ROCKY: I can’t do it.
ROCKY: I can’t beat him.
ROCKY: Yeah. I been out there walkin’ around, thinkin’. I mean, who am I kiddin’? I ain’t even in the guy’s league.
ADRIAN: What are we gonna do?
ROCKY: I don’t know.
ADRIAN: You worked so hard.
ROCKY: Yeah, that don’t matter. ‘Cause I was nobody before.
ADRIAN: Don’t say that.
ROCKY: Ah come on, Adrian, it’s true. I was nobody. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.
I didn’t see ROCKY for the first time until November 2015. I remember the month because, well, it’s ROCKY. Emotionally, one of the great pieces of film art. The Giants aren’t Rocky. The Dodgers aren’t Apollo. The sentiment remains true, though. It’s not about outcome, it’s about effort. (Also, yes, please roast me. Invoking Rocky in what’s essentially a sports column is one of the most hackneyed thing a writer can do, and has been the case for 30 years.)
Last year, the Dodgers needed to win their series against the Giants to secure a postseason spot. The Giants were not only way, way, way out of it but neck deep in the worst month in franchise history. The Dodgers did more than sweep the Giants. They gullywumped them. It wasn’t just the sweep. It was the overwhelming inevitability of it all.
Game on, the Giants lost 3-1, with the Giants even getting an early lead. The next two games could generously be described as blowouts. That 15-0 finale loss was embarrassing. Kenny called it “an unwatchable nightmare.” So, I think the Giants should get revenge.
Now, that’s not strictly possible since the conditions are different. The Giants are trying to avoid their worst home record in franchise history. Last year’s demolition secured their worst month in the history of the franchise. So, at least on a “franchise history” level, there’s something at stake for the Giants. But for the Dodgers? They’re competing with the Astros for the privilege of homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s cosmetic.
The Giants should go for the throat this weekend because it’s the Dodgers and it’s the right thing to do. The team doesn’t need to do it for Bochy — he’s beaten the Dodgers more than he has any other team in his career — although, the aesthetics of giving him a +.500 record against them as Giants manager would be preferable (the Giants are 119-119 against the Dodgers in his tenure). Getting a series win would also give him a +.500 record as the Giants’ manager. So, there are reasons to do it for Bochy, but there’s also so much more.
2019 has already been a success. The Giants won more games than they did a year ago. They weren’t eliminated from the playoff chase until September. Mauricio Dubon and Mike Yastrzezmski have been great surprises combined with the steady contributions of Kevin Pillar and Donovan Solano. This weekend could be one final run of recognition for what the team did do.
The Dodgers figure to win the next 12 to 30 division titles. At what point is some other team going to scare them? The Giants don’t figure to be a good team for at least another year, if not longer, but if they can still be a thorn in the Dodgers’ side, then it’s a little bit easier to ignore the pesky problem of them still not being, you know, all that good at baseball.
This year’s team is a lot healthier than last year’s team, at least in terms of the lineup. The Dodgers might take apart the loose affiliation of arms we’re calling a bullpen this month, but at least the Giants’ offense is at mostly full strength. The possibility of them staying in the game doesn’t require the fantastical notion that a bunch of third stringers transcend our plane of existence to achieve league average nirvana over a three-game series. Can these Giants transcend those Giants?
It’s the last series of the year. All we have is now. If the Giants can stand toe to toe with the Dodgers one last time, when nothing’s on the line except pride, then they can at least take with them the idea that the unbeatable team isn’t so unbeatable.
Hitter(s) to watch
Kevin Pillar, Brandon Belt, and Alex Dickerson could all be taking their final at bats as Giants this weekend. Consider soaking in their faces one last time.
Pitcher to watch
Will Sunday’s start be Madison Bumgarner’s final start in a Giants uniform?
There will be tears.