At some point, we're all going to forget the championships, the titles, the parades, the feeling of smug superiority, the sense of vindication, the warmth spreading outward from your soul like it was tinkling in its snow pants on a sub-zero day. The 49ers won a Super Bowl when I was a grown man. It really doesn't mean a thing to me when they're playing games now. We'll get there if the Giants don't win for a while.
Even in the short term, though, there's a chance of thinking "What now?" after a seven-month trudge to the confetti-lined streets. Will it be the same? What are the Giants playing for? Will we care as much? What is the meaning of baseball?
And then came the post-McCourt Dodgers. Check out this article on the Dodgers from Tim Brown:
"The expectation is you have to win. That's just the way it is. You could fight it. You could try to defuse it. But I don't think there's any defusing this bomb, no matter what we do. We just might as well look at that and take it head on right away. We're supposed to win. There it is. If we lose, we're failures."
The whole article is hella grody, and I recommend it heartily, even if just for a sense of perspective for what's going on in Los Angeles. This all makes me think of 1999.
There's no way to let the younguns know what it was like when the Dodgers signed Kevin Brown to a seven year, $105 million deal before the 1999 season. There's no way to get the sense of dread. Picture Clayton Kershaw on the Phillies, then picture him completely dominating the Giants in the regular and postseason. Then picture him signing with the Dodgers. For … let's see … in 2012 dollars … 14 years and $250 million. The biggest free agent the Giants signed that offseason was -- and this isn't made up -- F.P. Santangelo.
That's what the Giants were dealing with, and they were a bunch of title-less goofs that managed to futz up every postseason appearance even when they were lucky enough to get there. It was rosterbation doom and gloom. They had money, and the Giants never would. They could afford the best players, and the Giants would continue to trade anyone who started to make money next to Barry Bonds.
It was beautiful, then, when the Dodgers were smote. They were smote by an angry god, and they finished seven games under .500 in 1999. The pitching, apart from Brown, was kind of miserable. Remember Carlos Perez?
He was awful and angry and the best. He's still doing that exact same thing right now. The Dodgers wouldn't finish ahead of the Giants until 2004, when the lockout in September canceled the remainder of the season. And it was always extra-beautiful to finish ahead of the big spending Dodgers.
That was before the Giants won a pair of championships, which for years will cushion the blow of a season that doesn't end in a title. And it was also before the Dodgers went really, really insane with the spending. We were worried about them spending too much with Kevin Brown? Man, that wasn't anything compared to the idea of them having Carl Crawford on the roster as a rounding error. These Dodgers are going nuts.
And if they don't win the World Series, it will be a total failure.
I love that. There aren't going to be bonus points for them winning the division, for beating the Giants. There's going to be a mindset of "You'd better make your way this small-sample tournament of 10 equally matched teams, or else!", and it will be completely unreasonable. The odds are the Dodgers fail a lot more than they succeed, regardless of what kind of team they build.
As long as they don't actually win the stupid thing, I'm a fan of this new Dodgers strategy. It gives the Giants an even bigger villain to root against. It makes the Dodgers hated by everyone, too. THE BIGGER THEY COME, Y'ALL.
Sorry, that didn't mean anything, but the SB Nation editor let me know that I was on word #664, so I had to make the next two count in a post about the Dodgers because that's my whole thing, man.
Long post short: I'd rather have the Dodgers be a rich powerhouse burdened with nearly impossible expectations than be a miserably bankrupt afterthought. The corollary to that is if there had to be one team in the N.L. West that won the Powerball drawing, I'm glad it wasn't, like, the Padres. It would be hard to care as much about that.
The Dodgers aren't building a guaranteed winner. They're just growing their handlebar mustache longer and twisting it tighter. After a season in which the Giants had it all, that's almost the best thing possible to make every game feel just as important as it ever has.