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A fan’s guide to a Dodgers-Padres NLDS

Breaking down the Dodgers/Padres National League Division Series

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The Dodgers in victory formation at Petco Park on September 11, 2022.
The Dodgers in victory formation at Petco Park on September 11, 2022.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Sibling “rivalry” revisited

It is not a rivalry until there is skin on the table for both sides. When I think of the Dodgers’ rivals, I think of the Giants, Mets, Braves, Cardinals, and Astros. If the Padres win this series, I will reassess my view.

If it was not clear from my last field report, I really enjoyed my time in San Diego. Petco Park is a lot of fun with each game feeling like a playoff game. The Guide Entry I wrote for San Diego goes into this fact in greater detail.

While I will be sitting out this round of the playoffs, I would heartily encourage anyone who wants to or is able to make the trip to either Dodger Stadium or Petco Park, because nearby playoff games are not always a given. The date that this essay was written was the one-year anniversary of the first playoff game I ever to: Game 2 of the NLDS against the Giants in San Francisco in 2021. Playoff baseball is so much better in person rather than on television.

So you want to go to San Diego

An issue arises if you wanted to go see the game in San Diego because that is doable if you happen to live in Los Angeles. The main way I would traverse to San Diego from Los Angeles would be to take the Pacific Surfliner from Union Station to just outside Petco Park. Oh right; climate change led to erosion near the scenic tracks south of Irvine. Unless you want to live with the substituted bus service, you are most likely best served by flying into San Diego as it has such a cute little airport.

Another issue you might have to deal with to attending a game in San Diego is that the Padres are trying desperately to keep Petco Park from being overrun by Dodger fans. Good luck with that. Anyway, an incomplete tweet was making the rounds showing that the Padres had implemented a “locals-only rule” to postseason tickets. So I thought I would look for myself, thinking that a team could not be that dumb. Life finds a way:

Padres Season Ticket Members have priority access to Postseason tickets. Members and select suite, hospitality and group clients are eligible to purchase Postseason single-game tickets before they go on sale to the general public. Access is based on plan type and tenure.

Tickets are available for the first few rounds and only games the Padres could potentially host each round – two NLDS and four NLCS games. A separate presale opportunity for the World Series will be made available at a later date.

Padres Postseason ticket sales to Verified Fans, Padres Insiders and the public will be limited to the following counties and areas: San Diego County, Baja California , Imperial County, Southern Orange County (San Clemente, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Beach), Southern Riverside County (Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Hemet, Perris), La Paz County, Mohave County, Yuma County, and Clark County. Orders by residents outside (geo-limited areas) will be canceled without notice and refunds given.

This effort is likely doomed to fail with great comedic effect. Why, you ask? Well, for starters it’s not as if there are no Dodger fans in any of the above-identified areas. I tried the above link and got an error message saying that I was outside of the geolocated area so I could not buy tickets directly from the team. If I was determined to go, I suppose I could make a prepaid card listing either a friendly address in the above-identified areas or use “General Delivery, San Diego, CA” as my home address. I thought that a virtual private network would be enough to circumvent the restriction but then I got the following error message:

Sales to this event will be restricted to residents of (geo-limited states/provinces or selected area). Residency will be based on credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside (geo-limited states/provinces or selected area) will be canceled without notice and refunds given.

I suppose if I was truly lazy and/or desperate to go, I could try the secondary market, but I would expect to pay a premium, probably costing more than last year’s World Series tickets...and yeah, it’s pretty bad. Oddly enough, tickets are more expensive for the games in San Diego games than for the games in Los Angeles. I suppose I can understand that fact: it’s been so long since there has been October baseball in San Diego. Heck, even the three-game set I went to was rather light as to Padres’ highlights.

Heath Hembree cannot hurt this team anymore and I would be surprised if Mookie Betts had another, non-competitive throw from the outfield in him, considering the highlights and stellar defense he normally generates.

In any event, I would be very surprised if the Padres’ efforts to keep Dodger fans from overwhelming their park would have much success as the allure of capitalism will likely serve as an end-run around the prohibition.

