By Jon Weisman
Now that Madison Bumgarner has gone full Hershiser and then some, now that the San Francisco Giants have a well-earned dynasty of three World Series titles in five years, now that history has recorded this all in fresh ink, I’ve reached the stage of acceptance with the 2014 season.
But I am left with a sincere question …
Clayton Kershaw will win the National League Cy Young Award and maybe the MVP, the Dodgers won the NL West, and all anyone will say this winter is how they are inferior to Bumgarner and the Giants. I’m not denying people the right to say it.
But if winning the World Series is all that matters, and what you do in the regular season matters not at all if you win the World Series, and if how you finish in the regular season gives no hint about whether you’re going to win the World Series, then why worry about what is happening during the regular season?
The only answer I can find is this. The regular season does matter. It matters because, despite what the Giants (and Royals) pulled off this month, the division title puts you in the best position to win the World Series. And it also matters because, despite what the Giants pulled off this month, a six-month triumph is objectively more impressive than a one-month triumph.
@DodgerInsider Hope the Dodgers are watching and learning how to be a winner.
— KHB (@kbteach_1) October 30, 2014
Don’t misunderstand me: You, I and Kershaw would trade every bit of regular-season happiness for what San Francisco is experiencing tonight. The World Series is No. 1. But I can’t go the all-or-nothing route.
It’s not as if Bruce Bochy and the Giants lost the NL West to the Dodgers on purpose. It’s not as if the climactic losses by Bumgarner and Tim Hudson to Zack Greinke and Kershaw at the end of September were just a big “I meant to do that” misdirection.
The supreme winners of October couldn’t get it done in September. The Dodgers took their best shots and triumphed. So don’t tell me the Dodgers don’t know how to win. They proved they could win. If the regular season is irrelevant, then why not just eliminate the regular season and turn baseball into half a year of March Madness.
The Dodgers know how to win. So do the Kansas City Royals, and the St. Louis Cardinals, and for that matter, the Arizona Diamondbacks. They each won x number of times in 2014, but only one team could win x+1.
Maybe the Giants had more character in 2014, maybe they had more talent, maybe they have a sixth sense about short series (say that six times fast).
Maybe they had a pitcher who was unconscious in October while the Dodgers had one who was unconscious for months and months before that. After all, in the four games without Bumgarner in the World Series, the Giants lost three and were outscored, 24-15.
Madison Bumgarner just had the postseason Clayton Kershaw was supposed to have. Historic. Epic. Dominant.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 30, 2014
But strength and character are not limited to one team per season. it’s not zero-sum. That the Dodgers fell short does not mean they are empty, bereft. Their season was not without meaning. And any idea that the Dodgers couldn’t win because of such and such a person is emphatically ridiculous.
I have no doubt that if you restarted the 2014 MLB playoffs with the same participants, they would yield a different result.
The World Series is absolutely the grand prize, the holy grail. The Dodgers’ goal, from the top of the organization to the bottom, from the clubhouse to the front office, was nothing less. Elimination was, and still is, a gut punch. My acceptance of tonight’s result is simply acceptance of the hole in my stomach.
But I will resist any attempts to trash what the Dodgers accomplished in 2014. It was great, at times fantastic. At the worst time, it was flawed.
Everyone will aim to do better, so that the next great season ends with a celebration.