Nerve-wracking? Yes. Disappointing? A little. A letdown? Not at all.
The dust has settled on a wild (card) 2006 and, unlike the 2005 season, Dodger fans, players, and personnel have more to celebrate than mourn.
Sure, a World Series title would have been the icing on the cake of an already unbelievable season, but that’s the great thing about being a Dodgers fan. Dodgers baseball is about so much more than winning games, and that’s part of the team’s appeal. During their days as the bums of Brooklyn, the boys in blue represented the working-class. They were the first major league team to break the color barrier at a time when America was still a very segregated place. They were the only team in MLB history to be named for a neighborhood rather than a city or state. It was all about community. The Dodgers were family; a metaphor for life in America. In the 1950’s, the Brooklyn Dodgers were America.
And the great thing about it all?
Nothing has changed.
Yeah, O’Malley moved the Boys of Summer to Los Angeles, the Brooklyn fans were devastated, and those who are old enough to remember the move are still bitter to this day. But while many consider their departure a letdown, it has only contributed to the team’s legacy. The team that represented America’s blue-collar working-class packed up and moved to the City of Angels. Hollywood. The place where dreams become reality and movie-script endings are common-place.
From an injured Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to the 2006 Dodgers’ record-tying 4 home runs in a row (followed by Nomar’s 2-run walk-off shot to win a game that put the Dodgers back in first place), the Dodgers have, and always will be, a team that believes in the impossible. This may be Hollywood, but no one can script what the Dodgers are capable of doing. We don’t need a World Series championship to be proud of everything the guys have accomplished this year. There’s a reason why the Dodgers are called the Boys of Summer, and 2006 was as good a year as any to prove that.
The Rookies Step up
LA has an impressive veteran lineup with J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton, Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and the 2006 acquisitions of Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, and Raphael Furcal. But no one expected the Dodgers’ rookies to perform on the same level as their more experienced teammates. Russell Martin, James Loney, and Andre Ethier all proved they belong in the big leagues. Ethier was a Rookie of the Year candidate, Loney tied Gil Hodges’ franchise record 9 RBIs in a single game, and Martin threw out 32% of opposing base stealers and also contributed to the 4-shot classic against the Padres on September 18. With injury-prone Garciaparra’s 2007 status in question, Loney could take over his position at first. All 3 have earned their spot on next year’s roster.