Snide World of Sports

Jack Neworth

Is 29 the Charm?

Given many of us get our information in 140 characters, some say we’re living in an era of instant gratification. I mention it because some might have forgotten that last year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series after a 108 year drought.

(They hadn’t even been to a World Series since 1945.) After over a century of frustration, for Chicago 108 was the charm.

For Dodger fans, could 29 be the charm?
The last time the Dodgers appeared in a World Series Ronald Reagan was president.

It was 1988 and the highly underdog Dodgers shockingly beat Oakland in five games.. Ever since it’s been a horrible drought, interrupted by a few “close but no cigars.”

Tomorrow, however, at 5 p.m. on TBS the Dodgers will host the Cubs in game one of the best of seven National League Championship Series. For the winner it’s a trip to the World Series against either the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees.

Forgive me as I briefly digress with a bit of trivia.

While the Yankees have been in the World Series 40 times, the Astros have been once, in 2005, when they were in the National League. The Dodgers have been to the Fall Classic 18 times, including in Brooklyn and the Cubs, going back to 1876, have been 17 times. (Whew, trivia can be exhausting.)

Because they have the best record in baseball this year (104 wins) the Dodgers will have home field advantage against the Cubs and in the World Series. There are other indicators that this might be their year.

During the season they won a staggering 43 out of 50 games. At one point they won 16 out of 17.
On the downside, there are some “no cigar” indicators.

For example, while the Dodgers won 16 out of 17 games they also lost 16 out of 17 games. That’s something no team that won over 100 games in a season has ever done. Also daunting is that no World Series winner has ever lost 10 games in a row during that season and this year the Dodgers lost a team record 11 in a row.

(Yikes!)
There’s a lot, however, that makes this feel like “the year.” Clayton Kershaw is on the verge of a fourth Cy Young Award. He also led the National League in wins (third time) and ERA (fifth time).

This is Kershaw’s 7th season of playoffs, which have been frustrating.

I’m referring to his 4.55 ERA in 18 career playoff appearances. And then there’s his infamous “7th inning” collapses,which sports writer Joel Sherman described as, “Kershaw has been as effective as a butter knife in a gun duel.” Ouch.

That said, in my opinion, Kershaw is already a first ballot Hall of Famer. As for his performance this postseason, my fingers are crossed. (Which also would explain any typos.)

There are other bright spots the Dodgers haven’t had in past years.

One is Japanese-born pitcher Yu Darvish, who at 6’5,” is a flamethrower and perhaps the team’s number two pitcher. I say “perhaps” because Alex Wood was a mere 16-3 this past season with a 2.72 ERA.

The Dodger bullpen was led by closer Kenley Jansen, fresh off his $80 million contract this past December. Jansen tied for the league lead in saves with 41 and his 15.75 strike out-to-walk ratio led the majors.

Also a huge addition this year was first baseman Cody Bellinger who is likely to be the National League Rookie of the Year with 97 RBIs and 39 home runs, a rookie record. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, shortstop, Corey Seager had a very solid 2017, batting .295 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs.

As did third baseman Justin Turner who batted .322 with 21 home runs and played outstanding defense. Five-tool outfielder Yasiel Puig had his best season with 28 home runs and 74 RBIs and a slew of acrobatic run saving catches and throws to catch opponents from advancing to third or scoring.

Center fielder Chris Taylor batted .288 and had 21 home runs. Chase Utley, Curtis Granderson, Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal, Andre Ethier, Logan Forsythe and others, make the Dodgers an unusually deep team. Is it enough? YES!

I know it’s a bit spoiled to expect a World Series Championship. Especially given teams like the Nationals or Mariners who have been around since 1969 and 1977 respectively, yet neither has even reached the Fall Classic. And clearly it’s not dignified to whine about a 28-year drought when the Cubs went 108. (But who said I was dignified?)

Last year the Cubs won 103 games, had home field throughout the playoffs and won the World Series.

This year the Dodgers won 104 games and have home field advantage. Need I say more? I hope not.

Jack also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. He can be reached at jackdailypress@aol.com.

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