We all saw the monkey, and nobody wanted to address it. It had morphed into an elephant with a HUGE 7 on its side.
Kershaw walks Rizzo. on FOUR pitches. that are NOWHERE near the zone.
“this can’t be happening.”
“this IS happening.”
Rizzo takes first.
Zobrist bats. Frustrating, unorthodox stance. mouth wide open while hitting. really makes for an awkward plate appearance, but the dude can hit. and he’s a righty.
Grandal, spooked by Gonzalez charge from 1B, drops a catcher popup (super-difficult/underrated catch, ps).
“this really is going to happen again, isn’t it?”
Zobrist hits a hard foul ball.
Zobrist inexplicably takes a fastball through the heart of the plate for strike three.
HUGE sigh of relief.
Addison Russell. Stud. Struggling, but a stud nonetheless.
1-1 count crack off the bat, flyball to left.
Kiké, positioned perfectly in left, makes the catch. two outs.
“He’s gonna do it. Clayton’s gonna get the monkey off his back once and for all.”
But baseball is funny. It really is.
Who steps up – well, it’s Javier Baez. The man that had a superstar-in-the-making reputation for two years without producing. Until this postseason, when he’s become a superstar within a fortnight. And he has one of the two hits on the night off of Kershaw. He’s an immediate Cubs superstar, already entrenched in Cubs lore, especially after his astute play in the field earlier, where he intentionally allowed a pop flare fall in front of him, instead of catching it – the result was a double-play. very heady.
So Baez, the most confident of all Cubs, is at the plate. The air hangs heavy with humidity and bladders are weighed down with beer. Wrigley Field is rollicking.
First pitch to Baez is a ball. The crowd, fervid with excitement, shakes the ancient ballpark.
Kershaw fires a 95-mph fastball letter-high and on the outside half of the plate. Baez takes a mighty rip and CRACKS a bomb deep to center. Every fan, at Wrigley and watching on FS1, takes to their feet. Kershaw huddles over, hands on his knees – this one is gone. The sound, the crowd reaction, Baez’ little hop-step after he hit it –
“We all knew this was going to happen. Damn 7th inning.”
And Joc Pederson, one foot on the warning track, settles under the heavy ball for the third out, excitedly points at Kershaw, who breathes the biggest damn sigh of relief and smiles his way into the dugout.
The monkey? The elephant? They’re gone. Kershaw is the only animal left in these playoffs.
So regarding whether Andre Ethier was mad at the umpire, missed a bunt sign, or was just f-bombing an invisible entity, the Dodgers petered out of the playoffs following the in-game, public outburst. Apparently he’s been simmering since
the beginning of his Dodger tenure Spring Training when he asked not to play Centerfield despite previous success in Center for the Dodgers. He’s very passive aggressive, and has notoriously bottled his feelings until a blowup at the manager or the front office, or simply in the press. He’s not quite a malcontent, but he’s on the border.
Bottom line is, that was the most demonstrative I’ve seen him in the realm of the field, and to have that kind of blowout in an elimination game speaks to both Ethier’s (somewhat understandable) general unhappiness with his role as a Dodger, despite a great career (top 15 in HR, hames, hits career as a Dodger) in L.A., as well as the general frustration within the clubhouse regarding Mattingly’s lack of consistency and clear strategy.
I believe that Friedman is going to clean house as much as possible, building the team around Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig. I think the entire coaching staff is gone, Wallach finds a big league job somewhere, but 2016 begins with an out-of-house manager that changes the culture (Jason Giambi is a dream, but doubtful). It’s not like it was a horrible season. . .it was a stopgap season and they finished in line with (my) expectations, unfortunately.
It’s worth noting that I personally believed Puig needed to be jettisoned to end up more like Adrian Beltre than Raul Mondesi, but seeing a Puig-less lineup, even with Puig deservedly not starting, was painful. We’ve seen Puig’s talent and he needs to be supported & coddled to perform the way he can. It’s obviously not certain, but in my opinion, Puig is one of the top talents in baseball, so with him along with Kershaw and Seager, you have one of the best cores possible to compete with the Cubs & Mets for the next decade.
I also discussed something last night with my brother from another: those wacky ’25 cabs for 25 guys’ Red Sox winners were somewhat despicable, but the Dodgers seem more like ’25 iPhones for 25 guys.’ The difference is there was an emotion – passion? hatred? loathing? – amongst the Sox that made them hatable, but these Dodgers inspire. . . ambivalence.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter, but he’s very dull. Joc Pedersen should be the awe-inspiring, young talent, but he’s shown only regression since June – and definitely doesn’t play with emotion. Jimmy Rollins & Chase Utley are awesome – but they’re old. So Seager, a promising young rookie, is easily to be excited about but these playoffs (I’m calling them his Kobe ’97 performance) dampen the expectations. Puig is a potential cornerstone, but would it shock anybody if he ended up like Mondesi? Or worse? Kenley Jansen is a great closer, but who gets excited about closers? Alex Guerrero? Jose Peraza? Who cares? Justin Turner turned into a gem, and could be the type of player that the Giants would LOVE, and the Dodgers just might look to improve upon, furthering the disparate chemistry issues. Really tough team to root for, and I’m a die-hard.
I will say this, though: watching Kershaw is amazing. As my dad said via text during his final (301 K) start of the regular season:
“remember that you’re watching a Hall of Fame pitcher every time you see Kershaw pitch”
Either way, Go Dodgers in 2016. Should be a completely new team.