It may not be the 1990s Buffalo Bills, but it sure feels close, doesn’t it?
Just days after another playoff elimination for the Dodgers, the disappointment still lingers for Dodgers fans. For the fourth straight year, they watched their Dodgers follow up a successful, division-winning regular season, with post-season failure. As much adversity as they overcame this season (and there was certainly plenty) the ultimate goal of a World Series Championship has eluded the Boys in Blue yet again. Fans will have to sit back and “wait til next year” once more, just counting the days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (which is about 116 days away in case you were wondering.)
It’s certainly an agonizing feeling. And for Dodgers fans, it’s an all too familiar one. But how does this year’s playoff defeat compare with the past few? Is it harder to take being that this seems to be a reoccurring theme over the last few years? Or, perhaps it’s a little easier to accept knowing the Dodgers probably over-achieved a bit this year and lost to a very good Chicago Cubs team?
There is definitely an argument to make on both sides here, and neither would be wrong.
Surely, there were some positive takeaways from this season. The Dodgers claimed the N.L West division or the fourth straight year (an unprecedented team achievement) when not too many expected them to. It wasn’t like previous years, where the Dodgers were the favorites to claim the division crown. On the contrary, most wrote them off after suffering numerous injuries throughout the year, culminated when Clayton Kershaw went down mid-season with a bad back. Already eight games behind the first place Giants at the time, who could realistically expect them to make up so much ground without the best pitcher in the game? Not me. Not you. Probably not many. Yet they somehow did it.
Because of this somewhat surprising success, I think many thought that the Dodgers were playing with “house money” entering the playoffs. In other words, they weren’t supposed to make it that far, so anything else would just be a bonus, and not necessarily a disappointment.
There were probably a variety of expectations for this post season, but if we’re looking at the Dodgers’ NLCS matchup with the Cubs objectively, it’s hard to say that they weren’t the clear underdogs. The Cubs had been the best team in baseball over the course of the regular season, and were the hands down favorite to win it all before a pitch was even thrown this year. They ended the season with 103 wins, most in the majors, and every facet of their game was solid. Good starting pitching? Check. Capable bullpen with a dominant closer? Double-check. One of the top offenses in the league? You bet. The best defensive group in the game? Yep. One of the premier managers in baseball? Ok, enough already… we get it.
Point being, given those circumstances, it seems like losing to the best team in the league might not be that bad. Of course it would have been great to win the series and continue the storybook ride for the Dodgers, but all things considered, maybe it was a long shot from the start.
So yes, the Dodgers may have over-achieved a bit this year, and still only lost in six games to the best team on the planet. That can certainly be reason enough for some to say this year’s playoff defeat was a little less painful.
But there’s another side to that.
As mentioned already, this was the fourth straight season the Dodgers have been eliminated in the post season without reaching a World Series. That’s 1-2-3-4 years in a row. That kind of continuous letdown takes a toll, I don’t care who you lose to. And it’s not only the last four years, but also 6 of the last 9 seasons that the Dodgers have advanced to the post-season without a World Series birth (yeah, I’m not letting you off the hook 08’ & 09’ Dodgers.)
Die-hard fans have been teased with division championships and even first round victories over the last decade, only to see the Dodgers come up short in the playoffs time after time. Looking at it from this specific lens, you can certainly see how some might think this year’s loss is even more disappointing then previous years.
And yes, the Cubs were probably a better team. We’ve covered that. But who cares? The best team on paper isn’t guaranteed to win in the playoffs, and actually, it seems they rarely do nowadays with expansion and parity at an all-time high. I mean, were the Giant really the best team in any of the past few years they won it all? Probably not. Yet they found a way to get it done.
If you ask the Dodgers players, I’m sure they’d say the disappointment doesn’t change. Or maybe some of the guys who have been around a while might admit that it grows with each defeat. As anticipation and pressure rises each year, so does the disappointment of not reaching your goal.
I can understand both sides. Sure, it may not be fair to label this season a complete let-down given all the factors. But on the other hand, it certainly doesn’t make losing any less disappointing. Regardless, fans will have to deal with it one way or another, and all we can do is hope that the Dodgers will eventually break through.
And remember, pitchers and catchers report in 116 days.