From my home office I can hear the noise from Dodger Stadium a moment or two before the crowds' cheers or boos are channeled through our TV set in the living room. Last night I'd retreated to the office from the living room when faced with the agonizing prospect of watching a no-hitter thrown against the Dodgers by St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Adam Wainwright. Then, at some point, a roar drifted across Elysian Park. I ignored it until I heard it echoed on the TV. My wife Sandra, who is far less squeamish than I am about seeing the Dodger get beaten, was still watching the game.
I ran into the living room and found that Andre Ethier had homered, stuck around and watched Casey Blake do likewise. Suddenly the game was tied, 2-2, and before long the once-threatening Wainwright was gone from the mound. In case you haven't heard, though, the Dodgers lost, a classic case of too little too late. By losing, Team Blue's lead has been cut to three and a half games over the Rockies and four and a half over the San Francisco Giants. The headline for today's L.A. Times coverage by Dylan Hernandez was "Dodgers Suddenly Losing Their Edge," while the one for sports columnist Kurt Streeter's analysis was "It Seems the Best Brings Out Worst in Dodgers."
In other words, it's now officially the Worry Season -- or rather, that
part of the baseball year when the Dodgers begin tanking and everyone
weighs in on why this is happening. Things fall apart, centerfield will
not hold. I for one am not panicking. The Giants don't worry me (their
own late-season DNA is far more self-destructive than the Dodgers') and
even Colorado isn't really a viable threat. The real danger, as always,
is the Dodgers themselves. They always surge late and then, at the last
moment, choke -- with no time left to make a comeback.
But the reason I'm not worried this time around is because manager Joe
Torre has again somewhat recalibrated that once-reliable cycle. Last year the
Dodgers seemed to sputter late once more, but it wasn't so late in the
year that they were once more banished from post-season competition.
This year, the team's been floundering since the All-Star break, but
Torre's players built up such a formidable lead in the first months
that they've still managed to stay on top. What we are seeing is not
the Dodgers' death spiral, but simply their traditional late-season
losing streak moved up a few weeks, just like last year.
They have more than enough time to pull out of their dive -- and the
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Rockies and Giants have more than enough chances to go on their own
plunges. I'm betting the store that the cheering I heard through my
window last night wasn't only the live playback of one game
in summer, but also a prophesy of September and, hopefully, October.