Any time people pay attention to you, you leave a legacy, no matter who you are, no matter what you do. For the Cubs, for more than a century, it was failure, and now it’s failure-sandwiching-a-brief-and-apparently-over-period-of-not-failure. The A’s and Rays are cheapskates who win, the Twins are the guys who always lose to the Yankees, and the Yankees are the goddamn Yankees, man.
The Dodgers lose in the postseason. Clayton Kershaw loses in the postseason. That’s the legacy they share.
It’s not a fair thing and it’s not a just thing, but it is a thing. It exists in the world, because it just keeps happening.
The 2019 Dodgers were an unstoppable juggernaut, a behemoth that destroyed everything in its path, a hurricane that tore through ... well, you get it. The Washington Nationals have historically been absolute failures in the postseason, showing up every couple years to tantalize their fans with close games they lose and close series they lose, but the net result has always been that they lose.
Yet somehow, the Washington Nationals, who just plum forgot to assemble a bullpen over the offseason, beat the 106-win Dodgers. They did it with back-to-back homers off Kershaw in the eighth inning to tie the game, and then with a tenth inning Howie Kendrick grand slam to win it.
What was the noise that exited your mouth when Kendrick hit that ball? For me, it was a shout of, “Oh!,” almost a bark, like they announced the lottery numbers and I belatedly realized they were mine. Sure, 4, 17, 28, 29, 51. Those seem familiar. All good numbers. And 11. That’s nice. That’s a nice...wait. WAIT. OH!
This shouldn’t have happened. But it did, and it happened to the Dodgers, and it’s not because it’s their identity, but boy, it sure seems like it is. It sure seems like the Dodgers just can’t make the right decisions in October, can’t come through when they need to.
On the other hand, this is just baseball. Sometimes things go wrong by a fraction of a percent, and then you lose. In the bottom of the ninth, Will Smith (the catcher) hit a fly ball to deep right center. He flipped his bat because he thought it was out, because every baseball in the majors hit like that this year has been a home run. This one wasn’t.
Stephen Strasburg pitched a decent game, the same 6 IP, 3 ER that Kershaw allowed in Game 2 en route to a loss, but people won’t remember him. Dave Martinez let him bat for himself with two on and none out in the fifth inning in a truly baffling display of managership that no one will talk about ever again, because Dave Roberts out-truly bafflinged him so hard later in the game. The Nationals made their share of mistakes too, is the point. They were not a clearly better team. Things just shook out this way instead of that way.
There’s a world where Walker Buehler becomes 2019’s Madison Bumgarner, willing the Dodgers to a World Series. There’s a world where after Rendon homers off Kershaw, he throws a better pitch to Soto, keeping it a 3-2 game and setting the stage for a pedestrian ninth inning from Kenley Jansen. There’s a world where Joe Kelly walks a guy in the ninth, convincing Dave Roberts to just go with Jansen to start the tenth, the first of his two clean innings before Cody Bellinger or Joc Pederson or a just re-signed Yasiel Puig or whoever hits a walk-off homer. It could have happened that way.
It didn’t happen that way. Walker Buehler’s two great outings this series are a footnote, and Kershaw failed to become this year’s Bumgarner, and Joe Kelly showed Roberts just enough to stay in for the tenth, and Jansen got to enjoy watching his team lose from the bullpen. Some bad luck, some bad process, and in the end, Dodger failure. It’s their legacy now, and unless they win a World Series sometime soon, it’ll remain their legacy.
McCovey Chronicles is someone’s legacy too, of course. In August, I was at a River Cats game, and I mentioned to someone that I write for MCC. His response was, “What, Brisbee couldn’t make it?” I didn’t feel like going into a whole thing about how Grant’s at another site, so I just said “Guess not,” and went on to do whatever I was doing. No one gave me a promo code, so whatever, get your own subscribers, I’m not your monkey.
Grant’s gone now, but we actually have one last finished Grant Brisbee article hiding in the bowels of the site here, presumably never to see the light of day. It’s called “The Dodgers won the World Series, and you’ll just have to deal with it.”
It was his prewrite before Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, in case the Dodgers won. Grant, being a Big Deal, was at the game as SB Nation’s national baseball writer, and so he dealt with having to run this site and also cover the game by doing two prewrites for MCC — one if the Dodgers won, one if the Dodgers lost — and then covering the game for the mothership.
It’s a nice article, full of genuine happiness for the Dodger fans he knows, and gentle reminders of how not to act for Giants fans who would absolutely need those gentle reminders, and not-so-gentle ones, and anvils with “DON’T BE A CLUELESS TWIT” spraypainted on them and dropped in their path. It would probably go mostly unheeded, as these things do, but it would be irresponsible not to try.
I’m glad we don’t have to do anything like it this year.
But that article is there, and it’s waiting. Maybe we’ll luck out and this won’t be the generation that ends LA’s World Series drought. Maybe there’s a fallow period coming, when it all collapses for reasons that are only obvious in retrospect. Maybe we’ll get to gloat and gloat and be insufferable jerks for a while longer.
The drought will end at some point. The Dodgers will climb the mountain and have a parade, and Rob Lowe will be there for some reason, and so will Clayton Kershaw, for a much more obvious one. He will be embraced by Dodger fans during a World Series parade, whether or not he played on that particular team. He’s as much their icon as Barry Bonds was ours for 15 years, and he’ll get the love and adulation that comes from a championship. It will be a beautiful moment for him, and one he deserves, because he has spent more than a decade being an otherworldly pitcher, the constant throughout all the years for the Dodgers, who you could always rely on to just ruin the other team’s day.
Kershaw doesn’t deserve to be remembered for his postseason failures, but it’ll happen, just like it will for the whole team. You can’t talk about the Dodgers without talking about how this just keeps happening. You think they’ll break through at some point, but they never do. You think it has to happen, but it doesn’t. It’s a brutal legacy for a franchise that has done almost everything right, but it is theirs until they win a World Series after so long without one.
All of which is to say, here’s the poster from the fifth highest grossing movie of 1988, Crocodile Dundee 2:
Enjoy the rest of the playoffs and the World Series, which for the 31st consecutive year, the Dodgers will not win.