of the Dodger teams that I rooted for as a kid in the ’80’s, has returned. Shortly after the magical championship year of 1988, the Dodger organization gradually descended into mediocrity. The departure of the O’Malley’s, as they sold the team to FOX in 1998, had to lot to do with the decline. The Dodgers became just another organization. They had a rich history but nothing to offer in the present. The resurgence of the Dodgers actually began when FOX brought in Bob Daly to run the team and continued under the new ownership of Frank McCourt. The Dodgers are once again bringing up talented players from one of the richest farm systems in all of baseball. Just like the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, today’s Dodger ballclub is mostly made up of homegrown talent, and just like those teams, today’s Dodger team is winning playoff games – something they haven’t done in 20 years. The 2008 Dodger team put the organization on the map with the addition of one of the most respected managers in all of baseball, Joe Torre, and perhaps the greatest hitter of his time, Manny Ramirez, while reminding us of the past with the year-long celebration of 50 years in Los Angeles. Once again, the Dodgers were playing games in October in front of a nationally televised audience. In a small way, the return to KABC as the Dodgers’ flagship radio station and the return of their AAA affiliate to Albuquerque helped symbolize this return.
The future is bright for the Dodgers. The Dodgers are once again assuming their rightful position as one of the top organizations in all of baseball and the team to beat on the field.
“The best season since ’88”. Not a bad epitaph for 2008.