For 25 years, the Dodgers have been without hope.
They’ve been decent, but never the favorites.
Acceptable, but never believed to have a real chance to win anything.
And with low expectations like those, the Dodgers have lived up.
Since 1988, the Dodgers had won a grand total of nine playoff games — proving once and for all that these Dodgers were just a shadow of The Dodgers.
But when new ownership took over last season, there was optimism around Chavez Ravine — a guarded optimism, sure, after everything we had been through, but optimism none the less.
These guys said they wanted to win and they said they had the money to do it.
Then again, we’d heard that before.
In due time, however, they put their money where their mouth was — making the outrageous trade with the Red Sox to bring in a bevy of high priced talent in hopes of winning right away.
Then they signed Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig.
These guys weren’t messing around.
For once, the Dodgers were starting to look like a team that could live up to the name on the front of their jerseys.
And then, with injuries mounting, 2013 began in dreadful fashion — 9.5 games out of first place halfway through the season — a spot Dodger fans had become all too accustomed to.
Thankfully, that dread didn’t last long.
With a roster as talented as any in baseball, the Dodgers turned it around in the second half by going on a historic 42-8 stretch that catapulted them from last place into first, making them the new favorite to win the World Series.
It all made sense — this team had the lineup, they had the starting pitching and they even had a bullpen and bench that seemed to be up to the task.
Once in the playoffs, the Dodgers kept hope alive by jumping out to a 2-1 series lead before Juan Uribe clinched Game 4 with arguably the most memorable home run in 25 years of Dodger baseball.
This team had faced adversity, they had a sense of magic about them and hope was officially running at an all-time high.
Unfortunately, as we all know, that hope was dashed by a tough series with the Cardinals.
Despite out-hitting St. Louis 40-29 in games 1-5, the Dodgers found themselves in a 3-2 hole heading into Friday night’s game. The good news, however, was that the Dodgers were sending baseball’s best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw to the mound in hopes of extending the season.
And then, in a cruel twist of fate, the Dodgers had “one of those nights”.
Seeing-eye singles, errors, shaky strike zones and an inability to buy a hit plagued the Dodgers as the Cardinals routed them 9-0 to end their season. While other games left the Dodgers with plenty to complain or second-guess about, Game 6 was no such case.
The Dodgers had simply been beat — with their best pitcher on the mound no less.
With all of that in the past, however, it’s time to talk about the future.
And while the depression of last night is far from warn-off, the good news is that there’s hope in the future.
These aren’t the Dodgers that begin each season with a heavy dose of pessimism, knowing it will take more than a little luck to propel them to success.
These are the Dodgers who are built to win now, but also built to win for good.
Kershaw will be back, along with Greinke and Ryu. Not a bad 1-2-3 on the mound.
At the plate, a healthy Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp will bat alongside Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and either Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford.
You won’t find a deeper lineup than that many places in baseball.
In the bullpen, the Dodgers are solidified by Kenley Jansen, who will be back, along with guys like Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow.
Will there be holes to fill? Sure.
The Dodgers need a second baseman, a third baseman, some bullpen help and maybe even another arm for the rotation, but these aren’t the Dodgers who need to worry about filling those holes.
These are the Dodgers who go and get what they want.
So yes, it’s a sour taste that’s been left in our mouths right now, but the good news is that this team is destined for many more seasons like this one — hopefully with a better ending.
These aren’t the Dodgers who are lucky to make the playoffs and happy to be there any more.
The excitement has come back to Chavez Ravine, but even better than that, there’s hope.
Hope that the Dodgers will play in many more games like last night.
Hope that they’ll win them.
And hope that someday soon we’ll get to stop talking about 1988 like it was yesterday.
Thanks for a great season Dodgers, I can’t wait for next year.
In case you missed it, here’s the Adrian Gonzalez “Mickey Mouse” antics from Game 5 of the NLCS