Okay, you saw the headline and I know what you're thinking. The Los Angeles Dodgers are still two wins away from baseball's championship, and the Yankees are down 2-1 to Houston. Why would you bring this up now? You're not that overconfident are you? Actually, I'm just thinking out loud, or in this case, just wondering in writing.
Also, there's no way I'm going to root for the Yankees, but an LA-New York Fall Classic has an interesting storyline. Sure, Fox is seeing dollar signs and a ratings bonanza, but that's not what I mean. There are some interesting personal parallels here, and over the last few days, they've come bubbling up into my brain. None of this has anything to do with stats or anything like that, and honestly, it's not all that pleasant, but I'd still like to share them with you anyway. If you'll indulge me, here goes...
Saturday was the anniversary of my father's death. He died in October of 1981. Exactly two weeks later, the Dodgers won the World Series, and it was against the Yankees. I actually went to a World Series game with my mom. I think my uncle got the tickets, and thought it would be good therapy to get my mind off of things. It probably was, but with the exception of the day my dad died and the funeral five days later, I really don't remember a thing from that time period. I do remember going to games that year, though. It was the year of Fernandomania. Fernando Valenzuela went from an unknown to a superstar. It was also a strike year. The season was split in half because of a mid-summer walkout, and for the first time in major league history, there would be three rounds of playoffs. That became standard in 1994, or would have if there weren't another player's strike. The wild card and the League Division Series would have to wait until the following year.
Anyway, we had partial season tickets that year, and I got to several games with my dad, my uncle, and either my aunt or one of my cousins (usually Andy or Diane). We had those tickets for a few years, and at that time, there was a pretty good rivalry between the Dodgers and Yankees. There was no interleague play then, and they didn't play each other, except in the 1977 and 1978 World Series, which the Yankees won both times. I even got to go to a game with my dad at Yankee Stadium and boo Reggie Jackson. Dad said it wasn't nice to boo, but we were also in right field surrounded by Yankee fans, so it wasn't really all that safe, either.
You might now be beginning to see where I am going with this. My uncle passed away this year, and wouldn't it be ironic (or at least interesting) if the Dodgers became champions of baseball, in two different years of personal loss and tragedy? They're not the only Dodger titles in my memory (1988 against Oakland, and the Dodgers got to the series in '74 against the A's), so I don't think there's any deeper meaning, but there still would be some kind of connection, right?
For this storyline to really play out, though, the Dodgers would be playing the Washington Nationals right now instead of the Chicago Cubs. Why? Because in 1981, before the Dodgers met the Yankees, they defeated the Montreal Expos—a franchise that is now the Nationals. That franchise has not won a postseason series since 1981, when Rick Monday's home run on the day of my father's funeral (I didn't remember that—I learned that recently watching a documentary about the Expos) put LA in the series. The Dodgers playing a Dusty Baker-managed Nationals squad would have another connection too—Dusty played for the Dodgers during that era, including 1981.
But as long as the Dodgers win two more games against the Cubs and advance to the World Series, it doesn't matter if they play the Yankees or not. If it's not New York, it will be Houston, and who did the Dodgers beat in the Division Series in 1981 before the Expos and the Yankees? Yep, the Houston Astros.
Is it ridiculous to use a baseball team to make this kind of connection? I don't think so. With or without the Dodgers I'll remember my dad and my uncle, but the Dodgers doing well, and going to games with them brings those memories out, and that's not a bad thing. I lost my dad in 1981. I lost my uncle in 2017. World Series titles won't bring them back, but it brings a smile when you think about it. I miss them both.
By the numbers: In five postseason games, a Dodger starting pitcher has gone more than five innings only once, and that was Kershaw in game one against Arizona. In a blowout win, Kershaw went 6 1/3 innings, but gave up four solo home runs. Opponents (D-Backs and Cubs) are still only batting .220 against him, and that's the highest average against a Dodger starter. They are batting .188 against Rich Hill, and the Arizona only batted .118 against Yu Darvish, but manager Dave Roberts pulled him after four innings... Dodger batters have walked 29 times in 5 games (almost 6 per game). They've also scored 29 runs... Yasiel Puig (.438) is the team's leading hitter in the post-season. There must be some correlation between that and literally licking his bat between pitches. Echh.
Broadcast bits: TBS had the pairing of Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling for the Cubs-Nationals series, but split them up for the League Championship series, likely because of basketball. Brian Anderson, who did the Dodgers-Diamondbacks series with Joe Simpson and Dennis Eckersley, is now paired with Darling, while Johnson goes over to TNT to try to keep Charles Barkley on topic about the NBA. The NBA season tips off tomorrow night... Maybe he's too good for it, but Fox/FS1 kept lead play-by-play guy Joe Buck out of the Division Series, but activated him for the ALCS between the Yankees and Astros. Buck will also do the World Series with Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, with Matt Vasgersian done for the year... Speaking of Vasgersian, he seemed quite fond of using the word “outlier” during the Yankees-Indians series. Nothing wrong with it, describing a statistic that might seem to be unusual, but he used the word a lot. Maybe he just learned it... It was a Saturday, and apparently they felt like it, so the Fox network did Yankees-Astros game two. All other American League playoff games so far, except for two on MLB Network, were on FS1. They are back on FS1 tonight and tomorrow.
Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls: I had forgotten one of my favorite non-words, so I guess it's nice of Smoltz to bring it back to the forefront. I'm getting used to “resiliency” and “anxiousness”, and was even amused when TBS' Ron Darling liked the “deepness” of the Cubs bullpen. Smoltz, the number one color commentator in the sport, brought back “irregardless” in game two of the Yankees-Indians series on FS1. A classic.
Please don't say that anymore: Believe it or not, baseball is in its tenth season using some sort of instant replay, and football and basketball have had it much longer. Announcers, I know you have time to kill when it takes three minutes to determine if the ball was in the first baseman's glove before the runner touched the bag, but PLEASE don't remind us that replay officials need “clear and convincing evidence” or whatever, to overturn a call. It's like explaining that three strikes is an out every time a pitcher gets a strikeout. We know already.
Yay me!: Houston clobbered Cleveland this week, so, forgiving my Buffalo-Atlanta loss a few weeks ago, I still have one life left in my self-proclaimed double-elimination survival football tournament. Not being able to pick Carolina, New England, Green Bay, Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Houston, going against the 0-6 Browns again is tempting with Tennessee, but we're going to take advantage of the Aaron Rodgers injury with the Packers, and take New Orleans over Green Bay. Also, if for some reason you are still reading this, be happy for me. I won the weekly football pool at work. 18 bucks!