So I won’t be attending the Dodgers workout at 5 p.m. today, the main reason being that it’s hard to get there from Phoenix, and the other reason being that is the start time for Game 5 of the other National League Division Series, and quite honestly, I would much rather watch that than watch the Dodgers take batting practice for the 5,000th time this season. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way, that you’re going to be glued to the television for much of the twilight hour tonight to learn the identity of the Dodgers’ next opponent.
A few of you will even take a rooting interest in one team or the other. And I’m guessing there are a handful of you who are confused right now, wondering WHETHER you should take a rooting interest and, if so, which team you should root for.
So I’m here to offer you some advice. Or just some pros and cons, really.
At first glance, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be a better team than the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is borne out by the fact that the Cardinals won the National League Central by a three-game margin over the Pirates. A 162-game season generally tells you who the better team is. A best-of-five series, well, not always. But anyway, we can deduce at this point that the Cardinals are the better team.
And so, in that regard, should Dodgers fans root for the Pirates tonight, the presumption being that because they appear to be the lesser of the two teams, they would present less of a roadblock on the Dodgers’ path to the World Series? And keep in mind also that the Cardinals are a veteran-laden team that has been through these wars about a million times. They’re in the playoffs pretty much every year, or at least that’s what it seems like. The Pirates? Until now, they hadn’t even finished with a winning record since 1992. They are a young team, one that you would assume might get tighter and tighter as the playoffs get deeper and deeper.
Also, the Dodgers would have homefield advantage against the Pirates, which they wouldn’t have against the Cardinals. That fact alone could be enough reason to root for the Pirates.
On the other hand …
If we can assume the Cardinals are the better team, maybe you SHOULD root for them. You remember when the Dodgers last won the World Series in 1988? Do you remember how much of the baseball world kind of scoffed at the whole thing, called it a fluke, pointed out that the Dodgers weren’t even CLOSE to being the best team in baseball that year? Well, many of those people made a convincing case for all that, but there is one thing you have to admit about the ’88 Dodgers — the two teams they beat on the way to that world championship, the New York Mets and Oakland A’s, were LOADED. Monster teams. The Dodgers might not have been the best team, but they didn’t come by that title cheaply. They beat two really, really good teams, and beat one of them, the A’s, soundly.
The Cardinals are a really, really good team, one that might even be favored in a head-to-head NLCS matchup with the Dodgers. If the Dodgers were to win a best-of-seven with the Cardinals, then go on to beat either Boston or Oakland or Detroit in another best-of-seven, they would have vanquished the best of the best in succession.
And also, when you think about National League history, is there any more compelling matchup than Dodgers-Cardinals? Seventeen world championships and 36 pennants between them? And don’t get me wrong, I love a good underdog story as much as anybody, but frankly, when you get to this point in the playoffs, I’d rather see a clash of the titans, and Dodgers-Cardinals would be that in every way.
Now keep in mind, there is no rule that says you have to root for EITHER team. You could just sit back and enjoy the game while waiting to see whom the Dodgers will play. That’s probably the best, least-stressful approach. And given this run the Dodgers have been on, aren’t you ready to watch a game stress-free?
And then, finally, there is this: no matter which rooting interest you choose tonight — Cardinals, Pirates, utter indifference — it will have NO bearing on the outcome, on who plays the Dodgers in the NLCS or on the Dodgers’ odds of actually winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series.
So don’t worry, be happy. And enjoy Game 5. I’ll be doing something here, but I haven’t decided what yet. Might be a straight game thread, might be just serial blog-posting, we’ll see.
Now, to take care of some other business.
I know there has been some controversy over remarks made by Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers yesterday to a Phoenix radio station questioning why his pitchers didn’t throw at Dodgers hitters in a Sept. 9 game at Dodger Stadium. Honestly, I have listened to this entire interview AND read the news report that was written off that interview — you can do both here — and the only people Towers really is calling out here is his own pitching staff for not protecting teammates. He used that game as an example — referring to the Dodgers “stuffing bananas down their throats,” which, if you recall, was a couple of teammates feeding Juan Uribe a banana in the dugout after one of the three home runs he hit that night — but Towers wasn’t trying to start some war of words with the Dodgers or warn of an impending 2014 beanbrawl war with the Dodgers. It’s completely understandable that the Dodgers and their fan base would interpret these as fightin’ words, but as an impartial observer, I just don’t see that. Maybe I’m missing something.
This showed up in my in-box yesterday from MLB Productions. It’s a video clip of Vin Scully calling Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the Don Larsen perfect game. Have seen this before on MLB Network, but it’s definitely worth another look.
By the way, Matt Kemp went ahead yesterday with the shoulder surgery we knew he was going to need sometime this winter. It was basically just a clean-up, and given that he is unavailable for the rest of the playoffs while his ankle heals, it was a good time to get it done. It carries a six- to eight-week recovery time, so he should be good for spring training. Whether he’ll continue to travel with the team during these playoffs, I honestly don’t know, but I’ll find out in the next couple of days.
And finally, the Dodgers, in response to parking issues they ran into at the NLDS in which several cars had to be turned away due to the lot being filled to capacity, are offering free general parking for the rest of the postseason for carpools of four persons or more.