Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Time and urgency, winning and losing


By Jon Weisman

Somewhere right now, someone is driving a car and texting about the horrors of ebola.

But let me get back to that …

* * *

Madison Bumgarner is having the postseason that I truly believed Clayton Kershaw would have.

In his final start of the 2014 regular season, in the biggest game of the regular season for the Giants, Bumgarner unraveled. He gave up a leadoff home run to Justin Turner, hit Yasiel Puig with a pitch, jawed at Puig, gave up a home run to Matt Kemp and singles to Scott Van Slyke and Juan Uribe.

One night later, Kershaw capped his National League Most Valuable Player campaign by strikeout-pitching, triple-hitting and behind-the-back-fielding the Dodgers to an NL West-clinching 9-1 victory over the Giants.

Since then, Bumgarner has made six postseason starts and allowed six earned runs, and especially if the Giants follow through and win their third World Series in five years, will have earned the kind of immortality previously reserved for the likes of Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser. (Giants fans can pick their own heroes.)

Kershaw, so clearly on the Koufax and Hershiser track, made two postseason starts, pitched fantastically for the first six innings of each and then had twin seventh innings that resembled Bumgarner’s first inning at Dodger Stadium on September 23.

There’s no satisfying reason for why this happened. Nerves, pitch selection, matchups, managing, bullpen depth, dumb luck — it’s all on the table, for both pitchers. Maybe it was one of those; maybe it was all of those. No matter how much you say you know, you don’t, because the alternatives are all speculation. I’m still completely comfortable calling Kershaw’s two bad innings an aberration, just like Bumgarner’s big, bad inning in September.

But we’re haunted, haunted by how close Kershaw and the Dodgers came, haunted by the what-ifs, haunted by the nauseating feeling that destiny was stolen, haunted by baseball mortality.

* * *

Instead of working World Series games for the Dodgers this past weekend, I was attending my 25th college reunion at Stanford.

For weeks, I’ve known I’d be doing one of the two. And there was no doubt in my mind of my preference. Even though I almost never see my closest, lifelong friends outside of these reunions, I wanted to be pulled away. I wanted the Dodgers to have their moment, and I wanted to be in that moment.

What I hadn’t thought ahead about Door No. 2 was that I’d be spending my reunion in Giants country. There was some taunting, though completely good-natured. I’d see the World Series on a TV screen or people checking their cellphones for scores, and I’d sigh. But that was a footnote to the trip, and frankly, since I kicked off my senior year by celebrating the Dodgers’ 1988 title up north, reasonable payback.

For the most part, baseball took a seat in the way, way back, as my friends and I crammed years upon years of “What’s new?” and “Remember when?” through a turnstile of old and new memories.

Thirty-six hours of conversation Friday and Saturday, interrupted only briefly by sleep, played in front of me against a backdrop of questions. You listen to 50 shrink-wrapped life stories, you’re asked over and over again about your own, and you wonder if you’re doing it right, if you’re making the most of your life, if you’re achieving what you should be achieving, if you should even be asking questions at all.

At a bar Saturday night, I sat with four guys from my freshman dorm. Our game feels like it’s starting the second half. We’re 46, 47 years old. I heard about two fathers who passed in the past year at the age of 82. My dad turns 80 next year.

Midway home Sunday on I-5, 5 p.m. or so, traffic slows down. Ten minutes later, looking over at the northbound 5, I see flares surround an SUV, upside down, crushed upon its roof. Fifteen minutes after that, I’m texted that 22-year-old Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras has been killed in a car accident, as has his 18-year-old girlfriend Edilia Arvelo. A hundred and eighty miles to go, before I can hug my kids and kiss them goodnight.

* * *

There was considerable anger in Los Angeles for the Dodgers’ broken postseason. There’s tremendous impatience about the Dodgers inability to return to the World Series as upstarts like the Royals leapfrog in and new perennials like the Giants seemingly rub our nose in it.

When you think about it, fear clearly fuels our impatience. It’s not just a matter of being denied imminent joy, like a Halloween without any candy. It’s wandering in the void of not knowing whether that candy will ever come again.

We keep trying. We rejigger, we reinvent. Win or lose, the clock keeps ticking. But lose, and it ticks more loudly. Fans in their 30s and older wonder when they’ll ever celebrate a World Series again. Fans in their 20s and younger wonder if they’ll ever celebrate one at all.

And fear leads to anger, and the anger threatens to overwhelm everything that’s good. Life is so precious that every moment can feel urgent, every setback colossal.

I’m nagged by the fact that I still wake up in the morning on a given day usually thinking about the problems that face me rather than the pleasures that await me.  I’m nagged that a few cold hits by the Cardinals have dwarfed so many warm memories of the 2014 Dodger season.

I’m better at giving this advice than following it, but when disappointment poisons your joy, that’s when you really lose. Be smart. Take precautions. Learn from mistakes. Have perspective. (Don’t text about ebola while driving.) Move forward. But love what you got. Understand what’s really precious. Be about the good, not about regret.

Being a winner is about, perhaps more than anything else, how you process losing.


Corey Seager an AFL Fall-Star


Dodgers set Los Angeles record in BABIP … what happens next year?


  1. I am quite familiar with the Dodgers players and somewhat unfamiliar with Giants and Royals players but I still ask myself, why do I pull and root for any of them. They are not my friends. I do not win if they win. Its a hobby to watch the Dodgers and I have my ideas as to who should and should not be Dodgers.

