The race wasn’t over in July

As the July 31 trading deadline approached, there was a case that the Dodgers should become sellers instead of buyers. But that case rested on what was best for the franchise long-term, not on the idea that the team had no shot of making the playoffs in 2010.

While some began pronouncing the 2010 Dodger season dead with two months to go, while I was ridiculed at times for suggesting that a three-game series in July with the Padres wasn’t a must-win, what we’ve seen again – as we’ve seen more than once in recent seasons – is that a single-digit deficit in the standings doesn’t bury a team if a third of the season is remaining.

Sure, few foresaw that the National League West-leading Padres would lose as many as 10 games in a row, but it was hardly out of the question that they would come back to earth in some fashion – say, 11 losses in 15 games or something like that. If you’re trailing but you can sniff the pennant race, you don’t need to hold your nose.

The Dodgers were seven games out the morning they traded for Ted Lilly. Insurmountable? Well, San Francisco was six games out of first place as late as August 28, and they have been playing for first place in San Diego this weekend.

Colorado was 11 games out of first place as late as August 22. The Rockies are now only 2 1/2 games out with three weeks to go.

The Padres may well prevail, but they are sweating.

With any meaningful combination of wins on and off the field over the past six weeks, the Dodgers would be in the thick of the playoff hunt today. That didn’t happen, and I suppose some people would say they knew all along it wouldn’t, but if all the wheels hadn’t come off at once, the Dodgers would still be playing important baseball. While this doesn’t tell the whole story, the 2010 Dodgers had a better record on July 31 than the playoff teams of 2008 and 2006. It wasn’t over, not at all.

The Dodgers would be better off today if they had gone into seller mode, and I would have understood it if they had – in fact, as I’ve said many times, part of me has always wished they would start an offseason in summertime. But I still think many fans are too quick to give up on a team. It’s sort of telling, really, how many people can’t wait to abandon hope.

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