The baseball season isn't over, but my team, The Dodgers, lost, so things are a little sad around here. I'll still watch all the playoff and World Series games, but it's not the same when your team has been eliminated.
Frankly, the Dodgers didn't deserve to advance. In the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Mets, they lost 3-2 and could manage only two hits after the first inning. They got off to a good start, scoring twice in the first inning. But after that, the Mets pitching shut them down. You don't deserve to win if you play like that.
It's really too bad. I invested a lot of time in the Dodgers this year. Last year, my local cable company was involved in a turf dispute among greedy billionaires, and we had no Dodgers on TV. This year, it started out the same, but in an effort to reduce fan hostility and try to advance a Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the Dodger games were finally allowed to be carried on all LA pay cable carriers. So when the Dodgers came back on TV, I was ready.
Frankly, the Dodgers had an up-and-down year. I never believed that they could go "all the way." It's funny, what fans expect. By some standards, the Dodgers had an excellent season. They finished with a 92-70 record, winning the National League West by eight games over their hated rival, the Giants. They made the playoffs for the third year in a row for the first time in the team's 126-year history. Of course, the Dodgers do have the highest payroll in the history of professional sports: over $300 million, but that includes more than $90 million paid to players who no longer play for the Dodgers. (Don't ask.) So expectations are high.
Some of the highs were Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the best one-two punch of starting pitchers that the Dodgers have had since Koufax and Drysdale in the 1960s. The team saw the arrival some very exciting young players – Joc Pederson, Corey Seagar, and Kike Hernandez – who should brighten the Dodger future. They also added a few veterans like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley to stabilize the roster. On the minus side, Yasiel Puig, with all the talent in the world, didn't mature this year and fought injuries. I wonder whether he'll ever fulfill his potential. The team also traded Dee Gordon who promptly went out and won the American League batting championship. Big loss.
The one complete and unalloyed joy of a Dodger season is the broadcasting of the master, Vin Scully. As of this season, Scully called the Dodger games (home games only, he doesn't travel anymore) for the 66th straight year. That's longer than I've been alive. And the thing is – he's still a great broadcaster. Easy to listen to, informative, funny, relaxed, insightful: everything you want in a broadcaster. I didn't grow up listening to his voice; I can't imagine how lifelong Angelinos feel about him. And he will be back for one more season next year.
The older I get, the more I love baseball. I was never very good at it when I was a kid – it's a hard sport! – and it seems boring to young, callow minds. But when you settle into the pace of baseball, it can be extremely exciting. Because there is no clock, the tension of each moment in a decisive situation is extended, and then there's nothing better in sports.
Fortunately, I've almost completely weaned myself off of football. I know that is heresy: football is now our national sport. Stupid, violent, impersonal, militaristic, self-destructive, unimaginative, and built around TV commercials, it's the sport we deserve.
Winter Sundays in southern California are too beautiful to stay indoors. We don't even have an NFL team in LA, and no one, outside of a few ego-driven billionaires, seems to really want one. For professional football, we have already USC and UCLA.
But even if I skip football, the Lakers and Clippers are starting up, for another twin-season of hardcourt heartbreak. The end of one season, the beginning of another.
As Tom Stoppard said in "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" – "Every exit is an extrance someplace else."
Here are a few diamond gems:
George Carlin's classic "Baseball vs. Football" routine
"Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke)" by Terry Cashman
Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech
Bill Mazerowski's Walk-Off, World-Series-Winning 1960 Home Run
The Most Amazing Defensive Plays in Baseball History – guaranteed to kill you with pleasure for 15:19
The Greatest Post-Season Walk-Off Home Runs of All Time (Everybody: Joe Carter, Aaron Boone, Kirk Gibson, Chris Chambliss, Nelson Cruz, etc.)
Babe Ruth's 1932 "Called" Home Run
Tommy Lasorda's famous Dave Kingman rant – count the F-bombs
and the greatest baseball song of all time – with appropriate photos --
"Van Lingle Mungo" by David Frishberg
and another song to send you out smiling
THE KINKS – "End of the Season"