The Dodgers' play in the last two games don't inspire thoughts that they are a great team. But they were exciting at the end, and that's inspiring in its own way.
I missed the seventh and eighth innings yesterday, when the Dodgers lost to the Pirates 7-5. But I did see the ninth, and that was a lot of fun. I love watching a team try to erase a deficit in the ninth inning. In a game not involving the Dodgers or any orange clad team I want to see lose, I root for a comeback, extra innings, the sudden reversal. I root for one of those crazy spiky up-and-down win expectancy charts that the guys at the Hardball Times like to post. Who doesn't love a game like that?
If the Dodgers are down, I hope that the game will be one of those magical games, one of those sweet, unexpected victories, sudden joy when the mind had already accepted sad defeat as the outcome. The first step is just to get enough baserunners to get the tying run to the plate. Even if the Dodgers are down 5 I have hope. What's four baserunners? It's nothing ... just a walk, a few lucky bloopers, a solid line drive, maybe an error ... it happens all the time, right? And then, if the tying run comes to the plate, anything can happen on one swing. Even Juan Pierre could hit a home run. Anyone holding a bat at the plate could be Mickey Hatcher or Kirk Gibson. And if it doesn't happen, then that's just part of the price. The price for the comeback win tasting so sweet is that it almost always fails. What are the wages of numerous dashed comeback hopes compared with the glory of the rare comeback victory?
And if the Dodgers are the team protecting the lead, I enjoy watching Saito ( and Gagne before him ) shut down the opposing team and make it seem, after the deeds, as if there was never really any hope of a comeback at all. I will never forget being in Dodger Stadium to see Eric Gagne record a 4 strikeout save against the Red Sox. Those Sox fans in the stands all thought they had a chance, and I just wanted to tell them, you don't have a chance. It's all over ... and it was.
The Dodger have yet to convince me they are a great team. I think having one of Tomko or Hendrikson on the rotation is acceptable, as an "innings-eater" who eats the innings at about a 4.5 era while making spot fifth starts and long relief duty. But not both, especially when we still can't really be sure about Wolf, or maybe even Penny with his low K rate. Furcal will find his true level of play, but then so will Gonzo and Kent, right? Those two extreme veterans may not keep hitting the way they have.
What's nice, though, is that the Dodger have started out as a team that could be a great team. At least it's a possibility, something to realistically talk about and hope for.
In any case, even if the Dodgers have yet to convince me they are a great team, baseball has long ago convinced me that it's a great sport to watch.