By Jon Weisman
When you fall short of a championship, as the Dodgers did this year, there’s a certain game face you’re required to display — a certain stoicism or even gravity.
Show any pride in partial achievement, and you risk conveying that you aren’t committed to the larger goal, that you don’t understand how important a title is, that you just don’t get it.
The reality is, yes, you can feel good about the positives from a season without diminishing the craving — the gut-wrenching craving — for ultimate greatness. Pride and desire aren’t opposites.
Think of your team as you would your child. To want anything less than the best for your kin would be negligent. To dismiss your children’s smaller accomplishments wholesale when they aren’t the best — that’s negligent, too.
You learn from failure, but you can also feed off success.
When Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts met reporters this afternoon to bring closure to the Dodgers’ season, the different threads were front and center. No one felt ashamed of the effort or the intermediate achievements, even if no one was satisfied with the final result.
In other words, there was no mistaking the determination to go farther. Pride and desire.
“Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to play in the World Series, and we came up short,” said Roberts, who was named Sporting News NL Manager of the Year today. “I think a lot of good things are in place to bring a championship back here to Los Angeles. Since last December, the process of how we go about things as an organization, how the guys on the field play the game … I think we did a lot of good things.
“You can look back at this past series (against Chicago), and we didn’t play our best baseball and certain things could have changed that would have affected the outcome. You can talk about that forever. But I think the time we put into creating an environment, syncing it with the ownership, front office, coaching staff, players, training staff — those are things that are really tangible I think. I think that is something we’re going to hang our hats on, and we’ll be ready to go next spring.”
The Dodgers were one of three National League division winners and one of two NL finalists. Very good, but not as good as the Cubs, who proved to be 2016’s elite team, in the National League if not all of baseball.
“Obviously, the results from this year were disappointing, and as we assess things going forward, we’re going to have to look into what we think will continue and what we think is just more noise,” Friedman said. “There are a number of guys we will bet on next year, and not to overreact either. It’s that balancing act that all of us will spend a lot of time talking through, and it gets back to creating the most well-balanced roster that you can, and that speaks to being able to hit right-handed pitching, left-handed pitching, being able to defend, adding value on the bases, keeping runs off the board. It speaks to all of it.”
The Dodgers have a noteworthy free-agent class led by Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and newcomer Rich Hill, and trades are an ever-present possibility. How different the Dodgers look next year remains to be seen, but little is off the table.
“It’s a tough question to answer right now,” Friedman said. “There are definitely scenarios where we look pretty similar. There are scenarios where I think most often you see some changes. What that means, we don’t know yet. We have a lot of talented players who are free agents, and I expect we’ll have ongoing dialogue with essentially each and every one of them. There are so many ways the offseason can play out — it’s so hard to try to corral it at this point and have a great sense for how it’s going to play out.”
At their core, however, the Dodgers will bring a championship perspective to the 2017 season, incorporating all the happy successes and hard lessons from 2016.
“We make no excuses, and we just didn’t accomplish our goal,” Roberts said. “There’s going to be a large nucleus of guys who come back next season who know the feeling and are prepared to take that next step.”