Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 8:36 p.m.
Turn out the lights, the party's over.
There was a glimmer of hope when Andre Ethier hit a solo home run in the 1st inning, but the Phillies quickly snuffed it out in the bottom of the inning with that three-run dinger by Jayson Werth.
The Dodgers needed another solid outing from Vicente Padilla but didn't get it. And the bullpen didn't get it done either. Speaking of the bullpen, they were the best in the NL this season, but they also pitched the second-most number of innings in the league. That means the starters didn't pitch long enough, and perhaps the bullpen--especially inexperienced guys such as Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario--simply wore out.
So where does that leave us for next year?
Well, the rotation will surely include Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, though Billingsley needs to man-up. Randy Wolf, who led the team in victories, is a 33-year-old free agent. Hiroki Kuroda will turn 35 in the off-season and may not be recovered from the neck problem that kept him out of the Cardinals' series. And what of late season pickups Padilla and Jon Garland? Padilla was great until Wednesday night, but he's been an average pitcher for most of his career. Did his performance with the Dodgers signal a turnaround, or was he simply pitching for a contract? Garland also was late-season insurance and he was not spectacular.
The bullpen will benefit from this year's experience, but will Jonathan Broxton's psyche survive what he's endured for two years now?
As for the position players, Ethier and Matt Kemp had breakout years, though Kemp had a lousy post-season. Manny Ramirez has a $20 million one-year option that he will surely exercise. Who else is going to give a tarnished bum that kind of money? We'll see how much pride he has next year. If he gets off to a poor start and begins to loaf, the fans will revolt. It could get ugly.
In the infield, James Loney and Rafael Furcal are set. Orlando Hudson was overpaid and will be allowed to leave as a free agent. The question is whether the Dodgers will keep Ronnie Belliard. He was solid, but the Dodgers are still hoping Blake DeWitt will be ready to play every day. Casey Blake was good most of the season, but he's 36 years old and he had a horrible series against the Phillies. ESPN has floated a rumor that the Dodgers may bring back Adrian Beltré! Russell Martin's decline at the plate was a bit of a mystery, but he'll be given another year to set himself straight.
And so the question is whether GM Ned Colletti, who just signed a contract extension, will make any big moves. The Dodgers need a frontline stopper in the rotation. Kershaw's still too young and Billinsgley may never grow into that role. What will Ned be willing to give up? Will he make a run at a free agent stud such as Josh Beckett or John Lackey? Cliff Lee will be a free agent too, but I don't think the Phillies will let him get away. And what effect will the McCourts' marital problems have on the Dodgers' pocketbook?
It was an exciting season that came to an ugly, crashing halt. It was a bit of an illusion, with the potent bats masking a starting rotation that was inconsistent. And that late-season slide was an indication that the house of cards could fall at any time. It absolutely collapsed against the Phillies, who were clearly superior.
But it was fun watching Ethier and Kemp bloom into exciting, legitimate stars, and to see glimpses of the dominating pitcher that Kershaw could become.
Have a good winter. And remember: spring training is just five months away.
FINAL NOTE: As much as I'd like to see it happen, I don't think the Angels will come back against the Yankees. So, Phillies vs. the Bronx Bombers? Go Phillies! Knock the Yankees on their asses. Their fat wallets will cushion the blow.