Reflecting on a Dodger season that came so close

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

Late on Tuesday evening, it had started to feel real, more real than it had felt in a long, long time.

Three nights earlier, the Dodgers had nearly stolen Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, despite their most disadvantageous pitching matchup and coming off an exhausting National League Division Series. No matter — over the next two ballgames, the Dodgers completely shut down the best team in baseball during the regular season, allowing not a single Cub to score. The offense pushed across six runs in Game 3, the pitching was as rested as it had been in two weeks.

Los Angeles was two games away from the World Series with four to play.

Four nights later, the Dodgers went to bed with their season over, left to ponder how far they had gone, how close they had come and how short they fell.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

“It’s a little bit of a sour taste,” said Dave Roberts, 30 minutes after the official end to his first season managing the Dodgers. “Obviously, if we play a clean three games in 4, 5, 6, there could have been a different outcome. (It was) very uncharacteristic of our guys.”

After his first game of Spring Training more than seven months ago, I asked Roberts if he had time to appreciate the moment, to smell the roses, and he said it wasn’t his nature to do that. With no more games remaining until 2017, I asked him Saturday if he could reflect on his team.

“I just think that there was a lot of growth,” he said, “and I think that how we came together as a team, not only the 25 guys in the clubhouse but guys that helped us get to where we’re at tonight, just the way we played the game every night, with certain adversities, that our guys were accountable (and) made no excuses all year long.

“And I think with that, for me, that’s something that’s a silver lining that really I think going forward, the groundwork of how we play the game … we were short, we came up short, but the result on how we played, there’s a lot to be said for that.”

Clayton Kershaw, who shouldered so much down the stretch trying to make up for lost time, has been through this six times in his nine-year career, including the past four in a row, a club record.

“Tough to swallow tonight, obviously, but I’d much rather be in this situation and fail than not be in this situation at all,” Kershaw said, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “As much as this does hurt, and as much as I would have liked to win tonight, I’m really thankful to be on a team that has got to be in the postseason four years in a row, and really thankful for that group in the clubhouse that has your back in these situations, and thankful I get to come back next year and try again.”

Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman marveled at the effort of Kershaw, who missed more than two months with a disk herniation.

“I cannot say enough about what Clayton did,” Friedman told Bill Plunkett of the Register. “Most guys would not have come back at all from what he suffered.”

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

The disappointment in another season of so close and yet so far is palpable, visceral. Really, baseball gives you such a long season, demands so much of you, that any contending team is going to experience belief and despair along the way — even the NL champion Cubs felt it just a few days ago. That the Dodgers were the last ballclub eliminated before the World Series must mean something.

Or mustn’t it? Does coming close matter some, or not at all? Was this 173-game season worth it? That’s for each fan to decide for herself and himself. As I look back on the past nine seasons with six playoff appearances, three ending in the NLDS, three ending in the NLCS, I can pinpoint all the moments when things turned south. I wish that one, just one, had gone the other way.

But there have been so many good times packed into the past decade. I guess it’s funny that the longer we go without the ultimate victory, the more I treasure those.

17 Comments

The disappointment is hard to ignore again. Fans have a good reason to be frustrated. Lots of issues loom for 2017. How will the FO deal with losing free agents (Jansen, Turner, Hill, Reddick and Utley). Our short term rental of Reddick and Hill may come back to haunt us. We gave up some promising pitching talent for that rental in a “win-now” strategy that didn’t pan out.

The inability of starters to complete games has to be a major concern, Our starting pitchers wore out our bullpen. I am concerned that we signed Kenta Maeda for 7 more years. His age and ability to last a full season have to be red flags.

Our offense relied on hitting the long ball. Hit or miss approach seems to be our strategy. We are not efficient in moving base runners or stealing bases. The conservative approach does not put pressure on defenses.

I guess if winning the Division and boosting attendance are the FO goals, then we had a successful season!

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – Albert Einstein.

I agree – there are a lot of issues that need to be attended to. Unfortunate, I don’t think the current FO is equipped to do it. As far as Reddick & Utley I would let them go. They didn’t do anything to prove their worth this season. Hill? He’s 38 soon and there’s no guarantee he’ll throw the ball good next year. He’s been a mediocre pitcher for the better part of his career save for the past 12-18 months (of which he was injured 2-3).

The FO dropped the ball last year when they didn’t sign any of the elite pitchers available. Instead they went for what they deemed “depth” (otherwise known as cheap) with a hoard of injury prone old guys. That worked out well for them!

If they want to contend they need to look at Epstein’s approach and methodology of building through draft and developing talent in the minors. Then you complement the roster with signing (or trading) young impact FA’s. The Dodgers need to shed all the old people out of the roster and start fresh with young talent. Trading away Montas & Holmes etc was a terrible idea and will come back to bite them. The Cubs, Indians, Astros etc have the right idea when it comes to team building – get younger not older. This is how you futureproof an organization to be able to be a contender for many years ahead. Not the win-now patchwork philosophy of the Dodger organization. I question whether Friedman/Farhan are the right people to do that – I sincerely doubt it.

