You'd think that the Dodgers, just by the shear law of averages, would be able to go better than 1-12 in the post season. Oh well.
I came into this game hoping the Dodgers would have a post-season hero other than Jose Lima in the past 18 years. Sadly, it wasn't to be. In 1996, Greg Maddux ruined the second playoff game I ever attended by dismantling the Dodgers in a game that lasted just two hours and four minutes. Ten years later, at the fourth playoff game I witnessed he did it again. Thing is, there wasn't much separating Maddux's start today from his dominating ones, the little flares that the Mets hit just happened to find holes. The only thing that really bothered me was Marlon Anderson's seemingly lackadaisical play on Cliff Floyd's single in the first. Only Marlon knows if he actually could have caught that ball, but it sure looks like he jogged up to a ball that landed about five feet in front of him.
As these Dodgers have done so often though, they battled back. Jeff Kent and James Loney came through with big hits, and the Dodgers took the lead after five innings. But it just wasn't to be. As Jonathan Broxton came out of the pen in the sixth, my Dad said "I just don't trust Broxton, he reminds me too much of Tom Neidenfuer." I tried to extol the virtues of the bull, but I too got worried when his first pitch came across the plate at only 93, a good four or five miles per hour slower than where he usually rests. Suddenly, Shawn Green doubles off the wall, Michael Tucker walks, three Mets get bloop singles, and it's all over.
Despite the end result of the game, this was easily the best Dodger crowd I'd ever seen, cheering throughout the game, even after I had gone into "wait `till next year" mode in the 9th. I will admit that Dodger fans generally are pretty lame, refusing to cheer unless instructed, but they were definitely out in force tonight.
I'm sure that the lesson that people will take away from this series is that "you can't win in the playoffs with that many rookies", but that's not true at all. Other than Broxton's outing last night, where he didn't deserve to give up that many runs, all of the Dodgers rookies performed well. On a Dodger team that needs to have the majority of the lineup clicking to score, you can't afford Furcal, Lofton and Drew going a combined 5 for 27. Combine that with starting pitching that only throws 13 and 2/3rds innings the whole series and a bullpen with only two effective pitchers and you have a sweep waiting to happen. Nevertheless, anything can happen in the span of three games, and you can't really pin blame anywhere. Well, maybe on third base coach Rich Donnelly, but that's a different story.
I've heard people say that this team exceeded all expectations, but I just don't see it. I predicted 87 wins and an exit in the NLDS, and the Dodgers won 88. I felt that success should have been a given with a 115 million dollar payroll in the worst league since divisional play began. Maybe it's because I thought the Dodgers would have been just fine in 2005 had they not got overrun with injuries, but I felt the Dodgers had a good base coming in, and they stood their ground.
Even though the Dodgers did almost exactly what I expected them to, I can't help but feel disappointed. I realize that 2006 wasn't supposed to be the Dodgers year, but in a down year for the NL, I felt like we could have stolen an NL championship. I guess it also doesn't help that I think it's going to be hard for the Dodgers to improve relative to their competition next year. Since around the time Paul DePodesta was hired, 2007 was the target year; the farm system would bear its fruit, and the Dodgers would start their dynasty. The problem is all the guys that were supposed to make a difference that year are either already up (Broxton, Billingsley and Martin), or gone in the case of Joel Guzman. The only remaining members of the "Jacksonville Five" are Andy LaRoche and James Loney. LaRoche is having labrum surgery this offseason, so I doubt he'd make the team early on, and while my opinion of Loney has shot up a hundred fold, I don't think he could out perform what Nomar did this year. So, I don't see any substantial improvement coming from just the rookies in 2007.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks enter the off-season with about 35 million dollars of payroll freedom and arguably more top end young talent than the Dodgers. The Rockies aren't quite as stacked as the Diamondbacks and Dodgers but they have their fair share of young talent, and a solid pitching staff. At the very least they won't begin the season with five automatic outs in the lineup again. The Padres, who I discounted as hopeless at the beginning of the season, don't have a farm system, but they are working with a far better talent base than I gave them credit for. Thank God for the Giants, who have a lot of money to spend this off season, but only one above average player on their roster, Matt Cain. The point that I'm getting at is that despite the Dodgers incredible farm system, it doesn't get any easier from here.
So, that will do it for 2006. Thanks all for joining me in this roller coaster ride of a season; I hope I've been remotely entertaining. There's plenty to keep me busy in the off season, from recapping the season in much greater detail, trade analysis, finishing my "biggest blunders" list, and more, so be sure to stick around this off season. Pitchers and catchers report in a little more than four months.
(Sorry for how long this took to get up, I could not get into any mood to write today.)