***Author’s note: I’d like to send my deepest, most heartfelt condolences to José Fernández’s family, friends, loved ones and all the Marlins family. We at Dodgers Nation mourn your loss, as well as the loss to baseball. Rest in peace, José, gone much too soon. 1992 ~ 2016
As September comes to a close with a hint of fall in the air, we must acknowledge a simple fact – September baseball is the best baseball. This is especially true for teams in the hunt for the postseason – every game matters. The phrase ‘magic number’ slips into everyday baseball dialogue. While the excitement level of each game is amplified to playoff proportions.
Winter and Spring
During the first half of the baseball season everything is shiny and new. Each team comes to Spring Training with high hopes and big dreams of being the last team standing.
In one of the biggest free agent moves of the 2015 Winter Meetings, Zack Greinke signed a six year, $206.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Which effectively swiped him away from the Dodgers. This surely means the Diamondbacks would finally be contenders in the NL West…or does it?
The Giants were going into an even year, which according to history and a bit of baseball lore, ensures a World Series win…or does it?
As for the Dodgers, well they were pretty much written off after losing Greinke and making no blockbuster off-season moves. It was looking bleak for a fourth NL West title…or was it?
Dog Days of Summer
Flash forward to the All-Star break where things were mostly going as predicted. The Giants were the hottest team in baseball and sitting atop the NL West. However the Diamondbacks weren’t living up to the hype, despite Zack Greinke and his cash-filled pockets, they sat near the bottom of the pack. Unfortunately for the Dbacks, Zack Greinke wasn’t pitching like our Zack Greinke. Too bad, so sad. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were in second place, albeit eight games back. Their offense was struggling, except for Corey Seager, who was already securing his Rookie of the Year credentials. Clayton Kershaw was being Clayton Kershaw. But, as a whole, the team wasn’t performing well. Nonetheless they were in second place, so all was not lost.
Following the All-Star break the Giants unexplainably, beautifully, imploded. KABOOM. But, the Dodgers had their own catastrophe to deal with – Clayton Kershaw developed a herniated disc. Pack your bags guys, this season is officially O-V-E-R…or was it?
Turns out with the loss of Kershaw this team didn’t lay down and die like everyone thought they would. Nope, instead, they developed a grit and determination that was thrilling to watch. Every player upped his game and contributed. They became one of the most cohesive Dodger teams I’ve seen in years. Conversely, the much maligned bullpen became one of the best in baseball. While starting pitchers came from every corner of our farm system to help the club out.
“Who the heck is that pitching?”
“I dunno Brock somethin’ or other.”
The Dodgers became the gritty, never-say-die team we all dream of. Meanwhile, the Giants forgot it was an even year and their bullpen… Ahhh their glorious, collapsing bullpen – sunk them, which in turn, helped propel the Dodgers into first place.
Finally, here we sit in September and my original statement, “September baseball is the best baseball” has never rang more true.
Last Monday we saw the epic rival showdown between the Dodgers and the Giants. Kershaw vs. Bumgarner. Ace vs. Ace. It started off as expected with a pitcher’s duel between these two titans.
However, and every woman can relate, Bumgarner’s raging emotions got the best of him – we feel you big guy, PMS sucks! Apparently feeling chunky in his uniform, Bumgarner didn’t like Puig looking at him.
“Don’t look at me!” shrieked MadBum after throwing Puig out at first.
I’ll let the incomparable, Vin Scully, untangle the skirmish that ensued between the overly sensitive Bumgarner and the minding his own business Puig:
Following the tussle, Bruce Bochy sent MadBum to the showers after only 97 pitches, he knew his guy needed a blanket and some hot chamomile tea.
In came the Giants bullpen aka every opponent’s best friend and the Dodgers hungrily attacked. Ending with a walk-off by our bread n’ butter guy, Adrian Gonzalez, who smacked a double over the flailing Hunter Pence’s head.
Good guys win! Bad guys lose! And Bumgarner – he’s probably still sitting in a corner, wrapped in a blanket muttering, “Don’t look at me.”
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) September 20, 2016
#DontLookAtMe took off, as the team and fans alike, had a bit of fun with the churlish Bumgarner.
Unfortunately, the Giants took game two as the Dodgers bats quieted. However, Johnny Cueto and Brandon Crawford suffered injuries which may pose problems down the homestretch for the struggling Giants.
Game three – The Rubber Match. Yasiel Puig led the way in this rubber match romping. In particular, Puig’s canon arm, spectacular catch and a three run homer highlighted his big night. But, every member of the team contributed to this much needed series win.
“I love winning! Ya hear what I’m saying, man? It’s, like, better than losing!” ~ Bull Durham
All Eyes on Fall Ball
Yep, September baseball is the very best baseball. In grand Hollywood style the Dodgers clinched the division crown for the fourth consecutive year. Corey Seager smashed a homer with two outs in the ninth to take the game to extra innings. Then Charlie Culberson hit a walk-off home run to clinch the win. All of this on Vin Scully’s last homestand game. And then the crowd quieted as Vin Scully’s sweet voice floated throughout the stadium singing, “The Wind Beneath My Wings” to the fans. What an emotional day. First, the news of José Fernández’s tragic death early Sunday morning and then the day ends with a celebratory win for our Boys in Blue.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to October baseball, where in year’s past the Dodgers have struggled. But, this year feels different. There’s a twinkle of magic in the air around this ‘improbable’ team. No denying there’s hardwork ahead, but this team looks playoffs ready and I believe they’re ready to shine on the grandest stage of all – the World Series. But, let me slow down… we’ve still got tears in our near future as October 2nd marches towards us and Vin’s final broadcast is mere days away. October baseball looks to be quite a ride though.
We’re coming for you Washington Nationals.