For a while there -- about 10:45 p.m. Friday night, to be precise -- it seemed as though all of the L.A. Dodgers' early season heroics (the winning streaks, come-from-behind victories, clutch home runs, etc.) were merely a cruel setup to make the team's annual collapse all the more devastating to fans. Friday they lost their opener to white-hot Colorado, raising the possibility that the once-domineering Dodgers would lose the Western Division title on the last day of the regular season and find themselves in the role of the wild-card charity team.
Manny Ramirez struck out all four times at the plate Friday, stranding six runners. That morning, L.A. Times writer Dylan Hernandez had raised the possibility that Manny's continuing troubles were neither chemical nor psychological in nature, but the result of an overlooked hand injury suffered in late July. However, the story of the Summer of 2009 hasn't been just Manny -- instead, it's how much of a team effort it's been for the Dodgers to win and, later, to collapse. The eight games preceding the Rockie's visit had been a nightmare of stranded base runners and unreliable pitching as the Dodgers lost to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and even to the Washington Nationals (the reincarnation of the 1963 Mets). The team was snatching defeat after defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Dodgers, I emailed a friend, are a team that can beat itself so many ways. Her reply put things in proper perspective. They do this every year, my friend pointed out. Worse, "Just like a dog of a boyfriend, we keep taking them back."
There are no auguries that the Dodgers have turned the corner or that
Manny has sloughed off his jinx, or that this week's games with St.
Louis will be anything but a blood bath, with the Dodgers in the tub.
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Yet, miraculously, the Dodgers did not fall this Fall -- they didn't choke over the weekend and 2009 was
not 1951. Their National League Western Division victory will be far more than
enough for the most cynical fan to brim with newfound hubris.
Bring on the Cards!