By Jon Weisman
Somewhere in the opaque, decaying memories of my brain, I can hear fans cheering at Dodger Stadium.
The year was 2015. The Dodgers were National League West champions, and they had taken the lead in the first inning of the deciding game of their first postseason series.
For all that had gone wrong, for all the preseason and midseason and even postseason plans chipped and broken, all this had gone right. Los Angeles was eight innings and eight games from winning a World Series.
Against all expectations, the Dodgers were peppering the superb Mets right-hander, Jacob deGrom. After Howie Kendrick lined out to start the bottom of the first inning, rookie shortstop Corey Seager hit the first of four consecutive singles, and Dodger Stadium was electric.
I don’t know how much longer that memory will last. Already, it’s mostly theoretical. I’m not actually hearing the cheering. I just know the cheering was there, and I’m projecting that sound inside my head.
* * *
Now in my brain, I hear bickering. Not muffled. Loud and clear.
It’s not surprising that we bicker. We’re a family, we Dodger fans. The bickering drives everybody crazy, but it doesn’t stop.
We all want the best. And yet, back and forth during the offseason … They don’t know anything. But they think they know everything!
We’re not only second-guessing methods, we’re questioning intentions.
I’m done with you people.
You just don’t understand.
Just listen to me!
Houses explode. Family is complicated, man.
* * *
Let Vin Scully into your brain, and you’ll hear, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” You’ve heard him say it a dozen times, if not a hundred.
Here’s something else I’ve heard a dozen times this offseason, if not a hundred: “What is the Dodgers’ plan? Do they even have a plan?”
So, I see that, and I scratch my head, because the Dodgers have stated their plan, over and over and over again. Here’s one of a dozen times, if not a hundred.
“We’re tasked with doing everything we can to put ourselves in position to win a World Championship this year, while maintaining the position to sustain success over the long haul,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said early this month.
That’s a plan. No, no — that is a plan.
In greater specifics, the plan included steps to maintain and improve the pitching depth. Most notably, three things went awry. The bidding for Zack Greinke went beyond the parameters of the plan. Then, when problems cropped up before finalizing other potential acquisitions, they broke apart. (This happens every year, occasionally played out front and center in the news, often in private, never to be known.)
In short, the Dodgers made a plan, and Scully can tell you what happened next.
When things don’t go according to plan, one of two things happen. People get angry, or people regroup and move forward.
For the Dodgers, the plan remains in place, with new efforts to execute it (most recently in the signing of Scott Kazmir) because the alternative is to operate just the way you’d doubt the most — without any foresight at all.
Now you can argue that the Dodgers should have done X or Y or Z. That the Dodgers haven’t done so doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan, or philosophy, or strategy. It doesn’t mean they have given up on 2016 or any year.
My plan is to raise my kids as people with decency and the opportunity to do whatever they possibly can with their lives. Will it be successful? I can only hope. It involves a dozen things going right, if not a hundred.
That’s true even though 29 other families raising children with decency and opportunity doesn’t prevent the same for mine.
* * *
In the end, people hear what they want to hear, and see what they want to see.
Focus on the second half of Joc Pederson’s season and the first half of Chris Hatcher’s, and despair. Do the opposite, and hope. Take in their entire seasons, and you have an open mind, knowing that baseball is predictable and unpredictable at once.
The open-minded make the quietest sound. Maybe they’re the bass players of the band, stagehands at the spectacular, librarians at the gates.
For some — for more each year since 1988 — being a Dodger fan is all or nothing. But all or nothing is a fraught way to live, especially when all or something is a true alternative. You don’t have to sacrifice your dreams to take pleasure in smaller victories. The goal remains the same.
I believe in the all or something.
* * *
Somewhere in my brain, unleashed like a can hissing open, I hear the crackle of the cleats on Camelback grit, and picture the stream of ballplayers old and young ambling through the low February sun to their morning stretch in Arizona. I hear the pop — that astonishing, glorious pop — of ball into glove.
I’ve said this before, but I don’t miss baseball in the winter. The season is long and grueling and intense, and the break — a relatively short break, three months vs. nine — is welcome. I’m in no hurry to get back to baseball, because I know baseball is coming fast.
Then that crackle and pop arrives, and they are blessed sounds, sounds of serenity, sounds that, at least for a short while, tend to muffle all worries. It’s temporary. It fades into the grind that scrapes its way through spring all the way to fall.
Elation and deflation will do battle in 2016, as they do every year. So will the forces of belief and doom. Like the train rolling out in “The Music Man,” it will all begin again. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker bicker bicker, ya can talk, ya can talk.
Line drives will be snagged, dribblers will roll into glory. The odds will prevail, until they don’t, until they do again.
It’s a game, though we take it seriously. It’s a game we invest our days, our years, our lives in.
It is not a game for the thoughtless. It’s a game for the dedicated. It’s a game that fans, players, coaches and executives stake their lives to.
To hear those cheers. At least for a moment. Hopefully for an eternity. Loud and clear, and never-ending.