Despite the fun of a tied-for-season-high six-game winning streak, it’s probably too little too late for the Dodgers as far as getting into the playoffs. Sure, they could take the next two against the Giants and the Cardinals could drop the final two against the Reds and the Dodgers could beat St. Louis in a one-game playoff to get that second wild card spot and a trip to Atlanta, but there’s absolutely no room for error there and a whole lot of things have to go absolutely perfectly to even get the shot to face the Braves in a one-and-done. I appreciate that we’re even still talking about such things on October 2, it’s just hard to ignore the reality of the situation that the Dodgers have put themselves in by sleepwalking through most of the last three months of play.
Still, there’s value in these final games no matter what the Cardinals do, because heading into the offseason on a high is something that really can’t be quantified. Remember how Matt Kemp finished off his disastrous 2010 campaign? He homered in each of the season’s final five games, allowing us to spend the winter dreaming that the down season was merely a blip and that he’d rebound in 2011. (He did, obviously.)
For a team that has really disappointed, especially on the offensive side of the ball, since the big collection of trades Ned Colletti made in July & August, seeing it all come together now – even if it’s probably not enough to get into the playoffs – is not only welcome, but downright necessary. Imagine if the team that dropped seven of eight early in the month, with Adrian Gonzalez unimpressive, Kemp struggling to play through injury, Shane Victorino being awful, & Hanley Ramirez slumping had continued playing like that all the way to the end? The entire off-season would have been a just a mess of “the Boston trade was a failure herp derp!” and “too many HIGHLY-PAID GLOREE BOYS! Durrrr!” Now, hopefully, we can avoid that and start looking towards next year with optimism.
There’s no guarantee that any of this offensive success sustains in 2013, of course. Ramirez might revert to his disappointing late-Miami form. Luis Cruz may be a total mirage. A.J. Ellis might turn back into a pumpkin. But even if and when they fall just short of the playoffs, this late run is really going to allow us hope to believe that a 2013 offense anchored by Kemp, Gonzalez, Ramirez, & Andre Ethier, and supported by those quality supporting players really could be the high-powered force we all hoped it could be. Missing the playoffs in what was always going to be a transitional season – and let’s not forget, possibly winning 86 or 87 games after winning 82 last year and 80 the year before is hardly a disappointment, especially considering all the injuries and off-field hoopla – shouldn’t change that.
I hope the Cardinals fall apart over the next 48 hours and that the Dodgers can take advantage; we all do. But even if not, I think we can all head into the winter knowing that this team is in a far better position to contend than they were a year or even six months ago, and for that, be thankful.