I blame News Corp. I blame Kevin Malone. I blame Rupert Murdoch. I blame Frank McCourt. I blame Jamie McCourt. I blame Jamie’s hair-dresser. I blame her limo driver. Hell, I blame anyone and everyone.
For the third time in five years the San Francisco Giants have won the National League pennant. And, for the third time in five years I find it easy to blame the Dodgers for not being good enough to stop them. All I have wanted for the last few years is for the Dodgers to re-establish order with their rival. Winning the division for the second straight year was a nice first step, but in the grand scheme it doesn’t really mean anything. You need to perform in October, something the Dodgers can’t do right now. The Giants perform in October. They have done it with a core group of hard-nosed stars and sprinkling of role players that relish being part of an organization that wins and has fun doing it.
Many people pointed to Giants luck or fortuitous bounces as the reason for the Giants success again in October. Stop it. That would be short-changing a team that truly is a team. The Giants are winning because of a disciplined front office approach to building their organization. They haven’t deviated from that approach. Brian Sabean runs it, and Bruce Bochy runs with it. Bochy is the master technician. His gruff presentation belies a baseball genius who takes advantage of situations with match-ups and pushes the right buttons because he knows what his guys can and can not do. Bochy should be the envy of every major league team. This may sound like a knock on the Giants, but it’s not. Bochy and his staff gets more out of that ball-club than any other manager in the game today and he has been doing it for a long time.
If this doesn’t hurt the Dodgers organization and their fans then they aren’t worth being called, Dodgers. When you see your less talented rival continually win pennants, while you languish on the sidelines and come up short in the biggest October moments then you aren’t doing things right. I heard many people say the Dodgers were probably the only team that could have beaten the Giants this October. Stop it AGAIN. There is no way THIS Dodgers team with THIS Dodgers bullpen was going to beat the Giants. Bochy would have made sure of that. The Giants have toughness coursing through their veins, “Champions Blood” as Hunter Pence likes to say, while the Dodgers melt when they are faced with the biggest moments. This isn’t opinion, it is fact. Until the Dodgers, as a group, rise to the occasion in October, they will be considered “soft.”
Despite the malfeasance of the Frank McCourt ownership, the Dodgers did manage to advance to National League Championship Series in 2008 and 2009 losing both times to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. They lost primarily because their best players lacked the stones to come up big when it counted and of course a deficient bullpen headlined by Jonathan Broxton. Fast forward to 2013 where once again the Dodgers pushed on to the NLCS where they were once again beaten by a “tougher” Cardinals team that rose to the occasion when it counted. This year was a complete debacle. The Cardinals knocked off the Dodgers in the division series in four games. The Dodgers won 94 regular season games but were thin on the mound, had no bullpen and had a sub-par defensive team. The Giants would have beaten the Dodgers in 5 or 6 games in this NLCS. Not because they are more talented than the Dodgers, they win because they are tougher.
What does tougher mean in baseball terms ? Tougher means refusing to lose. Refusing to strike out with a runner at third and less than two outs. Being mentally aware of all situations, including getting good secondary leads, so you can take an extra base on a ball in the dirt. Knowing what base to throw to when the ball is hit to you. Knowing you need to hit the cut-off man. Toughness is hitting a ball to second base to move a runner to third with less than two outs because even when it hurts your batting average it will still help the team get a run. Toughness is putting team over self. Toughness is forsaking personal glory for the good of the group. The Giants organization and their insanely annoying fans preach this all the time. “The Dodgers don’t win because they have too many “I” guys.” Reluctantly I have to agree. The self-centeredness on the Dodgers is evident and does not lead to winning. Late in the season Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig almost came to blows over Puig’s selfishness in the dugout. Kemp was tired of watching Puig pout and take his hitting woes to the field. After the game Kemp posted a picture of celebrating Dodgers minus Puig. There was a quote from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar extolling the virtues of self-sacrifice for team. The point was clear. “Puig, this isn’t about you. It’s about us.”
The taste is bitter and sour for us Dodgers fans. If the taste isn’t bitter then I have to seriously question your Dodger allegiance. Seeing the Dodgers rival continue to win pennants stings. It is a pain that the Dodger fan base must live with during what will be a cold cold winter. Grasping a division title holds little solace when your rival is winning pennants and playing in World Series. That is now FOUR pennants for the Giants since 2002. The Dodgers haven’t won a pennant since the magical run in 1988. The Giants could win their 3rd World Series title in the last five years. Embarrassing I say, embarrassing.
I am happy the Guggenheim Group has high aspirations and World Championship goals. That is what you should try to do when you have resources at your disposal and a competitive fire burning in your belly. I also understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. When you are as low and down-trodden as the Dodgers were under McCourt, the culture and mode of operation will not change quickly, regardless of how much money you pump into the organization.
With that said, until the Dodgers get as tough or tougher than their rivals to the north, they will always be second fiddle. The Dodgers should learn from San Francisco, they should try an emulate the culture surrounding an organization that relies on the gathering of a few stars and spare parts that all pull in the same direction and compete and play for one common goal…..each other. Until the Dodgers do that, we will be forced to watch our hated rivals celebrate pennants and championships while we talk about what went wrong in another October year after year after year.
From Mark Walter to Stan Kasten to Andrew Friedman to Don Mattingly to Clayton Kershaw; If you aren’t disgusted, then you aren’t paying attention. Now, Lets Go Royals !