29 October 2007

What Happened? What the Hell Happened?

by Joshua Worley

There they were, the Rockies and their fans, winners of 21 out of 22, miracle contestants in the World Series --- and then it was gone, swept away by the Red Sox.

There we were, Dodger fans, in May of 1998, with the greatest hitting catcher ever, a sure-fire future Dodger Hall-of-famer --- and then it was gone, traded away to the Marlins.

There we were, in 2005, 12-2 to start the year, winners of games by blowout and comeback, by fortune and talent, riding high with a great young GM at the helm --- and then it was gone, doomed by injury, arrogance, and panic.

There we were, this year, 13-5 to begin April, looking like the best team in the National League --- and then it was gone, doomed by injury and stupidity.

There they were, the Yankees and their fans, finally in love with the greatest player in the game, and then it was gone, terminated by email.

Baseball fans know all too well the horrible feeling that comes when the bottom falls out. Everything is going fine, and suddenly nothing is fine. The season is in shambles. Future seasons are in shambles, perhaps. You're helpless, bewildered, angry. What the hell happened?

The Mets, and the Brewers. The Padres. I think some of their fans are still wondering what happened. And now the Rockies. Everything was going so well. Unimaginably well, historically well. They were the new team clutch. And then they weren't. Why did the Rockies magic melt? What happened to that team of destiny?

There is no answer. There are grasping explanations, there are urgent reasons why the disaster occured, but there is no honest answer. The 8-day layoff hurt them. The Red Sox were a far superior team. But inferior teams have won before, and teams with long layoffs have won before. There is no true answer, unless one is content to just make up new rules for why teams win every year.

There is a necessary humility in knowing you don't have the answer. It's a humility many sportswriters lack. This is why our team lost, and this is what has to be done to fix it. Usually fixing it involves firing someone. Sometimes it's making a trade or signing a player.

I think the Dodgers should make a run at Alex Rodriguez. He's such a polarizing figure --- already Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, and Jemele Hill have all ripped him at espn.com. But if he hits, and he will, I don't care. I don't care about the whole question of clutch. He's worth going after. But he's not the answer. No one player is ever the answer. The trap door can open on any team.

There are, sometimes, lessons to be learned from failure. Weaknesses shown, a path to improvement indicated. But there are no definitive answers. During many of the recent offseasons the Yankees thought they had found their answer. They were always just one big signing away. There is no foolproof way to win as much as you'd like, when you'd like. There is always the possibility for the "what the hell happened" moment to come again. A player leaves unexpectedly, or the team just goes into the tank out of nowhere. There are just no guarantees. So much in baseball just doesn't make sense. Even when there are reasons they may not quite add up to what happened. There are good reasons why the Red Sox won the World Series --- but these reasons shouldn't have added up to a sweep, not over a team that had been playing as well as the Rockies.

I hope 2007 Rockies are remembered well. But in the short term I fear it's a huge mark against them that they didn't win the World Series. Becoming worthy of remembrance seems more and more like an all or nothing sort of thing in modern times. Maybe the perspective of time is needed. Does anyone even care anymore that the 1951 Giants didn't win the World Series? It's irrelevant to the legend of that team. Heck, the '51 Giants are far more famous than the '51 Yankees, who won the World Series. Maybe the same will happen with the Rockies. I have too much respect for what they did down the stretch, including those awful 7 losses they handed the Dodgers, to think of them as failures.

I wonder if Grady Little is wondering what the hell happened right now. The year got really bumpy toward the end, but he seemed comfortably on track to manage the team next year. There were no reactionary sportswriters calling for his head, and management said he would be back. He had a contract.

And now? Who knows? Someone out there knows, I guess. I'm not sure who, though. All these rumors out there, about Girardi, and now Torre --- it's hard to ignore. No one with the Dodgers will come out and say Grady will be back next year. These are bad omens. I'm guessing he feels like a trap door below his feet has opened up, at the least. I don't think it's right. I've had problems with some of Grady's decisions, but this whole round of drawn-out speculation, fueled by the Dodgers' unwillingness to just end it with a definitive statement ( one way or the other ) isn't fair to Grady. Whether he's back next year or not, this past week has been a shame. Part of that falls to Buster Olney and his rumor-mongering, and part of it falls to the Dodgers.

I just hope the Dodgers aren't falling into the Yankee trap of thinking after each failure that they have the answer. Not only does arrogance not breed winning, but it makes it unpleasant to root for a team. I sure hope Colletti and McCourt are proceeding with all due humility. But this thing with Little and Torre bothers me. 2005 was DePodesta's fault. That ended up being the answer for that year. Will 2007 go down as Grady's fault, perhaps for playing those spoiled kids too much?

I don't know. I just wish the Dodgers were still a classy organization. I'm looking at what's happened with the team the last ten years, and sometimes I just wonder what the hell happened.

No comments: