Based on their struggles with runners in scoring position and two outs, the Dodgers have grown a reputation as the least clutch team in baseball.
So far in 2018, however, whenever they needed a win — truly, madly, deeply needed a win — they have come through. So far.
As October takes flight, we’ll see how far they can carry forward. But I think it would be worth your time to look back at how far they’ve come. For that, I’ve collected a few Dodger Thoughts pieces here.
I’ve excerpted from each below, but I think they’re worth clicking to read in their entirety. After all, you’ve got a couple days until the National League Division Series starts …
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. …
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.
One thread of conversation I have completely rejected during these ungainly first 30 days is that this Dodger season seemed dramatically different somehow from those recent comeback years.
Let’s be perfectly clear. In four of the past five National League West-winning seasons came extended stretches where, if you weren’t of an optimistic mindset, the team looked horrific, the injuries devastating and the roof entirely caving in.
The 2018 Dodgers are currently in a 12-15 stretch. The 2017 Dodgers went on a 1-16 stretch and reached Game 7 of the World Series. There’s a bit of a cheat in that comparison, but believe me, there were plenty of people saying last year that losing 16 out of 17 in August and September was worse than doing it in April or May.
Three of the past five Dodger division champions went on extraordinary runs to save their seasons, and the Dodgers, despite all their current woes, remained exactly the kind of organization that could repeat the feat in 2018.
The idea that a Dodger team, even one with a 12-15 record, was doomed in April — knowing full well that its best players were underperforming — was hysteria. It represented no special instinct or insight. It’s wanting to think the worst. Like journalists looking for a scoop, people crave to be the ones to “know” their team is dead before anyone else. After all, with 29 teams falling short by the end of the year, you’re ever so likely to be vindicated.
And yet, think how easily things could turn around.
Overall, the Dodgers remain underwater at 29-30 and technically in fourth place in their division, but they have not only closed their NL West gap to two games behind Arizona, they are a reasonably modest 7 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the best record in the league. Given they have shown the ability to win again, ascending to the top of the division — if not the league — actually seems feasible.
To be within reach of that mark is a notable development, given the way Los Angeles began its season.
Whatever happens, my advice to you is to get comfortable with being an underdog. Embrace it. Nothing is likely to change it, but at the same time, the label might well underrate this team. You never know when this is going to be your year until it’s over, and worse teams have gone all the way.
Sure, a long winning streak would be nice, but Dodger fans might not ever get that big cushion they’re looking for. Right now, keeping one step ahead of the competition counts for real achievement. We’ll worry about style points — and the World Series — later.
Win the moment. Win the pitch, win the at-bat, win the inning, win the game, win the season. That’s what it takes. And that’s what the Dodgers are still completely capable of.
Don’t worry about the ticking clock — not yet, anyway. With seven games remaining against Arizona and six with Colorado, the Dodgers are very much in control of their own destiny. They’ll have to earn their way to the top, but they’ll have every opportunity to do so.