Over the last few days, I’ve been polishing off two pieces for the upcoming 2014 Hardball Times Baseball Annual. One is a season in review of the NL West, which focuses heavily on the birth of a rivalry between the Dodgers & Diamondbacks. The other is more Dodger-specific, and looks at how the organization has gone from the lowest lows of McCourt to one step away from the World Series in barely more than two years.
What I’ve realized by writing these pieces is that no matter how badly this season ended last night, and no matter how awful it was to see Clayton Kershaw get lit up the way he did, this was a truly great season, arguably the most enjoyable one I’ve ever seen. I really don’t think it can be overstated how atrocious the first two months were, when we were subjected to Luis Cruz and Dee Gordon and Brandon League daily, nor just how incredible the second half was, when Yasiel Puig amazed and Hanley Ramirez ripped and Zack Greinke dominated and games weren’t just won, they were won in ludicrous ways.
We can be disappointed at how it ended — and I am, though I suppose it’s easier to stomach a blowout than a nail-biter, or worse, something that ended on an error or a poor managerial decision — but the fact that this team not only made it to the playoffs but made noise there, after being on pace to set historical lows, after Matt Kemp‘s lost year, after “having too many starters” and then needing to use Matt Magill and Stephen Fife before April was even done, after the injuries to Greinke and Ramirez (thumb) & Ramirez (hamstring) & Ramirez (shoulder) & Ramirez (back) & Ramirez (ribs) and Andre Ethier and everyone else, to the point that the entire 40-man roster had seen big league time, well, that was a whole lot more enjoyable than watching the most expensive team in club history slowly crawl in at 74-88, or whatever it might have been.
The end wasn’t fun. But it came in the second half of October, not the second half of June, and that’s meaningful. When I think about how much has changed, well… let me put it this way. On Opening Day of this season, I called 2013 “the most anticipated season of Dodger baseball in years.” When I think ahead to what 2014 might be, with a full year of Puig and (fingers crossed) better health from everyone else, I’m not entirely sure I was right about that.
As always, the end of the season doesn’t mean the end of the road here. Tomorrow, we’ll kick off the offseason with a look at the the status of the 40-man rosters, and get into the fun of building next year’s club and season reviews next week. Thanks, as usual, for being here to make it fun.