It’s hard to argue that last season’s epic brawl between the (then) last place Dodgers and the (then) first place Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on June 11, 2013 didn’t have an impact on the remainder of the Dodgers 2013 season. After all, it was only 10 days later that the Dodgers went on their historic 42-8 run and eventually won the NL West title by a comfortable 11-game margin. Even today many baseball experts, broadcasters, journalists, bloggers and radio talk show hosts cite that crazy brawl as the spark that turned the Dodgers dismal season around.
But was it really the brawl which saw five players, both managers and one coach suspended and four additional players fined that was the turning point of the season for the Dodgers, or could it have been the arrival of Yasiel Puig on June 3, 2013 and the return of a healthy Hanley Ramirez on June 4, 2013 that was the real reason that the Dodgers turned their season around?
When a baseball team loses, you often hear players, coaches and the manager say something like “Tomorrow’s a new day” or “Just turn the page and move on.” Yet when a team goes on a lengthy losing streak, you rarely (if ever) hear anyone cite a specific incident or event that sparked the losing streak (the exception, of course, being an injury to a key player).
The point here is, is there really such a thing as a spark, or could it be that a team simply gets their stuff together and begins to play well as a team rather than playing as a bunch of individuals?
When a team is struggling, their fans often look for something… anything that might indicate that their beloved team is about to turn things around. Without question this is a good thing because it is the epitome of fan loyalty and support, and gives them hope that better days are ahead - I mean, just look at Cubs fans, for Heaven’s sake. But the cold, hard and often painful truth is that if or when a team suddenly turns things around, it has absolutely nothing to do with a spark or fan loyalty, support or hope. It has everything to do with a team suddenly hitting, pitching and fielding better – period.
The ultimate case in point are the 2014 Dodgers through their first 62 games. Although the Dodgers are an incredible 19-11 (.667) on the road, they are a pathetic 13-19 (.406) in front of their loving fans at Dodger Stadium. To borrow a line from the romantic baseball comedy ‘Fever Pitch’ – “You love the [Dodgers], but do the [Dodgers] love you back?” Oh sure, there isn’t a Dodger player who doesn’t prefer to play in front of the home crowd – if for no other reason that to avoid the booing, heckling and obnoxious chants, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter where they play – they still have to hit, pitch and field well to win. In fact, according to what Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters after last Wednesday’s painful 2-1 loss to the White Sox, the Dodgers are definitely headed in the wrong direction.
“Home, away, whatever, I don’t know that that’s got anything to do with it,” Mattingly said. “It’s just being basically shitty. We’re just not that good.”
While there may be some who are offended or resent what the Dodgers skipper said, what part of it isn’t true?
In the words of the great Earl Weaver – “Momentum is only as good as the next day’s starter.”
Please understand that in no way am I suggesting that Dodger fans should discontinue or even back off of their loyalty, support and hope for their beloved Dodgers, but if you are among those waiting for a spark to happen, you might be disappointed.
That being said, it’s always good to keep the famous words of the late Al Davis in mind:
“Just win, baby.”