Sometimes the good guys win
By Cary Osborne
On a recent December evening, I was on the phone with a man who I hold in high regard, so his words mean a lot to me.
During the conversation, he congratulated me for an accomplishment and said five words that resonated with me: “Sometimes the good guys win.”
The good guys.
I thought about that.
I realized by him calling me one of the good guys he saw more in me than I thought. And though I’ve failed him at times, he remembered my victories more than my losses.
And that’s truly how I feel when I look back at the Dodgers in 2015.
I think of the good guys and how they won.
It would be easier to think of loss when thinking about the Dodgers because that’s how their season ended and that’s how many people look at recent events for the team.
My experience is different.
I watched guys who I’ve grown to like not as players, but people, succeed.
I look at Justin Turner and what he’s become — not just on the field, but off it.
After the 2013 season, he was non-tendered by the New York Mets. Essentially, he was fired by the Mets because they had no use for him.
He came to the Dodgers a non-roster invite to Spring Training camp in 2014.
In the last two years, he has statistically been one of baseball’s best third basemen. He had a bobblehead this year. And it would be hard to find a fan who doesn’t cheer for him when he comes to the plate.
Turner plays hurt, is friendly and giving of his time and so hard not to like. On top of all that, he is one of the most active Dodgers in the community, having made hospital visits on gamedays, he has participated in charity events of different types and is always, always smiling.
It’s safe to say that by establishing himself as the Dodgers everyday third baseman in 2015, Justin Turner won.
So did J.P. Howell.
By Howell deciding to exercise the option year on his contract instead of becoming a free agent, it tells you right there how big his heart is for Los Angeles and the Dodgers. But then, it’s not all that surprising.
Howell is approachable, happy, fun and positive.
He’s been a significant influence on Dodger relievers, but specifically on Kenley Jansen who he treats like a brother. He checks in on Kenley, counsels him and shows him how to become a better big leaguer.
Howell is charitable and is a good husband. He and wife Heather created an inspirational nonprofit called Discover Your Path to help youth stay on the right path.
Not only did Howell have another fantastic season, he made this play that still drops my jaw:
J.P. Howell had major shoulder surgery in 2010 to repair his labrum. He’s not big and he doesn’t throw fast. But those haven’t held him back from becoming one of the best left-handed relievers in the game.
I can’t not bring A.J. Ellis into this conversation.
When the Dodgers acquired Yasmani Grandal, it spelled the end of Ellis’ everyday role behind the plate.
And yet, it never changed Ellis’ approach and preparation.
On days when Ellis didn’t start, I would always see one thing or the other.
Ellis would either be dripping with sweat because he was working out, hitting or getting other baseball work done, or he’d be in the video room studying or preparing pitchers for that day’s game.
And when Grandal was hurt in the second half, Ellis stepped right in and was one of the best offensive catchers in the Majors.
During the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, I made my way down to the back of the field level section behind home plate. It was the same exact place I stood two years earlier when Jansen got the last three outs of the NLDS to send the Dodgers to the NL Championship Series. Maybe I felt there was still some magic left in that area.
Ellis was the second batter of the ninth and he struck out swinging. Then Jeurys Familia struck out Howie Kendrick and the Dodgers lost.
That’s all some people will take from 2015.
I have a different takeaway.
I think of what that man said to me on the phone. Five words. And I can be content with this season.