The anniversary of the Dodgers’ most recent World Series title reaches Carousel this year, and if you’re old enough to get a reference to Logan’s Run without thinking about the team’s current second baseman crossing the plate, perhaps only then are you old enough to remember what it actually felt like to be a Dodger fan triumphant.
To be honest, I don’t think very many people, young or old, want to hear about 1988 anymore, not at least until it has been succeeded by something new. No one holds a grudge against 1981, 1965, 1963, 1959 or 1955, for they were all followed up in due course (though to be honest, the gap between ’65 and ’81 seemed pretty pronounced at the time). But ’88, though it will always be a treasure, has been nearly wrung dry.
At the same time, 1955 is instructive, because it came after an eternity of falling short. The Bridegrooms were bridesmaids for more than half a century. Every unhappy ending through 1954 only increased the desperation for the championship, yet nothing made that championship any easier to come by.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 23, 2018
On Tuesday, the Dodgers unveiled the logo celebrating the franchise’s 60th anniversary in Los Angeles, throwing into sharp relief how 1988 cleaves era into two even but unequal parts — the 30 years with nine World Series trips and five titles, and the 30 years with none and none. That is some top-heavy tenure (or if you’re ruefully inclined, bottom-heavy torture) at Chavez Ravine.
But here’s the critical point to take forward into 2018. Our angst, our annoyance, our impatience, our cynicism, our frustration, our exasperation … none of it means anything. There hasn’t been a year in which anyone hasn’t been full-throttle dying to win the World Series.
This isn’t a Thirty Years War. This is an annual war, fought each of the past 30 years.
You can argue that each fall has been more painful than the last, but that doesn’t change what the Dodgers’ mission has been each spring. Despite the scattered criticisms you might find of the current front office, the Dodgers are completely committed to winning it all. Unfortunately, commitment doesn’t mean that your every move is guaranteed to work.
One offseason theme, for example, has been that if the Dodgers were serious about winning, they would have acquired Justin Verlander instead of Yu Darvish, conveniently ignoring the widespread euphoria that followed the Darvish trade. In addition, Darvish isn’t in position to start in the World Series if so many other things hadn’t gone right, including his satisfying playoff performances on the road at Arizona and Chicago.
While Darvish did get blown up twice by the Astros (via tipped pitches or ripped pitches, depending on whom you believe), Verlander was unable to close out either of his two World Series starts as well. That’s not to suggest that Darvish didn’t put the Dodgers behind two gigantic 8-balls, but to remind that baseball is a uniquely peculiar sport, the most unpredictable of them all, less a national pastime than a national butterfly effect.
If one thing doesn’t go wrong, it may well be another, even less expected calamity, such as the best reliever in baseball throwing his worst possible cutter.
Management cannot bulletproof a baseball team. Management can only do its best to maximize the team’s chances for winning — and no one looking objectively at the Dodgers’ daily roster manipulations can accuse their front office of trying anything less than the maximum.
Instead of taking bitterness from the past five Octobers and one November, take encouragement. Never in the era of division play have the Dodgers been more consistently in the thick of the race. We remember 1988. But we should also remember the 18 different seasons since then when the Dodgers didn’t make the playoffs at all, including seven in a row during the 1997-2003 seasons.
From 1989-2003, the Dodgers won zero playoff games. From 2004-2012, they won nine. From 2013-17, they won 23. And last year, they not only finally returned to the Fall Classic, they came within a laugh and a tear of winning the damn thing. Short of the World Series title — and no one is for a moment arguing that the title isn’t the paramount goal — this has been a golden era of Dodger baseball unmatched in more than a generation.
The Dodgers aren’t there yet. It’s a familiar refrain. But don’t make 2018 about 1988. Don’t carry that burden on your shoulders. Let those seasons go. That’s how you win the Thirty Years War.
The coming season is its own beast — ferocious, like they all are, but singular, filled with promise, alive until the very last breath, possibly terminal, but hopefully eternal.
There used to be a time where I thought I could write as well as Jon. That ship has sailed. Jeebus but this was good. Not just good but a tonic. Bring on the season.
The 30/30 makes me cry, but the further parsing makes me happy (in retrospect) and proud.
Some one should write a musical about the Dodgers. They could call it The Last Five Years. There could be a song called Still Hurting that goes something like this:
Dodgers are over and Dodgers are gone
Dodgers decided it’s time to move on
Dodgers have new dreams they’re building upon
And I’m still hurting
Dodgers arrived at the end of the line
Dodgers convinced that the problems are mine
Dodgers are probably feeling just fine
And I’m still hurting
What about rings, Dodgers?
What about things
That you swore to be true
What about you, Dodgers?
What about you
Dodgers are sure something wonderful died
Dodgers decides it’s they’re right to decide
Dodgers got secrets they do not confide
And I’m still hurting
Full confession: It was a tough November and this made a lot of sense then.
And do I really need to say how much I love Jason Robert Brown’s musical? Oh – and Jon’s writing?
I have memories of every Series victory except 1955 – though the only Series I’ve ever seen in person was 1974 – but even during the present drought I’ve always considered the Dodgers the most rewarding team to follow and cheer for.
Were you lucky enough to see Ferguson’s throw in person?
No, I only saw the three games in Oakland, sadly. My strongest memory there is Buckner’s getting thrown out at third on Dick Green’s extraordinary relay.
I don’t hold a grudge against ’81, et. al. My grudge is against ’77 & ’78. I’m still mad at Nettles – always will be. ’81 and ’88 are my treasures, especially ’81 since it was the only one I’ve attended in person.
It would have been enough to read another post from Jon, but that video sends it over the top. I notice that one voice seems to dominate it, though. I wonder why.
Trivia buffs: it’s Ray Scott announcing that the Dodgers were the 1965 champions. Vin had gone downstairs to do the interviews.
They missed an opportunity, though. It’s The Vin’s voice for Fernando Valenzuela. With the first pitch of this season, two broadcasters will have announced 60 seasons of major league baseball. Señor Jaime Jarrín will be joining his friend in that pantheon, and the Dodgers should have thought of it.