    Because the 2014 Dodger season is over, I have more time to do things that takes movement instead of watching the Dodgers on TV. I like that.

    The Dodgers better put a team together that is younger and will play together for awhile and be likeable. I don’t need to start rooting for somebody’s elses players, that may be with the Dodgers for 1 to three years. Please Dodgers dump payroll and let Pederson and Seager play, now.

  2. charleyman48

    Looks like the Giants are closing in on another ring….BUT….up 3 games to 2 and going back to KC… “the baseball gods are smiling”. Back to a part of our country that has had it’s share of sorrow verses a city full of pumpkin patch giddyness. It’s what baseball is all about. Charlie Brown feeling like it’s his moment……. vs …….. The Red Headed Girl who has Charlies number.. Bumgarner will never ever be another Koufax baseball is not the game it once was and Kershaw is on par with the best ever just like Bum. Looks to me like Charlie will be stuck once again waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up…

    • I believe it was Linus in the pumpkin patch. Charlie Brown did hang out with him though because Charles is a loyal friend.

      • charleyman48

        That was my point and you are correct about Linus and if you looked closer it was a reference to the Giants colors and the pumpkin in my article. Hope you caught it and enjoyed it.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I did miss it the first time and had to go back now and read it again.

  3. Simply, yes. Great post Jon. Processing losing is one of those things that people are usually grateful for in the moment, but thankful for long term.

    Sorry to hear that Logan White is moving on to the Padres. That’s a very nice pick up by San Diego. White was quality for the Dodgers.

    • Usually *not* grateful for in the moment.

      Wow – I used to review my posts before sending them. Lately there have been a bunch of errors. It feels like I was more thoughtful at Dodger Thoughts.

  4. oldbrooklynfan

    I keep thinking about what next season will be like. Will being in first place not mean anything anymore because it seems like it didn’t really mean much this season. I’m wondering about all the changes the Dodgers have made in the front office. Will the Dodgers operate differently? I keep thinking that the Dodger were going in the right direction when they crashed into a brick wall. I’m thinking of the pressure that may’ve been on them to go all the way. I guess all we can do is wait and see what happens.

  5. OK, living smack dab in the middle of Giants fandom here in Sacramento, I know how I felt in 2010, and then again in 2012 after the underdog Giants romped to World Series titles, while the Dodgers I have so faithfully lived and died for since my first Dodgers memory: that infamous 1962 meltdown, sat home and watched yet again. I always feel let down and stupid that I had wasted my entire summer so invested in another losing endeavor, only to see the mass of Giants fans around me going crazy with excitement and wonderment — all emotions I’ve been cruelly denied since 1988.

    This year seemed unusually tortured, with the Dodgers dominating the hated Giants during the season (I was at the glorious 17-0 beat-down at AT&T in mid-September), winning the West by a comfortable six games, but then folding like an accordion once again in the playoffs, while the Wild Card Giants romped past the Pirates and then NL-best Nationals to face the Cardinals, the team the Dodgers should have dominated, for a shot at yet another improbable championship. Madison Bamgartner should have been Clayton Kershaw, dammit! Why can’t the baseball gods see that?

    Yep, the Giants had that look again, getting by the Nationals with virtually no talent, so I knew what I had to do to salvage the crushing depression that would engulf me once I watched the inevitable third San Francisco championship parade I knew was coming.

    I would make some money on this deal.

    So that’s what I did. I had a friend of mine in Reno put down a nice amount on the Giants winning the NLCS and when I cashed that out, he bet another chunk on SF taking the World Series. My reasoning was simple: I knew I would be in a major funk the rest of the year if the Giants won it all again and the only way I could think to soften the blow just a little was to make some money on them. I had to get something positive out of it. I looked at it as a win-win for me. Giants win, I win money. Giants lose, I’m even happier.

    As I type this, SF is just hours away from a possible Game 6 victory and winning another trophy. My emotions through this most current Giants’ run have been about what I thought they would be: I’m rooting like crazy for Kansas City, but resigned that SF will win again, which will earn me a pretty good chunk of change. I don’t think the Giants will choke away these next two games, but if they do, I’ll be elated; money be damned.

    I never thought I’d say this, but I am truly a genius.

    • A crazy genius. And as I type it is 7-0 KC in the early going of Game 6.

      • Question as to which is more preferable for the average baseball fan:

        Option 1: Non-close series (say 3-0 or 4-1 in games) but every game a close, spellbinding (or gut-wrenching) affair such as the Dodgers-Cards or even Giants – Cards or a few other playoff series this year.

        Option 2: Close series in games (3-2 or 4-3) but almost every game a one-sided affair. That is, quite possibly, this years World Series.

  6. oldbrooklynfan

    If I remember correctly, back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s winning the pennant was considered a greater achievement than it is today. Today it seems that only the World Series winner get’s any respect. I would be very happy to see the Dodgers just play in the fall classic but I can see that most fans would be very disappointed if they didn’t win it. As I write this I feel the Giants have already accomplished something for us Dodger fans to envy but I know the Giant fans don’t want to lose this series and the Dodger fans will probably harass them if they do.
    For prediction purposes, which I don’t like to do, I think this series favored the Royal as soon as the Giants lost game 3.

  7. Belatedly, but thanks Jon, this was a great piece. You tied all these semi-disparate elements together to capture the larger point about the poignancy of time passing. winning, losing, I’ll take living either way.

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