For some fans the only possible reward is a World Championship, for others it is only about being able to compete for that championship. For this fan, the reward is the journey from now until the last ball is put to rest in late October. Those in the business of building the team can have lofty goals with World Championships as the only focus, but I'll be happy with simply enjoying the season, game by game, inning by inning, at bat by at bat, pitch by pitch.
This doesn't mean I'm some laid back Dodger fan, I can yell and scream with the best of you, it doesn't mean I won't criticize the team when I feel they are short changing themselves in the pursuit of success. It doesn't mean I don't care deeply about this team playing in the World Series.
I understand how never having a Kirk Gibson Moment, a Joe Ferguson catch and throw, a Pedro dismantling of the Yankees, a Bob Welch matchup is disheartening for those who have never been able to experience those World Series defining events other then reading or listening to others like myself talk about it. I feel the same way about never getting to see Koufax's superhuman 65 Series. All I can say is that the journey to the 81 World Championship made it mean so much more. If we had simply won in 74, 77, or 78 then 81 would not mean what it means. Failure builds appreciation for when the ultimate success finally occurs. Would I rather have four world championships and eschew the failures? You bet but when you don't win you have to move on and wait for the next season's journey to see where it takes you.
The Dodgers were not failures for not winning the last two years. As far as I' m concerned they were over achievers, this was not a team built with a 150-200 million dollar payroll that you felt was the best team in baseball. They were good enough to compete and they competed as far as they could. Along the way you had to enjoy the season they gave us. Or not, but trust me you had more fun if you enjoyed the season instead of complaining about it.
Many folk will point to the Lakers success as something the Dodgers need to aspire to. Let me tell you beating the Celtics in 1985 meant everything to Laker fans because of 25 years of futility against the men in green. It wasn't like the Lakers were born of championships once they moved to Los Angeles. It wasn't like they haven't had long spells of being the bridesmaid even after they finally won the first one in 71/72. Futility was being a Laker fan from the day they arrived until the first one over a decade later knowing you had the better team many a year (seven times from 1962-1971 they were runner-ups) . The real Laker dominance did not start until Magic showed up. Dodger fans who always point to the Lakers seemed to have forgotten the years between Magic and Shaq as though that Decade did not exist. The 90's were as cruel to the Lakers as they were to the Dodgers.
Maybe this team never reaps the final assault like the 81 Dodgers or the 85 Lakers, maybe the last two years is as good as it gets for this group. It could happen and ultimately it would be a disappointment but the season itself doesn't have to be if just because they fall short once again. Many things will happen this season just as in seasons past that will lift you out of your Dodger seats, or your couch in wild passion for whatever it was that caused it. Enjoy that moment.
It is the incredible intricacies of baseball that really make the game for me. Sure you can watch the highlights but if you didn't see Matt Kemp fall behind 0-2, work the count to 3-2, then lash a game tying single up the middle how much would you have appreciated that single on MLBTV?. If you were not a party to the struggles that Matt Kemp has had to undergo to get respect in this town you may only enjoy the hit because of the win and excitement it generated, however if you were a party to Matt Kemp from the first day he showed up, a hit like that meant validation. And we all love validation.
Yes, I understand I'm simply rambling at this point with much more to say in a very incoherent manner.
When Jon Weisman writes about the scintillating 18-pitch Alex Cora at bat, he's focusing on the right now. One at bat, one improbable result, yet each season is filled with moments like that. It is for me what makes baseball special. If I only cared about World Championships, I'd take the season off.
Currently TBLA members have been voting on what they consider the greatest moment of the last decade. In many cases the moment was possible because of a team effort. Steve Finley doesn't hit a dramatic home run if the seven batters before him don't do something equally dramatic by keeping the inning alive one after another. I've poo pooed what Steve Finley did not as a shot at Finley but because the real work had been done by those who stared at a three run deficit in the 9th inning and didn't back down from the challenge but embraced it. Finley simply finished what his predecessors had started. Though he did finish it in fine style. James Loney doesn't get to hit a series changing grand slam if his predecessors had not loaded the bases for him in the first place. Each of those at bats that loaded the bases both times are what the game is about. Not just the big moment, but how the big moment was made possible. Even the greatest home run in Dodger history was only made possible because the worse player on the team walked before that at bat. If you remember the game you will always be dumbfounded that Mike Davis didn't make the last out.
For many baseball fans this is the best time of year as the sheet is still blank with endless possibilities. The Yankees have yet to route the competition. Don't be so caught up in the fact we don't measure up to the Yankees. The season may end exactly as you fear, but the season could also surprise us, and after watching baseball for 40 years, I'd bet on a surprise no one anticipates right now. The downside is that surprises come in both packages, good and bad.
Quite a meandering post with no editor to pull it together but I'm simply trying to say enjoy the moments of the season. Enjoy the journey; it begins soon at a ballpark near you.