25 September 2009

Reversing the Nightmare

The nightmare began in 1997, with the rise of the Giants to the top of the NL West. The Dodgers had made the playoffs in 1995 and 1996, and the Dodgers contended again in 1997, but at the end they fell short, finishing 2 games back of a Giants team that was outscored on the season. The Dodgers were better in all ways but wins, but there would be no revenging justice the next year. 1997 was an omen for the years to come.

The Dodgers simply weren't very good in 1998. They didn't deserve to be, after trading away Mika Piazza early in the year. The Dodgers were outscored in 1998, but there would be no luck to save them as there was for the Giants a year before. They finished a distant third in the NL West, with the Giants in second, one game out of the wild card.

The Dodgers were a bad team in 1999, and finished well behind the Giants again. What had began with misfortune and continued with bad karma had now been established as habit. The Giants were better than the Dodgers. The Giants missed the playoffs again, this time finishing well behind the upstart Snakes in the division, who were winners of 100 in just their second year. Yet another indignity for the Dodgers in 1999, to be trounced in the standings by a fake team with hideous uniforms, and a garish stadium with a pool in the outfield stands and a pathway to the mound.

The Dodgers were better in 2000, but so were the Giants, led by Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds, who was in his first year of his late-career rejuvenation. The Dodgers just didn't have a chance against that team, and finished in a distant second place. Four years in a row, with no end in sight, as Barry was just getting started. The only positive for the Dodgers was that they finished one game ahead of the Snakes.

I think 2001 must have been the worst year of the Giants run over the Dodgers. It was bookend blows by Barry that delivered the pain. On April 17 of that year in Pac Bell Park the Dodgers were leading the Giants 2-1 in the bottom of eighth inning when Barry Bonds hit a two run home run to give the Giants a 3-2 lead. The classless Giants proceeded to halt the game right there and have a little ceremony on the field to commemorate the jerk's 500th career home run. They must have stopped the game for 10 minutes, a game that was not in any way decided. I've always wondered why the umpires allowed them to do that. I think that might be the angriest I have ever been watching a game. The ending blow came on October 5, when Barry hit his 71st home run of the year against known home run allower Chan Ho Park. The Giants finished that season with three against the Dodgers, and I so badly wanted the Dodgers to keep him homerless and deny him sole possession of the record. At least the Dodger won that game, and so doing knocked the Giants out of playoff contention. But again the Dodgers had finished behind the Giants in the standings.

In 2002 the Dodgers won 92 games, which is more than they've won in many of their playoff seasons, but it wasn't enough. The Giants won 95, and took the wild card, and eventually went on the World Series. Ouch. Where they lost to the Angels. Ha ha! Small comfort, though, because 2002 was six years in a row of Giants mastery over the Dodgers. It was getting hard to even imagine a time when the Dodgers were better than the Giants.

The Dodgers of 2003 had one of the all-time great pitching staffs. They paired it with an offense to make you cry. With any kind of hitting the Dodgers would have been a very good team that year, and as it was they still won 85 games. But the Giants won 100 games, and easily took first place in the NL West. Seven years in a row. The streak had become an institution.

Then, in 2004, the Giants came into Dodger Stadium for the final series of the year three games back of the Dodgers. First place was at stake, bragging rights between the two rivals were at stake, but the Giants would have to sweep. And it looked like they might do it. They won the first game, and led the second game 3-0 going in to the ninth inning, with a favorable pitching matchup of Schmidt vs. Ishii for the final game. ( This was back when Schmidt was good! ) A sweep felt inevitable. But then in the bottom of the ninth the Dodgers rallied, and the Giants started making errors, and the game was tied at 3, with Steve Finley at the plate, and he hit it, high and far, a sacrifice fly to win the game that just kept carrying and carrying to become a grand slam. The bases were cleared, the Dodger dugout was cleared, seven years of frustration were cleared. Swept away. The Dodgers were better than the Giants! The Dodgers were better than the Giants! The Dodgers were better than the Giants! The streak had ended at seven. The Giants would go on to finish one game out of the wild card. They haven't been back to the playoffs since.

In 2005 the NL West was terrible, as the Padres won the division with a 82-80 record. The Giants finished ahead of the Dodgers in the standings, but it was a booby prize. While the Dodgers would rebound into contention the next year, the Giants would not. Barry was winding down his career in disgrace, and the rest of the team was in shambles. The Giants finished well behind the Dodgers in the standings in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Three years in a row.

Yesterday made it four in a row. The Dodgers tried to give their game against the Nats away but won anyway, making them 92-61 on the year. Meanwhile the Giants led by one with two outs and two strikes on Jeff Baker in the ninth inning, but Brian Wilson could not get the last strike, and Baker hit a two-run home run to put the Giants behind. The Giants rallied in the bottom of the ninth but fell short, and lost the game, making them 82-71. 10 back with 9 to play --- that means the Dodgers have clinched a better record than the Giants. I'll pop some champagne to that.

Game 153 Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kemp -- 1
Furcal -- 1
Ethier -- 1

I hate not giving one to Broxton, but who do I take one away from? Furcal put the Dodgers ahead late, and was 4-5. Kemp hit for an almost cycle, only missing it by an official scorer's ruling. And Ethier made a great throw home to preserve the lead. Sorry Broxton, and apologies to Troncoso, who also got the job done in relief. Once again the 'pen is overlooked.

Game 153 Unfair Loss Shares ( Nats )

Martin -- 1
Villone -- 1
Dunn -- 1

Remember back when Dunn was threatening to hit more home runs than the Nats had wins? Well, he's 14 back now, 38 to 52. Maybe a late surge?

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