Los Angeles isn’t often a city that is synonymous with “Title Town,” mostly due to raw numbers. The city doesn’t possess the hard numbers that a city like New York or Boston does, primarily because professional sports didn’t make its way west until the Dodgers made their famed move from Brooklyn in 1958. The presence of mostly bad football teams hasn’t helped, unless of course you count collegiate sports.
The fact of the matter is that winning a championship in one of the 4 major sports is actually incredibly difficult. Very few teams outside of San Francisco are able to fluke their way into a championship in any sport.
Baseball, the true gauntlet of all the sports, can be even harder. The sport has arguably the strongest competitive balance of all the sports, and it also has the smallest number of available playoff spots.
A whopping 53% of NBA and 51% of NHL teams make the playoffs every year. The NFL gets a little tougher, with only 37% of the teams getting to advance into the playoffs. Up until very recently, only 26% of baseball teams made the playoffs. Now with the new wild card format, 32% of teams can make the playoffs, with 4 of those 10 teams getting a one-game playoff to decide whether or not the other 162 meant anything. It’s a hard knock life in the Majors.
The moral of all this senseless, meandering babble is that it’s difficult to win a World Series. It’s actually more difficult to do than it is in any other sport. Honestly, even making it to the World Series is a feat. Very often, fans of successful baseball franchises can feel that without winning the ultimate prize, their entire season is a loss. And fans of this particular franchise, the one that hasn’t even sniffed the ultimate stage since 1988, have grown particularly antsy.
The 2017 Dodgers season has been a roller coaster eerily similar to the 2013 season. Both teams ran off 50 game stretches better than anyone. Both teams started the season slow, only to turn it on as the Spring progressed into Summer. However, the 2013 roller coaster never quite dipped as low as the 2017 version. Even now amid clinching their division for a record 5th straight year, there are genuine concerns about whether this Dodgers team will be able to humpty dumpty the pieces back together before October 6th rolls around.
And yet, the division isn’t enough. The fans are sick of saying “wait until next year.” Between Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the Dodgers at 30 have the 2nd most postseason appearances behind the New York Yankees 52. As you may have heard, the Yankees converted 27 of those 52 appearances into championships, making it to the World Series an impressive 40 times. The Dodgers have won the pennant 18 times in their 30 chances, but have only raised the winner’s trophy 6 times. The World Series has been relatively elusive to the Dodgers, mostly thanks to those same New York Yankees.
The fans want a Trophy. They want to parade from Grand Park to Elysian Park, singing Randy Newman and chanting “Let’s Go Dodgers!” And at times, it can feel as though anything short of that party is a complete and utter failure. Older fans yearn for the 50s, 60s and the 80s, when the Dodgers put together an impressive run of 2 World Series in each decade. Younger fans want their own Kirk Gibson highlights. Mostly, we’re all sick of ending the year with the same “see you next year” moments that our fans have done since the 1880s. We want to see you this year. We want to parade this year.
But if the Dodgers don’t make the World Series, the process and the season can’t be considered all for naught. This season has taught us things we never expected baseball to do, and it still has so much more to teach. We’ve learned to never take life’s highs for granted, because the tables can turn at any moment. It’s taught us that the challenges of righting a ship can be incredibly difficult and things can fail to go your way at seemingly every turn, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s introduced us to some new faces that we will grow to love over the next half decade. It’s reinforced our adoration of faces we’ve loved for the last half decade. We’ve gained new friends in the broadcast booth, and new friends on the field. It has given us stories to tell those who come after us of times when the team simply couldn’t lose.
We’re still not out of the woods. This season can still teach us that perseverance and adversity can lead to ultimate success. It can also teach us that sometimes, being the best on paper isn’t good enough. And that sometimes, baseball is just downright dirty and awful and unfair and yet, we’ll still love it again tomorrow.
A failure to step onto the ultimate stage will hurt. It will sting like salt water on a freshly shaved skin. But it won’t mean that all the effort and success we’ve had means nothing. We have to stay the course. We have to persevere.
A World Series is the ultimate prize, but we’ll remember this season for the rest of our lives. Memories have value, and the stories we’ll get to tell may only be slightly diminished if the ultimate goal is attained. It starts with a division title. We’ve got 11 more wins from here on out that actually matter. Eleven. That’s it. Celebrate your previous 98. Learn from your previous 56. Prepare with your remaining 8.
But strive for those 11.
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