You’re not paying enough attention if you think they are not trying to get younger. They simply had to get something to go behind Kershaw at trading deadline, and you have to give to get, Holmes and Cotton were behind a couple others on depth chart, so that was fine. I do agree that Reddick wasn’t worth getting however.

Disagree, Since there was no immediate benefit in the FO win-now attitude, the trade is a failure. We have to wait and see how the young pitchers develop/perform in the future before we can comment on the long term result.

Hill’s pitching helped secure 2 wins in the playoffs, and was scheduled to go game 7 in the NLCS, sorry, I disagree if that doesn’t provide win now attitude.

Easy to pick the going south moment in this series, AGon being called out at home and replay ump not overturning it when they should have.
Again, very happy how far the got this year, as I didn’t expect this team to even win 85, let alone the division and a playoff round. That said, the FO needs to look itself in the mirror and take blame for not making this team as good as it was when they took it over. Yes I love the long term vision, but the cut their nose to spite their face in some areas. Maybe it’s ownership saying what to do to cut payroll, but if not, there’s really no good excuse for not having a better starting rotation, none. And while the offense clearly has some major issues, I believe in the end, this is what cost the Dodgers being in the World Series.
Now they have hard decisions to make on some free agents, and all signs point that at least one of Turner, Jansen, and Hill won’t be brought back. What moves they make to replace them will be very important in how this team does in 2017.

Gots to stop signing pitchers with a long history of injury, and find a right-handed power bat.

As the old saying and a song says “Our they will come”.

There certainly shouldn’t be criticism of Kershaw. Lost in all this, it seems to me, is that the Dodgers did something that hadn’t happened for 60 years in post-season: sending the minimum number of batters to the plate. The offense didn’t come through at the end, and neither did the bullpen. We can say that’s the front office’s fault for not building a better club, but, given the injuries and the absence of a starting pitcher other than Kershaw for most of the season, it’s downright miraculous–and a tribute to Dave Roberts–that we got this far.

close is no long good enough, not with SF sitting on 3 WS championships & the Cubs exploding past us. i’d like to see the team stop depending on guys like Utley who are way past their prime. we have the best farm system in baseball; time to use it – even if it costs us a year or two.

Friedman/Zaidi made some good moves – hiring Roberts, strengthening the bullpen, signing Maeda, getting Toles off the scrap heap, dealing with a Kershaw injury and tattered rotation. But some of their rotation wounds were self-inflicted. They could have used the same 2016 $$ for Cueto instead of Anderson and Kazmir.
As to the farm system, doubt it will rank so highly now with Urias graduating to the big club and Holmes and Montas departing. Deleon looks good however. Other thing we kinda lose in the shuffle is that Logan White had a pretty bad losing streak from 2007-2011 and the Dodgers have been paying the price for that these last 3-4 seasons. Joc Pederson was all that came out from that era, and he was something of an accident as an 11th round pick. Ever since they hit gold with Kershaw in 2006, Dodgers heavily committed to drafting pitchers in first and second round and that strategy bombed. From 2007-2013, 10 of the Dodgers 14 first two picks in the draft have been pitchers and all 10 pitchers failed. Of course, White redeemed himself in 2012 bigtime with grabbing Seager and then Urias and Puig as amateur free agents.
But the overcommittment to drafting pitchers from 07-11 to the exclusion of hitters has had effects felt even now. They had to overpay guys like Kemp, Ethier, Crawford, Ramirez, and Gonzalez in order to compensate for lack of hitting talent in the farm system. Championship teams have discovered is that it’s easier to buy pitchers than hitters. In 2016, Friedman finally got that memo making position players a priority with the first two picks.
But with Gonzalez declining, Turner wanting big money, Utley sure to go (as he should) and Kendrick sure to go (as he should), this offense will need some shoring up and doubtful much is available in free agency. Puig should NOT be traded.

The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken, just sorry it was The Dodgers losing the pennant to The Cubs which that possible.

I’ve been following Dodger Thoughts for at least 13 years (and even had a letter published in one of the early blogs). Now seems as good time as ever to say thank you, not only for the interesting daily reports, but also for the realistic optimism and the beautifully written pieces reflecting on the physcology of a baseball fan

Thanks — appreciate that!

Dodgers payroll is high, but think about cutting these guys, Scott Kazmir $13,000,000, Brett Anderson $10,000,000, Brandon McCarthy $12,5000,000, Hyun-jin Ryu $7,000,000, bullpen needs to shake off big time. None of them qualify for the playoff except Kenley Jansen. Julio Urias gave too many long balls after two innings. Jose De Leon are just not as promised.

Cutting them doesn’t make the payroll commitment go away, although Anderson is a Free Agent. And Kazmir could opt out (but would be a fool to do so).
I doubt the FO is counting on any of them being more than rotation filler (which every team needs) at this point though.
Blanton was excellent in the regular season, and possibly overused because of it, and didn’t do well in the NLCS, doesn’t mean he was a bad signing.
Urias gave up 5 home runs, that’s below average for the amount of innings he pitched. Not sure what your JDL comment is supposed to mean exactly, perhaps you don’t think he’s as good as he should have been once brought up? Time will tell on that, but you have to give him more than a few starts to decide.

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