Remember: Dodger baseball should be fun

I might be in the minority but I am really looking forward to this series. It is true that the regular season is not necessarily a prologue to the outcome, but I suppose I am just not one of those fans who suffer from PTSD related to the Dodgers. If they get swept by the Padres, I’ll be surprised, and I will probably be annoyed for about a day. But life will move on and I will continue to prepare for 2023.

I have been to 49 games over the past two years in sixteen different cities. I have seen good baseball and I have seen bad baseball. I consider myself ridiculously fortunate as even the bad games were memorable. Dodger baseball is supposed to be fun. In my view, if it isn’t, you aren’t doing it correctly.

Could the Dodgers lose to the Padres in this series? Sure.

Do I expect the Dodgers to lose to the Padres in this series? Maybe a game. Probably not two. I would be quite surprised if the Dodgers lost the series.

In my view, there are four ways that the Padres win from most likely to least likely:

  1. The Dodgers just don’t hit and relapse to their ways circa NLCS 2021 or the last couple of weeks of the 2022 regular season. If Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Trayce Thompson, Gavin Lux, and Cody Bellinger hypothetically go collectively 4-40 with RISP or something in a five-game series, then the Dodgers’ season is likely done, which would open them up to well-deserved ridicule. Do I expect that? No, but if the recent Cardinals/Phillies showed us if the main bats don’t hit, no runs are likely scored. The Dodgers’ bench has far more depth this year over last year’s squad. Apart from Thompson and arguably Joey Gallo, most of the Dodger regulars have been here before and should be more than ready to take care of business.
  2. The Padres play out of their collective minds. We just saw the Padres play well in New York, and maybe they find another gear, and Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Trent Grisham, Jake Cronenworth, etc., etc. keep the Slam Diego train going to (probably) Atlanta. If that’s what happens, you tip your hat and move on. Sometimes the other team just plays better. The 1988 Dodgers, the 2015 Mets, and the 2021 Dodgers probably have some choice words on the subject. However, as much as the ESPN announcers were fawning over the beatdown the Padres gave the Mets, I recall the Dodgers wearing down San Diego starting pitching and feasting on their bullpen.
  3. Dave Roberts forgets he has a lights-out bullpen and either uses a starting pitcher to come out of the bullpen or overuses Evan Phillips and the relief core. If Urias, Kershaw, Anderson, or Gonsolin come out of the bullpen into a game, that hypothetical better be followed by the following sentence: “and the game went into the sixteenth inning.” The Dodgers’ bullpen in 2022, with the notable exception of Craig Kimbrel, has been solid to outstanding. Heck, Reyes Moronta and Garrett Cleavinger were cast off and magically found success in the desert of Arizona and the hinterlands of Tampa. This team has a rock-solid bullpen, champing at the bit to take the mound. No one should be gassed either based on usage so there should not be a Nick Anderson in 2020 or Brandon Morrow in 2017 moment. While bullpens can be volatile, the Dodgers’ relief core has been remarkably consistent in 2022.
  4. Something weird happens. This prompt is the “Joe Beimel cuts his hand” scenario or something completely unexpected that makes you shake your head with annoyance and frustration. If something truly flukish happens (think 2020 World Series Game 4), then such is the romance and madness of baseball.

Even in my darkest moments of the original SaveEli trip, even in the moments where my mother was grieving when she thought I was not paying attention, even in the moments since, where I realized that my father was likely not going to make it to Opening Day 2023, Dodger baseball has served as a refuge, an indulgence, a hobby, something to be enjoyed! When Dodger baseball stops being fun, I go do something else.

To be fair, Willy Wonka was responsible for maiming several (awful, fictional) children. As someone who used to do civil litigation, if this scenario were real, I would be screaming at my client and firing him to go do something else. But the point is, was Wonka anything but polite to everyone involved? Apart from sarcasm, no...well, I guess in the end, he did let Charlie have it over that contrivance over Fizzy Lifting Drink, but this site is a Dodgers-one. I suppose my 5,000-word essay “Why Grandpa Joe is the absolute worst and you should feel bad if you like him” will have to wait for another day. Let’s enjoy this recent moment of Trea Turner chasing Blake Snell.

The point is that we can always choose to be kind, even with snark about Blake Snell. Personally, I’m calling it: Dodgers in four. and I’m probably being charitable. #ITFDB.