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Waving Goodbye to Dodgertown

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After a heartbreaking loss, it’s best to take a giant step back. It’s best to look at a failure against the backdrop of the season as a whole. The first conclusion I reached was, “At least we aren’t Washington Nationals fans”.

Jokes and second-guesses aside, this season provided plenty of entertainment. The longer I watch baseball, the more I realize the greatest moments of the season are not ruined by the way in which that season dies. Baseball is so human sometimes it is scary. We don’t remember a person for how they passed away. We remember their life.

For the fan in me, I choose to remember Billingsley’s grand start and first All-Star appearance. I remember Orlando Hudson’s cycle in April when anything seemed possible. I remember Matt Kemp’s coming of age and his three Grand Slams. I will remember Andre Ethier becoming the next great Dodger. There was Juan Pierre going from trade demands to fan favorite. Beast Mode, indeed. Above all, there were those three wonderful games with the St. Louis Cardinals where we all were guilty of thinking World Series. I will never forget Mark Loretta’s game-winning single and the sea of fans pulling me in every direction all at once. I wish you all could have seen the look in my father's eyes when we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

I will also remember all the little things that make baseball at Chavez Ravine so great. These are the things that typically make winter a little colder in my house. The things I miss and cannot replicate until April. There’s the fifty-something Dodger Dogs I go through in a season during both the Bull and Bear moments of dog days of summer (earmuffs, Vegans). There’s the perfecting of navigating the constantly changing parking systems at the ballpark and the pride a man feels when he reaches Sunset Boulevard in under fifteen minutes. There’s Vin Scully warmly warbling through my car stereo after a long day at work when I couldn’t make it out in person.

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There are some things I’d rather forget as well.

In chief, there was Manny’s steroid suspension and his failure to return to form after fifty games on the bench. There was that awful day in the Ravine where we all knew that Mannywood as we knew it was gone. There was the failure to acquire an ace at the deadline and the sinking suspicion that the Phillies may have tipped the scales when they grabbed Cliff Lee. We were right to be suspicious. There was Martin’s slip into a pedestrian backstop. Worst of all, there was our five game strangling by the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies. At least we had last year's NLCS as training.

While there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the ownership and future of this team, most of the pieces will be back. Besides Orlando Hudson and Ronnie Belliard (both second basemen), our entire starting lineup will be back. I say that because Manny would have to be delusional to think anyone else would pay him what he is promised in his player option to return to the Dodgers. There are plenty of left fielders that hit under .300 and player mediocre defense.

Colletti and whoever is paying the bills will have to make decisions on Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, both have some form of an option, but both carry a heavy price tag. Randy Wolf is a free agent as well. It will be hard to justify the money though. After all, our starting pitching seemed to be the biggest weakness in the postseason, not that there weren’t other facets of the Dodgers’ attack that needed help.

So, we’ll wait and see. We’ll let the Phillies defend their crown against the Yankees (sorry Anaheim, there aren’t enough Rally Monkeys in Orange County to right that ship). We’ll see if USC can win the Pac-10 and maybe sneak into the BCS Championship. We’ll see how UCLA basketball fares. We’ll look forward to the Lakers defending their crown. We’ll enjoy the holidays and another mild Southern California winter.

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Baseball’s mathematics are as kind as they are cruel. It’s a perfect game because it is so imperfect. Someone once pointed out that if first base was five feet closer to home plate, no one would ever get thrown out. By the same token, if it were five feet farther away, no one would ever be safe. Part of baseball’s mathematics include the offseason schedule. It's meant to ease us out and then entice us back.

There will first be trades and free agent signings. Then will come a long drive to Arizona and the start of the Cactus League. Spring will arrive as it always does . Soon enough, we’ll be back at Chavez Ravine with the sun on our backs and the almost foolish belief that maybe, just maybe, this will be our year.

Having experienced plenty of championships in my life as a sports fan and a sportswriter, I can say with crystal clarity that it’s that almost foolish belief that keeps me coming back. It’s that childlike belief that never goes away no matter how jaded I become in life.
It’s as simple as knowing when our nine take the field, they could beat your nine.

It could be anyone next year. Why couldn’t it be us?