I give the Dodgers about a 45 percent chance to win the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
In the starkest, most objective terms, that makes me a pessimist. My glass isn’t quite half full. Perhaps, if you’re more cynical about the Dodgers, you think my 45 percent makes me an optimist. It doesn’t really matter. That’s not my point.
Let’s say the Dodgers lose Tuesday’s Game 1. If that happens, I’d give them … about a 45 percent chance of winning the 2018 World Series. And if they win Game 1, I’d give them about a 45 percent chance of winning the 2018 World Series.
Most people, based on the conversations I see online, would adjust their internal oddsmaker wildly up or down based upon the Game 1 result, not only because the odds have changed (it’s harder to go 4-2 than to go 3-3), but also because they’d think Game 1 revealed something extremely telling about the fate of Boston and Los Angeles.
I guess that makes me the weird one. But I don’t think Game 1 is likely to reveal all that much about the remaining games, any more than the first inning of Game 1 is likely to reveal something about the final score.
When I view the World Series from the outside looking in, I’m pretty confident that the Dodgers will win at least one game, and that they’ll lose at least one game. There will be highs and lows throughout this Fall Classic — in games, in innings, in individual at-bats and pitches. Why should the order of the first high or the first low change how I feel about the series as a whole?
I get it. For good and bad, getting caught up in the moment is seductive. Sometime during Saturday’s Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, I tweeted “Playoff baseball: Elective dread.” I think the Dodgers were actually winning when that tweet came out — that even after Cody Bellinger’s home run had given them a 2-1 lead, I was still living in fear of what might come next. Certainly, when Los Angeles fell behind early in Game 7 on Christian Yelich’s first-inning homer, the gloom I felt was nearly all encompassing.
I am not an optimist. I can be as buffeted by the most recent event as anyone. I have no history of brushing off adversity. Still, I don’t assume that just because something bad happened a minute ago on a baseball field means that something bad is more likely to happen a minute from now.
But really, I get it. When things look bleak, it is a natural reaction — a go-to defense mechanism — for people to voice their biggest fears out loud. Some people (most, maybe) would rather be happily surprised by victory than haplessly disappointed by defeat. At the same time, I do feel there should be some recognition that this is an emotional stance, not a Joe Friday, just-the-facts stance.
As the Dodgers fell behind by four runs in NLCS Game 6, I tweeted that the Dodgers lost Game 6 of the ultimately salvational 1988 NLCS, 1965 World Series and 1955 World Series — each time by 5-1 scores. Eerie, right? More importantly, that trifecta of quadrunnal defeat reminded us that a Game 6 loss does not mean that Game 7 is a lost cause. That should be obvious, since in order for there to be a Game 7 after a Game 6 loss, your team had to already win three times.
And yet, despite all the victories the Dodgers had racked up, despite the presence of Walker Buehler, Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw (among others), some Dodger fans were hopeless about Game 7. Not pessimistic. Hopeless.
I tried to tell them otherwise. I wasn’t guaranteeing victory, by any stretch. I was just saying they couldn’t guarantee defeat.
A couple of times since Game 7 ended, I’ve asked myself why I feel compelled to respond to the hopeless. If I understand that they are being emotional, why can’t I just let them be emotional? Who am I to censor or censure their feelings?
The answer to the question might be complicated, but in a nutshell, it simply, viscerally feels unjust to me to condemn a team to oblivion before its time. And because time isn’t an element of the rules of baseball — there is literally always time for a comeback until the final out of the game ends — it seems doubly wrong to give up. Isn’t it part of the romance of baseball that as long as a pitch is being thrown, there’s always, always a chance?
It doesn’t make sense to surrender.
But you know, Jefferson Smith held that view, and even if he was proven right, he collapsed on the floor of the Senate fighting for that view. It’s exhausting to preach hope to those who don’t want to hear it.
Technically, I don’t think the Dodgers will win the World Series. I’m every bit as prepared for them to lose as I will be disappointed if it happens. And yet I truly believe they can win the World Series, and that the difference between them winning and losing could be a single, pivotal moment. Or magic. Take your pick.
So as this Fall Classic begins, one thing I’m doing differently is this: If this generation’s Big Blue Wrecking Crew falls behind, I’m not going to waste my energy trying to talk other Dodger fans off the ledge of hopelessness. Either those fans know that the Dodgers can rally and are just putting up a protective shield, or they should know the Dodgers can rally but refuse to acknowledge it. I’m taking a break from fighting those people.
The 2018 Dodgers are the champions of the National League. No matter how bleak the scenario, whenever they have needed a victory this year, they have come through — 99 times so far this year and counting. Nothing is guaranteed. But if you still need more evidence, in the World Series itself, that this Dodger team is capable of greatness in the face of despair, if you can’t process the possibility that this Dodger team might actually thrive in the face of despair, I truly can’t help you.
Believe. And keep believing. It’s not bad luck. And it’s actually kind of fun. Because if they triumph, you can say you always believed. And that’s a hell of a thing.