Ted: So, Eric, what’s the most compelling storyline for you going into the next round of the playoffs? The impact of Nick A.? The charisma of Andre E.? The Yankees and their undeniable goodness? It’s down to four of the most competent teams in the league now. What jumps out at you?
Eric: No surprise that for me it’s Dodger-centric, but not the way it should be. Tonight should be all about Clayton Kershaw’s full immersion in the limelight. Unfortunately all that light, and perhaps all the sun over Chavez Ravine is clouded by the weird and sad and kind of juicy news that Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt are splitting up. Could this story have broken at a worse time? Reports are that the split has already created front office fault lines and that the divorce could throw the future of the team’s ownership into doubt.
How much does this actually have an impact on the players and coaches? I don’t see this storyline as an obstacle per say–Joe Torre knows a thing or two about overcoming kooky ownership situations– but it does throw a bit of rain on the Dodgers’ so-far smooth postseason. You mentioned Adenhart briefly in your question. So I’d like to follow up with this: With such small margins for error, and four balanced clubs remaining, do off-the-field events have a meaningful impact between the lines?
Ted: I think there’s a distinction to be made between off-the-field events and team mojo. One can certainly impact the other, as we’re seeing with the Angels, and really the determinate is how such an event makes the team feel. If I can cite my own meager baseball career for a minute, there’s a big difference between a team that shares a collective goal and a team full of players working basically on their own. What coalesces a team might be the random chance of personality, as we’ve seen with the 2005 White Sox and the 2004 Red Sox, or an external something-or-other like the Adenhart situation. You can easily punch holes in this lovey dovey assessment, but when it comes down to it, the theme of these conversations has been the craziness of the playoffs, and team chemistry has a remarkable way of making interesting, unexpected things happen.
Either way, it’s a necessity, that collective vibe, so I will say yes, external events do matter, as they apply to a team coming together. For the record, no, that divorce thing will have no impact on anything but the children.
That said, another recurring theme is that individual players catch fire. Kershaw is a great example of a young gun who as they say doesn’t know any better than to pitch his game. Last year’s Hamels, perhaps (and we’ll see tonight if that’s true). The Phillies ooze confidence and well-roundedness as a team. Kershaw, the young and hungry, will face a team full of postseason experience and confidence (Lidge being the very important exception, though his confidence seems to be budding at the right time).
You know, I just thought of something, which includes the ruinous act of “looking ahead”: what about a World Series between the Yanks and Joe Torre?!? How sweet would that be….Thoughts? (though I’d be a little shocked if you were willing to draw back your gaze away from this one game tonight.
Eric: I agree with everything you said right there, so I’ll just go ahead ans answer your question. As scared as I am to speculate beyond Clayton Kershaw’s first pitch of the first inning tonight, I do think a Yanks-Dodgers series would be sweet. I also think an Angels-Dodgers series would be sweet. From my decidedly western coast and LA-native perspective, by far the two most compelling storylines involve the Dodgers reaching the World Series. That said, the Phils defending their title against the once-again-colossal Yankees would be great, as would seven games between the Phils and the emotionally charged Angels. If you don’t have a horse left in this race, I don’t think you can lose. You’re gonna get a great show.
Now that my gaze has been drawn back, I’m a little overwhelmed by possibilities. I try to keep a steady perspective. The Dodgers will win or they will lose. There is absolutely no way to accurately predict which of those two results will occur, and all speculation is worthless. I just need to be satisfied with the knowledge that they are capable of winning a seven game series against any team. It’s hard, but that’s what I need to do.
But with that out of the way, let’s turn it over to the AL for a moment. Most folks I talk to seem to have handed this series to the Yankees already. It’s not hard to do, especially considering the fact that as a friend recently pointed out, their 8th best hitter is Johnny Damon. But the 3-man rotation does make them seem vulnerable — going to it seems almost like an admission of guilt when it comes to pitching depth. Plus the Angels can really freaking hit too. Kendry Morales is probably the most underrated player left in the postseason. I think they’ve got a hell of a shot at winning the AL, especially if they take a game in the Bronx.
Am I completely misguided?
Ted: It’s not that your wrong. You’ve just caught the Angels spirit:
Mel Clark: I’ve got nothing left.
George Knox: Yeah, you do. You’ve got one strike left.
[turns to dugout, Roger walks out flapping his arms like angel’s wings]
George Knox: You’ve got an angel with you right now… just got here, and he’s going to help.
Mel Clark: The kid sees an angel?
George Knox: Yeah, he must. That’s the signal.
[gradually all players and crowd, even those in the office, stand and flap their arms]
George Knox: [moved by seeing the crowd] It could happen.
Mel Clark, George Knox: Okay.
George Knox: [laughs] Go get ’em for the championship!