Ok…so what happened?
I’m as stunned as the rest of y’all probably are. How did the Dodgers lose the NLDS and get knocked out of the playoffs…in the year when everyone was sure that we’d go all the way and win the World Series?
I think there were three factors at work: (1) we didn’t play well in the first 4 games of the series and got ourselves into a game 5 situation in the first place; (2) we went ahead and lost game 5 (the Nats didn’t win it, we lost it, just like the World Series two years ago); and (3) we all tempted the baseball gods from the beginning of the season on.
First problem: not playing well in the first games of the series, while Washington played well. This is pretty simple: the Dodgers simply weren’t ready for the playoffs. They coasted through the last half of the season, and were barely challenged by anyone. As a result they got lazy. Anyone would. And then they had trouble changing gears when they couldn’t coast anymore and had to start playing hard. They just weren’t in playoff mode. That happens a lot – often the teams that do the best in the playoffs are the ones who had to fight to get there in the first place. Think of the 2018 Dodgers and the excitement of game 163. They were hungry when they got to the NLDS. This year it’s like they were still digesting a big ole Thanksgiving dinner.
Nobody stepped up, and some of our best players took a step backwards. That was certainly true of Seager, but you can say it applied to just about everyone. Bellinger, the hero of the season, was disappointing in the playoffs. Bottom line, no one was especially good. You don’t win playoff series when your best people ain’t playing well.
That’s how we got into the game 5 situation. Then it was Dave Roberts’ turn to step up and lose it for us.
The decision to put Kershaw in – and to keep him in – is going to remain one of the most controversial decisions Roberts ever made. Even more controversial than his boneheaded decision to put Darvish into game 7 of the 2017 World Series. It wasn’t just a controversial decision: it was a totally lameass one. Ok, so Kershaw came out and got his one out and everyone was happy…and it should have ended there.
I reckon Roberts thought Kershaw would come out in the next inning and be the hero he didn’t get the chance to be back in 2017 when he ought to have started game 7. The problem is that Kershaw in 2019 isn’t the player he was in 2017. Yeah, he’s 2 years older, but there’s more to it. He’s had some serious injuries, and it’s no longer a done deal that putting Kershaw into a game is a recipe for winning it.
On top of that, Roberts totally forgot that Kershaw’s biggest weakness this season has been first inning home runs. He’s had trouble settling down into games…and that’s exactly what happened to him last night Only it wasn’t in the 1st that he gave up the three home runs. There’s time to make up for that when it happens early in a game. There wasn’t a whole lot of time left to make up for Kershaw’s mistakes in this game 5. That’s clearly what Kershaw himself thought, although he made a bad situation worse by looking so defeated while there was still a chance of winning the game. Even after disaster struck, all the Dodgers needed was 1 run to win the game.
Roberts should have known better. It’s not like something unexpected went wrong with Kershaw. What went wrong with him was what’s been going wrong with him all season long. That’s just plain ole bad managing. I know Roberts guided the Dodgers through a great regular season, but this makes three years in a row that he’s shown that he can’t manage effectively in the postseason.
As for point (3) above, I don’t want to say I told y’all so…I did tell you so. Back in April. And again in June. Like I said: you don’t tempt the baseball gods.
We all just took too much for granted. Everyone in LA thought it was a done deal that the Dodgers were going to win the World Series this year and that the whole season was gonna be a walkover. Most of the season was a walkover…which only encouraged everyone to take winning even more for granted. I know I’m talking mostly about the fans and the press, but that attitude is bound to make its way through to the clubhouse. You know when you’re on a good team, and sometimes you can forget that, however good a team you’ve got, you’re still only as good as your last game.
And one thing I do know: the baseball gods seriously don’t like teams that take success for granted. Tempt them too far and they’ll fuck things up for you. I’ve seen it happen too many times. It’s like Meemaw says, if your head gets too swelled, you ain’t gonna be able to see the edge of the cliff you just walked off. The baseball gods don’t like hubris, and, as a result, they can’t have liked the Dodgers this season. As far as the gods are concerned, the outcome was predictable. It’s almost Shakespearean.
And I called it back in April. I wish I was wrong. Being right don’t make the loss to Washington hurt any less.
I don’t know what they’re going to do with the team over the winter, but I suspect that the team’s core will be back again next season. They proved during the regular season what a great team they can be. Now…if we all can get together in April and not talk about October like it was a done deal, get through the season and get through the season, and get ready for the playoffs for real by playing hard in September…then the outcome should be a lot different from this year.
It had better be. I’m not the only person in this town who’s gettin tired of disappointment.
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