Blame is a far more common idea in baseball than people may think. We, as fans, always look for someone, or something to blame, because we have no actual control over the game. We just sit on our couches, or in our seats at the stadium, and yell as the home plate umpire makes a bad call. That is not out of character for fans of baseball, or sports in general. A certain level of complaining is in our nature. Tuesday night, even, I was thinking, or rather critiquing, about how the Dodgers could have won had they taken advantage of the bases loaded situations when they had them.
It’s true, they probably would have, but I am no baseball player. I played a single season of little league when I was 10, and that’s it. I made contact with the ball one time the entire season. It was a line drive to first base, where I was promptly tagged out.
The Dodgers played some great baseball in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader in the Windy City, and adequate baseball in the second game. Those games, however, are not the ones I feel like talking about today.
Come with me, as we turn back the clock to November 1st, 2017. Ah yes, the day that Dodger fans’ heads fell into their hands and wished the baseball gods wore L.A. hats. Okay, maybe that second part is just me, but the loss was tragic nonetheless. Of course, I applaud Houston, they played great baseball, but no matter who is on the receiving end of a World Series win, the losers, and their fans, still hurt. It could have been the Yankees, the Indians, or the Red Sox who took down the mighty Dodgers.
A loss is still a loss, no matter who hands it too you.
The Dodgers, however, scored but a single run in Game 7, opening the door for an offensive heavy Astros lineup to take their swings. They did, and boy did they swing for the fences, depositing the baseball on the other side of them ( I’m looking at you, George Springer.)
The Dodgers lost, not only because they failed to get through the elite exterior of Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr‘s pitching, but because, if we’re being honest, the guy they sent to the mound in the first inning was not the right guy for the job. When Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi traded for Yu Darvish last July, I was ecstatic. When Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted that Darvish had been traded, I lost it. I emerged from my cocoon of trade deadline tweeting and writing and danced for a solid ten minutes. Darvish was the guy we thought would save us, yet in the end, he failed to do the job the Dodgers acquired him to accomplish.
Baseball can, at times, hand out its fair share of irony. The irony, in this case, is that the very player the Dodgers traded for to help them win the World Series, is one of the biggest reasons they lost it. One can argue that if Darvish tossed a few scoreless innings, or gave up even just one run, the Dodgers would have won the game. They would have come back and beat a team that, frankly, was the most dominant team the American League has seen since the late 90’s Yankees dynasty.
The 2017 Dodgers would have gone down as heroes, legends, and winners, but Game 7 was their kryptonite. In the end, Game 7 was more of a case of unfortunate timing. Teams lose games like that all the time, but in this case, it happened in the one game the Dodgers could not lose.
So, who gets the blame? Do we blame Darvish, for possibly tipping his pitches, and failing to pitch like the player the Dodgers needed him to be? Do we blame the offense for not catching up, and erasing the “left-over-the-plate” mistakes that Houston capitalized on? Or do we blame Roberts for not starting Clayton Kershaw in the first place?
The last one is the easiest to explain. Sure, Roberts could have started Kershaw. I’m sure Kersh was up to the challenge and would have welcomed the opportunity, but he started Game 5 (oh yes, that wild Game 5 that lasted ages) just three days before in Houston.
Looking back, Darvish was not the right guy to start Game 7 but, at the time, he was their best bet and, at the time, he was a safe bet. We have to remember that this was the exact situation the Dodgers hoped to send Darvish into, and let him dominate when they sent Willie Calhoun to the Rangers for him. Say Kershaw was absolutely 100% never-gonna-happen-totally-not available for the finale of the Series. Say that was the reality, Darvish was the guy Los Angeles would want in his place. If you tell a team they can’t have Clayton Kershaw on the mound, but they can start Darvish, most teams would take that bet. I know I did, and I’m willing to bet a few of you did, too.
At the end of the day, we can blame whomever we want. We can blame Darvish, or the offense, or Dave Roberts’ mistakes made in one game out of the 176 that he managed last season. We can critique and analyze and comment as much as we want until the upset of last November fades away, and it will, at some point.
Every season, one team, one team who is great but not great quite enough, loses the World Series. Last year it was the Dodgers.
Maybe this year will be different.