03 October 2008

Layer Slayers

A curse is not a metaphysical barrier preventing a team from winning, but a psychological barrier that prevents fans from enjoying their team's playoff games. I realize this because up until James Loney's grand slam two days ago I was ready for the worst. I expected, deep down, for the Dodgers to be bundled out of the playoffs in three games again. And I wouldn't have admitted it, couldn't have. But there I was, sure the game and series were over after DeRosa's wind aided home run down the line. A sign, I thought. A wind-blown sign of the Dodgers' doom and Cubs' fortune. Man did that lousy lucky home run make me mad.

As curses go the Dodger curse of the last 20 years would be a very minor one. Call it the curse of Pedro Guerrero, for trading him in the middle of 1988 for John Tudor. It's nothing quite so epic as the Red Sox curse or the Cubs curse or the Giants curse ( a very underrated curse ). But 20 years is a long time in the life of a fan. All those experiences of futility and irrelevance lay heavy in the mind. Layers of frustration and lament.

The Dodgers were going to waste all the walks. Announcers will often say that walks always come back to haunt a pitcher but that's not true. Sometimes they are left harmlessly on the bases. Sometimes it's the team that draws the walks that is haunted by scoring position failures. The two hits the Dodgers had before Loney were soft nothings. There were a couple of hard line outs but that was not enough to make me think the Dodgers could hit him. I guess I was hoping Loney could get a single when he first came up. I remember him doing that lately, getting bases loaded singles. That would have been fine by me. Instead he went down 0-2, overmatched. And that was it. The only reason I kept watching was because I felt I was supposed to. As a fan I have to pretend there is hope, but all I was really doing was recording a new layer of failure, setting it down on top of the layer where two men got thrown out at the plate.

Then Loney launched a ball into the heavens that battled the wind and won. And I was in shock. My wife, who does not have 20 years of Dodger fan frustration layers built up in her mind, was simply ecstatic. That was great to see. That's what I want to get back to, that kind of reaction.

These games remind me of the two in Arizona after the 8 game losing streak, when the Dodgers won 6-2 and 8-1. They went into an opponent's stadium and just destroyed two very good pitchers. Look, even without those errors yesterday the Dodgers outplayed Chicago. Billingsley was the better pitcher. Martin has found his power again. The home runs and doubles are back! And so is Furcal, with his jaw-dropping bunt hit. That was just pure fun. The Dodgers haven't even needed Manny, and he's still delivered a couple of show-off shots.

The series isn't over yet. You could make the argument that the Cubs should be favored in every possible game remaining. I couldn't make it, though. I'm not saying that the Dodgers are certain to win the series, because they're not, but this is a good team playing even better than they are right now. The home fans are going to joyous on Saturday. Ready to cheer and never give up. I'll be there too. I can't wait.

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