There is a chance that the Dodgers' 2008 season ends with tonight's game, the first elimination game that they've played this year. I don't think it will, and I sure hope it doesn't. But if there's anything to be learned from the 2008 Dodgers, they sure have been surprising. And that's why I wish I could be there tonight, no matter what the outcome.
I have faith in Chad Billingsley despite an unlucky NLCS Game 2 start; and I will continue to have faith in Billingsley irrespective of how tonight goes, having marveled as I watched him mature into a legitimate ace during the second half of this season. I hope he doesn't sully his focus with articles calling him out or game film from Game 3 when all they could do is show closeup shots of Chad Billingsley's face in the dugout. Billingsley is 24 years old and a 16-game winner, and had outings--like the NLDS Game 2 in Chicago--in which he's been simply awesome. Win, lose, or draw, we're behind you, Chad.
So I'd want to be there to cheer on Billingsley, but I'd also want to cheer on all of the Dodgers tonight, to thank them for a wonderfully charmed season that, even if it doesn't achieve any other wins in the postseason, has been magical to watch. Youngsters like Andre Ethier, James Loney, Jonathan Broxton, and Matt Kemp all grew up into formidable talents, right before our eyes in the course of six months. Veterans who may have sown seeds of discord last year in the clubhouse ended up playing their diminished roles with understandable disappointment but not corrosive behavior. A bullpen filled with retreads like Chan Ho Park, sinners looking for redemption like Joe Beimel, and kids fresh off the farm like Cory Wade and James McDonald, all impressed well beyond what any of our wildest expectations.
In fact, and it's important to keep this in mind, no one thought we could do it. Not during the preseason, when the biggest signings were a dumpy overweight player and a storied manager who (obviously) couldn't hit home runs. Not when the Diamondbacks raced out to an incredible April and first half record. Not when everyone went down injured all season long. Not when, even as late as late July, our offense was moribund and we couldn't buy runs. Not when, even with the vaunted tonic of Manny Ramirez in the lineup (with Casey Blake as a potent chaser), we lost eight in a row during the home stretch of the pennant race.
Not when, even after winning the NL West outright by two games, we were up against the mighty Cubs, who had been knighted for the World Series months ago. No one thought we could do it, at so many times this season, and so many times we proved them wrong.
It has been a roller-coaster ride this year, but it's been a fun year to be a Dodger fan. We've overcome a lot of adversity and had a year worth celebrating; our Pantheon of Post-1988 Dodger Playoff Heroes had to add multiple wings just to handle the flood of new honorees, all of whom helped us to our first postseason series win in 20 years.
Remember, fans of 26 other teams are already sitting around without a team for which to root. We're still rooting. And I hope that every Dodger fan keeps rooting tonight.
And if you're lucky to be in the Stadium tonight, give it all you've got when you're cheering, and be sure to thank the Dodgers for an incredible season. It could be the last warm and fuzzy feeling you get about the Dodgers, before Frank McCourt takes parking fees up to $25 a car and jacks ticket prices up another 20%, ignoring dour economic forecasts and warnings from Bud Selig.
The Dodgers deserve our love, but they certainly earned it this year. Thanks, Dodgers.
Now go get 'em tonight and continue to give us more ways to make us proud.